When author and Carbon Media Group founder David Farbman stepped out onto the stage of the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo, he said it was the most unique audience he had been in front of. The Salt Lake City audience of about 1,500 people was not the largest that David has spoken to. But when introduction music played him onto the stage, he knew that this was a crowd that would understand him and his vision. This was an audience of hunters, conservationists, and business and media leaders.
And he challenged them all to do one thing to further the future of hunting in North America: the hunter’s challenge.
“The challenge is simple,” David said. “In the coming season, bring one new or dormant hunter to the woods. In doing this, you may lose a sit or even blow out a hunting spot because the person you bring may not be as experienced as you. But what you are doing is moving the needle and the numbers for tomorrow, one hunter at a time.”
In these words David echoes the sentiment of wildlife agencies and conservation groups across the country, but he’s not limiting it to just the individual hunter. David is extending an invitation to media companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and everyone who has a stake in the outdoors.
“Without any risk, if we just sit and wait in fear, nothing seems to happen,” he told me.
Before writing the speech that he would give to 1,500 of some of the most influential people in conservation, David conferred with Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) CEO Miles Moretti.
“Miles is a cutting-edge thinker, a very visionary thinker,” David said. “He tasked me to bring a very controversial subject to the table and to take on where we stand today as hunters.”
It was a controversial subject because hunting is under attack. It is under attack by people who don’t understand that hunters are the backbone of conservation in North America, and who don’t know much about hunters in general.
“Miles tasked me with coming up with a creative idea that could really move the needle towards hunting,” David said. “As a business guy, I tend to look for numbers that move the needle now. While I think it’s awesome for what things like youth recruitment will be doing for the sport tomorrow, there are measures that can be taken right now, today.
“If a million, or two million, or three million of us out there today went and did the challenge in the coming season, we’re talking about moving the numbers 15 percent for the sport right out of the gate.”
One key step in preserving the sport is showing non-hunters what hunting really is.
“I think that the misconception about hunting is that it is focused on the kill,” David said. “That is not what hunting is all about. On a macro level, hunting is about the pursuit of your target. Killing is the way in which the animal is finally taken, but hunting is about far more than that.”
David’s approach to “winning the neutrals” is very direct: put a bow in their hands and take them out hunting.
“As hunters, as NGOs in the space, we need to focus more on the bonding that happens in the woods, the beauty of nature, being absorbed with nature, and the moment before releasing the arrow or pulling the trigger. I think if that is 99 percent of hunting, let’s begin to market that, and let’s begin to promote that passion and authenticity.”
As soon as non-hunters become educated about the sport, David said, it takes away from the rhetoric of the anti-hunters.
“If we do this, we eliminate 99 percent of the antis’ strategy. They will always go back to a bashed seal or a caged animal, something that does not relate to hunting as a whole. When we take that bait and get into that fight, we will lose every time because non-hunters will err on the side of the beaten-up seal. It’s ludicrous, but it’s more ludicrous to have the fight at all.”
David said that arguing with people already dead-set against hunting is counterproductive. The goal is give non-hunters a view of what it is like to harvest an animal beyond the bullet or arrow, to show people all the benefits of hunting your own food—and how sportsmen give back to the environment they love.
“I consider it not only a duty but an in-blood responsibility to be a steward of the outdoors if we hunt. Part of that is leaving the ground where you hunt better than you first came,” David said.
It is no secret that hunters are among the continent’s greatest conservationists. Strangely, this fact is not widely known among non-hunters. In fact, the conservation movement in the United States was largely popularized by Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States and an avid hunter.
“The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak,” Roosevelt once said. “So we must and we will.”
Roosevelt went on to found the Boone and Crockett Club and inspire countless other conservation groups, such as the Mule Deer Foundation. Without the efforts of these organizations, animals like mule deer, wild turkey, whitetail deer, quail, and others would not have a voice in public policy.
“MDF has done an incredible job with the mule deer herd and the exposure and conservation around mule deer,” David said. “Mule deer today are really an animal that’s part of the game and for a long, long time it was all whitetail.”
David added that mule deer are a riot to hunt.
“I think that conservation is everything,” he concluded.
David ended our talk by telling me what he thought hunting really was.
“Hunting is really about the pursuit of a goal,” he said. “Male or female, we all have predatory instincts that are primal and when we tap into the natural order and our human nature, there is something so powerful that it will change the way you look at life.”
That is the idea behind David’s first book, The Hunt: Target, Track, and Attain Your Goals, which will be released on April 14. In it, David describes how he applies the skills and tactics he learned as a hunter to all facets of life.
“When you become a hunter with a clean target in mind, your chances to succeed increase exponentially.”
For David, hunting is something spiritual and sacred. On that stage in Salt Lake City during the expo, he was in tune with 1,500 people that felt much the same.
You can view David’s speech at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo below:
Image courtesy David Farbman