Leopold set the bar high for wildlife management

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Wildlife biology was born as a science by Aldo Leopold.

He was the first one to examine how to manage for wild animals. His keen observations were often made while recreating outdoors. Nothing was beyond his notice. Even small plants caught his attention, causing him to wonder how they fit into the system.

As a hunter, Leopold was intimate with the outdoors and the needs of the animals he pursued. For many of us, Leopold is easy to respect. He was knowledgeable, responsible and inspirational. How many hunters are around like him today? Do we have hunters who know why quail need ragweed and beggar's ticks? How many hunters can name five wild plants important to deer grazing? Who among us can articulate the importance of spring pools for migrating ducks? How about defend the role of predators?

Hunters like Leopold are ambassadors for their craft. They participate in wildlife management and are respected for their insight.

Leopold was a class act and very quotable. One of my favorite Leopold quotes is: "To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering." That was amazing insight on conservation technique for his time, and it is just as relevant today.

Leopold wrote in his book, "A Sand County Almanac," about shooting a wolf for spite and how he came to see it was a big mistake. That story made a big impact on me. It appealed to my brain and my heart.

This hunter moved me without degrading hunting. In fact, he elevated its standing. What a great ambassador.

Are we ambassadors for the outdoors? Do we inspire others? Do they seek us out or avoid us?

The challenge for hunters in the 21st century is to live up to Leopold's standard. He modeled a character that was both knowledgeable and committed in a way that was easy to respect.

Can you measure up to Leopold? Attainable or not, we should all try. The future of hunting depends on us.

A.J. Hendershott is an outreach and education regional supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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