Montanaís hunting heritage is a strong and valued tradition in this state, where people can participate in a ritual as old as mankind.  For many people, hunting is not a hobby, not some mere weekend pastime, but rather a way of life, an activity that defines who a person is.

If we are to preserve this heritage in a rapidly changing world, we must do more than simply participate in hunting activities.  As hunters, we must work harder to demonstrate that we care about the animals we hunt and their world, that we are courteous and responsible people, and that we value our hunting rituals and traditions as an important part of life in Montana.

Here are some ways that we, as hunters, can demonstrate we care.

*  Hunters with off-road vehicles can demonstrate responsible vehicle use and encourage responsible use by other hunters.  The number of hunters using off-road vehicles has sky-rocketed, and with the increased use has come an increase in off-trail travel, more abuse of public and private land use rules, and more gates closed to any public recreational use.

*Hunters can show awareness of noxious weed problems by washing their hunting vehicles every time they head for the hills.  This is a simple, inexpensive way for hunters to send a signal that they care about habitat, care about landowner weed concerns, and care enough to make sure they arenít inadvertently contributing to the spread of noxious weeds.

*Hunters traveling on gravel roads in the country can slow down when approaching another vehicle, maybe even offer a casual wave.  This, and other simple courtesies, can maintain good relations between the country people who live in the area and visitors wearing blaze orange. Cracked windshields and clouds of dust tend to hurt those same relationships. 

*Showing consideration for non-huntersí feelings can also help improve hunter public relations.  While hunters are often proud of their success in bagging game animals, not all people share that enthusiasm for harvested animals.  Hunters who save their stories for audiences who appreciate the rituals of the hunt will get a better reception. 

Times are changing in Montana, just as they are everywhere in the world.  New people are moving into the state and becoming hunters and landowners.  They bring with them new values, new customs, and new perspectives. 

Montana hunters can help preserve their valued traditions in these changing times by demonstrating responsible and courteous behavior.