We Can Own the Challenges Deer Face, or Let Them Own Us

January 22, 2019 | by Nick Pinizzotto

I’ve interviewed or reviewed the qualifications of hundreds of job candidates over the years. While most don’t stand out to the point of being able to remember them months, or in some cases, even minutes later, there are a few that stick with me. In one case, I was interviewing a 23-year veteran of the military who was retiring and looking to return to a civilian job. When we were talking about leadership and how he handled difficult situations he said, “Bad news doesn’t get better with time.” This was a person who obviously had strong leadership skills and had been in countless challenging and sometimes downright miserable situations during his military career, which included several deployments. He didn’t just utter that phrase because it sounded good. It was clear to me that he lived by it, and I have vivid memory of that discussion.

We attended the Archery Trade Association Trade Show last week in Louisville, KY to talk to attendees about the work of the National Deer Alliance and meet with several industry leaders to seek support for our efforts. NDA board member Jay McAninch and I sat in several promising meetings, and our hopes are high as we will be following up with those we talked with in the coming weeks. In almost all cases, these business meetings are upbeat and positive, and while we might not always walk away with a financial commitment, they are always valuable. Occasionally, though, you encounter the unexpected, and one meeting we had continues to irritate me like a bur in my hunting boot.

Within the first few seconds of the discussion, this company representative launched into a diatribe about the hunting industry being down, and he went on to blame NDA and others accusing us of spreading bad news, particularly about chronic wasting disease (CWD). I’m pretty sure at one point he said we were the biggest culprits, but as the rant went on it became increasingly difficult to follow. Anyone that knows Jay and I is aware that we’re not just going to stand there and take it without a response, so naturally a more than 30-minute verbal joust ensued. There were no winners or losers, but one thing was certain. There is a growing gap between those who want to hear all the news, good or bad, and those who mostly what to hear their version of what the news should be, particularly as it relates to CWD.

Don’t get me wrong. This was a discussion that needed to happen, and it never veered into the disrespectful, or became overly combative. We were talking to a man who has a lot of responsibility for marketing and selling his product, and I could appreciate his passion for issues that could have a significant impact on his business. Unfortunately, bad news doesn’t get better with time, and we can’t selectively report the news that suits our desires or agendas.

We have a responsibility at the National Deer Alliance to share all relevant news about deer, hunting, and the hunting industry. We continually strive to maintain a balance between the good and bad news, making sure to share the information we feel people need to hear, while also promoting the “fun stuff” that promotes our hunting and conservation heritage. It’s not always easy, especially with CWD continuing to dominate the headlines, but I promise that we’re trying.

As I wrote in my previous article, we are committed to increasing the amount of content that promotes our hunting heritage over the course of our new strategic plan. Hunting heritage is as much a part of our mission as protecting wild deer conservation through our policy work on Capitol Hill and in the states, and we will strive to reach that balance. I would love for you to help by sending us good news when you see it, or even sharing some of your favorite memories or photos so that we can distribute them broadly to our audience. We all love a good deer story, and I’ll bet everyone reading this has something to contribute.

We don’t make the deer news, but it’s our responsibility to report it. You may not like everything that we share, and frankly, there are many stories that we wish we didn’t have to, but only sharing what is desirable won’t help us confront and take ownership of the challenges that deer and hunting face. I’ve always been fond of esteemed outdoor writer Pat Durkin’s work because he never shies away from the tough subjects and continues to report on them, despite knowing full well that he will receive backlash from some people. I encourage you to read one of his recent articles featured in the Tracking Chronic Wasting Disease section of this week’s NDA On Watch newsletter.

I think being a member of the National Deer Alliance means you care about the issues and want to be part of the solution to challenges when they arise. We can choose to own these challenges or let them own us. I know that I prefer the former, and I think you do as well. Please help by telling your friends about us and encourage them to join and be part of the solution to ensuring a bright future for our hunting heritage.