A small group of hunters in Germantown New York have recently found themselves embroiled in controversy after their annual event has become the cause celebre of a powerful anti-hunting group. The Germantown Sportsman’s Association has held a “Squirrel Scramble” annually for the past six years. This year, however, the New York Humane Association has been leading the charge along with thousands of internet users to end the squirrel scramble.
In the scramble, teams of two pay $20 to compete. The teams hunt squirrels (in accordance with state laws) and then weigh their catch later to see who got the largest squirrel. First Place takes home a cash prize and the proceeds from the event benefit the Sportsman’s Association. According to the organizers of the event, the meat from the squirrels is either taken home by the hunters and consumed or donated to a local wildlife rehabilitation center.
Since the public controversy, members of the Sportsmen’s association have received harassing phone calls and death threats. A Change.org petition currently has 15,000 signatures to end the scramble and features links encouraging people to write to Gov. Cuomo and other New York officials to protest the contest.
In recent years, several states have banned hunting contests, though fishing tournaments and competitions remain widespread and socially acceptable. The optics of the scramble are certainly not great to laypeople, but a little research reveals that the Germantown Squirrel Scramble is a pretty wholesome event that seeks to encourage local people to participate in conservation and wildlife management. Many of the squirrels that will be hunted are red squirrels which are an invasive species in New York. Events such as this one have the potential to harm the public perception of hunters, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Perhaps it is time for the hunting community to band together and confront anti-hunters with science and facts. While it might be easy for us to dismiss this hunting contest as something we wouldn’t participate in, we must confront the reality of the situation: A group of people from around the country has organized to try and ban a legal hunt. We need to stand up for our community and let the powerful anti-hunting lobby know that they can’t bully us away from hunting by preying on people’s emotions.