through the eyes, and from the heart, of a hunter

through the eyes, and from the heart, of a hunter

Owner and lead guide of Kika Worldwide, Jake Franklin, at the end of a hunt. | Instagram/KikaWorldwide

Original Publication Date: February 29, 2016

​Ever since last year’s media was buzzing with the name of Walter Palmer and Cecil the Lion, people from all over the world have emerged from every walk of life to oppose the sport of hunting. This opposition has stretched far past the intent of protecting wildlife, but is manifest in personal attacks toward those who partake in the hunting lifestyle.
On the other hand, people (ecologists, biologists, hunters, etc.) have risen to the defense of the sport, making efforts to assure the public that the industry is not only a primary source of support for conservation, but that the hunters themselves have a deeply-rooted love for wildlife.
In an effort to begin the process of bridging the gap between hunters and non-hunters, I reached out to dear friends at Kika Worldwide to provide an underrepresented perspective:

Q [Jazmin Murphy] : How/when did you get into hunting? What lies behind your desire to hunt? What is your motivation?

A [Jake Franklin, Owner/Lead Guide of Kika Worldwide]I got into hunting as a young child through my father.  I was raised in rural Southern California with the nearest town being 40 minutes away.

The desire to hunt is in everyone, it’s simply in our human DNA.  From the earliest of man, we hunted.  It wasn’t till modern times that we didn’t have to hunt to survive.  Some people today might not hunt or even be okay with the idea, but the desire is there and channeled into different avenues.  As for making hunting and conservation my profession, it came from where my heart wanted to be.  I looked into the industry and saw a place that I could do what I enjoy and have a big impact on the bigger picture, all while making a living.

Jake Franklin, Kika Worldwide

Q: Non-hunters do not seem to be able to distinguish between legal hunting and poaching, especially when it comes to trophy hunting. Some even believe that the trophy hunting industry is intertwined with the illegal wildlife trade. Would you please define your sport and shed some light on the differences between these things?

A: What is the connection between someone buying a new car and someone committing grand theft auto?  Hunting and poaching can be matched just the same, one is simply just more understood by a much larger demographic.  Educating people on the lawful pursuit of game is the first step to understanding hunting. 

Poaching is simply a crime and is viewed no differently from any other major crime.  Hunting opportunities and trophy tags are monitored and distributed by biologists and scientists to properly cull or manage a population to keep the numbers sustainable for future generations.  When the management plan in place is bypassed and a game animal is unlawfully harvested, that is poaching. 

Q: Throughout the years, ecologists, biologists, conservationists and more, have claimed that the hunting industry is a significant source of support for conservation.

However, many non-hunters either do not understand, or do not agree with this – since the only aspect of the sport we are exposed to is the fact that, ultimately, an animal loses its life. Part of your mission at Kika Worldwide is to conserve the wild land your focal wildlife thrive in. How would you explain the connection between conservation and hunting?

Do you – or did you – ever experience any difficulty in separating your emotions from the practicality of the sport? Do the two need to be separated at all? If not, how do you reconcile them?

A: The hunting industry is the leading edge of wildlife conservation.  With the current hunting laws and taxes in place, $86 million is gathered for wildlife conservation.  This is excluding hunter based wildlife conservation groups that gather the same, sometimes more, in revenue each year, again going towards wildlife conservation. 

This isn’t going into domestic animals at all, strictly wildlife.  When it comes to on the ground action, hunters again play a leading role.  Hunters focus on maximizing game populations on private and public land with the final goal being reaching huntable populations.  It is common knowledge with hunters that if we misuse our wild spaces that we will lose our hunting heritage and the true meaning of “wild places”.  

​The act of hunting does in fact involve the loss of an animal’s life.  Populations are managed by biologists, scientists and conservation groups to ensure the legal harvest of any animal.  Individuals must apply or purchase a hunting permit to pursue the desired game animal. 

These tags are issued by a Government agency and decided on a quota through biologists who study the area and wildlife.  It is managed so that hunters only harvest animals that will have no effect or a positive effect on the population. 

Restrictions are put in place to ensure proper harvest, some of which include but aren’t limited to: Age, sex, quota, daily limit, area restrictions and method of take.  If public hunting was to be taken out of the equation the government would have to have step in and management populations on its own costing billions of dollars and the loss of income towards additional conservation efforts.  We would lose wild land and entire species [due] to lack of conservation funding and action.  

My business, Kika Worldwide, is equal parts Conservation, Education, and Hunting.  We contribute tens of thousands of dollars to wildlife conservation and spearhead new projects to help aid in the longevity and/or recovery of specific game herds. 

We hold classes to educate people on the importance of hunting and conservation and help people become better outdoorsmans. Kika has multiple hunting opportunities where we actually take people in the lawful pursuit of specific game animals.  We hold conservation and hunting at the same level and don’t talk about, act on or practice any one above the other.

To answer your last question:  Any true hunter feels a sense of remorse and appreciation for every animal harvested.  We love animals.  Unless you are actually out there practicing hunting it’s hard to imagine a love for wildlife and the pursuit to take a life, all in one.  It’s an understanding of where we come from and our position as human beings.  We are not only the caretaker of the animals but they are here to provide food for all other animals, including humans.  This is the exact feeling of a true hunter, we are the caretaker of the wildlife, but we also have the predatory drive to harvest the wildlife.  This can be viewed both biblically and scientifically.

Jake Franklin and wife, Kristen Franklin, Camp Manager and Cook, scouting for desert bighorn sheep. | Instagram/KikaWorldwide

Q: Last year, after Walter Palmer’s illegal hunt of Cecil the Lion, Delta, United and American airlines banned the transport of certain big-game trophies. In your opinion, what are the potential consequences of this, or a total ban on the sport of trophy hunting itself?

A: With simple research of new findings, there were no laws broken by Walter Palmer. This was a common case of hand plucked misfortune by the media.  Was a famous lion harvested? Yes. Was it done lawfully?  Yes.  Was the hunt pretty? No.  

Misfortune surrounds this topic.  A couple facts I would like to recognize, just like anywhere else, science goes into the tags issued.  Walter Palmer had a tag to harvest a male lion.  The population, the lion pride and the land could manage the loss of this lion with no threat to the population. 

That’s why biologists, ecologists and scientists have jobs in wildlife management.  The lion lived in an area where hunting was not aloud, but wondered by legal means to a bait which was legally placed in a location where legal hunting can take place.  This harvest did not affect any long term lion population. 

Another fact that has been misconstrued, hunter harvest is considered natural death from the scientific field, thus hunters are allowed to harvest collared animals, cut off the collar and disregard.  Though I would always notify the local biologist if I harvested a collared animal, it is completely lawful if I didn’t.  

​What the airlines have done, threatened to do and are planning on doing is no different from me not allowing people who like to paint in my place of business.  It’s a hobby, sport, way of life and if it’s done legally there should be no problem.   Hunting whether it is for subsistence or a trophy is beneficial to the future of wildlife and the second we start to choke down on regulations our wildlife numbers will begin to drop dramatically.

Q: Hunters have been called cowards, monsters, and countless more insults. Why do you think there is so much animosity toward the hunting community? What do you think gets lost in translation between hunters and non-hunters?

A: When it’s looked at black and white, it is misunderstood.  Without a back story hunters are simply viewed as killers.  Every answer in this interview helps clarify hunting to those who don’t understand or haven’t been educated.  Hunters all have a moral responsibility to pursue game with the right intentions.  We as hunters are simply another apex predator with advantages and disadvantages when pursuing our game. 

The population that views us as monsters are simply uneducated on hunting and hunters or are completely against any loss of life.  The flaw is, death is inevitable.  Sickness or predation, all animals die.  With modern urbanization we have minimized land for wildlife to inhabit. 

With smaller areas and to keep populations at a safe number we need to not only enhance the land but we have to have means of controlling these populations from getting too high and getting disease stricken.  The job of population management needs to be done, and hunters are willing to be the ones who practice it. 

We are killing an animal, but it must be done for future existence of wildlife both through direct management and hunter funded projects.  Hundreds of examples are documented and easily found, but are very extensive to go into in this Q&A.

Q: Do you see the stigma on hunting disappearing any time soon? What, in your opinion, could be done for non-hunters to grasp a better understanding of not only the sport, but the people and their heart for wildlife?

A: As long as both sides stay in their current position, the stigma will remain.  I am fighting to help get a middle ground where we can all stand together, to do that hunters can’t be afraid of hearing out opposing views but the opposers must be educated in all aspects before opposing. 

One can’t disagree with what they don’t understand.  The biggest problem we face today on this topic is a misinformed media/general public speaking against a voice that can’t be heard [due] to mass urbanization and disconnection from wild places.

Protecting our world’s wildlife is not a feat to be achieved by the bashing those who adhere to different lifestyles than our own. It cannot be achieved by derogatory remarks, or the refusal to understand varying methods of reaching the same goal.

As Jake said, “One can’t disagree with what they don’t understand.” Conservationists, zoologists, hunters and others all share a love for wildlife and the sustenance of wild habitat. Every day, hundreds – even thousands – of species are being pushed closer and closer to extinction, due to human encroachment, poaching, destruction of habitat, air/ocean pollution and more.

Our wild spaces are being lost to careless human behavior and mismanagement – a destruction that not only affects the animals that inhabit these spaces, but our own survival.

What needs to be done at this point, is the ceasing of conflict between these groups (hunters and non-hunters), and a beginning of breaking down the walls, and an intentional effort toward working together toward the conservation of irreplaceable wildlife and their natural habitats.

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