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What is a Florida 'Sportsman '?

During a recent contract negotiation for the sale of conservation property, a representative of the organization purchasing the property indicated that he had to leave early to go to a meeting with a bunch of “sportsmen”. The meeting involved the placement of a conservation easement over large portions of hunting land and, apparently, a prior meeting between the federal government officials and the “sportsmen” had not gone well. This gentleman was clearly not looking forward to meeting with the “sportsmen.”

What jumped out at me was that the word “sportsmen” was enunciated in a way that sounded quite derogatory. I had always thought of the word as one evoking respect and admiration and had never heard the term expressed in such a manner. I began to wonder, what does this word really mean to different people?

Webster defines a “sportsman” (which from hereon out will also refer to a “sportswomen”) simply as a person who engages in sports, as in hunting or fishing, and as a person who shows “sportsmanship”. However, there is much more to it than that.

To me, a sportsman is a person that immerses himself in the outdoors and what it has to offer. A good sportsman will usually have a great deal of knowledge about the outdoor environment and the fish and animals that live in the environment. A sportsman will care very deeply about those fish and animals and their habitat. He will also strictly adhere to his own ethical principles, whatever those may be, and will have great respect for any fish or game that is harvested. However, the angler fishing next to me on my boat may have a slightly different view.

In searching further, I found the following definition from an outdoor blogger, Jim Braaten, who very succinctly defined a sportsman as:

“One who pursues fish and game with deep passion, conviction and respect for his quarry while honoring his heritage, adhering to his guiding principles, yet fostering a sense of fairness and compassion for others with whom he shares the fields and waters.”

I think this sums it up real well. All of us “sportsmen” in Florida are dealing with a multitude of regulatory issues, especially involving our fisheries. We often disagree with each other as to best solutions and as to what actions should be taken by the powers that be. There is often finger pointing at different organizations, some of which I have been guilty of myself.

However, more notably, we also face opposition from many groups that clearly view “sportsmen” in the way expressed at my real estate meeting referenced above. They advocate for a ‘hands off” approach and have shown their “ends justifies the means” philosophy in the way they lobby the agencies and in the “partnerships” they make. Therefore, amid all of the controversy, we “sportsman” should remember that we all have a common overriding interest and are, by and large, all on the same team. We will be a much stronger force if we do that.

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