One would think in a nation built by people who hunted and fished for sustenance and sport the right to do those activities would be guaranteed as apple pie, motherhood and the flag.

Think again. Look around you at who has moved next door. In South Carolina, our urban population is growing rapidly with folks and kids who'd rather chase a ball than take to the woods or waters.

South Carolina has numerous safeguards in place that give us the privilege to hunt and fish as our forefathers did, but no intrinsic guarantee of the right to do the same. The safeguards we have are legislative and, as such, subject to legislative whim.

Scarcely more than a generation ago the S.C. legislature was comprised mostly of "gentlemen farmers," Rep. Mike Pitts of Laurens noted in a recent address. "They knew what it was like to grow up hunting and fishing, but that is no longer the case."

For the past several years Rep. Brian White of Anderson, a Republican, and former Rep. Thayer Rivers of Ridgeland, a Democrat, have introduced legislation to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to give South Carolinians the right to hunt and fish. It passed the House easily, but stalled in the Senate where, Pitts said, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources opposed it because some feared it'd result in non-licensed hunting or fishing.

"The same bill has passed in several other states, and has not created that situation," Pitts said.

Last November, Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a right-to-hunt-and-fish constitutional amendment. Hunting and fishing organizations in Georgia weren't in favor at first, but once the proposal got on the ballot, they fought hard for its success.

"It was a tremendous risk if we lost," said Brian Murphy, executive director of the Quality Deer Management Association in Bogart, Ga. "We knew we had to win it."

A coalition of conservation groups won support from all segments of society, including non-hunters and non-fishermen, carrying all 56 counties, for more than 81 percent of the vote.

The landslide approval did two things for Georgia hunters and fishermen, Murphy said.

"One, it gave a clear message to animal-rights organizations that there is tremendous support in Georgia for the opportunity to hunt and fish. And two, it gives us enormous political clout," he said.

With the next major election in November 2008, Pitts and White have two years to shepherd an amendment through the legislature, but Pitts said grass roots support is needed for Senate passage.

"If sportsmen are interested in helping make it a reality, they need to talk to their senators," he said.

If the amendment is on the ballot in 2008, S.C. sportsmen must be prepared for the fight of their lives. Animal-rights organizations aren't going to stand by and let states take action to thwart their efforts to halt hunting and fishing.

S.C. sportsmen must send a strong message that no one can mess with our hunting and fishing traditions that pump more than $1 billion into the state's economy every year.

If you want to preserve these traditions for future generations, be prepared to rally the vote beyond the 637,000 licensed hunters and anglers in the state, even if it means giving up some time in a deer stand or a few days when you can't be in your bass boat.