Why I Hunt

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32 Responses

  1. Kyle Cupp says:

    Honest and thoughtful, Mike. I’ve not ever given the ethics of hunting much thought, and so I don’t really have an opinion on it in general or in detail. Your post has given me some food for thought.Report

  2. RTod says:

    Mike, this may seem an odd question, but I’m curious about what part of the country you live in – and if that makes a difference in non-hunters reactions. I assume since I live in a ultra-liberal city that these kinds of reactions are just regional.

    My dad was a huge outdoorsman, and when he died I inherited an old family flintlock that hung over his fireplace. I hung it in a room in my house, and have been amazed – even after explaining how a flintlock works and how there is no way it can “go off accidentally” – people are genuinely freaked out about it, and ask me how we can have it up with children in the house.Report

    • RTod,

      I live in Louisville, KY. It’s actually a pretty hunter-friendly town BUT it’s still a city so you get plenty of ill-informed questions. Once you leave the city and head out into the rural areas it’s a lot different.

      Overall I would say that it’s more of a genrational thing. I have plenty of friends who have never shot a gun. This was far less true for my father’s generation.Report

  3. Live and let kill, that’s what I always say.Report

  4. Pat Cahalan says:

    I’ve never packed a longarm out into the woods, but that’s due to inverse pressure of the same factors you’re talking about, Mike. Time, money, and access. I keep meaning to get a license squared away and go out one season, but the confluence of factors just hasn’t been there.

    I worked in a slaughterhouse during one summer in college, so I’ll cheerfully defend (to the extent that defense is legitimate) some parts of the industrialized nature of the nation’s food supply. On the other hand, working in a slaughterhouse for even a couple of days (at least, if it’s a job of choice and not one of economic necessity) will deeply inform you about how you feel about killing and eating other living things.

    I’m okay with it.Report

  5. Dan Miller says:

    I’ve never hunted, but I’m certainly not going to judge (mainly because dinner tonight will be a steak burrito). So don’t take this as an accusation from a righteous vegetarian. But I do have a question–why not hunt with tranquilizer guns or nonlethal nets or something of that nature? If the appeal is matching your wits against nature–which again, I totally get–it seems like that could be satisfied without killing things yourself.

    I eat meat because I enjoy it, and because I don’t think my own consumption has a large enough impact to meaningfully sustain the system of meat-eating. Nothing would happen systematically if I became a vegetarian, so why not eat carnitas (this is the same way I justify the massive carbon footprint from my vacations). But if they came up with synthetic meat that tasted the same, I’d call that obviously morally preferable to killing animals for meat, and support a ban on non-synthetic meat if it were up to me. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.Report

    • Dan,

      I guess the answer is that those types of non-lethal exercises would be pretty cruel to the animals in a way that maybe surpasses a quick, clean kill. For that reason I rarely fish anymore and completely disagree with the concept of catch and release.

      I think I look at it like this: All of those motivations I used to put forward as primary like the need to manage animal populations and to take more ownership of the meat I eat…they are still there. To be honest they are probably my core values. The sport of it remains perhaps secondary. The point of my post though was to say that for once I don’t want to be embarrassed about that secondary reason and I kind of want to embrace it and lose myself in the thrill of the hunt itself. I’ve had moments like that but always suppressed that impulse long-term because it seemed to contradict my ethics.

      Those primary motivators allow me to enjoy the sport of hunting with a clear concience and see it as a compliment to my ethics, not a contradiction.

      Hope that makes sense.Report

      • Boegiboe in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

        Nice post. I don’t have problems with killing what I eat, and I’ve never had a good chance to try out the sport. Your post makes me want to try it a little bit more.

        Please forgive (and hopefully appreciate) the nitpick, but it’s “complement” you want in this context.Report

  6. jncc says:

    “I also knew that animal populations benefit from selective culling.”

    Can we please drop this line of bullshit? I have hunted for 30 years.

    Yes, animal populations benefit when the weak and the old are culled by natural predators. When wolves bring down the slowest elk in a herd, the dead elk won’t reproduce, won’t eat possibly scarce food, etc. But when I sit 350 yards away from a herd and drop the largest, strongest bull with my .338, I ain’t helping the herd. If anything, it’s the opposite. Same thing when I call in a flock of mallards, the lead duck is usually the first shot, not the straggler at the end of the flock.

    I agree with taking ownership and responsibility for the meat you eat, but the “I’m helping the herd” is a crock.Report

  7. Robert Cheeks says:

    In this part of the Ohio Valley deer are referred to as ‘radiator killers’ or ‘woods rats.’ And, the dudes who spend a grand or so getting decked out to kill bambi can thin the herd out all they want. A dead deer is a good deer, and they taste good. There’s more deer now then when the Mingo and Delaware were running around these parts.Report

  8. Travis says:

    I don’t have much problem with hunting for food. Hunting for “trophies,” on the other hand, is pathetic. I am thoroughly unimpressed by an animal head on the wall, unless that animal had a high-powered rifle too and could shoot back.

    Of course the animal kingdom always has unequal predator/prey relationships. An Arctic tern doesn’t take much pity on the salmon fingerlings it plucks out of the water. But an Arctic tern isn’t pretending there’s anything “sporting” about its search for food. It’s survival, not “fun.”

    A corollary problem with hunting is the perverse idea that we should exterminate natural predators because they “take” too many prey animals and, thus, leave less for human hunters. See, for example, the huge controversies over reintroducing wolves.Report

    • Mick in reply to Travis says:

      Travis brings us back to the moral dimension, which is where the debate invariably goes.

      The bottom line, the one which we hunters have smothered for so long under pressure from those who have different morals, is that we hunt because we like it. There are many other reasons that run parallel, but enjoyment is the most important.

      For people like Travis, the bottom line is that they don’t like it. Just as we use various terms to justify our view, those like Travis use terms like “pathetic” to denounce hunting.

      For an Arcrtic tern, it really is about survival, not fun. For me, it is certainly not. To various degrees, it is about reducing feral populations, harvesting my own meat, and behaving as a predator species does. Mostly, it is about having fun.

      It’s an emotional reaction, true, but so is viewing a hunter as pathetic. Remove the emotion and it is very hard to make a case against sustainable hunting.Report

    • Travis – I share your view on killing predators. You might check out this post here:


  9. Mike, this is an excellent essay, unlike anything I’ve read in a very long time. You’ve conveyed a totally foreign world to me, and almost made me nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced.Report