Witness to an Elk “Hunt”

//Witness to an Elk “Hunt”

Witness to an Elk “Hunt”

Ethics in our Western World has hitherto been largely limited to the relations of man to man. But that is a limited ethics. We need a boundless ethics, which will include the animals also . . . The time is coming when people will be amazed that the human race existed so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life is incompatible with real ethics. Ethics in its unqualified form extends responsibility to everything that has life.


~ Albert Schweitzer, as quoted in The Emotional Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

I’d lived in Colorado, but had never seen a herd of elk walk into a paved cul-de-sac and pose in front of a Mercedes. It was an Estes Park vision — a moment of connection among earthlings in an unlikely suburban context. There were snow flurries. And a stillness that beckoned to quiet communion. Young bulls playfully unhinged three hanging bird feeders in succession and toppled them on the front steps. Puffs of elk breath coalesced with each bugle, with each squeal from the young clinging to their mothers’ sides. We were watching an entire herd pass through a neighborhood cul-de-sac, a herd we’d been observing and enjoying for days.

elk in estes park

Elk Rut

Anyone who’s been to Estes Park during elk rut knows the magic that is this ancient, elkish ritual. Where the bulls, some of them old and magnificent, round up their harems and, in the process, bathe the valley in an operatic flourish of bugling. The elk bugle is like nothing else I’ve heard. It is a literal call of the wild, as iconic and as Hollywood as the cry of a Red-tailed Hawk over a canyon.

–> Listen to a short NPR piece on elk bugling with elk audio.

If you Google elk rut you’ll pull in a preponderance of hunting sites . . . because in as much as elk rut signifies for us wildlife workers and observers a most sacred and precious autumn event, it also coincides with the onset of hunting season. And for many a large-game hunter, elk rut fuels the shooting juices. It inspires net monikers like “elk slammer.” It’s a mental framework I’ve never understood — in spite of my attempts to comprehend what is to me, the incomprehensible draw of bloodsport.

But we were in Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. In the former, the elk and all other wildlife (until recently) have been protected. And in the latter, the herds of elk are habituated to humans by virtue of camping out on the golf course and grazing at the Stanley Hotel. They’re a draw for tourists and a grand juxtaposition against this residential landscape.

elk at stanley hotel

Elk as Urban Dwellers

Because of this, it’s not unusual to see the elk, as we did, traipsing through a garden — or stopping traffic as their massive frames amble across the road. It came as no surprise to us that many people we met had a sincere if admittedly mixed affection for the resident elk — in spite of the inconvenience of their size and their sometimes dramatic property-fouling ways. Mischief becomes nuisance for us humans when it comes in the form of a 700-pound bull. It’s, admittedly, a complex relationship.

As we watched this herd, there was a garden fence over which the more experienced leaped without a hitch. The young elk tried, only to be foiled by the height. Another elk would then lead the young one around the side where passage didn’t require a leap of adult proportions.

Breaking the Silence

As the last of the elk made their way beyond the back garden, we heard it. A gunshot blast that shattered the silence like a cannon. The ear-splitting loudness suggested a proximity mere meters from where we stood. The peaceful herd — the animals who minutes before nuzzled each other, played and chased on the lawn, looked after their young — galloped in mayhem back to the garden fence. Mothers with young, bulls and cows all, trampled each other in the panic. The distress cries — the young trying to find their mothers in the confusion — it was all difficult to bear after witnessing the poignant exchange in the hour just prior. After watching them bond in what can only be described as elegant symbiosis, it was heart-stopping to realize that one of the elk we’d just observed eating from a bird feeder had probably met his bad fate on the other side.

Through the trees, we saw the silhouette of a man. It was hunting season, but we were on a residential street with 1/4 acre (at most) between homes. We were certain we were standing within Estes Park city limits. Scores of “no hunting” signs were posted throughout the area, making us question the legality of the shot.

The elk mob huddled against the garden fence. It’s the scene many a hunter won’t see — the remnants of what the gunshot wreaks, the stressed tableau of the survivors. If a hunter wounds and loses an animal, she doesn’t see the aftermath of how that animal suffers with an arrow through it’s breast or bird shot festering. Some animals, wounded or even just grazed by bullets or arrows, will live for a day or a week or two, even, dying from septic infection or peritonitis. Hunters probably don’t see how the animal’s mate for life may stay with the injured animal as it languishes from the affliction. Those concerns are, I imagine, immaterial to the pursuit.

elk and mercedes

Tracking the Shot

I didn’t want to witness the outcome of that shot. I didn’t want to see yet another brutal death. But I also knew that if there was any illegality involved, we’d have to find the source. To access the property where we’d seen the silhouette — without trespassing across gardens — required navigating a maze of dead ends.

We saw the hunter first, at a distance, behind a fence marked private. And then we saw the elk — on the ground with an arrow protruding near his haunch, a poor shot that even an adept bow hunter will acknowledge as questionable. The elk was one of the bulls we had just watched bugling, who then leaped unknowingly to the draw of a human bow and, ostensibly, the shot we heard.

Edited to add: a commenter below took issue with the fact that there was an arrow in the elk during rifle season. I made the note below, but when we called the game department to make sure this location for the hunt was legal, we were told that crossbows were permitted during rifle season. Hunters can better speak to this issue but my initial impression from what we were told was that the shot was probably fired to follow up on the poor crossbow shot.

We were seeing our own distressing “after the hunt” scene. It was even more insidious to us because the elk was a cheat of a target: an animal who had literally walked from a golf course, through a cul-de-sac, past a Mercedes, and into a garden. He was shot from a driveway — with a pickup truck in waiting for the body.

The elk was not dead, even after 30+ minutes. He was raising his massive head and forelegs, struggling to get up. The weapon bearer laughed and chatted with a companion, his back to the struggling elk. My mind raced with any viable options. I scanned the scene for anyone to ask about property lines and hunting ordinances. The agony was interminable. Nearing an hour, the elk executed his last life attempt and passed into merciful death.

It was a slow death — compounded by the cavalier juxtaposition of a hunter’s demeanor against the backdrop of a suffering animal. Slow death is a common and even expected occurrence in bow hunting — and not the white-washed version often used to persuade the rest of us of archery’s humaneness. Some studies estimate that for every deer shot by bowhunters, one escapes, wounded by arrow or broadhead — even if these numbers are difficult to substantiate. If you read bowhunting literature, 30 minutes or more is not an uncommon time to wait for an animal to die. Actual time can be much longer, even hours. So for anyone with the illusion that this type of hunt is quick and humane as often reported, do some research on “wounding rates” and you may be surprised and probably dismayed by what you find.

We finally saw and flagged a passing neighbor, asking her about this incident, in a neighborhood papered with “no hunting” signs. She told us that although nearly everyone in the neighborhood prohibited hunting, one resident permitted shooting on his multi-acre property. The property was mere yards from the town boundary so it was technically legal.

“That’s Not Hunting”

An old-school Colorado hunter we know, upon hearing this story, frowned and said, “that’s not hunting. That’s not sport. That’s just plain, cold killing.” He suggested we contact local authorities to make sure the elk was legally slain, but we’d already explored that possibility. He was as dismayed by the story we relayed as we were crushed by the experience.

The elk was shot within meters of artificial fountains and nymph statuettes, basketball hoops, and stamped out development homes. The cliche of shooting fish in a barrel — or rather, in a virtual amusement park — couldn’t be more apt to describe the scene. “I’m sorry you had to see that,” the neighborly woman said. “I was also distressed to hear that shot.”

In an adjacent, paved driveway, members of the herd who’d made it past the gunman before the shot, were plastered, immobilized against an automatic garage door as the hunter hauled his kill into the back of his pickup.

There is such a thing in hunters’ vernacular as fair hunt and chase — if one abides by hunting ethics of the ilk prescribed by Boone and Crockett. None of it, frankly, seems all that fair to me when you consider the scent-blocking camouflage, the sophisticated callers, the high-powered weaponry, the ATV shooting. And that in the end, the animal in the scope doesn’t genuinely have a fair shot.

“Fair” is Subjective

Many hunters will tell you the sport is fair. They’ll tell you of the difficulty of tracking a deer equipped with heightened auditory and olfactory perception — senses designed to deal on one level with natural predation, but not with a rifle sight or any number of technologies designed to foil those very senses. As a photographer, I acknowledge the difficulty of going unnoticed by animals who are understandably frightened of humans. But even as a person who abides by strict wildlife photography ethics, I’ve been out there enough to know that if my telephoto lens were a rifle, the animals wouldn’t stand a chance once I’ve sighted them. Some states, as you probably know, even allow baiting — where wild animals are lured to a spot with feed and then shot over the food pile.

Hunters describe the hours of near hypothermia in the cold wetlands, waiting for ducks to fly into their field of robo-duck decoys and barrage of shotgun fire. But rarely will they tell you how many birds they cripple and lose — and yet continue to shoot their limit without counting the downed birds. If you haven’t yet, travel sometime on public lands during hunting season to hear and see just how that barage manifests as a flock of ducks or geese passes overhead.

My Changing Perspective on Hunting

I’d always given hunters credit for walking their talk and admitting to the brutal reality that underlies a desire to eat meat — in a culture largely dissociated from the truth of those culinary choices. Even as a young, committed vegetarian, I had less animosity for the sport that would be expected because, again, I’d been convinced of and respected the hunter’s honesty in ‘acquiring’ meat.

Sadly, my wistful paradigm of the “noble” hunter has eroded over the years, the reality of my experience not matching anywhere near the sanitized version one tends to hear from hunting groups. There’s only so much PR you can throw up around a practice that undeniably causes death and, often (sadly) significant suffering in the hands of those less adept, and those who don’t live by an iron code of humane standards.

The killing of this elk was one more dubious practices that many hunters defend — but which they would probably do well to reject in the interest of maintaining some sense of credibility for their pursuits at large. In as much as anyone tries to flaunt one’s compassion while allowing this type of inhumanity to persist in their ranks, the justifications for the so-called sport break down. And opposition to the sport gains increasing legitimacy.

It’s easy to justify almost any treatment of non-human animals by adopting a anthropocentric and utilitarian view of animals: they are here, purely and simply, to satisfy our own needs and whims. And that’s what many people do, especially those who stand to lose from increased awareness about an animal’s inherent needs and increased understanding about the complex intellectual, emotional and social conventions among different animal species.

Elk Grazing at Stanley Hotel

As much as we’ve seen, working with animals both domestic and wild — as much as we’ve watched the powerless meet unspeakable fates on this planet — this felt like the final straw in a long life that’s seen too many injured — and listened to too many rationalizations.

It’s an emotional slug that will forever freeze that moment in time — the time we met ourselves in the serene enclave of the elk — the time we felt that silent connection, the mutual pulsing of the life force through them, through us — the time we were invited to be part of this peaceful and temporary existence — the time before the gun shot blasted our world. And theirs.

bull elk in snow

By | 2008-11-30T23:43:11+00:00 November 30th, 2008|Blog, Fishing & Hunting, Wildlife Ethics|43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. matt July 11, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Yeah, it always blows my mind that people can be so ignorant to the effects of the hunt on wild animals and the animals’ social systems. The gun shots during hunting season are damned painful for those of us who understand what’s happening as we hear them — but not just to the animals injured — also to the animals left behind.

    The “social” effects is a concept not explored nearly enough, and animals’ social systems and communications are minimized for our convenience. But if you’ve been around enough wildlife, you know they bond in ways that far exceed anything we’re willing to give up to them.

    I’ve seen the terrified animals in the aftermath, too. And the separated parents and young, when one or the other is shot. And the devasted mates of animals who take one partner for life. It’s awful. But I guess if you’re out their enjoying the heck out of the sport, these are considerations you really can’t entertain. It would ruin the fun, wouldn’t it?

    I’ve heard all of the justifications. And nothing can explain away the trauma and the brutality that you only see when you come upon an incident like this.

  2. Chad Christensen February 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    You have so many inconsistancies in your story. First you state that you heard, “A gunshot blast that shattered the silence like a cannon”, then when you talk about seeing the downed animal you state, “And then we saw the elk — on the ground with an arrow protruding near his haunch, a poor shot that even an adept bow hunter will acknowledge as questionable. The elk was one of the bulls we had just watched bugling, who then leaped unknowingly to the draw of a human bow and, ostensibly, the shot we heard.”

    I’m sorry, but you are full of it!!! If the elk was harvested with archery gear, you would never have heard a shot!! If you did actually hear a shot, then when you drove up and saw the downed animal, there wouldn’t have been an arrow stuck in the haunches.

    Then you go on about how an animal shot with an arrow suffers for hours before expirering, again you are full of it. 9 times out of 10 the animal expires within sight of the hunter and in seconds is dead.

    Please stop bashing us hunters for doing what we love. Do you realize that hunters fees, permits, clothing and other gear helps pay for the restoration of habitat, the reintroduction of animals to the wild, and to ensure that they are here for generations to come.

    Truley sickening how non hunters bash us and can’t even keep their story together.

    • ingrid February 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Chad, you and I obviously disagree on the ethics of this hunt, and probably on hunting ethics in general. But, there is no inconsistency, to the best of my knowledge, between what I saw and what I learned. I was surprised by the use of both weapons as well. When I called the game department to verify the legality of this hunt, they told me that crossbows were permitted during gun season in Colorado. Our understanding, what we were told, was that the elk was shot first with a crossbow, quite poorly. If you have a different understanding about the legality of this in Colorado, please send me some links so that I can correct my information on this. The fact is, there was an arrow protruding from the elk, and there was also a gunshot. Whether any of this was verifiably legal, I do not know, except for what I was told on the phone and through my research on rifle season in the area. There were two men in the area and I don’t know which fired the rifle.

      Second, again, please send me some studies or information that verify that “9 times out of 10 the animal expires within sight of the hunters and in seconds is dead.” Even bowhunting magazines, which I read, suggest waiting a half hour, or sometimes portray hours-long treks in following blood trails, as do hunters writing publicly on the subject. This elk did, indeed, expire in front of the hunter as he laughed while chatting on his cell phone. But it was not seconds, and the animal was clearly in distress for that long period of time. I was responding to that reaction, and to my aversion for that type of suffering.

      As far as fees, permits and so forth, yes, I think those same fees should be mandated of non-hunters, to help with non-game projects, habitat and preservation. I’d like to see a Pittman-Robertson Act for photographers and birders. As much as hunters like to assert that non-hunters don’t pay the same fees, I don’t see much enthusiasm for the idea of non-hunters paying more. Rather, I encounter resistance. As far as the money going toward preservation, you know as well as I that there’s a disproportionate amount devoted to game-animal management owing to the source of those funds, and that some of these fees go right back into hunting education and promotion of hunting. Do I believe the funding structure needs to change to mandate similar fees of other users of public land? Yes I do, and I’ve taken a clear stand on that. Hunters fund some of our public land efforts, but they also enjoy a disproportionate degree of privilege on how those lands are used and allocated, as compared to others.

  3. Chad Christensen February 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Ingrid,

    I appreciate your opinion, I have hunted Colorado many times and have had success with both bow and rifle. First let me state that a hunter standing over a wounded animal laughing and talking on a cell phone, is not a hunter or conservationist!! I apologize for the ignorance of others!! They should have dispatched the elk immediately upon recovery.

    As for giving you studies, the only ones I can offer are my own and those of the close group I hunt with. If the shot placement is in the correct spot, which let me add is very large on big game, the animal will go down dead within sight and within seconds. The bullet and or broadhead is designed to cause massive bleedout. I cannot and will not say that I’ve never made a bad shot, does it bother me? ABSOLUTELY!!! And I feel terrible for causing that pain and suffering to that animal. I make every effort to retrieve that animal. It is my duty as a conservationist and a hunter to make a clean and ethical kill. But, I will say that in the 30 years that I have been hunting I have lost 2 deer. I threw my tag away, I had harvested an animal and it was my fault that I wasnt able to retrieve them.

    I am a hunter education instructor, and I hope that I can pass on the ethics and morals that were passed onto me. What you experienced was terrible!! But, not all people that hunt conduct themselves in that manner.

    • ingrid February 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Dear Chad, I so appreciate your reply here, for coming back, and thank you for adding that you are a hunter education instructor. I do value information and insight outside of what I know, and I’m glad you offered it. The fact that you threw your tag away is precisely what I wish more hunters considered and were taught. I am thankful you shared that. I wish it were the norm, but I don’t think it is. Is it? I’d like to hear from hunters who throw away their tags or who count injured birds toward their bag limits. Those are the very types of practices that lead to much more respect for hunters in the non-hunting community. And although I know hunters aren’t clamoring to please non-hunters, I think it becomes a double-bind for the hunting community at large, when bad behavior is tolerated or brushed off. It’s difficult to extend respect where respect isn’t warranted. I hope you read that as I’m intending it. I’d like to see more mutual respect and communication on some of these points.

      Before I wrote this post, I wrote to a few prominent hunting bloggers in the aftermath of this, asking about the hunter’s behavior and whether or not I was misreading it. Most said it was acceptable — that he was just waiting out the death as most hunters do, that it wasn’t as callous as it appeared. That may be so, but he unfortunately did so in view of those who cannot detach from the experience quite so easily.

      This piece was written quite a few years ago now, and since that time, I have immersed myself in education about hunting — based on this incident which was so troubling to me. The truth is, I was hoping to feel better about what I’d witnessed. But what I’ve learned and seen since has turned me, unfortunately, toward a less tolerant stance than I had when I was younger. I often say I wish I didn’t know, because I’d rather not have the anxiety and angst I do, every time hunting season rolls around and I know what’s in store.

      The main reason I question and scrutinize these practices and ethics is because of the injury rate. My most intimate experience is with waterfowl hunting, and I’ve witnessed much more than I ever expected to there. As one who studied wildlife rehabilitation as my “in” to understanding wildlife, it’s difficult for me to reconcile those injury numbers — and then the aftermath — what these animals go through if they do survive the injury and pass through to infection and so forth. I do count among my friends a few ethical hunters who share my concerns. It appears that you share some of the same values, as well. And I wonder if — as a hunter education instructor — you think that there might be more room to address this facet of hunting with beginning hunters.

      One of my hunting acquaintances, who took up hunting as an adult, who came from a non-hunting and animal-caring background, said that his hunter education course didn’t even mention what poor shots entail for the animals — that the primary focus was on human safety and “clean kills,” but very little discussion of what happens to an animal that’s crippled from poor judgment or poor shots. From my standpoint, it’s a gaping hole in a practice and experience that should take into account the whole of the picture, particularly since it’s the individual animals who stand to suffer from ignorance. And then, overall, the practice of hunting and its perception in the general public. Coming from some years in a wildlife hospital, I wish there was some way to integrate this knowledge into the broader education of hunters who simply may not be aware. Do you have an opinion on this?

  4. Chad Christensen February 24, 2012 at 5:49 am

    Ingrid,

    I don’t believe it’s the norm, I think most hunters feel that they have the right to take an animal home. If they wound one and don’t find it, they just keep hunting. My father taught me that the shot or harvesting of the animal is the least important factor in hunting. The most important aspect is to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family, and to respect every one of God’s creatures. The harvesting of an animal is just an added bonus if you will. The farm that my father owns has been managed for many years, it is a place for us to hunt and it is also a place for us to teach our families and friends about the outdoors. I believe education is where most people fall short.

    It’s funny you mention waterfowling, I am very much into duck and goose hunting. I do on occasions guide in the fall and in the spring for the snow geese. My biggest problem is that a lot of people buy a gun and go hunt. They don’t spend the time needed practicing so they know their limitations. I will not call a shot on a birds that isn’t inside 25-30 yards. Some clients I have guided over the years have gotten upset with me for having this standard. I do not allow pass shooting. The birds have to be close!! “Skybusting” will always be a problem with waterfowlers. Some people just don’t care. I can’t tell you the number of times I have personally chewed someone out for it. Most of the time I get the response “coyotes need to eat too”. Excuse my french, but that really pisses me off!!!

    The Hunters Education classes are geared more towards hunter safety and clean kills. I do tend to speak about the effects of lost and wounded animals. The infections, diseases and the pain and suffering that we as hunters can cause. I speak of the importance of using a well trained dog to help with the recovery of downed animals. I try to influence my students and pass on the knowledge and respect that I have for the great outdoors.

    But, I’ll tell you a phrase my father use to tell me when we would run into someone with little respect and or ethics. “You Can’t Fix Stupid”. If they are unwilling to learn you can’t help them.

    So my goal is to catch them why they are young and start them down the right path early. And hope they stay the course.

    • Ingrid February 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      Chad, I respect your honesty in sharing all of this. It’s not lost on me that it’s a courageous thing to do in any endeavor — to make criticisms of colleagues or fellow hunters. What you describe, unfortunately, is behavior I’ve seen as well. I think if I hadn’t been exposed to this, by virtue of my time in the field — especially, to so many sky busters — my impressions would have softened. I have very strong feelings about hunting, as you can tell. I’m still hopeful about what I think hunters and non-hunters might be able to agree upon in terms of ethics. Unfortunately, the realist in me sees ongoing impasse, despite good or civil discussion. I do wish there were more out there willing to take the stands you take. I am appreciative of hunters like you, who abide by strict code and do your best to relay that to others in your environment.

      It’s interesting, although the outcome for the animal is quite (quite!) different, there’s a comparable mentality, I think between the people you describe and some of the non-hunters I run into with a similar utilitarian view of the land and of wildlife. I hesitate to make this comparison because, again, we’re talking about different outcomes and stakes. And I do believe that makes a huge and difference in how we view the ethical violations.

      But, let’s say it’s a different type of ethical situation. I often approach people or take a stance, even with fellow photographers, if the well-being of animals or habitat is in question because of some bad behavior. Because, excuse my French, it pisses me off, too. I think the one subtle commonality here is a sense of entitlement in those who take these liberties with wildlife or natural resources. There often seems to be a lack of understanding for the bigger picture, and why these ethical mores exist in the first place. And the personal quest becomes the only consideration.

      I agree with you that “you can’t fix stupid.” But, I’ll leave you with one thought and one article. (I thought I had originally read this in the book “The Hunter’s Heart” but I was mistaken. I just found it again online.)

      I lived in Europe as a child, and this is my vague recollection as well. But I cannot substantiate for sure how true the impressions are in this piece. The point of posting it is that although you can’t fix stupid, you can increase the requirements to such a level (as this article describes in Germany) that a degree of proficiency and understanding exists before anyone points a weapon at a wild animal. I realize that would never happen with all of the resistance here in the States. But I honestly don’t see what would be wrong with making requirements more stringent, just to have a chance to engender and infuse more ethics.

      Here’s an excerpt from the piece below:

      “[In Germany] Hunters are expected to memorize a dizzying array of laws. They must be able to identify not only every species of animal in the forest, but also its sex and age. Their shooting skills must be precise, and they must learn how to develop wildlife management plans.”

      I realize for Americans that would sound outlandish, and I can hear the criticisms of “nanny state” in response. But from my perspective, the taking of a life and a sentient being is a serious endeavor, not one I care to engage in and one I often fail to understand. But nonetheless, wanton disregard like what you describe, like what I’ve seen, often stems from ignorance.

      Here’s the piece. If you feel inspired to comment in response, I’d like to hear your thoughts:

      Hunting in Germany
      http://fwp.mt.gov/mtoutdoors/HTML/articles/2003/HuntingGermany.htm

      Note: I did edit this comment once after posting, for a few grammatical inconsistencies and clarifications.

  5. John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Ingrid, I just can’t take any of the rationale I see so often. I have no desire to make mince words. To me, in the modern age in the United States, there is no need for the finality of death or torture of a creature when all other aspects of the hunt prior to killing can be attained. Preparing, researching, outfitting and stalking can all be exactly the same without a corpse in the end. Hunters who say that the kill is just an extra are just animal killers. Said it. If so, cut out the last act and become a modern man. Teaching the youth these worn our rituals is sad, teach them to let the free stay free is the right way.

    Go home with a nice photograph instead of destroying an animal for pleasure, please. There are better and ethically far better food sources. Promote forward-thinking conservationist instead of an excuse making backward 1800’s thinking.

    Rationalizing hunting is falling on these deaf ears.

    • ingrid February 24, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      John, I get what you’re saying. I’m assuming you’re making a comment on my notes here, not on Chad’s. I feel as strongly about these issues as you do, and I make no secret of it in this piece, nor in other pieces I’ve written on the subject here at the blog. I’ve had my heart break into pieces witnessing what happens in the field and I don’t mind saying so. And I don’t mind revealing that my life is forever punctuated by sadness because of what happens to animals across the board — the corresponding visions of suffering that will just never go away, the things I’ve seen. There’s never a time, for instance, that I view a migratory bird on a pond and don’t consider what ordeals this bird has endured just to get here. In the instant I marvel over her beauty, I’m encumbered with thoughts of the hazards I know she has overcome just to follow her rightful calling on the flyway and land on this pond, hopefully a safe pond. When I wrote about that Snow Goose hunt and the injured goose left behind — there’s not a night since that event where I don’t go to sleep thinking about her and what her fate may have been. I drove that road not long ago and felt sick inside. It will never leave my consciousness. So, when I read your comment, obviously, your feelings resonated strongly with my own and, at the same time, I understand why this thread would have provoked that response.

      I’ve also posted regularly at hunting blogs where, in a few cases, the hunters welcome contrarian views. But in quite a lot of cases, people like me become persona non grata quickly. I’ve had my IP address blocked from blogs for merely writing the words: “I hope you will reconsider this practice, given the significant amount of suffering that’s incurred by individual animals.” Done. Blocked. No insults, no vitriol on my part, just a simple plea for more compassion. There is obviously no way to reason with people who take that rigid a position and it’s hard to take, knowing what that rigidity leads to in the field. I think this feeds into your comment about rationalizations. I get that.

      Based on that experience, though, I guess I just don’t see the benefit in closing the conversation with those who might share some of my ethical concerns, even if we vary dramatically in our worldview or the outcome we’d like to see. I mean, how do we begin to engender a societal ethic of compassion without those conversations? That is my intent in this comment section and in the blog in general. Because I honestly don’t know what the answer is. I never lay claim to that and can only speak to my own feelings and motivations. I’m open to exploring possibilities that will improve the situation for wild animals and all animals, given how many wretched things happen to them in this existence, most often because of our species and its overt and hidden agendas. And in my own life, I make food and lifestyle choices that abide by those beliefs. I’d like to see a far better world for animals than what I believe I will ever see in this lifetime. As I wrote to Chad, on my more realistic days, I don’t see our two sides ever coming together on anything, in part, owing to the strong feelings you and I share, and those expressed on the other side. On my more optimistic days, I look at comments like Chad’s and believe there’s a kernel in many of us that responds to these deeper issues of understanding and kindness. I just don’t know.

  6. John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Hunters are so defensive because they, deep down, have moments of clarity when they know that killing in the field is wrong with modern firearms and big trucks, and delivery pizza and fully stocked grocery stores. Most have enough money to where they can cover the food bill at home easily.

    The only reason they have animals to kill anyway is because others haven’t. Conservationists save animals for the future hunters to kill. Why don’t we all buy a license and have a one-day kill off? What would all the ex-hunters do with their spare time? Maybe get educated and do something good with their time.

  7. John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    “Please stop bashing us hunters for doing what we love. Do you realize that hunters fees, permits, clothing and other gear helps pay for the restoration of habitat, the reintroduction of animals to the wild, and to ensure that they are here for generations to come. ”

    Such total BS, without hunters there would be nothing?? The funds don’t begin to cover a micro point of where the animals live and breed — not even enough funds to keep enough game wardens to watch the hunters themselves. That big lie about being a conservationist/hunters is a joke!

    You would have to be ignorant to think that it is just hunters’ money that supports the research at university levels, pays for the lands where the animals naturally breed. Those ducks you kill? 99.99% come from the very far North, many in countries your precious US$ doesn’t even see.

    FYI, I am a rural landowner/farmer with hundreds of acres. It is a breeding ground for animals that belong to a food chain and that hunters’ money never hits my pocket. In fact, hunters take money when they cut our fences, and it costs me money to keep replacing signs for the jerks who are above respecting trespassing law.

    I respect the law, until changed, that allows hunting, and I expect the return respect about my land, but don’t expect me to listen to rationale about hunters saving the planet. Good grief!

    • ingrid February 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      John, in my post, advocating for an alternative to the Duck Stamp — a stamp for wildlife watchers where the parallel revenue could help under-funded refuges and also finance non-game priorities — I listed a breakdown of funding for refuges in particular. You do have a strong point about the breakdown and usage. In the case of refuges, for example, Duck Stamps have funded about 3 percent of refuge land acquisition. The rest of the funding comes from public monies and Congressional allocations. And yet, as a non-hunter, I’m often told that Duck Stamp revenue justifies the disproportionate priorities allocated toward hunting, game-animal “management,” and land-use priorities. I think it’s very important to scrutinize some of the notions that go unquestioned on these issues.

      When you look at the history of conservation, you cannot discount that conservationist efforts — where they were supported by hunters or non-hunters — were so often in response to the damage hunting wrought on wildlife. So, it’s not as clear-cut as some would like to say. Yes, there were hunters who were significant in conservation history, including Audubon himself. But it was because of hunters that these measures had to be undertaken in the first place. We will never see a Passenger Pigeon and came close to losing many species (including herons and egrets) owing to voracious plume hunting.

      One of the greatest advocates for our wild lands, John Muir, was staunchly anti-hunting but he’s not often mentioned in these discussions. Today, although Ducks Unlimited and other hunting advocacy groups do a lot for habitat restoration, what’s often discounted in these arguments also is the many private landowners (like yourself) and non-hunting conservation groups who do commensurate habitat work without, I might add, the motivation being preservation of game animals for hunting purposes.

      • John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm

        Yes, and we are talking the buying of land when the majority of creatures are born in areas out of the country or other large areas.
        There is a huge disproportionate advantage given to hunters on these purchases.

        Those who own the land have the power and it is sad, as most are stuck in the middle between greedy hunter and greedy conservationist.

  8. John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Lastly, making money as a guide for hunting is really closest to the lowest of the low in my book.

  9. John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Ingrid, anyone with any science knowledge understands that what Ducks Unlimited does is just that, VERY LIMITED in the whole scheme of things. We are talking food chain and huge areas of lands and oceans that are needed to produce the cycle of micro to macro to where a duck can sit on the ground dead in the end for the killer. Flooding a few fields and putting up a few ducks boxes does not make a dent in the natural world. A huge majority of those well-to-do DU projects are nothing more than making a big shooting range for the ducks that are bred far away and traveling through so they can be trapped and slaughtered. They build roads so they can drive their ATVs in to kill — money spent not on anything other than for a lazy hunter.

    Take this to the fisheries and the issues there. The same hunters want to kill the sea lions and yet they are often also the loggers who have stripped the headwaters of vegetation so that when the few fish get past the netting and commercial fisherman and natural predators, the nesting gravels are not suitable for good egg bearing. That is a big reason why there are no salmon. The deadly solution is a very DU-esque method with hatcheries. Filling the void with inferior genetics to cross breed and water down a stock is devastating.

  10. John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    My apologies to all reading for my errors in spelling/grammar and general soap-box spewing.
    I respect hunters as fellow humans and have grown up with good friends that hunt and try to allow
    what the law allows. When things turn into “the earth is here for me to reap” views it makes me shudder knowing that is the kind of attitude that is driving our general well being into extinction.

    Off the soap box : )

    • ingrid February 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      John, I appreciate strong views and grew up in a family where political and social arguments were the norm. It doesn’t faze me one bit. Your line about the disrespect shown your land was so sad and poignant. I’m not sure how I would deal with that experience, but I doubt I would feel any need for concession on it. How can you not have strong opinions about people and activities that have so dramatically changed your life and livelihood?

  11. John Raymond February 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Ingrid, not actually dramatically change my life — learned early to stand my ground, I have expected the same retorts and same mindset day one from hunters, but first hand experience goes a long ways and it reaffirms my beliefs that watching game and non-game animals die from those playing God is not my way. Steamrolling to get what you want, dressing up agendas — common with national organizations…DU or political parties, is not unlike the creep at the bar who tries to keep intentions undercover but eventually loses his camouflage.

    Self-serving gives itself up as disrespect for all others. Even hunters themselves take the ultimate black eye as poachers-the worst scum, are “hunters gone wild” and even disrespect and hurt the common/law abiding hunter.

    I have read your efforts to understand both sides about hunting and attempted responses from others to defend it. It is cruel to put oneself in the crosshairs (pun) of a faction with a single minded view and attempt to get a reasonable debate. Much like many things distasteful, it is often best to be careful in “trying” as it may be poison and disagreeable for good reason.

    The saddest thing of all is that money rules, politics-power. One trip to Cabela’s to the African themed killing zone-there must 1000 dead animals in there, and one trip to the Giant Conservation Store-THE ARE NONE, shows what the general public cares about and what generates money=power=control.

    On an uplifting note, hunting season is over and the conditions here turned what was forecasted as “the best hunting in 50 years” as forecast by the WDFW into one of the most mediocre. The fields are now full of Pintail and Swans and Elk, and barring trespassing poachers, they made it another year. Now, if they can only crowd themselves onto a DU lake or field project to breed and be saved, then life will be good!

  12. anita February 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I live in Iowa without the hunters, deer population is out of control. My question for those who despise hunting, How many kids have you pulled from a mangled car created by a wild animal crossing on a highway? Hunters are all welcomed here!

    • ingrid February 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Hi, Anita, thanks for coming by. I’ll get back to this note later on — don’t have time to respond at the moment. But I do have a few comments in response to what you say.

    • John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 5:28 am

      I hate to be such a sourpuss but the excuses continue. That is really flawed logic, sorry. I do agree, deer get hit and some unfortunately cause fatal wrecks, but deer were here long before us, we killed their predators and we are asking too much of them to evolve from a man walking 3 mph 120 years ago to cars going 70mph. Maybe folks drive too fast? Drop the speed limits and then cull the deer if need be. Most fatal wrecks are human error and human caused.

      What is the answer to stopping wild animals from crossing the road? Kill them all?
      What if the animals are not legal to hunt (I guess poachers do have a purpose).

      Geese sucked into a few airplane engines reason to kill all birds?

      Teens drinking alcohol kill alot more than deer-that would be a great focus as well, better parenting is probably a good route too.

  13. ingrid February 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

    A general note for the comment section: I appreciate all points of view and even a heated debate. I just ask that any commenters please keep the discussion to the issues at hand, and avoid ad hominem and personal attacks. As a rule, I don’t block or delete comments, but in exchange, I do ask that people keep the debate civil, even in the face of difficult and contentious issues like this one.

  14. Rob February 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I have read through these comments and see that all base their comments off of their experiences. I tend to agree and disagree with all parties here as I too have had many experiences with both hunter and farmer and non-hunter. My experience with hunters is because I am one. I have hunted with my family and with the same farmer for almost 30 years. I primarily keep my hunting efforts to my home state which is not Colorado. I tend to agree with Chad on the fact that one can not lump hunters into “playing god” “can cover the food bill at home” and it is my opinion that we are being cast in these comments as uneducated hunters.

    Play god, i think not. I hunt because it is a love not a god complex. But I know of some hunters out there that do not follow the rules and do break the laws. These individuals would be know as poachers, not hunters. Please do not confuse the two.

    On point number two, yes I do go to work everyday and can afford my food bill just fine. Yet i still hunt and i do eat everything that i hunt. I am not a kill and give away type of person nor will i ever be. I hunt because once again I love it. I look forward to hunting all year long and when the time comes i make sure i am ready. Lots of practice shooting to make sure i amd my weapons are as accurate and as ready as can possible be. There are no 100% in hunting. Yes, I too have had a bad shoot on a deer, but i am my hunting party make every effort to track the deer and make sure that, if possible, that deer goes home with us. If needed, we will track our deer to other properties but never before obtaining permission. This is a sign of a good hunter in my book. And as for my view on the farmer and the hunter, it depends on location and the people involved. The farmer with whom i have hunted almost all of my life absolutely despises the animals for his loss of crops because he does like to put the money in his pocket and the animals are cutting down on that. I belive that it was even stated earlier that “none of that money hits my pocket” You are probably right, but as i research where the money us hunters pay for our tags go, it all goes to the selling authority. Which basically is the DNR in the case that i researched. There site states that the money is seperated out per THEIR programs which can be conservation, land developement for habitat and also can go to animal research. This is and will never be in the hand of the hunters but at least we can say that some of the money is going to some good things for the animals. As for none of it making it to the farmer, still nothing that the hunters can do. In my case though, for the rights to hunt the hundreds of acres we hunt, there are fees which are paid yearly thorugh assistance with farming, wrenching on equipment, and even as far as roofing, moving and basically helping our farmer with whatever he posibly needs help with. To keep my right on his farm, i will do what is needed and that also includes helping keep everyone else out!

    As for the last case, John, it does sound to me through your writing that you are a very well educated man, and in my opinion far more educated than I am. But to put hunters into a catogory similar to where you were going with you statements earlier would be insult to us both. My hunting party consists or many ranges of education raging from several with high school and on the job training to one being a college prof. and coach and we now even have two with masters degrees, one in business and the other in education. You do not need to be a redneck or uneducated to be a hunter, it just needs to be something you love to do. But I am also a believer that some of the most educated people can still do dumb things. I just read an article on a college prof getting arrested for the second time for child molestation. We can not put brands on groups or anyone for that matter. I am a firm believer that I need to get to know someone and then make my decision about them. If not, I am guessing I will need to go on a rampage about how much I hate vegetarians because they don’t hunt and if they do than that would just be stupid. Sorry, i just cannot do that as it is not how i was raised.

    In closing, i would like to say this was a very interesting article and i do see that all here have points and good ones at that from their prespective but we can not point fingers or start bashing because we have had a personal experience that was bad relating to this subject. Chad brings good points and brings them from his experience of being a hunter and a hunters safety instructor. John brings good points from the experience of being a farmer and being around these animals and having his land be abused by poachers and people of a less desirable catagory. And Ingrid starts all of this with a true to life story of, in my opinion, some very stupid people with little respect for the people around let alone the animal. I do have respect for the animals i hunt and this is why i practice constantly so when i shoot, i know i am as prepared as can be and will make the best shot possible. These people obviously did not take this kind of time judging by the bad bow shot or look around to make sure the people in the cul-de-sac were not offended or upset which obviously was not the case. Bad people can bring bad names to certain groups, but i feel would can group these idiots in with bad poacher and not with the hunter.

    • John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 4:50 am

      Hi Rob, I am not questioning anyone’s right to do a legal action. And back when my grandfather worked our land, kids actually worked hay and he would let some of the kids hunt in the fields. They were respectful as was he. Sounds like your situation. Times are changing.

      Today, ethics are the issue across the board in a less safe world landscape and in hunting. As stated, if hunters want to kill for sport, more power to them. Straight up admition works well. Kill clean and on public or allowed property. Fine. Injure animals and spew excuses, not cool (not pointed at you-my experiences). When I hear the same sorry reasons for the mindset it gets old, and when confronted peacefully, hunters are the ones who become bitter and violent. Example? Personally, I have had a gun pointed at me on my property line..Christmas Day, hunters shooting ducks over our property and sending dogs in to retrieve. I approached and he started right in with the F** you crap. The hunter waved his shotgun from his crotch level- he is a little man. Blantly shooting over our property. Our farm is 5 generation so I don’t back away (this hunter worked a deal with the WA Game Department to swindle money to make a private game reserve-come by-I’ll be glad to show anyone, the whole county knows the story). I had to manually push the barrel aside several times while he tried to intimidate me. I guarantee if the gun goes off he’s free. When that didn’t work one of his buddies jumps out and tries to chime in. Meanwhile dropping ducks during our fight. Class!
      Call the local cops? Hunting pals. Judges? Ha. Small town.

      Another time, yelled- not in tone but volume, to ask some guys across the river to not shoot our way. Response was “F* you, how bout I come over there and kick your ass.” then shotgun pellets spraying across the river-not cool (I called the Sheriff on that one).
      This is just a small part of yearly interactions with hunters. I talk to other landowners and this is the widespread issue.
      Dead deer and skinned Beaver..all the time. Cats shot at. Great stuff.
      My experiences. I grew up with alot of the guys who hunt too.

      And to address the eduction issue, not my point at all. Plenty of dumb people don’t hunt and smart people doing very dumb things..Yep, some dummies even “go to Yale”.. cough, and become President and stumble and mumble their way through…

      All poachers are hunters, not all hunters are poachers, hunters and poachers kill.
      Hunters need to step up and police their own is my biggest hope.

  15. Rob February 27, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I would like to appoligize for my bad typing by the way!

  16. Debra Lau February 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

    We have problems with huge numbers of deer in my area. If we did not allow hunters in we would be over run with them. I can’t grow a garden because the deer eat the tender plants. A huge herd of 12 to 15 gathers in my trees. Cows get out because the deer knock down the fencing. We have to play dodge the deer on a regular basis. I have to replace my bumper because I hit a deer. My husbands semi is in the shop because a large buck ran into him and dented the whole drivers side. We have had many hunters come over to hunt and we have found them to be very respectful. We welcome them. They are helping us to keep the numbers of deer down.

    • John Raymond February 27, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Yes, I agree an area over-run with deer is a danger in many ways and needs to be dealt with and that is
      why there are Game Departments and hopefully they are doing their jobs-no problem getting a balance back. As long as hunters are respectful and the issue is real, and law allows, I’m all for it.

  17. Katie February 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Not to mention the wonderful programs offered where harvested deer are donated to the homeless. Each year hunters feed MANY families that would otherwise go without. (http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/DeerHunting/HelpUsStopHungerHUSH.aspx) In the 2010-2011 hunting season more than 6,300 deer were donated feeding families in need generating 1.1 MILLION meals.
    Controlling animal population also keeps down disease as well.
    No matter what you do in life you have a choice on how you are going to do it. If a man hunts to provide for their family then who are you to say he shouldn’t? There were several times growing up that if my family didn’t hunt, my family wouldn’t eat.

    • John Raymond February 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      If the same hunters money that is spent on fuel and guns and big trucks was spent on food and more for the homeless we’d have alot of fat, former-homeless people living in mansions.

      I agree, many rural families do well with an elk carcass or moose carcass to eat, but at some point when you “get on your feet” and get beyond the need, then quit hunting for that reason.
      Didn’t we do that to the Eskimos and Native Americans? We shut them down when we decided the local Costco was a better place for them than a Fin Whale? Why are they regulated when rich yuppies sport kill in excess (buying animal tags in multiple states) to fill their mansions with mounts?

      But let’s be real, a majority of hunters are into hunting for the sport, the thrill of killing.
      That is why so many poachers leave deer and other animals carcasses everywhere and they are not used for food. It is very real and I see it every year in all my travels.
      If people think that is not a fact, then they are just plain in denial.

      So the logic is feeding the homeless is only good if the deer are taken by an approved culling department and not a reason for the local hunting gang to go out and kill more and throw a little meat towards the homeless to make it all appear justified. Not buying it.

      Give me better reasons and I’ll let hunters into my fields.

      • John Raymond February 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm

        **I do differentiate between hunters and poachers, BUT, I feel safe in saying that >99.9999% of poachers
        are hunters gone bad and that <0.00000001 % of poachers are non-hunters/tree huggers/conservationist with a penchant to kill for fun.
        They wouldn't know how to handle a gun anyway.

  18. ingrid February 27, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    @Anita, @Debra and @Katie —

    Thank you all for making a point in this discussion. Even though we have our disagreements, as I always say, I welcome not only the conversation but also the introduction of points I may not have considered or addressed.

    The problem with the issue you cite — overpopulation of deer — is that you simply cannot talk about deer numbers without considering deer management programs and their motives or mission statements. In many states, although I’m not sure about Iowa, Anita — deer are managed in such a way as to keep the numbers optimal for hunters. So, it’s a bit of a misnomer to say that hunters keep populations down. They hunt deer in a system that favors maintaining population numbers for hunting. There are forestry management practices that cut for undergrowth precisely to provide food for deer. In some areas, food plots are planted to ensure a steady supply of food for whitetail deer. When you consider that whitetail deer were nearly wiped out by hunters at the turn of the century, it is no accident that their numbers remain high. Add to that the pressure of greater urbanization and suburbanization, which leads to reduced habitat, and you have a complex and often murky mix of factors that are not quite as black-and-white as “hunters keep deer populations down.” For the record, I realize that we non-hunters and hunters often agree on one important issue, and that is the severe damage that rampant development does to wildlife and habitat.

    Furthermore, we’ve destroyed populations of apex predators beyond ourselves, and when populations increase (as in the case of wolves or mountain lions) it is often hunters who are first to lay blame on these other predators for population reductions — which are then considered bad instead of good. In Idaho, for instance, where wolves are being hunted in significant numbers right now, wolves were blamed for decimation of elk herds, and in at least one area it’s been shown that it was actually human hunting pressure, not wolves, that was responsible. But even so, the fact that competitive predators evoke such a vitriolic and often violent reaction in human hunters, suggests that population control is a common way to explain hunting, but it’s rarely if ever the real motivation when you consider these myriad and complicated factors in deer “management.”

    There has been one study which showed an increase in deer-car collisions at the onset of hunting season, as deer are driven out of cover and toward roads. This has been a contentious study so I’ll leave it at that. But what I’m trying to point out is that there is room for reasonable doubt about the efficacy of our current system, and the solutions proposed which always appear to be hunting solutions.

    @ Rob — thanks for sharing your experience here. I also appreciate your careful consideration of the post and of the other commenters here. You covered a lot of bases and obviously have significant time in the field.

    I’ve had many conversations and experiences with hunters who abide by what could be considered the most ethical of hunting codes. Whether or not one likes or agrees with hunting, there’s still one facet which is open to great criticism in my view. Beyond the points I’ve already mentioned (significant injury rate in wing shooting, for instance), my argument is that because ethics are self-reliant and self-policed, they are inadequate in a practice that is often done for reasons other than hunger or starvation, and which involves the life of sentient creatures. I’ll give you an example below from my own experience. But, I will just add that many of the hunters I’ve met are not subsistence hunters and, as such, the practice is subject to greater scrutiny as a result. (For comparison’s sake, my husband, who lived in Alaska, met at least one ‘mountain man’ at the trading post who literally lived off the land and would have had difficulty sustaining himself without various wilderness skills. But that simply is not the majority of American hunters.)

    As far as my personal experience, to which I alluded above — I am a licensed wildlife rehabiltator, in a volunteer capacity. I do not have the decades of experience that some of my colleagues have, but have had enough hours in the field and hospital to understand the rigidity of regulatory constraints that guide the experience in a wildlife facility. From humane euthanasia guidelines, to extremely strict codes of interaction with wild animals, from the beginning, we are taught and bound by these principles. And one simply cannot work in the field and consistently violate these guidelines.

    My point is, we work with the same species hunters hunt. And yet the disparity between how a medical person must interact with a wild animal — and the very little regulation in the hunting field with respect to “humane” treatment — is a significant gap. I don’t object in the least to being held to these standards both legally and ethically. And yet, when I discuss what I consider legitimate restraints in how hunters can actually, legally treat the animals they hunt, I’m met with nothing but resistance. Invariably, the conversation begins with hunters commenting on their own set of high ethics, which I do respect — especially in light of what I’ve seen. But when the conversation come down to actually changing hunters’ education, making it more difficult to get a license or requiring more training, I’ve encountered nothing but anger and stonewalling. I understand that given the current state of affairs, hunters do have the power to say “no” to those of us who would like to add a dimension of regulated ethics. But when they do, it undermines the “sanctity” of the sport, as it were. Because those who come upon these scenes — and I’ve had too many such experiences since I wrote this post in 2008 — will not be able to abide by the explanations we hear. In the end, I do believe it hurts hunting to ignore the legitimate complaints of people like me. Because there is a vast gray area of terrible actions that occur between the highest ethics and poaching. And all of these in-between actions are, sadly, legal. As we know from our own human history, legality is a dubious measure humanity.

  19. John Raymond February 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    As long as the law allows hunting and special seasons are regulated for over-population then I have no beef at all. The ethics question is as pure as religion. Believe in killing and injuring wild animals or not.

    Simple.

    I personally don’t believe in 99% of the reasoning for hunting. Others are 100% for killing.
    That’s why we have laws.

    Just aspects about the whole mental process and excuse making invalidate the logic of it to me.
    Most will admit they don’t need the meat, many say “can have a great experience without a kill-the kill is an extra..”… So why…?
    Not sure why killing actually seals the “great experience” if you can stalk and draw the bow and not fire, put the elk in the crosshairs and not pull the trigger and go home with the experience minus death? Sounds like you are saving yourself a bloody mess.

    That’s is the one thing I need explained to me. Catch and release flyfishing works well why can’t hunters just carry a camera for the trophy room?

    Overpopluation of deer and elk is another story since predators are gone and that should be a controlled culling. It’s ugly, but after man went west and populated the area, something had to give and we can’t have cougars running around cul de sacs with our kids, I get that.

    It’s just the sport killing of animals that are key to a food chain irks me.
    My opinion, I really think most hunters would love a job at a slaughterhouse. Really. Killing IS the fun, not so much the chase. And yeah, I hear the same old story about my leather boots and Big Macs I eat.
    We raise open range/non-grain Angus cattle and one steer can provide a heck of a lot of meat compared to
    500 wild ducks that are taken out of the food chain for the pleasure of killing (plus the other 500 hundred struggling through life with pellets embedded that infect/re-infect).

    Whether you subscribe or you don’t, or if on the fence, make sure you don’t interfere with those who legally
    can and own property. That includes hunters blasting away making noise pollution pre-dawn and post dark.
    Atleast follow the laws to a T and don’t consider trespassing and do not use the lame excuse you were told it was ok by Mr X when you kill geese or ducks right next to my NO Hunting/No Trespassing signs in the middle of my property.
    That happens every year. I assume most hunters can read?

    Hunters need to clean up their acts as a whole before I call it a fair deal. They argued against the law change about lead shot when the damage is known and the lead is still out there on the ponds waiting for others to get it unto the system for decades more. My list of grievances goes deep. Follow the law and practice good ethics, no issue from me, anything else and I cringe.

    I am in no way trying to convince others not to hunt. That is a lost cause. Just realize that not everyone thinks it is cool to drive behind someone on the road with a decapitated Elk. You’re not a big man in my book.
    Put a tarp over that corpse. A majority of those hunters are NRA right wingers (it is in the stats) who are offended by gays and pro-choice yet cry when hunters’ rights are questioned.

    God bless the USA for the freedom and let’s leave it at that.

    Regulations get tighter, poachers take more and more. Go on eBay and see antlers and racks being sold for good money with no regulation, that is an issue that has to be stopped and both sides need to step up-ESPECIALLY the hunters because that is their turf.

    • ingrid February 28, 2012 at 12:22 am

      Thanks for weighing in with these comments, John. You have experiences that emulate mine, and experiences that far transcend mine, especially since I haven’t been a landowner with the types of issues you’ve encountered with trespassing.

      You wrote:

      Hunters need to clean up their acts as a whole before I call it a fair deal. They argued against the law change about lead shot when the damage is known and the lead is still out there on the ponds waiting for others to get it unto the system for decades more. My list of grievances goes deep. Follow the law and practice good ethics, no issue from me, anything else and I cringe.

      I couldn’t agree more. And I can point you to at least one prominent and respected hunting blogger who, even after the most recent research about condors and lead poisoning, is still arguing against banning lead shot and against the validity of those studies. I’ve heard every argument, including the cost of alternative ammo, but again, as you point out, a conservationist would pay significant heed to the environmental effects. A related point: I’m not sure how many hunters now use biodegradable shotgun shells, but I’ve picked up enough of the other type to know it’s still an issue. There’s an area where I used to hike in California where signs expressly said that biodegradable shells must be used, but those signs were not observed by what I saw on the terrain sometimes. As you’ve said several times in this thread, there’s a lot of bad behavior, disrespect and lack of ethical compass that we non-hunters encounter. And, although ethical breaches exist across the board in human behavior, with hunting the stakes are high, for us and for the animals. And it shouldn’t be surprising to the hunting community at large that the explanations tend to wear thin in the face of the realities.

      • John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 1:03 am

        I would just like the hear, for once, from a single hunter that they admit they hunt for the thrill of killing/slaughtering/torturing and not for any other lame excuse they try to blanket it with. Not all, just one hunter. Be a big man and come out. Admit they enjoy playing God with a non-armed fellow animal. Destroying a creature is playing higher power.

        Sure, there are SOME that hunt for meat they feel they need. OK. If true, got it.
        There are SOME deer population issues in a FEW pockets, true, cull them.
        But hunters grasping at reasons like saving money on different ammunition to keep lead away from Condors and Swans.. give me a break.

        If you can’t afford the new ammo, you can’t afford to hunt.

  20. Al Clark February 28, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Yo Johnny Boy all I hear spewing from your mouth is Blah Blah Blah. You sound like some PETA loving treehugger with mommy issues. Get over it dude cuz you’re not going to end hunting…. EVER. Maybe you should go read the bible too. God did give us the creatures and all on earth to sustain ourselves. Just because you are happy to eat a factory processed meal which is detrimental to your health doesn’t mean that you should deny those of us the right to have a heathly meal provided to us by mother nature. You mind your business and we will mind ours.

    Have a nice day!
    Al aka “bird”

    • John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Great response, AL. You made your point well for hunters.

    • John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Oh, and it wasn’t “blah blah blah,” I was singing
      “DE DO DO DO, DE DA DA DA”
      The Police, is there anything like them? : )

      • John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm

        Pal, Al, bird,
        I am a mommy hugging, tree loving, APE to a T, sorry, no bible in my evolutionary tract (well I am open to someone planting the first seed).

        Hunting will never end. Women will never vote. Blacks will never be president. Dumb privileged will never go to Yale.

        • John Raymond March 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm

          Al says, “You mind your business and we will mind ours…”

          Right on, AL! Spoken like the inner-liberal in you- Pro Choice!

          A hypocritical Republican??? : O
          No way!

  21. Chad Christensen February 28, 2012 at 7:59 am

    John, I understand your frustration with tresspassers!! Growing up on a farm in the midwest, we always fought the same issue. Some poeple have no respect for property owners or property lines. But, you can’t lump all of us hunters together. I hunt mostly on private land, I have signed permission slips from every landowner and a plat book that shows me the property lines so I know exactly where I can and cannot be.

    As far as me guiding for waterfowl goes, I offer an experience to some who do not want to invest the time or money into decoys and the blinds. I am not breaking the laws in any way and enjoy offering my services to those who choose to join me.

    And on another note, I enjoy the table fare of wild game. I think a wild turkey tastes better than a butterball, I would rather have an elk, deer, antelope or moose steak over a beef steak. I believe a wild roasted duck or goose taste better than one purchased from a store. So in order to obtain these things, the end result is I must kill one of the mentioned animals. I do not take more than my family can eat and I do not waste any of the game.

    I do apologize for the experiences you have had with others in the field!! Some give all a bad name.

    @ Ingrid – I have said for years that a hunting test of some sort would be a good idea, i believe there are to many people in the field that have no business being there!! Again I go back to education.

    The argument between hunters and non-hunters will always be here!! I honestly believe that both sides are trying to do what they feel is best for our enviroment. I will continue to hunt, teach and try and preserve the heritage I grew up loving.

    • John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Chad, I certainly appreciate and respect good practice in any endeavor, and do not lump all hunters together, many are surely law abiding and respectful, but we need 100%, not 50%. How many blast any small tweety bird, shoot at ducks without proper ID etc..? 99% have in their careers and continue to.
      It goes on, swan shooters saying they thought it was a snow goose… I see it every year and if some can’t play right, it has to be stopped. We close our fields.

      When issues arise from a certain community, be it medical or hunting or baseball players and steroids, the groups as a whole have to be held accountable for ethical evaluations and control and most don’t like it when the rule book is brought about and enforced fully.

      We all know that prevention is way better than prisons full of mistake-makers and dead creatures that cannot be revived by poaching..and Condors dying eating lead shot and becoming extinct. Hunting slaughtered a bird with BILLIONS in population in the US-the Passenger Pigeon, to extinction. Hard science, hard evidence. Nothing is safe.
      Those pigeons are a huge missing mass from a greater food chain that worked before we got here. We’ll never know the loss in the big scheme, like the ponds full of lead shot, the long term effects.
      People can’t eat trout in crystal clear lakes because of mining and mercury in the food chain.

      Guys, gals, this is for real. Better jump aboard and we all need to push for more conservation, it is not a dirty word.

      Hunters could make a much better approach. The only way non-hunters will accept and trust ALL hunters is when the effort is shown and INTERNAL
      policing and campaigning is done. It starts WITHIN the family, the family of sport hunting.
      I don’t hear of any large nationwide campaigns for poaching from DU or large hunting groups.
      I hear whining about lead shot and private owners not opening lands. Let’s hear of a crackdown on saving a species from a group of hunters attending a game department meeting pleading for a SEASON CLOSED on a stock they care about because you hunters are in the field as much as anyone and see, when Wood Ducks start disappearing, or Canvasback.
      We need teary-eyed hunters calling for preservation of these great creatures so that their great -grandchildren can harvest some.
      Instead, it is I,ME, MINE and disregard.

      And, above, your first responses to Ingrid were typical hunter disrespect starting out with “you don’t have a clue” jargon.. Sorry, we DO get it. Muscle, guns, intimidation. It does not make it any easier coming out like that. The next step always follows (not yours, but hunters) is throw sound science out when it doesn’t fit an agenda and their desires to kill more than “studies” say they should.
      “longer seasons” “black powder” “early buck” “late buck”.. it is stretched already and ofcourse, the biggest fiasco, the hunting season on some Wildlife Refuges in the rainy season when most of the general public visit as families during summer and don’t see the charade.

      We’ll never agree on any of this and that is fine. Everyone needs to follow the laws and practice good ethics and some forward thinking. Loggers here wanted to cut the very last tree and now there are some left because of forward thinking. Loggers now have trees to cut only because of conservationist, hunters have things to kill only because of past conservationist, national parks.

      Chad, we’d probably get along great in the real world. I think we are all after the same thing in many ways.
      Hope we can get back to a point where we can all enjoy the freedoms we like without causing nature much duress.

      We can get along because we must get along.

  22. John Raymond February 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    My very last comment on this blog, this is 2012, not 1912, or 1812. If your great-granddaddy in 1912 shot some animals for food for the family, great, almost all of ours did. But now there are 100-200 offspring from great granddad in many families and nature cannot sustain the 50 or more of his direct genes hunting way less animals in tighter space for old fashion reasons. Get real.

    Where are my “thank you” cards from hunters for not taking my chunk of the quota? Never understood that.
    Smart hunters should be giving high-fives to non-hunters. We can’t stop hunting so thank us.
    Much like church goers pounding on my door trying to enlist me. What if heaven has limited seating?

    A good friend always made a great point in that for every year he didn’t do drugs and go to jail/prison, the government should send him a rebate.

    Fair is fair.

    Tip of the hat to all.

  23. Chad Christensen February 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    John, you’re correct. This is not the 1800’s or 1900’s. Most of us learned from the past and have learned that in order for all species to survive, there has to be a balance. Whitetails are thriving, turkeys, elk, antelope and all waterfowl numbers are at an all time high. Hunters and conservationists have worked hand in hand to obtain this goal.

    I understand and appreciate your opinion!! The beautiful thing about this great country is that everyone of us has the ability and right to voice our opinions and beliefs. I fought for those rights while serving in the United States Marine Corps and I will continue to fight for those right as a hunter!!

    And I agree, if we ever had the pleasure of meeting we probably could be friends. Thanks for joining in on the blog!!

    Chad

Comments are closed.