Fly Away Home (and Safe) … 2013

:Fly Away Home (and Safe) … 2013

Fly Away Home (and Safe) … 2013

2018-02-17T07:30:46+00:00 October 20th, 2013|Blog, Hunting|29 Comments

Snow Geese 900

This is my annual re-post — on the first weekend of waterfowl hunting season in both Washington (where I’m living now) and California (my home). I’ve been lightly tweaking the post each year, adding new information or links.

My reason for re-posting this piece is to bring attention to some of the lesser discussed aspects of duck hunting. The most significant issue for me is the enormous injury rate in all wing shooting — a facet rarely brought forth voluntarily, and one that’s inadequately studied. I provide additional details on that subject in this post.


Fly Away Home (and Safe)

Originally posted on October 29, 2010 — with additions

Sandhill Cranes hiding in reeds

The above photo was one of the more poignant images I’ve taken of wild birds, aesthetic imperfections noted. Hugh and I had a photo excursion planned to an area of the Sacramento Valley that, in the winter, attracts some of the most awesome and vast flocks of birds: Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, Sandhill Cranes. We chose a spot where the Sandhill Cranes dance in courtship rituals and where, according to my research, there was no waterfowl hunting. Although duck hunting season covers some of the most vibrant months of bird migration on the Pacific Flyway, I’ve done my best to avoid the most heavily hunted zones.

As we slowly made our way toward the cranes, hoping not to startle them, I heard the sound that always shatters my serenity like, well, a shotgun. Because it was a shotgun — very close by. In a clearing across the river, just a hop and a skip from where we were, we saw a blind of free-shooting duck hunters, blasting at anything that flew overhead, in range or out. In the ranks, shooters like this are known as “sky busters.” Legions of ducks flew over that slough, and although I couldn’t tell if any got away wounded, the possibility on that day, from that blind was high. My only consolation was that the hunters’ Mallard call sounded like a drunken sheep. Any duck within earshot probably veered right — fast.

The water birds in the nearby no-hunting zone scattered. Even the crack of a twig under our feet sent them skittering into the sky. So, rather than possibly scare them onto the dark side of the hunting zone, we packed it up for the day. As we drove alongside the slough, I spotted these Greater White-fronted Geese behind the reeds in the distance. (Hunters often refer to them as “specks” or “specklebellies”). Using the car as a blind, I looked through my telephoto. They were on high alert, and every shot from the nearby blind sent a ripple of activity through the flock. Standing among the geese were two Sandhill Cranes looking like sentries above the agitated flock. (Cranes are protected in California but are hunted in some other states.)

Crippled Birds in Waterfowl Hunting

I always maintain that those shooting at the birds don’t see the effects beyond the scope of their blind and decoy spread — the effects on the birds themselves, on their social structures and on behaviors which do change significantly in response to being shot at. The science of waterfowl management covers the populations at large. As long as the numbers are level by agency estimates, we non-hunting wildlife observers are supposed to accept the reasonableness of the sport. Some birders and photographers do. But my perspective on waterfowl hunting comes from sharing the field with duck hunters, and grappling with their dirty little secret, as it were — which is the wounding rate inherent in the sport.

Wounding is an aspect of duck hunting that many non-hunters simply do not know about. A lot of ducks and geese fall to the ground or water injured and alive, and must be killed after being retrieved. Those that get away with their injuries are referred to by hunters as “cripples.” Cripples are the ducks or geese that evade capture — or birds that are still able fly away with bird shot in their bodies, succumbing to their injuries later on.

Crippling is a known and accepted aspect of waterfowl hunting, not entirely avoidable even by the most precise marksmen and women. Although hunters are legally obligated to make efforts at retrieving injured birds, even the most practiced hunters have wounded ducks they couldn’t retrieve. Wounded ducks can fly a distance then drop out of sight. Birds sometimes fall into thick reeds or inaccessible areas of the marsh. Some diving ducks have been known to evade capture by dipping below the water surface, grabbing and clinging to a tethered reed, and sometimes drowning in the process rather than risk surfacing to be caught.

Crippling Rates are Under-Studied

You won’t find a lot of studies done on actual crippling numbers. Most assessments are made through hunter self-reporting. According to a South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks paper, hunters generally report an average 18 percent loss rate to USFWS. The same report suggests that if you reconcile hunter and trained observer reports, the wounding rate on ducks is at least 25 percent — which means “approximately 3.4 to 3.7 million ducks and geese go unretrieved each year in the U.S. and Canada combined.” That doesn’t count non-game or non-target species which also fall to poor shots. Already in the first two days of this season, I’ve seen reports on the local boards of a hunter bringing back a shot-and-killed cormorant , some misidentified ducks shot by accident, over-limits taken on species like scaup, and plenty of reports by other hunters, of sky busters wounding but not downing the birds.

You can read a hunter’s take on sky busting here — the practice of shooting irresponsibly and out of range. I also came upon one of many threads at a hunting message board, this one about crippled waterfowl and gulls left to suffer on the ice in Michigan. There’s an old 1980 paper here from the Michigan Department of Resources, where crippling numbers were established by collecting injured birds in the field, after the hunt. In this piece Tony Dean discusses and challenges a Humane Society report — a report which claims wounding rates are much higher than acknowledged. Near the end of that piece there’s an interesting discussion about how duck hunting might prevent the public from learning or caring more about these animals because hunted birds flush easily out of fear — making it difficult for people to observe them more closely. This is definitely true in my photography experience. Birds that are hunted, habitually flush at the slightest movement. Unless I know the birds are protected or reasonably comfortable around me, I generally don’t even lift my lens around wild ducks in flight, since more often than not, that action will frighten them.

Mistaken Identity

Shooting start time in many areas is a half hour before sunrise. End time is often at official sunset. If you’ve been out observing or photographing waterfowl before sunrise or as the sun dips below the horizon, you know how difficult it can be to identify by species when the primary means is through silhouette recognition of a fast-flying bird. Even low morning light can obscure color distinctions. Can some experienced hunters ID birds on the wing in these conditions? Sure, some can, just as experienced birders can. More adept hunters also wait until birds are clearly in range and visible before firing. Is it reasonable, however, to expect that most hunters, young hunters or new hunters included, have the skills and identification chops to make these distinctions in low light mornings? Or in fog, rain and wind — weather conditions often preferred by waterfowl hunters? It is not. Birders and hunters who are able to whip out IDs on the fly come at that skill after much study and experience. At one hunting board, a man had this to say about opening weekend this year: “We let my wife have first shot at birds that came in. She’d never hunted before and wanted to give her the opportunity. She hit birds but didn’t down any.”

Snow Geese Flying at Dusk

Hunter education in the United States does not mandate high proficiency in identification or shooting accuracy skills. Some basic hunter education courses are as short as six hours (Texas) after which a hunter is then licensed for life. Unfortunately, the idea of stricter requirements is arguably impossible, in a political environment where any such restrictions would likely be seen as an intrusion on personal liberty. It would probably take strong advocacy from hunters themselves for this to become a reality.

In the case of animals mistakenly or deliberately shot against regulations, the law mandates that any species taken in error must be reported the game warden, with the possibility of penalties levied. Hiding the evidence of illegal kills is obviously not a practice a truly law-abiding hunter would engage.  But, in many areas, hunting is almost entirely self-policed, and a person would need to have undying faith in human character to believe the reporting is always done. You may be familiar with the colloquial usage of  the term “SSS” — an abbreviation for “shoot, shovel and shut up.” It’s sometimes said in jest, but I often see “SSS” used in anti-wolf settings, where shooters are particularly hateful and violent toward predator species.

In Terry Grosz’s books about his experience as a fish and game warden, he recounts instances of violators covering up or burying the evidence of their illegal kills. His stories can be discouraging in terms of the quantity and nature of these violations. I most recently read his volume, The Thin Green Line where he tells stories of working early teal season in Colorado, busting people for taking other birds out of season. In one case (p. 52) he secretly observed a group of hunters accidentally take “spoonies” or Northern Shovelers. Their response was to “stomp the sons of bitches,” meaning bury them in the mud to avoid notice by the game warden.

Length of the Season

The duck and goose hunting season on the west coast generally spans 100 days of the year and is open on many shared public lands including National Wildlife Refuges and state-owned wildlife areas (outside of state parks and national parks). The season begins around the time ducks and geese start migrating to their wintering grounds, and it ends just a short time before the onset of spring migration. In essence, bird hunting season covers the bulk of time during which ducks and geese are resting, feeding, refueling, and bonding with mates during the winter months.

Lifetime pairings in family-oriented species like geese are often split due to death or injury during the season. Given the intensity of hunting pressure which is seven days a week in some areas, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of us are uncomfortable with business-as-usual when it comes to water-fowling practices. One local fish and game warden talked about areas that get “shot out” during the season — meaning the hunting pressure is so intense, the birds simply leave and do not return.

This sign is posted at a state wildlife area. It’s also a listed birding location. Many state-owned wildlife areas are open to hunting in Washington, so it’s common to have this proximity between birders, photographers and hunters. I do not personally enjoy being around that much hunting activity, so we visited again after the hunting season ended. At that time we saw no bird species at all, but I don’t know if it was due to hunting pressure.

Hunting Area Sign

“Tradition” Isn’t Good Enough

A long tradition of duck hunting as sport does not mean we shouldn’t question the humanity of this practice and how it’s done, in the context of our modern perceptions. Throughout history, practices that were once “traditional” have been deemed inhumane or inappropriate given our ever evolving understanding. Insisting on the validity of tradition in the face of new information is an easily-dismantled logical fallacy.

Science is indeed providing an increasing body of evidence for non-human sentience and intelligence — like this recent report of dog brain activity or Tim Birkhead’s book on the sophisticated sensory perceptions of birds. I think it’s incumbent upon our species to take these revelations into consideration when we determine our ethical and proper role in the grander scheme of ecological balance.

It’s Not a “Harvest”

In the sporting world, euphemistic words like “harvest” mask the true nature of the practice which is, at its core, a violent action toward living wild animals. It is killing and any other term is a transparent effort to veil that truth. Killing for any reason comes with a significant philosophical burden in progressive society.  Having seen so many of the unintended consequences on wildlife from human activity (pollution, development, etc.) — it’s difficult for me to advocate for additional, deliberate harm on wild animals who already suffer tremendous pressure from our expansion and consumption. Philosophically, I also believe that as long as we readily sanction one form of violent act or another, we are condemning ourselves to the chronic cultural affliction of violence in its various forms.

Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory sums up this idea of non-violence in book Callus on My Soul:

“Under the leadership of Dr. King, I became totally committed to nonviolence. I took it a step farther, becoming convinced that nonviolence meant opposition to killing in any form, including the practice of killing animals for food and sport.

Part of my personal commitment is to not turn away from the truth that underlies the most enduring illusions we’re taught to accept in our culture. So, this October 2013, as another hunting season presents itself as our societal norm, I’ll continue to defy the accepted reality by suggesting that bloodsport is an unnecessary, inhumane and outdated methodology for interacting with nature and wildlife in the 21st century.

In tribute to the water birds traveling the flyways this year and into 2014, a gallery of my duck and goose shots . . . the non-lethal kind. Fly safely, my dear friends, and always with strong tailwinds and good fortune under your wings!


Related post: The Cripples … or Why I Hate Wing Shooting

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  1. Larry Jordan October 20, 2013 at 6:41 am - Reply

    Well stated Ingrid! Hopefully those Sandhill Cranes made it out of the killing fields unscathed. I’m certain that most people that don’t hunt have no idea of this dirty little secret. With such a high percentage of “cripples” that is an unbelievable number of injured and suffering animals. I’m glad you post this piece every year to at least inform the general public of the reality of hunting and its unnecessary consequences.

    I love your bird photos. Going through this gallery it was difficult to pick a favorite but the dueling Coots is absolutely magnificent!

    • ingrid October 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      Larry, I agree, it does need to be known. When I started to learn about actual field practices, it changed my perspective entirely. You do not have to be a crack shot or an ethical person to have the legal right to shoot at wild birds.

      People who hunt with dogs reduce the loss rate of injured birds. (This blog post is one of many describing the challenges of “dogless” hunting and retrieval of birds:

      Of course, hunt dog training often involves using live birds like pigeons or quail. The whole practice involves a degree of wildlife usage and utilitarianism that’s very difficult for me to wrap my head around sometimes.

  2. Annette October 20, 2013 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Thank you for this enlightenment – I had no idea….I’ll need to research this here in Canada…..hopefully something could be done to change this harmful behavior??

    • ingrid October 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Annette, it’s a tough thing to change, particularly since hunters and hunting groups have a lot of political clout. Education and illumination might be the slow path toward changing cultural perspectives on wild animals and the suffering they endure.

  3. Louisd October 20, 2013 at 8:13 am - Reply

    A considered post, balanced and nuanced. The animals have such a voice in your advocacy.

    • ingrid October 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Louise. The more I see, the more difficult it becomes for me to refrain from my own truth about it.

  4. Mia McPherson October 20, 2013 at 10:32 am - Reply

    So very well written and from the heart it resonates loudly with me. Just this morning a shotgun rang out near the entrance to Antelope Island State Park and it rattled me knowing full well that not only do some birds die that some are left crippled for the rest of their lives, no matter how long that might be.

    • ingrid October 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      Mia, that idea also struck me as I watched an injured crow trying to manage his life with a damaged leg that seriously compromised his ground foraging ability. I’m not sure how he injured the leg, they often get entangled as you know. But in that moment, I thought the very same thing: people do such reckless things to animals, especially birds, and sometimes for a laugh or a lark — taking potshots, throwing things, etc. I’ve seen kids do this. Then they move on from their little joke, but the animal is left with a lifetime of pain, injury and debilitation, however long that life may be after the incident.

  5. M. Firpi October 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Henry Beston wrote in “The Outermost House”:

    ‘We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.’

    • ingrid October 21, 2013 at 12:18 am - Reply

      Maria, I only recently read “The Outermost House” on the recommendation of another person here. Thanks very much for reminding me of that beautiful, full quote. “They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”

      Before I ever heard this quote I used to refer to the huge flocks of shorebirds migrating to San Francisco Bay as “shorebird nation” or sometimes, “the quiet nation” — as they perched on rocks and probed the mud for food, voices barely bubbling above the sound of the tide. I think “other nations” is a most apt description of our coexistence, even if our understanding of nations tends to be unfortunately bombastic.

  6. John Raymond October 21, 2013 at 5:07 am - Reply

    This one is a very difficult one. Change is hard. It has it’s casualties, it has it’s price. I ponder writing this but it is just my opinion and it is thoughts in the wind against an established mountain of cold hard rock.

    Hunting needs to stop. This is not 1820 anymore.


    Stopping hunting…sport killing, is turning the child against the family. It is asking the dumb to get wise. It is basically asking 75% plus of one political party to lay down the only reason they affiliate with that party-no questions asked. Is there any chance that the NRA is not 95% made up of one party?
    Ignorance is a hard thing to overcome. I grew up in a forward-thinking environment and moved to redneck brainwashed rural. I have seen the difference.

    There is so much money created by hunting and so little by birders who mean well. Hunters spend hundreds to thousands a year plus send in their check to the NRA or Ducks Unlimited, and those biggies buy the land and people to keep the cycle going. Even Clinton signed away the sanctity of the wildlife refuges for what? Oh yeah, politics. Must have owed someone a big favor.

    I find it so hard to be optimistic when you fight against people killing when they have the very thing you despise. Guns.
    Thing is, it is getting worse. Farmers no longer farm and the land is bought by hunting groups under guises with federal money backing.
    This is like starting a war for profit… these people don’t play fair.

    How are the true conservationist going to help? Hunters claim to even be conservationist.

    40 acres of rural farm land cost around $100,000, I do not see how even that amount can be raised at this point. One small field. And that is the only way to win this war for sure..unless a deep pocketed Bill Gates/tree hugger/ one-of-us buys up a ton of land.

    There might be a another way.

    I really feel the only hope is a dedicated group going door to door like the bible thumpers, looking for owners of land to commit to a real conservation program. Have them keep hunters off the land with $30 in signs and you have saved $99,970 dollars and have unofficial sanctuaries.

    Grateful I am to everyone concerned and trying to stop this killing, it is hard for me to get beyond the reality in a couple hours I will be hearing killers shooting tame, released pheasants nearby. Blasting for 3 months and 1 week plus to go…..
    and it is legal, morally accepted and funded by our government.

    • Stephen March 1, 2018 at 5:27 pm - Reply


      After reading your post I am a bit confused.

      You stated, “Hunting needs to stop. This is not 1820 anymore.”

      1. Are you saying that hunting was acceptable in 1820, but no longer is?
      2. Or are you saying that hunting is not acceptable at all?

      If you state that hunting used to be ok, but no longer is, what has changed about the moral or legal requirements that should prohibit hunting in our modern world.

      If you state that hunting is not ok, and never has been, please share the legal or moral authority by which hunters should be prohibited from hunting. Bear in mind, I am talking about hunting for the purpose of food.

      I look forward to your thoughtful reply. I promise to be open minded and kind in my responses.

      Have a great day,


  7. Bea Elliott October 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    What a thoughtful post both eye opening and heartbreaking. Killing is always savage, but to destroy life when it exists peacefully in nature seems more so. A sin against the Earth as it were… A wound upon us all. Terribly sad. I wish the survivors steady, strong wings as well.

  8. Dc January 11, 2014 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    I read this and found it very interesting. I myself am a hunter who operates under very strict guidelines when I hunt. Personally I feel that hunting is as humane as it gets. If you have ever seen chicken farms, dairy farms, beef farms and any animal farm producing food your opinion might my changed. Just because you don’t see the rub marks that chickens get in there small cages doesn’t mean there not there. You buy a chicken beast and don’t think twice about it. How is the life of that chicken? Not to mention the hormones and gmo that gets pumped into mass food production. I hunt be because I’m not afraid to take care of my foods on all sides. Harvest, clean, butcher and eat. I didn’t grow up in a hunting family but did this because I believe it’s the lesser of two evils. Animals are a beautiful thing and I enjoy watching them as much as anyone with nothing more then a set of binoculars. I respect animals and consume and retrieve everything I shoot. Don’t paint everyone with the same brush. I will say that overall I think hunters can be better and more ethical. I will also say that no one donates more money into maintaining wildlife like hunters. Before you paint hunting with a bad brush check the other way food gets to your table.

    • Maria F. January 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      The issue…Dc…is that God puts us all on the table…except being vegan comes out with a cleaner brush than yours, a little less bloody perhaps? Go ahead and have a bloody meal, but beware God is also carnivorous.

      • Dc January 11, 2014 at 7:52 pm - Reply

        The issue begin talked about isn’t whether eat meat is bad. If you want to eat soy burgers that’s your choice and I will respect that. But don’t kid yourself, you don’t think vegans create graves. The weeds you pull from your garden are alive too. Not to mention the biodiversity destroyed by pulling that one weed. Correct, we are ALL on the table. Everything ends up in the ground. Me, you, food on the table and the weeds pulled from your garden to let your veggies grow. Either way life is life no matter how small.

    • ingrid January 12, 2014 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Dc, I appreciate the comment and thanks for taking the time to write and express your view. I don’t share your perspective but I’m always interested in the opinions of others, even when I disagree.

      In response to your points, you say that I paint hunting with a broad brush. If you read the post you will know that I focus primarily on injury rates and wing shooting, less generalized than you suggest. In your comment, you actually didn’t address the crux of my argument which is that the injury rate is unacceptable and rampant.

      Beyond that, hunting is, by nature, broad in scope and lends itself to a very wide brush. Numerous practices fall under the auspices of “hunting.” So in arguing, as you do, that hunting is “as humane as it gets,” you’re effectively defending a variety of shooting sports that I suspect you, as a strict hunter, might find unpalatable. I’m curious how long you’ve been hunting and how much you’ve seen in the field. I’ve seen my share and over time, you come to understand the darker sides of the sport. Do you, for instance, support unrestricted coyote shooting as happens in many areas of the U.S.? That’s one form of hunting. How about prairie dog shoots? Or how about sky busting, as I discuss in this piece? All legal. Do you support wolf and predator hunting along with selective land-shaping policies to keep populations of ungulates high for hunters?

      Are you also aware that in archery, a half hour is generally considered a standard amount of time that a hunter should wait before tracking an animal that will bleed out — and that tracking can take hours and even, in some cases, overnight if a hunter is even diligent enough to pursue the animal shot and wounded?

      As I wrote, there is precious little data on exactly how many mammals and birds escape with their injuries, either mortal or debilitating, but it may be as high as one in four or even 50 percent. It’s not uncommon for x-rayed birds at wildlife facilities to have embedded pellets from previous injuries. And much of the injury/loss data is self-reported by hunters, which probably leads to under-reporting. Putting aside for a moment that hunting is inherently violent and disruptive, those injury probabilities do not speak of a sport that is “as humane as it gets.”

      I do not defend modern slaughter and slaughterhouse practices which is why I don’t eat meat. Of course, I’ve heard the argument you make from many hunters previously. I’ve been around that debate a thousand times. Refraining from meat is not a perfect solution in a world where vast amounts of animal exploitation, harm and inadvertent injury occurs as a result of our mere existence. That’s part of the reason I don’t choose to inflict additional deliberate harm on animals already stressed by our technology, our pollution, our overpopulation, our habitat destruction and on and on. But it is a large step toward minimizing that harm, not to mention a significant step toward changing how our limited resources like water and land are allocated.

      You criticize those who choose a plant-based diet as being equally damaging to the environment. But since you are informed on industrial farming practices, I’m assuming you are also aware that the most intensive resource use occurs because of animal farming, both the raising, slaughtering and processing of animals (water, pollution) and also the vast amounts of crops grown to feed animals. You probably also understand how devastating grazing has been on some of our public lands and waterways, both in destructive terms and also in terms of how much wildlife is killed to support ranching and farming practices. So, to answer your points about vegans or vegetarians being implicated in harm, of course this is true. None of us leaves no trace. But in changing one’s dietary practices toward the plant-based, there is clearly environmental benefit and reduction in harm. Unless you eat hunted animals exclusively, with no contribution to the industrialized food system, your impact is going to be greater. And as far as weeds being living entities, of course they are. But to the best of our current knowledge, they do not have the biological complexity of nervous system responses that all animals do. As I write in this post, even the scientific community is beginning to acknowledge greater sentience, intelligence and consciousness in other animals that we previously ascribed (officially, at least). Most people who care about animals also care very much for all living things, and eating lower on the food chain reduces the number of plants killed, too, since so many are used in industrial animal food production.

      As far as hunters contributing the most to conservation, no one is going to argue that hunters don’t contribute. They are mandated by law to pay certain fees and taxes, that is true. But using superlative phrases like “no one donates more money” is highly debatable. When you take Pittman-Robertson funds, for instance, they’re collected through gun and ammo sales. But a majority of gun owners are not hunters. In terms of Duck Stamp revenues, they’ve purchased 3-5 percent of Refuge lands. The rest comes from public monies, etc. Groups like Ducks Unlimited conserve land and resources for ducks and hunters, but if you tally the contributions to other organizations like land trusts and conservancies, state parks, National Parks and so forth, the grand sum is monumental. It’s just not as easy to calculate and combine those contributions and volunteer hours supplied by non-hunters into one figure as it is for P-R funds. All of the non-hunting conservationists I know volunteer, give money and other services toward the cause of environment and wildlife.

  9. Maria F. January 11, 2014 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Did you know that weeds love being pulled out? The more you pull, the more they propagate? I want my grave to be the weediest. But did you know that killing an animal multiplies your bad Karma, and you could actually be the hunted one, as of this minute?

  10. Dc January 11, 2014 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    If you pull out a weed and get all the roots the weed dies plain and simple. If you do not get all the roots, what is left of the weed responds by sending all of its energy towards self propagation. This is a reaction to stress. My wife has a horticulture degree.

    This has nothing to do with the topic anyways. It’s safe to say that both sides think they are right. With that you continue to do what makes you happy as I will too.

  11. Maria F. January 12, 2014 at 12:03 am - Reply

    If you want to glorify hunting, the NRA is waiting for you with open arms.

  12. Stephen February 27, 2018 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    First, I’ll share that not only am I a hunter, but my employment is directly tied to hunting and wildlife conservation.

    In this topic I have three questions:

    1. Since hunting is legal, where does an individual who opposes hunting derive the authority to claim hunting as “wrong”? If the claim is “moral”, then God is the ultimate authority, not mankind.

    2. If indeed hunting is “wrong”, are wolves “wrong” when the eat an elk or a salmon?

    3. My ancestors have lived on this North American continent for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. Was it “wrong” for them to hunt?

    Lastly I would share that anyone who opposes hunting is esssentually also opposing conservation. A quick read on the effect snow geese are having upon arctic tundra and the migratory pattern of caribou as a direct result will be enlightening. As well I would encourage you to read more about Pittman Robertson.

    • ingrid February 28, 2018 at 12:02 am - Reply

      Stephen, your comment suggests a cursory reading of my post if you read it at all. You address none of the arguments and objections I cite, most notably the crippling rate and the inherent problems that arise as a result of wing shooting.

      In response to your item #1:

      Anyone with a fundamental understanding of legality and morality understands that legality does not imply morality. In fact, our laws have been woefully behind our moral understandings at times, including on issues of human and civil rights. To suggest that a person can’t oppose a law or an activity based on a moral objection is spurious at best. Our laws have changed over time in response to evolving ideas of morality. And if, as you say, humankind has no authority to insist upon a moral code because we are not god, then you undermine almost every single law we’ve set up precisely to guide societal behavior toward a higher moral standard.


      You say that your employment is directly tied to hunting and conservation and if so, you have an intimate understanding for how different the process of natural predation is over the type of wing-shooting I describe in this piece. Even hunters themselves have described the cacophony of shooting time jokingly as a “war zone” in some waterfowl areas because of the sheer amount of shooting and carnage. If you’ve ever spent time alone with a flock of birds or in a blind, without a gun, you’ll note that flocks are well adapted to natural predators, whether overhead or on land. They have defense responses (like alighting in unison) to confuse and, more often than not, evade predation. The same is not true when they’re dealing with multiple guns and blinds and calls and the various mechanisms humans use. The times I’ve watched a Peregrine or a coyote succeed in a catch is far fewer than the times they miss. And even when they succeed, it’s in the interest of their very survival. The mortality rate for first-year raptors is in the highest percentages. Hunting is an imperative, their only means of survival, and this in no way resembles modern sport hunting and wing shooting. Not only that, a predator takes one animal when they manage a catch. One animal, not a duck strap full of birds that are sometimes not even eaten, but mounted or wasted but for the breast meat. There is no natural equivalent for the human killing-field style of assault that happens across wetlands and Refuges during waterfowl season.

      You’re venturing into a logical fallacy here by equating an ancient survival imperative with modern sport. The idea that because because something was once necessary or thought necessary, it somehow retains that necessity in modern times is flawed reasoning at best. Our ancestors also took slaves and women as property. Some of our ancestors had very little understanding for the sentience and intelligence we now know to be inherent in other species like marine mammals. If we were to base our current actions, moral understandings and legal frameworks on the limited notions of what came before, we would never progress beyond the many gross injustices that characterize our historical record.

      Lastly, on Pittman Robertson, if you’d read any of my other pieces, you’d know I understand well the parameters of Pittman Robertson. You do realize that the majority of gun owners (60 percent or more) are not hunters. And the taxes/fees paid by these non-hunting gun owners constitute a significant portion of PR collective revenues. So, it’s erroneous to say that hunters are the majority funders of even Pittman Robertson. Hunters are a minority of gun owners in this country. Furthermore, if you are employed in conservation as you suggest, you are undoubtedly familiar with the Smith-Molde study which showed that non-hunters are actually the largest contributors to conservation in this country. Not only that, non-hunters make up the majority of visitors and contributors to our National Wildlife Refuges, despite the disproportionate privileges granted the much smaller minority of hunters. The system has been skewed unfairly toward those interests for a long time. And the purpose of a piece like this is to question precisely the practices we’ve come to accept as “normal,” when, in fact, they often cause significant suffering and harm.

  13. Stephen March 1, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Ingrid, thank you for your thoughtful response. I actually have read, and re read your article. I can’t help but chuckle when I read you decry expansion of population, meanwhile you type on a computer which is the direct product of that mining and industry.

    Let’s see if we can find some common ground. I’ll share one comment and three follow up questions. First, if your intent is to provide a forum for open, kind, and data based discussion; equating hunting to slavery, mysoginy, or racism isn’t going to help. As a father of three girls (who also hunt and fish) whose racial makeup includes every continent with the exception of Antarctica, I find that analogy to be less than honest.

    Now, let’s see if we can get some common ground!

    1. Do you support hunting if the purpose is to feed humans? This question is asked in the USFWS national survey and last recorded, 87% of Americans (Europe is actually very similar) do. Subsistence is the reality of life in many parts of the world.

    2. Is it morally wrong to kill animals? If so, please cite, specifically, where that moral authority is derived from.

    3. In sutuations where data has shown that snow goose populations are damaging ecology, what would you propose as a solution?

    I look forward to your response, and promise to be thoughtful and kind in my responses. Reasonable people can attack each other’s ideas without attacking each other.


    • ingrid March 1, 2018 at 8:12 pm - Reply

      Stephen, first, its rhetorically dishonest to use my comments about slavery and misogyny as equivalency statements.You’re skewing the entire point which wasn’t to compare one ostensible evil against another, but rather to illustrate that across the board culturally, we once accepted practices that we no longer accept today — practices that we, in fact, find abhorrent today, like slavery. It was a refutation of your “tradition” fallacy which hunters like to use to justify any manner of hunting simply because it was done historically. And my point, in response, was that if we were to use that rationalization for other “traditions,” we would still be supporting practices that our ethics long ago evolved away from. The same is true of our treatment of other species. Our understanding of other species, their needs, their intelligence, their sentience is growing exponentially, and to ignore that science in order to pursue things as they’ve always been pursued, is both ethically and scientifically disingenuous.

      I have spoken and debated with literally hundreds of hunters over the years, and the likelihood that anything said here will sway you toward my position or me toward yours is extremely low. So, I’m aware of the high cost-benefit ratio of hashing out this argument beyond this response. Our time is obviously precious, yours and mine both. The bottom line is that no matter what you say, it will not change my perspective that we need a more compassionate and less violent model of wildlife “management” in this country. And no matter what I say, you will persist in killing wild animals for the various reasons you’ve chosen in your own life, and continue to promote that perspective to your children. It would be ethically inconsistent for me to have worked as a wildlife rehabilitator, to have spent volunteer hours and personal time advocating for compassion toward other species and also toward nonviolence in general, and then wholly embrace a violent practice and sport that causes those same animals often tremendous suffering. I care profoundly for these animals and I cannot separate my heart from that endeavor as hunters so often can. When an animal dies or suffers needlessly for the sake of sport and enjoyment, I simply cannot embrace that as our personal best as a species.

      Are there instances where hunting could conceivably be justified for the reasons you suggest? Population control or hunger/starvation? If those imperatives were truly in play, then a reasoned approach including all perspectives is warranted. Of course, this is always a double standard as it applies to our own destruction of the planet and the effects our own overpopulation has on habitats of other species. We are the singular most destructive species and the biggest causative factor behind the extinction crisis we face today. But putting that cognitive dissonance aside for a moment, in no form is our current wildlife model remotely thoughtful and minimalistic in this regard, nor does it take into consideration the welfare of the individual animal. It’s a model based on very old ideas about our relationship to other animals and a model that employs an archaic understanding of how we ought to treat other animals. Given our current scientific understanding about animal intelligence, pain response, nervous system complexity, sentience and social intelligence how on earth do we rationalize the brutal methods we employ against them, with full knowledge?

      If our wildlife management model were, at its foundation, judicious in its application of violent solutions for conservation problems, I might have a different perspective. But that is not our reality, and more often than not, violent measures like shooting and trapping characterize not just our first response to wildlife/conservation issues, but often also our only response. This is wholly unacceptable to me. Maybe not to you, but to me. How many hunters and wildlife managers entertain the very simple questions of “is this harm I’m inflicting on a living being genuinely necessary? Is this violent act toward another species warranted for any reason other than my own enjoyment, either sporting or culinary? Or should we be re-framing the centuries-old utilitarian rationalization for something more evolved and in keeping with our current understanding about other animals?” I can guarantee you that the hunters with buck fever and duck fever in the fall are not viewing their field pursuits as a necessary evil undertaken with heavy heart for conservation purposes. They are looking forward to shooting time in the field, and the conservation argument is one that’s trotted out to convince otherwise uninformed non-hunters about the necessity of their sport.

      In terms of your questions:

      1. There’s a huge distinction to be made for actual subsistence hunting and sport hunting, and you know that. The former is not the norm in hunting, and you know that, too. The hunting-for-conservation-and-survival argument rarely holds up in modern sport. I’ve known just a few hunters in my life who killed nothing beyond bare subsistence. A forest ranger friend of mine bought no other meat and did no other hunting beyond what he needed to feed himself through the winter. It was generally just one animal, which more closely emulates natural predation. Contrast that with, for example, wing shooting and mass killing characteristic of a sport like dove hunting, where the life of an animal taken constitutes less than an appetizer’s size morsel for a human. Lastly, the hunting-for-food argument can be used to rationalize any manner of cruel practice toward animals. Just because an animal is hunted for food, doesn’t rationalize what was came before. Some hunted animals suffer extreme barbarism at the hands of humans before they become “food.”

      2. This is a question for the ages on which you and I will never agree, and which humans will likely hash out well beyond my own demise. For me personally, I believe in the Buddhist idea of “ahimsa” — the principle of nonviolence toward all living beings. It is an ideal, not a practical reality. But it’s one which if embraced, at least leads people toward more thoughtful interaction with other species, questioning the abject necessity of inflicting harm in any given situation.

      3. The Snow Goose situation is a complicated one, and I am not an authority, having never traveled to the actual tundra habitat. I will say that even if I agreed with the scientific necessity of the mass carnage I’ve seen with Snow Geese hunting — one of the most brutal things I’ve seen — I could never come to accept what I’ve witnessed in the field in terms of the suffering inflicted on these birds. An environmental necessity still does not justify a human brutality. We are better than that, and that’s the whole point of reassessing how we interact with other, sentient species, including the ducks eulogized in this piece. I will offer this blog post by Laura Erickson as a different perspective on the ecological angle of the Snow Goose situation:

      If you personally believe that hunting is justified for conservation and subsistence reasons, then I imagine at bare minimum, there are numerous practices that fall under the auspices of legal hunting that you also don’t agree with — practices that can’t be remotely construed as ecologically necessary. That might be our only common ground.

  14. Stephen March 1, 2018 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Here’s a great article from USFWS on the topic of snow geese:

  15. Stephen March 1, 2018 at 9:07 pm - Reply


    That was a solid response, thank you. However, you didn’t answer any of my questions.

    In terms of being open to other ideas, I would change my opinions if presented with valid, credible, scientific data. Would you? The data I have seen suggests that the North American Model for Wildlife Management works. You seem pretty knowledgeable so I wont give you more to read, as you pointed out, time is valuable.

    Ill respond back to the three questions I posed again and this time perhaps keep my request for response to “yes” or “no”, that way I don’t waste too much of your time. I am genuinely interested in your insights as they represent an ideology that I have not had the opportunity to interact with directly very frequently. Having lived in rural Alaska, I have see what true subsistence is. Unless I made a typo, none of my comments have been directed at sport hunting, but simply hunting for food.

    1. Do you support hunting if the sole function is for obtaining food?
    2. According to the ideology you describe, all sentient beings should avoid harming one another. Does this also apply to carnivores such as wolves? Or does this ideology advocate that wolves become vegans?
    3. What form of fixing the snow goose issue do you advocate?

    I look forward to your response. Please do respect my time enough to give me a yes or no so I can be sure I understand your thoughts.

    • ingrid March 1, 2018 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      I share Larry Jordan’s perspective on the North American Wildlife model:

      Subsistence-level hunting can obviously be rationalized for survival, regardless of species, but the brutalization of wildlife for pleasure — whether sport or culinary — as it occurs in today’s hunting, is a far cry from anything that could constitute subsistence-only. My husband lived in Alaska as you did, and has witnessed genuine subsistence living. The camo I’ve seen in restaurants and fast food parking lots after duck hunting days is just one testament to how little subsistence is involved in modern hunting. So, no. I don’t support the sport as it exists today, with the often brutal, archaic methodologies allowed by law with very little restriction. It’s a fallacious ends-justifying-the-means argument: As long as I eat this animal in the end, I can do whatever I want to the animal in the lead up. Knife hunting of wild hogs is one example. Trap lines and commercial sales of fur is another. Our wildlife model is archaic and not keeping pace with our scientific understanding of sentience. In no other philosophical inquiry would an idea like this be acceptable.

      I’ve seen abhorrent treatment of ducks in the field, as one example, and in no universe can you rationalize harming them this way for “food” as a humane, compassionate, nor reasonable act outside of the personal pleasure it brings the hunter. Watching an elk suffer and die slowly after an archery hunt was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever witnessed. Again, in what universe could I rationalize that degree of brutality for the sake of the pleasure of the hunter who prefers the challenge of an archery hunt, despite the suffering inflicted on the animal? By that rationalization, you could do almost anything to a living being as long as “food” was the outcome. Very few humans support that extremist idea but somehow, we’re supposed to accept it in hunting as long as food is the outcome.

      In terms of the percentages of people surveyed who support hunting for food, the truth is that most non-hunters don’t see what happens in the field and they have an erroneous idea of how “humane” hunting on the whole is. Talk to most non-hunters and they have no idea about injury and loss rates, bleed out times, nor do they grasp the vastness of the cottage industries in hunting that harm even more species (like pigeons used for dog training, the deer farming industry used for hunting products, etc). If most non-hunters understood the realities inherent in the sport, that acceptance figure would go down. Hunters benefit from being largely out of view of non-hunters when they’re engaging their sport, and they’ve also benefitted from a powerful propaganda arm, fueled at times by the NRA which has even helped craft wildlife legislation for the benefit of hunters, and clearly not for the benefit of wildlife.

      No, I did not say that all sentient beings should avoid harming each other, and this is another one of those spurious hypotheticals hunters like to throw out. If you believe in science, then you certainly understand the concept of obligate carnivore and moral agency of humankind.

  16. Stephen March 2, 2018 at 12:55 am - Reply


    Last post for me on this important topic. Sounds like we both agree that hunting if done for the purpose of obtaining food by a means that ensures no prolonged suffering to the animal is acceptable. I would agree that there are some hunters who do commit acts that are abhorrent. I for one do not represent all hunters in our nation, but after seeing how rural communities exist I can tell you my perspective on hunting was forever changed. Just like my prior views on people who live in big cities were changed the first time I visited Los Angeles. Until you walk in someone else’s shoes its really impossible to form an opinion. In that vein, if you ever have the opportunity to come to Alaska, skip the cruise ship scene and head out to a rural community. If possible, maybe even attend during a potlatch or similar community event where subsistence foods are shared. When I lived in the bush of Alaska, a head of lettuce was $5 and a gallon of milk was $6 and they looked far worse than what I was accustomed to buying at typical grocery stores. If you walk a mile in their shoes you might find that your perspective on hunting might change, just a little bit. I respect your dedication to wildlife; and regardless of whether we see eye to eye on hunting, please respect that in my mind and heart, when I hunt, I am partaking in providing funding for conservation too. Also, please remember that all of my comments have been about the ethical take of animals for the purpose of consumption. I am a meat hunter myself, focused on feeding my family.Another post above by someone else said, “Its not 1820 anymore”, but life in some parts of the world is still very similar to what it was in the 1800s in some parts of our country.

    Have a wonderful day.

    • ingrid March 2, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Stephen, I appreciate your respectful tone despite my pushback in this debate. I hear what you’ve said in the context of your own experience. If you detect tone in my response it’s because I’ve been over this argument probably a thousand times in the past decade. In the same way that your world view changed by virtue of exposure to Alaska and cities like Los Angeles, the same happened to me. I became an animal advocate at a young-adult age, and in the beginning (believe it or not) I was very accepting of hunting as a more humane alternative to the industrial farming industry. My primary exposure to hunting was through a couple of relatives who hunted, as well as a good friend who was a forest land manager. (He, by the way, was a hunter who was fed up with most hunters. He had to constantly police the land from ATV and ecological abuse when the hunters came in.)

      Because of that background, I used to argue on behalf of my hunting friends, and defended them, saying that they at least walked their talk. That changed for me when I became more involved with wild animals, and immersed myself in the hunting world as part of my education. I wanted to prove that the awful things I saw in the field were the anomalies, not the norm. But the opposite happened. I witnessed so much atrocious treatment of animals as the norm. And the hardest part was realizing that what I saw as unnecessary suffering for the animal was considered standard practice in the sport.

      Spending more time in the rural areas you describe is actually what flipped me from tolerant to what I would now characterize as intolerant of most hunting sport. And that came from time after time after time, witnessing irresponsible, wantonly wasteful, and horrifically callous treatment of the animals in question. I got sick of finding shotgun shells and hunter litter, beer cans on public lands and refuges, the shot up signs, bodies of “trash ducks” being left behind, or floating unretrieved down the river. It was hunters themselves that effectively converted me from an ally, to someone who simply can’t abide the tenets of this sport anymore. No wild animal deserves what I now know happens to them on a regular basis.

      For years, I debated with hunters I met, pleading with them to police their own, to insist on a code of ethics and training and licensing that would, in effect, force a higher standard of conduct. In the same way that the gun debate is being framed now, my feeling was always that if it were harder to get permission to kill, if there was an insistence on strong ethics, if there were more severe penalties for violating those terms, then people like me could at least have some degree of acceptance, knowing the standards of conduct would be high and enforced. But any time I approached the subject, I was met with the “well, I don’t hunt that way but who am I to tell someone else how to hunt” rationalization. After a time, I came to realize that self-protection of the hunting sport was always going to supersede any talk of genuine changes in hunter education and legal enforcement. There was no middle ground between the people like me who devoted significant parts of their lives to helping animals, and those whose intent was to continue killing those same animals for sport.

      Since that time, I’ve seen little to nothing that’s changed my mind. If anything, every time I encounter hunting now — although I try to avoid the emotional pain of watching animals I care so deeply about getting slaughtered — the incidents prove to me again why I don’t believe humans ought to have such unrestricted power to do as they will to other species. We don’t allow unrestricted violence to be inflicted on dogs or other pets who share much physiologically with, say, a deer. I will continue to believe we can and should do better by our fellow species, precisely because we have the capacity to be better.

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