Ethical Hunting | Why Hunters Hunt

Navigating The Ethics of Hunting in a Post Hunter World

· Hunting Ethics,Spot and Stalk Fundamentals,hunting

Ethical Hunting | Why Hunters Hunt

Many people in this world believe that hunting is outdated and that people should never harvest animals for human consumption or population management. To them, the term ethical hunting is a term that doesn’t make sense. This post is addressing the topic of ethical hunting and why hunters hunt.

There are several reasons that people hunt. For some it is to put food on the table, for others it is a family tradition, and some hunt to manage wildlife populations. Many hunters value the trophy aspect of a successful hunt and will proudly display the fruit of their hunting efforts.

This post is devoted to clarifying what exactly is meant by the terms ethical hunting and fair chase. This comes from the perspective of an amateur unpaid outdoorsman and hunter. I spend countless hours in the woods learning the patterns and life of wild animals and occasionally harvest an animal when we need food.

Large Caribou bull left for years to come by ethical hunting.

Ethical Hunting

I have seen many anti-hunters attack the term ethical hunting as if such a thing was an oxymoron and that such a thing does not exist.

Ethical hunting means hunting within set regulations and laws in the state and management unit area that the individual chooses to hunt. In addition, it means that the hunter will do everything in his or her power to make a clean kill without purposefully prolonging the process or making it more painful for the animal. 

The argument that is used against this term is that hunters are not ethical because they do purposefully cause pain. I will admit that the animal does experience some amount of shock and does not know what is going on. I have harvested a number of animals, many of which had literally no idea what happened.

How Much Do Animals Experience Pain?

I think it is important to note that animals do not experience pain the way humans do, and they definitely do not show the emotional response to injury that a human does. It is estimated that a deer has 10x the pain tolerance of a human. 

The image of a hunter as cold-hearted and bloodthirsty is completely inaccurate. If a hunter just wanted to kill animals he or she would be happy to see an animal suffer. I don’t know a single hunter that is happy to hear of a single situation that leads to hardship and pain for an animal.

The Alternative to Hunting

When a legal hunter harvests an animal you should also think of the alternative. In a spring only 25% of deer fawns are expected to live because of predation by coyotes, bobcats, and bears, not to mention predation’s effect on turkey poults, mice, squirrels, and other animals. This is just the spring.

Winter is a hard time of year as well, the ground being covered with snow means that some animals will starve to death or are more subject to predation in a weakened state. Alaska’s moose and bison population has had two hard years and significant winter die-off because of large snow loads. Additionally, there is proof that it normally takes hours for an animal to die during a predator attack, many times being chased for a considerable time before being bitten, torn, and disemboweled until death.

Deaths in predators like bears are actually no different. The most common cause of death for a bear not related to hunting is actually cannibalization. Den cave-ins, starvation, and hypothermia are also a contributor to bear deaths. In Florida, the most common cause of bear death is starvation, predation by other bears, and vehicle collisions.

The wild is not forgiving, and while this doesn’t prove to most that hunting is more acceptable, it does show what the reality of living in the wild is.

Fair Chase

What does fair chase mean? Why is it even a term that is used in the hunting circle?

The argument is that “using any kind of rifle or weapon makes the chase unfair.” On the other side of the argument, the more primitive the weapon, the more likely you are to wound an animal. So what does the idea and concept of fair chase actually mean?

Fair chase means that an animal is not made to act in a manner that is unnatural or confined before harvesting. Basically that the animal is free range and is not made to act in a way leading up to being harvested that is unwilling or forced.

broken image

This presents an ethical problem for some hunters, while for others it does not. The idea of fair chase is very subjective which is why it is disputed so much by people who do not hunt.

The purest form of fair chase is a spot and stalk hunt where the animal is in its own territory and has no idea that a human is present which is why I love spot and stalk hunting. The animal is in its natural habitat, and the hunter is comfortable. Another option would be a hunter that sets up in an area where he or she is able to harvest an animal without the animal knowing or feeling threatened or forced into a situation where it was vulnerable.

Additionally, fair chase is defined as acting within the legal and regulatory system for your area. In an area where baiting is allowed, it would be considered fair chase because the animal is not forced to go to a specific feed source but rather chooses to. Studies show that the home range of an animal does not significantly change when being baited.

Trophy Hunting

The question will come up, “What about people who only shoot deer for the thrill of getting a trophy or for entertainment?” I do not know a hunter that kills for his or her entertainment.

There are some companies that will support hunters who use their products and have videos that show the use of their products and the harvesting of an animal. This is more product marketing than anything because most of the videos would not exist if the funds from products were not behind the production.

If you actually watch hunting videos, you will see that most of the hunters that harvest big “trophy” animals will talk about animal maturity. These videos will regularly show the processing and consumption of meat or explain that the meat is being given to a food bank for people who need meals.

The Real Issue

I will be the first to admit that there are hunters and poachers who do not do their duty to ensure a clean and ethical harvest of an animal. I think it is wrong to focus on the extremes of a situation rather than the norm.

We can focus on the poacher who kills animals and lets them lay and has frequently shot animals outside of the law that hunters abide by, or we can focus on the normal hunter that abides by the law and enjoys eating a fresh meal that is fully organic and healthy for his or her family.

Traditionally hunters have been deeply involved in the life of the animals they hunt and are the largest contributors to wildlife conservation. Historically natives had a deep and caring relationship with the animals that sustained their communities and hunting today is very similar.

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Hunters today are still very reliant on harvesting wild animals for their food. Healthy food options are expensive, and quality control is questionable at best.

I hunt because I need the nutrient-rich food that it provides and can’t afford the expensive organic unprocessed meat at the market. I also have a rich family tradition of understanding the patterns and needs of wildlife. I also have complete control over the quality of my food. I do not hunt if I do not need meat and the majority of hunters live the same as me.

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