That’s hunting?

I am not a hunter. I’ve never gone hunting. I don’t read hunting magazines. I’ve always taken the word of hunters that it’s a healthy, practical sport. Unfortunately, when I was at the gym this morning, someone had turned the television on the wall to one of those hunting shows, and I’d never seen one of those, either. It kind of ruined my morning.

It was a couple of people hiding in a blind near a bean field, when a large herd of deer gathered, browsing on the leftovers. They pulled out a big rifle, and boom, shot a big buck.

I was horrified to see it — the animal went frantic, galloping about the field in a clear state of terror before its legs buckled and it collapsed. As a biologist, I’ve had to kill animals before, but it’s always a process hedged about with ethical rules, and we’re careful to anesthetize the animal — it’s more that they quietly go to sleep and never wake up, and we do everything we can to minimize stress. This does not mean there are no ethical concerns — I wouldn’t find it acceptable to be killed myself, as long as it was done with no pain — but the murder methods in hunting were so brutal and even more terrible from the victim’s viewpoint.

There’s also the pragmatic dilemma. Deer must be culled. Their population is thriving under the human regime, and they’re becoming pests. Ideally, we’d have a balanced environment with predators that would keep the population in check…but a wolf kill is even more brutal and cruel than shooting.

What bugged me most, though, was the reaction of the hunters: fist-pumping, grinning, cheering, pridefully standing over the corpse. As I said, I’ve killed uncounted mice, lots of rabbits and cats and a few dogs and a few larger animals for research, but I never got used to it, I never celebrated their death, I regretted it. Hundreds (or more) dead animals, and I never became so inured that I could do it casually, and I certainly never smiled and laughed as I infused some helpless animal with a barbiturate overdose. Of course, I still recognize the problem with even my attitude.

Need a philosopher and ethicist, stat. I am very uncomfortable now.


  1. christophervarner says

    The culling defense of deer hunting is bullshit. Hunters always talk about weak, sick, suffering animals – and then go shoot the healthiest males they can find.

  2. says

    Well, as you say, being killed by a wolf or a cougar is likely even more distressing to a deer than being shot. And BTW, a good shot will kill more swiftly. Humans were hunters from the beginning — you wouldn’t be here if your ancestors didn’t kill animals with spears, and later arrows, which kill more slowly than rifles. And I’m sure they felt a sense of triumph and congratulated each other when they succeeded. That’s nature, and the part of Homo sapiens in nature. Nearly all wild animals are subject to predation. I’m sure it’s no fun being carried off by a hawk or gobbled by a coyote or squeezed to death by an anaconda. It’s undoubtedly no fun being shocked with a cattle prod and shot in the head with a bolt either, but that’s where your dinner comes from.

    Since the wolves, cougars and native American hunters are gone, you’re left with European Americans with rifles to fulfill the necessary role of limiting the deer population. Actually a wild deer has a much better life than domesticated cattle or hogs. I have a problem with the meat industry, but I don’t have a problem with hunting if it’s done skillfully.

  3. nomadiq says

    It’s hunting as seen on TV, I guess. I don’t know if it’s the norm. I’ve heard of hunters who take pride in killing the animal with one shot – presumably a head or heart shot. An aminal in writhing pain after a shot is a miss – and may get away. From the perspective of some hunters, these TV guys should be embarrassed by their miss. Celebrating for the cameras is like celebrating coming last in a one-person race. They clearly hunt for the thrill and faux power, not for the meat.

    I’m not a hunter either and struggled with the 20 or so rats I’ve barbiturated to death in my career. There was no skill in it (the surgeries I did though? Not easy). They died so we could learn something and I hope we did. Deer hunters who kill for meat and take pride in a fast and effective kill, I think get to eat their meat with some pride and honour. Celebrating a clumsy kill without showing the purpose behind the kill is icky and smells a lot like power-starved savagery.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    There is a sub-genre of hunting show called “whack ’em and stack ’em” where the focus is on killing large numbers. Ted Nugent has some experience in this genre.

  5. says

    There’s also the pragmatic dilemma. Deer must be culled.

    Hunters lie about that.

    What they do is cull the males. Which just means the surviving males live in deer-bro heaven now that they have less competition. If they actually wanted to reduce the herd size they’d only allow them to shoot the females. But the hunters don’t like that. “Herd management” they call it. It’s basically “making sure we have lots of critters to shoot.”

    The “cull the herd” lie is also popular with hunters, when they want to blow away some species. “Oh, there are too many elk up here, we need to cull the herd” nyuk, nyuk, hunting season is ON. A few years ago they pulled that shit and made a big stink about how there were so many bears that bears were blockading crosswalks and shooting up heroin outside of 7-11s. So they had a limited bear shoot (this was in New Jersey) and nobody managed to find a single bear. I guess they weren’t blockading traffic, after all.

    Most of what hunters tell you about their sport (other than the part about shooting and killing critters) is lies.

    They also tell you that the deer die really fast and don’t feel a thing. Yeah, ideally. But when you’ve got some dumb lying weasel bowhunter who puts an arrow through a doe’s guts and she runs a mile and out into the freeway in her pain, that’s just nature taking its course for hunters. I found a gutshot deer in my field last fall, I have no idea how far it ran but it was horrifying and it took a week for the crows to clean it up.

  6. says

    Hunters always talk about weak, sick, suffering animals

    There was a 3-legged doe around here a few years ago. Some hunter had blasted one of her front legs off, but she got around OK. Of course none of the hunters put her out of her misery after that. I have no idea what happened to her, but she was a more or less functioning member of the permanent herd that lives on my property (and eats my fucking cilantro!)

  7. willj says

    I live in a rural area with lots of hunters. Deer culling may be necessary, but I find them to be a bunch of low-lifes. They drag the deer to parking lots and leave deer guts and beer cans everywhere. Some of them nail threatening notes on trees to other hunters, warning them to stay away from their hunting spots. And god forbid if you’re walking your dog near them during hunting season. They’ll cuss you out, especially if you’re dog isn’t wearing orange.

    BTW, lately the parks here have started introducing coyotes to the cull the deer. Don’t know how effective that is.

  8. Usernames! 🦑 says

    They drag the deer to parking lots and leave deer guts and beer cans everywhere.
    — willj (#7)

    Oh joy, firearms and (shitty, watery) alcohol!

    When I was just a lad, one of the neighborhood boys had a BB Gun. His Dad’s rule was you shoot it, you eat it. One day we were out messing around and one kid spots a dove on a power line. So BB Kid shoots it dead. We march back to his house; he plucks it and cooks it. Smelled like chicken (duh). I didn’t have the heart to taste it (BB Kid had to eat most of it, though) and had no desire to use the BB Gun for anything but shooting cans after that.

    Years later, when I joined the service, I remembered that rule with a chuckle. Fortunately, I never had to shoot anyone, ’cause I don’t think they’d taste like chicken.

  9. numerobis says

    Culling is indeed necessary or else the forest suffers. Hunters don’t seem to do a good job of it though.

    The ethics in hunting is you’re supposed to drop the animal in one shot and have them die essentially instantaneously. If the animal is physically able to run, it means you missed.

  10. hemidactylus says

    I don’t know that well reasoned hunting is about culling the weak more than keeping the population numbers in check. The money from licensing could be rolled into the management budget. There could be a subtle selection against less cautious deer, so the more curious, inquisitive and brave get shot. Deer can become too numerous. And thus hunting in theory helps reduce starvation and disease. Plus more deer means more catastrophic run ins with automobiles. At least a felled buck had a happier life than cattle or chickens raised commercially. There’s that consolation.

    Feral hog hunting is more ecologically beneficial perhaps than deer hunting. My understanding is that feral hogs are both a residential nuisance (hazard?) and detrimental to ecosystems.

    That hunters themselves are inept is a problem. And there should be some actual challenge to it. So canned hunting in an enclosed area is out.

    I don’t hunt. I don’t even fish. I am a snowflake who delegates the nasty deed of procuring my beef, poultry and fish to those less sensitive than me. I don’t want to reflect on the suffering that went into my burger or chicken wings. Probably more than a happy deer suddenly shot. Though the eventual death of cattle or chickens may be a plus in that it ends a horribly led life. The dead deer was having a blast up to that point. Ughhh!!!

    And that hogs are damn near sapient should weigh heavily against ecological concerns. Their intelligence makes them more formidable a pest.

    And that deep historic connect between wildlife management and American eugenics is not lost on me.

    Double ugggghhh!!!

  11. says

    I wish the hunters could experience being hunted. I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but perhaps they could understand a bit more what they are inflicting. They might discover they don’t enjoy it so much.

  12. davidnangle says

    cervantes #2, “you wouldn’t be here if your ancestors didn’t kill”

    That’s not a great argument. We wouldn’t be here without uncountable rapes. Doesn’t mean we should keep raping.

    As for the quality of death, gunshot vs. predation, we can’t get too wrapped up in individual experiences to the point we’re trying to make every last life and death better. The aim of deer population control is to minimize, or just barely eliminate starvation. And, if possible, we do it in a way that benefits the wolf/coyote population at the same time.

    Ideally, I’d say leave nature the fuck alone. But that ship has sailed. We’re now responsible.

  13. says

  14. says

    (head explodes)
    Harris is taking IQ tests seriously? What? What? Way to skeptic, Sam.

    When people say I’m too tough on psychology, and it’s not fair to dismiss an entire field because, you know, it has propagated a tremendous amount of bullshit (but that’s all “pop psychology” and it’s all in the past now…) there – take a look – people are still talking about IQ tests. Even supposedly well-educated skeptics.

  15. says

    Since the wolves, cougars and native American hunters are gone, you’re left with European Americans with rifles to fulfill the necessary role of limiting the deer population.

    Necessary why? Because they’re intruding on space needed for human overpopulation?

  16. mareap says

    My late father was a qualified marksman from WWII. His buddies kept trying to get him in to hunting as he was a crack shot. He never took to it and commented that if he HAD to hunt to feed the family he would but he just didn’t understand those who hunted for pleasure. Never took us camping, either; said he’d had enough of that on the Pacific islands.

  17. says

    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-@#14:
    Do the USA never have any sensible regulations like the rest of the world?

    The US always does the right thing, once we’ve exhausted all the alternatives.

    Hunting in the US is a classic example of regulatory capture: the rules on hunting are largely made up by hunters. So, unexpectedly, you get a load of weird bullshit that claims to be reasonable regulation.

  18. asclepias says

    I don’t like hunting shows because they make hunting look easier than it is. I would not classify those people as real hunters, either. Here in Wyoming (and most other states) we have strict game laws. Don’t test the game wardens on it–they don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to abandoning game or poaching. There are also strict laws on types of firearms that can be used and how many bullets can be in the magazine. I think you in the Midwest have a different sort of exposure to hunting because you have a bigger population than we do and not as much public land. The type of hunting I have always known is the sort that involves a lot of walking and careful stalking of the animal, and if you wound the animal you are ethically obligated to track it until you find it. I personally do not hunt because my left hand is weak and spastic, and I don’t trust myself to be able to get a clean shot or to hurt someone else. If you have ever taken any sort of shooting course, you’ll find that the course content is far different than anything taught by the NRA.

  19. mamba says

    Culling has always been a lie. If we believed the principle to be true, we’d be shooting homeless people and destroying the poor and eliminating weaker countries for the planet’s health and…actually hold that thought a moment.

    But as for hunting itself and the jubilation, I always felt that anyone willing to celebrate shooting a large animal would have no problem shooting a human. You’ve already proven comfortable taking a life, an innocent beautiful one at that, and reacted to the gore with glee, so yeah, shooting a human is NOT a huge issue after that. I’m not saying that all hunters are murderers, just that they clearly have the drive to be and only laws and circumstances stop them form pulling the trigger on other humans.

    After all, one dumb animal is just the same as another in that mind, right?

  20. says

    @16 Deer overpopulation is not so much a problem for humans as it is for the rest of the species in the area. Excessive deer are extremely destructive to forest habitats. They eat seedling trees and prevent the forest from regenerating, destroying habitat for every other species. So yes, they absolutely do need to be controlled.

    A lot of people here are criticizing specific hunters for being inept or boorish. Maybe so but that’s a separate issue. Humans in North America were making their living by killing deer for thousands of years before the Europeans came. There are more deer now than there were then. So yes, we need to shoot them. Just like the Indians did.

  21. says

    Because excessive deer populations are very ecologically damaging.

    Note that the American wolf and cougar population has gone away because … of the hunters.
    In the grand tradition of American bullshit, the hunters created the problem, then step forward manfully to “manage” it.

    However, fear not, the hunters are on the job! They’ve been trying to re-introduce apex predators into areas where they can overpopulate so they’ll get to “cull the herd.” The elk that are slowly moving into my area (and my yard!) were brought here by persons unknown so they could re-populate and … eventually be hunted. Notice that the hunters are particularly interested in managing the population of game animals, not animals that might occasionally hunt a hunter or a jogger? Of course, it’s all for the good of the community and the herd and 20 other kinds of bullshit.

    There are too many deer because the hunters don’t shoot the females, which helps keep the population exploding so they have an endless excuse to shoot more dear. Fuckers.

  22. Dunc says

    Note that the American wolf and cougar population has gone away because … of the hunters.
    In the grand tradition of American bullshit, the hunters created the problem, then step forward manfully to “manage” it.

    Well, sure – but the problem exists now, and ignoring it won’t make it go away. (Well, not on anything shorter than evolutionary timescales.) I dunno about the history of the matter in the USA, but over here, people got rid of the predators mainly to protect their sheep (and, to a lesser extent, themselves) rather than for the fun of it, and they’re not too keen on the idea of re-introduction for that reason.

    Here in Scotland, deer culling is a pretty tough job (the red hind season is 21 October to 15 February, which is not the most fun time to be working in the mountains) carried out by trained professionals. Yes, deer management strategies are still too strongly influenced by the hunting lobby, but that is slowly changing.

    Just because your existing solution sucks, doesn’t mean the problem isn’t a problem.

  23. Chris Capoccia says

    Pretty sure consumption of venison containing anesthetic would be a bad idea. Have you ever killed a farm animal for food? They’re not instantly dead.

  24. says

    Culling is not a lie — deer pops are booming. What is a lie is how it is done. Like several have mentioned, going out and killing a few trophy bucks, selecting which members of the population to remove, is not a smart way to efficiently thin a herd, so they’re clearly not doing it effectively or intelligently.

  25. Doubting Thomas says

    Not at all a fan of hunting or killing for sport, but just for discussion, we kill pests and disease causing critters all the time. We kill with antibiotics. We kill by just existing while we are under siege by all sorts of vermin that want to consume us. Where do we draw the line? Cute? Fuzzy? Maybe it’s just killing for pleasure that we need to condemn. Why? Those wolves must be getting at least some hormonal rush as they pull us down and taste our blood.

  26. muttmutt says

    I work for a large CRO in the pharmaceutical industry with a substantial preclinical business (animal testing). We use rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, dogs, minipigs and macaques in our toxicology research. I wrestled long and hard whether or not to take the job, but then I realized that I know so many people who’ve benefited from the work the pharma industry has done I decided the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.

  27. says

    Note that the American wolf and cougar population has gone away because … of the hunters.
    In the grand tradition of American bullshit, the hunters created the problem, then step forward manfully to “manage” it.

    It may be different in the sparsely populated areas of the US, but in Europe, despite successful attempts at reintroduction, most areas are not large enough for large predators. No wolf will move in here where small woods are cut through with hiking trails and set between roads and settlements.

  28. starfleetdude says

    Where do we draw the line? Cute? Fuzzy?

    It’s not surprising that humans empathize with other mammals, especially cute and fuzzy ones. Part of the reason why hunters in pre-historic times created rituals related to the killing of animals was to assuage feelings they genuinely had for them as living beings.

  29. Bruce Fuentes says

    I hunt deer. I was never a hunter until I met my wife. Hunting is a very big part of the lives of her relatives. They are a classic NW Wisconsin hunting family. I was an east coast suburban kid. That being said I am with you and have never understood the cheering after a kill. To this day I still wrestle with the ethical and moral dilemma of hunting. I like venison and enjoy the process of cooking it. I am an atheist but the killing of a deer is a spiritual experience for me. There is a moment before I pull the trigger that I reach a state of calm as I process what I am about to do. I guess in some sense it is almost a “religious” moment. In all steps of the process of dressing the deer and processing the meat, I am very mindful of the life I have taken and make sure I am respectful of that life I have taken.
    I did not hunt this last year. I am not sure if I will again. It is a moral and ethical quandary I will always deal with.

  30. flamingsword says

    The Native American hunters are A: not gone, and B: still hunting, if using slightly updated weaponry.

  31. flamingsword says

    Some hunters go for the biggest buck because they have the most meat, and they are lazy and don’t want to dress two does for basically the same amount of meat. It’s messy and people who are not squeamish about killing and blood are awfully squeamish about shit and entrails. It’s basically laziness.

    Also, any time someone says they use an AR-15 style high velocity round to hunt with is shooting for sport. That shit ruins the meat unless you are a good enough shot to get a headshot every time. Those rounds are designed to do as much damage as possible, so a heart shot is going to go through the animal and tear up both front flanks, so the meat will be good for nothing but ground chuck, and if you hit a single bone, you are going to have bullet-shrapnel in the meat and bone-shrapnel, too. If you talk with anyone who says they are too good for that, they are either a military-trained sniper, an Olympian, or more probably: lying.

  32. asclepias says

    I just thought I’d mention that the only hunters you see who take bucks are the ones on tv. When drawing a tag around here you’re usually going to get a cow tag. Responsible hunters with a cow tag will not take a buck. I’m talking elk hunting, here, but the same goes for antelope and deer (mostly mule deer here). The hunter must have that tag on him (or her) if they are stopped by a game warden who for any reason is suspicious about a harvested buck. During hunting season outlying game and fish offices run hunter check stations where they will check for license and tags (also chronic wasting disease, which I did one year).

  33. widdershins says

    There was a recent article about how hunting is changing the behavior of mother bears. Since hunters aren’t supposed to kill mothers with cubs, the moms that stay with their babies for a shorter time are getting killed, whereas the ones who keep the cubs around longer, live longer.

    The article noted how hunting affects the fish population (they mature at smaller sizes), and rams (which are getting smaller horns in areas where they’re hunted for large horns).

  34. says

    I just pulled one of your articles – “Development and axonal outgrowth of identified motoneurons in the zebrafish” – from Google Scholar. I don’t know if this involved killing the fish. I don’t know anything about this topic and I wonder how many actually do, and what the effects of that are. Basically, is it just knowledge for the sake of a very small percentage of people to consume? I dunno – maybe it led to advances for further understanding (still knowledge for the sake of knowledge) or maybe research with real world applications.

    I’m not saying any of this to be a contrarian asshole, or to say that all or most research is myopic or useless if its only goal is to satiate human curiosity. But I’m glad you have moments of ethical dilemma when killing for your job. Whether or not the knowledge is worth it might be worthy of more scrutiny, though I suspect the answer will usually be yes.

  35. Zmidponk says

    It was a couple of people hiding in a blind near a bean field, when a large herd of deer gathered, browsing on the leftovers. They pulled out a big rifle, and boom, shot a big buck.

    I was horrified to see it — the animal went frantic, galloping about the field in a clear state of terror before its legs buckled and it collapsed.

    I can understand hunting being a tool to help with managing deer population, and I can even understand celebration and pride from felling a deer with a skillful shot. This does not sound like a skillful shot. A skillful shot would be one shot in a vital area that kills the animal in seconds. This sounds like the shooter only really managed to hit the animal, somewhere, and it eventually died from blood loss. I don’t know why someone would be proud of that, or celebrate it.

  36. Holms says

    Such things are what ethics panels for scientific research address. Any experiment involving animal deaths must be justified to their satisfaction before the project can proceed, and even then, the lab running the experiment needs to show that they have the facilities for humane killing.

  37. fossboxer says

    I have an exercise bike in my living room. One day I was doing my time and noticed a spider on the wall next to me. I decided, meh, let her be. And so it was—for days she and I lived together. I made it a game of “where’s waldo” every time I got on the bike. She kept to that end of the living room, killing other bugs I suppose, and troubled no one.

    Then one night, my wife caught sight of her scuttling across the window sill. “Kill it!”

    Well, okay, that’s what you do. But, no. “Oh for crying out loud!” said my wife. Sorry hun, no can do. My camaraderie for that silly arachnid had become so visceral, the best I could muster was to relocate her to my rose garden.

    Many years ago, I was an avid hunter growing up in Wyoming. I’ve “claimed” many animals in my day. Something changed when I hit my 50s—I became a vegan who struggles to harm a spider.

    I know it’s all very silly. I know my immune system is slaughtering organisms left and right and I know brutality is par for the course when organic molecules become self-replicating. The Universe is not a friendly place and gives zero shits about suffering. But it is what it is. Had I been in PZ’s shoes, I would have had no choice but to leave the room the moment I realized what was on that TV.

  38. says

    My family hunted in a camp they are part owners of for generations (well over a century). In Canada the laws are very specific. Hunting season is a designated period of time and you go in a tag lottery that you apply for well in advance. Doe and stag tags are distributed based on numbers found by government wildlife experts who determine how many should be killed. If you kill a stag with a doe tag and one of the many game inspectors who are out and about catch you then you can have vehicles and weapons seized and face major fines and penalties. This isn’t to say you don’t get a few assholes up doing what they want but the consequences are so severe and the monitoring so strong there is very few. Responsible hunters do the hunting for the most part here and they also use the meat from the animals they kill. I don’t hunt personally (I am a pacifist) but have benefitted from fresh venison for years which helped me through times when I was very poor. These hunters rarely don’t kill the animal right away and if they wound it they track it and do not leave it to suffer. Also in Canada gun owners are licensed and monitored and training is required. The problem in the U.S. is a lack of regulation and enforcement.

  39. fossboxer says


    What I find comical is the attitude that it requires “skill” or that it’s somehow a “sport.” How is it a sport when the other team can’t shoot back?

    And any dumbass can operate a firearm—not to mention the detachment they provide. Want to impress us? Get your game on with an atlatl, or even a club.

  40. Kreator says

    Marcus Ranum @#10:

    When people say I’m too tough on psychology, and it’s not fair to dismiss an entire field because, you know, it has propagated a tremendous amount of bullshit (but that’s all “pop psychology” and it’s all in the past now…) there – take a look – people are still talking about IQ tests. Even supposedly well-educated skeptics.

    From the article:

    Subsequently, Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett — three academic psychologists who specialize in studying intelligence — wrote a piece for Vox arguing that Murray was peddling pseudoscience and Harris had been irresponsible in representing it as the scientific consensus

    But sure, psychologists are the villains here.

  41. kestrel says

    @fossboxer, #42: “And any dumbass can operate a firearm—not to mention the detachment they provide. Want to impress us? Get your game on with an atlatl, or even a club.”

    Yeah, I do get what you’re saying – but please don’t. Clubbing a deer to death is not a pretty sight nor is at easy as one might think. One should ONLY shoot if one has a very clear shot that will cause instant death.

    I live on a farm and raise livestock and that means from time to time I have deadstock. I wanted to be sure I was killing animals (when it was required) in the most humane way possible so I hired a vet to come and watch me dispatch an animal. She monitored everything she could and watched carefully as I worked. She told me the way she does it: having an animal hauled to the clinic where she works, putting in a needle in the vein, administering various drugs… is far more stressful and takes longer than she likes and that what I was doing was far faster and way more humane, it was just that it looked bad to her clients. Well, I am using a .22, aimed at a very specific place. I am just not comfortable doing it in any other way since working with this vet. I am responsible for these animals and I am responsible for them living as good and happy lives as is possible. If one is old, sick, injured past healing etc. I need to be very efficient at ending that life in the most humane way possible, and for me, that requires a .22 shell. Definitely not a club. Although again, I do understand what you are saying: it’s way easier to try and kill a bear with a bullet than a club. I get that. It’s just that the club, IF successful, simply causes untold suffering.

  42. asclepias says

    As long as I’m making a nuisance of myself, I’d also like to point out that no hunter I know celebrates the death of an animal. I’ve been on enough hunting trips with my dad to know that it is a strange feeling–you’re happy to have the meat, but not happy that something had to die. It is a solemn occasion. Also, if you’re hunting big game, that’s when the real work begins. Around here it is illegal to shoot from the road, and carrying 40-60 pounds of elk meat a mile or two and then going back for more is no small feat. (And you damn well better go back–abandoning meat is also illegal!)

  43. fossboxer says


    Yeah, I meant it as hyperbole against the “sport” mindset that even just wounding something with a bullet was somehow worthy of fist-pumping glee. I didn’t mean it as a prescription. None of us here would be impressed by the clubbing of anything. As I clarified in an earlier post, I’m adamantly opposed to any suffering at all and what you’re describing here is the humane application of a firearm.

  44. says

    AFAIK, in CZ we do not have “hunters” per se. We have gamekeepers. Anyone who wants to hunt has to be a member of gamekeeper club and work throughout the year, taking care of the forest.That means feeding the animals in winter for example, patroling the woods on lookout for poachers, making hay in summer, keeping population counts and even marking trees for felling etc. Every gamekeeper must pass a test to get a licence. There was even a talk about making this a job, not a hobby. They are not allowed to shoot willy-nilly anything they see, with (I think) the exception of wild boar, because those are overpopulating and a pest. For deer they must shoot sick, visibly unfit or ill and injured animals, and there is a ration of young/male/female animals they can shoot each year.

    As a child one gamekeeper was one of most respected people (to me) I knew. He spent a lot of time in the forest, taking care of it and teaching young kids like me a lot about nature. He had a few taxidemy trophies at home, but he has always put great emphasis on the notion that the point of gamekeeping is not the hunting, but the care. I remember the love for nature he succesfully instilled in me.

    I have killed animals in the past (not hunting, domestic fowl). I never enjoyed it, but I feel no regrets either. It was either that, or having a lot less to eat and I value my well being more than that of a duck. Those were different times, now I have enough money to buy all my food at the supermarket.

  45. Pierce R. Butler says

    As a Mississippi boy, I grew up around hunting, have eaten lots of venison, and accept many of the rationales.

    (One way to spot an over-foraged woodland: squat down. From normal human eye level, the tangle of vegetation can look just fine – but when seen from 2-3 feet above the ground, and everything is clear and open between the tree trunks, then yeah, you got way too many deer there.)

    But I never got into hunting, mostly because of one specific local custom. The first-time hunter, not unreasonably, has to hang up, gut, and clean his (nearly always, especially when I was a kid) first kill – and the other hunters there have the right/obligation to grab him and stuff his head inside the bloody carcass. To that initiation ritual I have rather strong objections – but I know full well the relative weight given by southern rednecks to, respectively, a lower-status person saying “No!” and Tradition.

    And I know myself well enough to suspect what would happen if the most likely scenario were to play out while a loaded rifle was within my reach.

    I have never bothered to try to explain to my friends and neighbors that I don’t hunt for their protection.

  46. Usernames! 🦑 says

    The first-time hunter, not unreasonably, has to hang up, gut, and clean his (nearly always, especially when I was a kid) first kill
    — Pierce R. Butler (#48)


    “What first-time hunter? I’ve killed THOUSANDS I tell you!”

  47. mod prime says

    If hunting/killing is necessary I’d rather those that do it enjoyed doing it, even if I find that this raises questions about the hunter’s empathy. In other words – I’d rather a necessary task was not completed by people who hate doing and it feel it a significant psychological/ethical burden.

    I’d prefer a world where people were happy with their jobs, basically. Even better are necessary jobs that some people enjoy so much they would either do it for free – or even pay people to allow them to do it.

  48. says

    There are more opinions on what it means to be a “proper hunter” than there are hunters. I won’t even begin to defend some of the hunting practiced around the world, but I believe it can be done humanely and ethically. If I didn’t I wouldn’t hunt myself.

  49. salmo says

    No, that’s not hunting. Can’t recommend an ethicist (other than Sam Harris), but you might find it interesting to visit with a tribal elder, such as Paul Schultz at White Earth. Among contemporary “Ways of Knowing”, there are many native people who can speak to the theme of respect between hunter and prey.

  50. danf205 says

    Nope. That’s not hunting. That’s simply killing. But given our instant gratification culture, are you so surprised that this is what the whole show is focused on? Hunting is only partially about the kill. It’s about being out in the wild and partaking of it. Understanding that despite all our technology and numbers, we’re still animals that are part of an ecosystem that we don’t fully understand. Being out in the woods hunting reminds me of that and reminds me to be a little more humble when I go back to the lab to work. I’m lucky that I get to do that here in Kansas, living so close to a metropolitan area. But I do get to see what that gives back to me. Food on my table and experiences that make me feel a greater kinship with every other thing on the planet. A lot of people don’t see that, and seeing how we’ve become so urbanized I can understand that. Those of us who eat meat have become ever further removed from what that rib eye on the platter actually means.

    So I hunt when I can, and any extra tags I’m able to pull, I can use to make donations to the local food banks. Being that I’m back in school and living in a suburban area, that’s a lot harder thing to do anymore. And as I age, the scales are turning ever further in the quarry’s favor daily. Humans, for the most part, are blind, deaf, and utterly dumb when we’re in the wild. Fortune and evolution completely favors the prey despite all our technological advancement. And after a fashion, that’s a good thing. One of the best things that the US Government has ever done was the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration of 1937. This created an excise tax that has helped fund game managment and habitat restoration efforts all over this nation. Additionally, if you’ve ever picked up a hunting or fishing magazine talking about the “latest tips and techniques for bigger bass/deer/turkey”, you’ll see that most of them are nothing but ads. All designed to catch more sportsmen than their quarry. So that too helps the ecosystem. Most hunters and fishermen know that if there’s going to ever be anything left to hunt, then they need to be first among those who protect that.

  51. taraskan says

    I agree with the attitude you have toward labrats. I keep snakes and have been killing rats for 23 years (it’s not worth the risk to feed them live if you don’t have to). I don’t exactly feel any guilt about it, as the snake would do it anyway and my way is certainly less painful, but I can’t say I don’t care at all, and I definitely would be repulsed at the idea of taking pleasure in killing them. I don’t understand or condone hunting.

    But as far as gun control is concerned, it’s not like assault rifles are required or even used in buck hunting to begin with, so the hunting excuse is flimsy as fuck.

  52. magistramarla says

    No guns ever were allowed in our home, even though it is the home of a military officer. He has always said that weapons belonged on the base, not near his children. Our youngest daughter married a Texas redneck who happily brags that he owns 13 guns, and that’s not counting the one owned by his wife and the one owned by his son.
    He takes my eight year old grandson out hunting. The child received his own gun for Xmas and lots of ammunition for his birthday. Needless to say, my husband and I are both appalled. The most frightening thing is that the guns are kept in a lovely glass-doored cabinet next to the front door of their home. It just seems to me that those guns are all too accessible to anyone who breaks into the house, or worse yet, to a curious child or his visiting friends.

  53. billyjoe says


    There was a recent article about how hunting is changing the behavior of mother bears

    I know you know what you meant but hunting is not changing the behaviour of mother bears, it is leading to the increased survival of mother bears with certain behaviours. In this case mother bears that stay longer with their cubs (the reason being that hunters are prohibited from shooting mother bears with cubs).

  54. Ichthyic says

    egads man, what he said is correct. hunting IS changing the behavior of bears.

    all they did was not explicitly state the selection part.

    btw… bears also exhibit plasticity in their behavior, and they can learn.

    so you might see BOTH selection for certain behaviors, and increased observation of changed behavior of individuals themselves.

  55. Ichthyic says

    One of the best things that the US Government has ever done was the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration of 1937

    Which makes me wonder if Trump is working hard to get rid of that as we speak.

    It would not surprise me if he was, at all.

  56. Zeppelin says

    There’s really no reason for private individuals to be hunting at all. If the purpose is population control, have trained and certified forester do it. Farming out a task that should be a somber necessity to people who enjoy it is a recipe for abuse. The military tries to screen out people who actively enjoy killing.

  57. billyjoe says

    Bjork is a hunter, so it can’t be all bad!

    But, of course, it’s metaphorical. The video shows her changing intermittently into a polar bear. So she’s the hunter and the hunted. She’s “hunting” for songs for her third solo album but actually she rather be having a break after the success of her first two albums but feels “hunted” by her band and crew to keep working to keep them employed.

    (Bjork subsequently produced an album called Biophilia which, as the name implies, is about her love of nature. And she’s a big fan of David Attenborough. She’s a unique and creative artist who doesn’t mind looking ugly if the song demands it, as in the above video. I love that in actors also.)

  58. anbheal says

    Ugh, that world-class douche-bro (and widely hailed as the worst tipper in Boston restaurant history), Roger Clemens, used to host a hunting show, where he and 15 buddies on ATVs, with multiple antennas, GPS, satellite spotting, headphones, 20 spaniels, and semi-automatics (possibly bumpstock automatics) would go and terrorize Texas brushlands, whooping and hollering, 8 or 12 of them all firing military assault rifles at scattering hare or deer or grouse, swigging beer and whooping it up.

    That these asswipes considered it a manly Texan bonding ritual was just pathetic. They’d all be thrown in jail in Scotland or Ireland or New Zealand or Finland, any honorable hunting culture, where you’re allowed two rounds, no motorized vehicles, no camouflage, one or two field dogs, etc., and game wardens aren’t owned by the NRA.

    The Trump sons and every hunter on every show in Dixie are NOT hunters. They are just assholes who wish they still had the right to go hunting runaway slaves.

    And yeah, @56 magistramarla, my father was an Irish tough guy, naval commander, saw combat at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and Midway, and he wouldn’t let his hunting friends bring their rifles into our house during hunting season on Cape Cod, they had to lock them in their car trunks. “Guns make a home much less safe — nothing good can happen with them indoors, they should only be allowed for soldiers, cops, hunters, and bank robbers, otherwise they’re just murder tools….your house becomes safe by locking the front door and keeping an eye on whom your daughters are dating. Besides, criminals are accustomed to using guns, accountants and dentists aren’t, so if it comes to the incredibly unlikely event of someone breaking into your house, who’s so stupid as to do it when you’re at home, the chances are 10-1 that he is a better shot, calmer with the trigger, more willing to kill, and his eyes better adjusted to the dark, than some drunken Dad who’s just groggily woken up.”

  59. roverserton says

    I’ve hunted with bow and gun since the 70s. I have always mourned that part of the activity. I grew up on a farm and had to routinely kill animals I petted and raised from birth. It is a miserable task but one that can’t be avoided. I always used the most humane method I knew of. A sad commentary, what I have done many times to sick animals on the farm to reduce suffering, I can’t do do my loved ones at end stage cancer.

  60. logicalcat says

    Wasn’t the deer population burst the result of hunters killing their natural predators? Its like having anti-vaxxers fund vaccine research.

  61. M'thew says

    Giliell @29:

    It may be different in the sparsely populated areas of the US, but in Europe, despite successful attempts at reintroduction, most areas are not large enough for large predators. No wolf will move in here where small woods are cut through with hiking trails and set between roads and settlements.

    Nevertheless, wolves are coming back to the Netherlands. Apparently Germany is already too small for them. Shepherds in the east of the country are starting to sound the alarm bells, as there are already reports of sheep being bitten to death (though it’s not yet sure it’s done by wolves). In spring the young wolves start to wander in search of territory to claim, and it’s lambing season.

    Don’t underestimate Mother Nature. If foxes manage to live with and around humans, why not wolves?

  62. says

    @ giliel

    “Do the USA never have any sensible regulations like the rest of the world?”

    You are seriously asking this question? Because I have been of the opinion that the political leadership’s method of picking how to solve problems in the US is, “Which one of a thousand solutions that we, or anyone else in the world, have/can come up with would be the stupidest and least effective possible?”

  63. says

    @ Zeppelin #60:
    In my experience most hunters do not enjoy killing, they enjoy hunting. The kill is part of the hunt, but that’s not the real motivator. It’s the culmination of a successful hunt, and for me it’s a solemn, bitter-sweet moment. There is joy in the success, but also respect and pity for the animal.