I am going to do my best to behave myself with this article. This is an emotionally charged topic for both hunters, and anti-hunters. It is, however, addressed to the anti-hunters out there. Before we get to the meat of this topic, I want to express two important factors that I know with absolute certainty.
- My ability and freedom to hunt wild game is significantly more important to me, than your desire to end hunting is to you.
- Myself, and most hunters, because of our lifestyle and commitment to our success with it, generally know more about the animals we hunt than most of you will ever know.
To the last point, the overall knowledge of game animals, hit me as I stumbled across a video filmed with Steve Rinella from Meateater. In this video, Steve is answering a question from a vegan in his book signing audience. He makes some perfect points about the historic value of hunting, and talking about how hunters know more about the collective species they hunt than non-hunters. Watch the video here.
As a hunter, in order to be effective, we must understand animal behavior, predation, food sources, habitat, environmental impacts, breeding, health, their sounds, their appearance, species capabilities, and management of the resource. This is far beyond what the average anti-hunter will ever bother themselves with.
If you had the researched knowledge and field experience that myself and other hunters had, you would most likely not be anti-hunting. Especially as game relates to the balance of developing societies and changing habitat.
This letter is not to the PETA crowd, or the spit-in-your-face crazed activists who don’t know the difference between a bull elk and squirrel shit. If this describes you, you can stop reading now. It does you little good to submerge yourself in outside perspectives. Your viewpoint of the world is short-sighted and bluntly, ridiculously stupid. In this article, I am referring to people who actually spend their awake life in human reality.
I’d like to be as candid as possible, so I’m not intentionally trying to offend anyone with the following, but my perspective of the average anti-hunter plays out like this; you have never really been exposed to hunting. You love animals and have pets. You cook normal things from grocery stores like chicken & rice and occasionally visit Red Lobster. Your pets are fed high protein meals, in which you have thoroughly researched as healthy. You’ve had a hot dog at a baseball game and a cheeseburger at a cookout.
However, the thought of killing an animal and eating it is disgusting. You’ve seen images on Facebook of redneck looking savages, holding dead deer with bloody tongues as they smile with a cigarette hanging from their nasty lips. You’ve been negatively influenced by news stories of poached lions in Africa and cheerleaders shooting giraffes. The people around you don’t hunt, and many of them have negative opinions about hunting.
Over time, you have developed a distaste for hunters and, perhaps subconsciously, hatred towards them. How is it considered a sport? Shooting an innocent, unarmed deer with a high powered weapon, you might ask.
Or even, for what you consider to be a moral standard, you are vegan. You are against killing any animals for food. You get the ever important protein from other sources.
I avoid painting people with broad brushes, so bear with me. I hate it. However, in some way the above descriptions probably have some parallels with you. Here is the most important thing I want you to hear: I am not opposed to your choices, nor do I hate you for them. You and I might be close friends were we to cross trails. And, I encourage you to live your life the way you want to. Period.
For me, all I can hope for is that you offer the same respect back. I feed my family with the most organic meat on the planet. I seek the most mature animal I can find, but I’m not what you might call a “trophy hunter.” Hunting is my lifestyle, and I go through great sacrifice and effort to do it. If you don’t like hunting, I can still be your friend. Understand that I don’t like hunting, I love hunting. It’s a huge part of what defines me. Will you still be my friend?
Here is where I’m going to ask you to proceed with an open mind. My goal is not to change your mind and turn you into the next American hunting legend. The woods are packed as it is. My goal is to help you understand me, and perhaps we can agree that our lifestyles might differ, but we can still leave each other alone in our personal pursuits. Maybe even be friends.
I rarely refer to hunting as a sport. It’s not that I think it’s not a sport, I just think of football or baseball as a sport. Hunting is different. It’s a time constrained passion that is extremely challenging but also very fulfilling, even when not successful. I bring this up because I hear it a lot; “how is hunting a sport?”
The constant drum beat on social media sites looks like this:
“How can you shoot innocent animals that don’t have a fighting chance?”
“You must be making up for something, using a high-powered rifle to kill unsuspecting animals.”
“It’s not a sport when the animals are not armed. It’s an unfair advantage!”
The list can continue.
Let’s look at this stat. In American hunting, depending on the area and the species, only 2% to as high as 30% of hunters actually harvest the animal they’re hunting. The ones that are close to the 30% range are extremely rare. This translates to the fact that the high majority of hunters are unsuccessful. In most cases, hunters are not simply driving around shooting caged animals like it is often portrayed. Hunting in the American West is physically demanding and trying. The odds are against us, and the animals are not as defenseless as they are made out. The stats prove it. Hunting is only for those who love an extreme outdoors challenge. And success means a freezer full of cleaner, leaner meat than what you buy at the grocery store.
In fact, your adorable house cat is responsible for more bloodshed each year than hunters. In Australia, house cats, both feral and domesticated, kill over two-billion birds per year. I love my cats, but that’s a staggering number!
I have a hat from The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that has the slogan “hunting is conservation.” In this article, I am not going to bore everyone with facts and statistics about how hunting contributes the most benefit to our wildlife. A quick Google search will verify that hunters contribute more money for studies, habitat improvements, migration corridors, species reintroductions, and improved species populations than all other groups combined. It’s not even close. I will provide a few facts for you to consider, however.
For example, in 1973 wild turkey populations were hovering around one and half million. Thanks to a hunting organization called the National Wild Turkey Foundation, wild turkeys surpass six million today. PETA has no stat that even comes close to this.
The same levels of success can be found in numbers of elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, and several other species. These are significant improvements that are a direct result of our hunting community. We love the animals collectively more than any other so-called conservation group. These numbers are undisputed.
Without hunters, several species would be undeniably hanging on to existence today, if at all. Hunters, more than any other community, want healthy animals and growing populations. We spend large amounts of money that benefit our animals. Including ammo and archery purchases. The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 provides an 11% tax on all ammunition and sporting goods and alone generates more revenue for our wildlife and conservation than all anti-hunting organizations combined. This is also because these groups spend their money on anti-hunting campaign ads instead of conservation. Think about that. They portray themselves as activist’s for our wildlife and ask for your money, in which they turn around and spend on advertising to get more people to give them money. Hunting non-profits are very different, and rank much higher in legitimacy and monies actually used to benefit their cause.
In short, hunting organizations and individual hunters put their money where their mouth is. As a result, our wildlife and their habitat benefit greatly. Pile that non-profit organization money on top of hunting licenses, tags, ammo, archery equipment, and other donations. Then, consider the revenue stream that is infused in local economies for lodging, food, outfitters, gas, etc. during hunting season, and the result is a wildly successful win for conservation. If you spit-in-your-face crazed activists need something else in your pipe to smoke, smoke that.
Lastly, on a personal note, I love animals. I have pets. I feed them well and spoil them. I feel bad for the wild animal when successful in a hunt. I’m not a heartless savage. Simply, I am a savage that hunts with a high level of respect for the animals I pursue. I make no apologies for my lifestyle.
The hunting community can do a better job with the perceptions we create. We should be more tasteful with the images we post to social media sites. Clean our kill for the photo. We are proud of the achievement and photos are what separates the tall tales from reality. Take the damn cigarette out of our mouths for the photo. Seriously on that one, hunters, it looks horrible.
With that, understand that hunting is deeply rooted in our DNA. It is a natural primal instinct that in many of us, needs to be filled. Humans have been hunting since the dawn of mankind. It is not some new hobby created to boost our egos. It’s timeless.
Some may say that hunting isn’t necessary in the modern world. To that, I say you’re wrong. It is necessary. It’s necessary not only for us, the human, but to the benefit of our wildlife. Without hunters, we are left with nobody that truly cares about wildlife management and their habitat. We depend on it. We were the first and we continue to be the best line of defense against the things that would otherwise destroy it’s existence.
Whether a vegan or simply against hunting, I urge you to continue to pursue the lifestyle that makes you the happiest. This is America, and that’s a key component to our beautiful way of life. I ask that you return this small favor to us, the hunters. Because if you don’t, we won’t be asking any longer.
Live, and let live the American lifestyle. Enjoy your beans and tofu, and I will enjoy the Swedish Venison Meatballs my wife makes. To that end, we’re both happy.
Well said Jim!
Thank you for posting this letter.
Spot on man.
Well written and very helpful! I feel like I just wrote the other side of this coin – how we engage with non-hunters who are not anti-hunters. Both sides are important, you will not sway us or stop us from what we love, and the side of clearly (with truth, beauty, and goodness) communicating to people who don’t understand it (rather than oppose it).
I loved this letter, I shared it. I couldn’t think of a better way to try and explain myself to anti-hunters than this letter! Well done!