Hunting Is Not Murder


Contributing Writer
Steve Sorenson

“How can you murder a beautiful deer?” Many hunters have been asked that question, and some ethics police seem to make it their life mission to equate killing a deer with murder.

The simple answer is that government doesn’t consider killing a deer to be murder. The law has definitions for murder, but in simple terms, murder is a deliberate act that causes death to a human. If killing an animal is murder, we’re going to need a lot more jails.

Yes, some poachers have been prosecuted for murder, but the victims of their murders were humans, not animals. No hunter has ever been prosecuted for murder because he killed a deer.

Think about it. If shooting a deer is murder, then every dead deer you see lying along the road represents a legal case — something on the order of manslaughter by motor vehicle. Call it vehicular deer-icide.

Why isn’t killing a deer murder? Why isn’t putting a bullet or an arrow through a deer the same as putting one through a human? The simple answer, that government does not equate killing a deer to murder, may not be enough. We all know governments are sometimes wrong and all of us can point to some bad laws government has made.

The Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” does not settle the issue either. It’s simple. It’s concise. It’s straightforward. But it doesn’t say what some people say it says. It doesn’t tell us that killing a deer is murder.

So let’s turn to natural history, and then we can take a closer look at the Sixth Commandment. Throughout history, man has survived by killing animals. It has happened in every culture, and without it none of us would be here. Meat has always sustained homo sapiens, and to eat meat someone must kill an animal.

In modern times we essentially hire people to kill animals for us, and we pay them when we go to the grocery store to pick it up. A common practice done every day from pre-history up until now, and approved in every culture, can’t suddenly be wrong.

But what does the Sixth Commandment have to do with hunting? As it turns out, not much. We can easily apply some Commandments to hunting (for example, prohibitions against stealing, lying and coveting), but when God used his finger to engrave the Sixth Commandment on stone (Exodus 31:18), he wasn’t making a rule about hunting.

The reason we do need to consider the Sixth Commandment is because it has much to say about the difference between killing an animal and killing a human. The Judeo-Christian belief is that man is a unique creation. He is distinct from the animals because man is the only creature God created in his own image. So when a person kills another person, he is destroying a creature that bears God’s image. That’s what the Sixth Commandment prohibits.

When a hunter kills an animal, he is not killing a creature made in the image of God. That’s the difference, plain and simple, and it‘s a big one.

Hunting is not murder. We hunters need to be clear about that, for the sake of our own consciences and so we can tell others — self-appointed ethics police and everyone else — that they are different from animals. Yes, even anti-hunters are made in God’s image.

So we don’t need a lot more jails, not for hunters anyway.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting , he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.