You Say You’re Against Hunting? (Part 1)

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Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Tell me, what kind of hunting are you against? I’m not asking you about deer hunting, or hunting with hounds. I’m talking about something more fundamental, so before anyone says “all hunting,” we have some things to think about. Human history has given us three main types of hunting: subsistence hunting, market hunting, and sport hunting.

People have hunted throughout human history. Only recently has hunting been frowned upon, even though every person living today has hunters in his lineage. Without hunting the human race would not have survived. To turn our backs on hunting is to reject this legacy, separating ourselves from our roots, like cut flowers. Yet here we are in 2022, and opposition to hunting is increasing. It’s “politically correct” to jump on that band wagon, an act which seems odd considering our history.

Some say hunting is no longer necessary for survival. I understand that point of view. Supplying food for humanity is a worldwide industry. And at least in America, with food programs everywhere from some of the tiniest churches to the mammoth national government, no one should go hungry even without hunting.

To some, hunting seems violent, even barbaric. It involves blood. It is the taking of a life. While that’s true, many who are against hunting don’t object to fishing. Or slaughterhouses. And some find violent games acceptable. Even if they’re vegetarians or vegans, that dietary choice puts them into a system where their food is grown at the expense of animal life that competes for their food. The vegetarian can’t eat his asparagus unless animals wanting to eat it die. But an argument for hunting is not an argument against vegetarianism, or vice versa. We’re all free to choose.

Back to the question, what kind of hunting are you against? As mentioned, history has given us subsistence hunting, market hunting, and sport hunting. A fourth has also been present in every age — defensive hunting against life-threatening bears or cougars, or economic threats.

Defensive hunting cuts across the millennia. Man has always defended himself and his livelihood from predatory animals. Ancient Israel’s King David, as a young shepherd boy, battled against the claws of the lion and the bear to protect his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Sometimes defensive hunting becomes the pursuit of the lion or the bear, or the fox that invades the henhouse.

Over the next few months I’ll be looking at the history of hunting. Subsistence hunting is what enabled our forebears to survive, and it prevailed through most of human history. Market hunting had a brief heyday in North America paralleling the industrial revolution, and still exists in some parts of the world. Sport hunting is what we have today, but it is misunderstood by many. Even some who themselves are sport hunters don’t think much about it in historical perspective.

So if you’re against hunting, which of these are you against? I doubt you’re against “subsistence hunting,” which has the built-in limit of a full stomach, or a full larder for the winter. You’re probably against “market hunting” (and you should be) because there were no limits to market hunting and human population growth has given us far too many people to feed with wild game. Market hunting exterminated the passenger pigeon, and brought other species to threatened levels. Market hunters killed wagon loads of deer and elk to supply lumber camps, and bison to transport on new technology, refrigerated rail cars, so upper class urbanites back east could eat like kings. Market hunters ravaged exotic birdlife to put feathers in the hats of fashionable city folk. Thank American hunters themselves, not anti-hunters, for ending market hunting.

Market hunting (indiscriminate as it was) led finally to sport hunting. Some say they’re against sport hunting, but do they know what it is, why we have it, and the benefits it brings? I see little evidence that they do.

Anti-hunters often view all types of hunting as one, not pausing to consider that they are not the same. Once we see hunting from a historical view and why is what it is today, you might not be so sure you’re against hunting.

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, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.