Thursday, July 30, 2015


i) I'm going to venture some comments on hunting. I myself am not a hunter, much less a trophy hunter, so I have no vested interest in this debate. I do have male relatives who are hunters, but that's just not something I grew up doing. 

I did grow up with nature shows and TV dramas like Daktari and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. I've watched nature shows all my life. I had a normal boy's interest in animals. Read many reference works on zoology. Read a book by a big-game hunter in Africa. Another book by a wolf-trapper. And a book by Joy Adamson. That's my background, such as it is.

ii) Some people distinguish between hunting and poaching. I think that's a valid distinction in principle. There are some problems in practice:

a) In poor countries, poaching is so lucrative that I doubt it's realistic to hope we can save animals by law. I like the idea of a wildlife refuge or sanctuary. But where a prize kill can fetch so much money in a poor country where money goes a long ways, I doubt we can successfully protect animals that way. Given the economic situation, laws are an ineffective deterrent. The potential reward outweighs the potential risk. 

I've read many naturalists admit that zoos are probably the only way to save some animals from extinction. But some animal rights activists are so fanatical that they'd rather see animals go extinct than be kept in zoos. 

b) Although it's valid to regulate hunting to prevent overhunting, this is a highly politicized issue. Animals rights activists, who oppose hunting and trapping in principle, will lobby gov't to declare a species "endangered" as a pretext to further their radical agenda. It's naive to unquestioningly accept a gov't classification. 

iii) Feminism and animal rights activism intersect. Many men enjoy hunting. There's a concerted effort to shame men for enjoying things that come naturally to men. 

But there's no reason men should be made to feel defensive about that, any more than women should be made to feel defensive about activities that many women naturally enjoy. This is anti-male bigotry. 

I'd add that there are natural Tomboys who enjoy stereotypically masculine activities. Likewise, there are women who've grown up in wilderness areas where it's normal to be around guns. Where it's normal to hunt with their father or brothers.  

Men enjoy hunting for the same reasons they enjoy sports, paintball, or archery tag. Competition. Comeradarie. Testing yourself. 

A hunter has to be very alert to his natural surroundings. Use his eyes and ears. Notice clues. Give the situation his undivided attention.

When stalking dangerous quarry, there's a heightened sense of alertness to the hunter's surroundings. His life depends on it. That's primal. Instinctual. Confronting life without a safety net. Just you and nature in direct contact. 

Takes us back to an earlier time, not so very long ago, when we didn't have the suffocating technological bubblewrap. Our culture has become insanely risk-averse. I see lots of skaters with elaborate safety gear, on a straight level paved trail. They don't dare use a skateboard or roller skates without suiting up in full-body armor. What's next–human hamster balls for joggers? 

There's nothing wrong with men being men–just as there's nothing wrong with women being women. Moreover, it's a salutary way of channeling male aggression. 

iv) Is bowhunting more or less ethical than hunting with a rifle? On the one hand, in bowhunting, you're more likely to injure the animal rather than kill it outright. Some people think that's cruel. Mind you, it's no more cruel than how most animals naturally die in the wild.

On the other hand, lots of folks who object to hunting complain that it isn't fair; the animal didn't have a fighting chance against a high-powered rifle. By that standard, it's far riskier to the hunter to shoot some animals with an bow and arrow than a high-powered rifle

Likewise, it's very hazardous to track a wounded predator. So, from the standpoint of "sportsmanship," one could argue that bowhunting is "fairer" than using a gun. As a friend of mine said:

Bowhunting predators is a risky business:

1. You have to get significantly closer.

2. You have to make sure you hit him exactly in the sweet spot so he'll bleed out rather than become enraged.

3. You don't get a second shot.


  1. You said: "On the one hand, in bowhunting, you're more likely to injure the animal rather than kill it outright. Some people think that's cruel. Mind you, it's no more cruel than how most animals naturally die in the wild."

    All I have to go on is when I took my hunter's safety course (I've never actually gone hunting, but it's also a requirement for concealed carry permits, etc.) and a small amount of physics and biology. Others can be more definitive. But my understanding is that in most cases, assuming a competent hunter, bowhunting is less painful to the animal. The reason is that both the bullet and the arrow are essentially designed for the same purpose: to have the animal bleed to death, but they do it in very different ways.

    Bullets do most of their damage because they begin to tumble and fragment on impact. In fact, I read the book that the movie "Black Hawk Down" was based on, and one of the problems the US soldiers had in that fight was they were using ammunition designed to penetrate armor against enemies not wearing any armor. Counter-intuitively, this meant that the bullets did LESS damage, because they would pierce through a body without fragmenting (since they were designed to pierce armor before fragmenting). So unless they struck bone and shattered or happened to hit a vein/artery, it did little good. (For comparison, think of being stabbed with a pencil. It can be fatal in the right spot, but the average person will need a lot of pencils before he'll be rendered "combat ineffective.")

    Arrowheads, on the other hand, are wider with blades along both edges. This gives more surface area to sever veins or arteries. Because of the lower velocity, arrows are less likely to break bones and cause general trauma, but are more likely to cut through blood vessels. In addition, the shaft of the arrow helps to keep the wound open which results in more blood loss.

    The advantage of bows is limited by the fact that A) they have a significantly shorter range and B) they require much greater skill on the shooter's part to operate effectively, so there is less margin of error.

    In terms of which is more painful to the animal, with the exception of a direct heart-shot (which would kill the animal before it felt anything), an arrow is more likely to be less painful given that the damage is almost exclusively cuts resulting in blood loss, whereas bullets have greater impact damage (from the higher velocity) and more likely to result in broken bones too. From what I read (which could be wrong, so I look forward to anyone with greater knowledge), blood loss injuries tend to be less painful overall. A deer hit by an arrow will often just bed down and go to sleep, dying of blood loss in the process; whereas those who are hit with a bullet tend to keep running until they can no longer proceed. This indicates less pain from the first type of injury. But again, I have no firsthand experience and a medical doctor might know more if there are any relevant differences, at least for humans.


    This article, though posted on a Gawker site, makes a lot of points about hunting and conservation. The money hunters pay to hunt in most places goes to conservation (well it's supposed to, I'm sure everyone gets their hands on it), and whereas there are plenty of hashtag warriors out there, strictly in terms of dollars, hunters have contributed far more to conservation than most people, even compared to what they take.

    Also, as you mentioned, I can't help but thinking, there is no animal out there in the animal kingdom that dies a nice, old, peaceful death, surrounded by his friends and loved ones.