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Hunting for the Truth

By Brandon Haas Nicole Servino, English 1020 December 12, 2008

Hunting is a deliberate journey to the union of birth and death; it cannot but create a deeper perspective and appreciation for the glorious importance of both. - Shane Mahoney The human species may not have the fastest legs or the sharpest teeth but through our superior intelligence, and the technology resulting from this intelligence, mankind has climbed to the top of the food chain and has become the greatest hunter in the world. With so much killing power now in our hands, due to modern weaponry, society must be responsible and use its hunting ability to actually conserve wildlife and hunt wildlife in a way that actually benefits our ecosystem. People must take care in how they hunt and carefully control the number of animals killed during hunting season in order to maintain a healthy and steady population of animals. A well regulated hunting system like the one in the United Sates has many great benefits that most people can appreciate. Hunting can be a great outdoor activity that involves strenuous exercise, patients, intelligence, instinct, and precision. It hones in all of our senses. It forces one to maintain control over their body and mind in ways that many other activities cant. For example a hunter must be absolutely patient and completely still while waiting to take a good shot. The hunter must stay motionless even knowing that after they pull the trigger, they will have a huge adrenaline rush if they are successful with their shot. Even though hunting can be a fun and intense experience, it is also used as a vital research tool in controlling population and monitoring migration patterns, as well as monitoring diseased species. Hunting also provides a great source of revenue used to support wildlife conservation. Money acquired through hunting licenses provides the ability to reintroduce species that have gone extinct in a specific area, for example the lynx in Colorado. Hunting season also brings small communities near hunting areas plenty of business with increased hotel stays, fuller restaurants, and more business in general during the hunting season. Even though there are many benefits associated with hunting there are

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still many people who dont understand it or are completely against it. People who are not raised around hunting often have questions about it, and only know what they have seen on television which can lead to a negative image of hunters. Animal rights groups are currently trying to outlaw hunting in an aggressive manner. It is my intent to look into the concerns of these animal rights groups and show them that hunting is absolutely necessary and beneficial. Through well thought out hunting regulations some of their concerns can be addressed and hunters will still be able to keep the many benefits hunting provides. An increased awareness of current hunting practices will reduce the negative stereo type surrounding the typical hunter and allow animal rights groups to see how humane hunting really is. Hunting used to be something simple one had to do in order to survive, but now it has become viewed as a privilege that is being pushed by some to be taken away. In order to prevent this from happening society must set aside the stereotypes and look at the facts that show how beneficial hunting can be. It must be realized that hunting is a humane way to prevent starvation, disease, provide funding for wildlife conservation, improve local economies during hunting season, and allow a controlled coexistence between man and nature. Since the beginning of mankind humans have had to hunt for some of their food in order to survive. If it wasnt for hunting the early settlers would have never been able to settle in America (Grinnell). It was not possible to bring a lifetime of food across the Atlantic Ocean to America, so these early settlers had to hunt from the moment they first arrived. The abundance of wild game in America also allowed the settlers to move west across the rest of the country (Grinnell). However, hunting is not as needed today due to modern farming practices that allow multiple types of meat to be easily bought at the local grocery store with little effort put in by the consumer. Sadly over the course of time hunting has become thought of by many as a sport

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rather than a necessary way of getting food. Animal rights groups and political correctness have pushed people away from hunting. Hunters have been stereotyped as bloodthirsty Bambi killers who only hunt in order to kill the biggest and most beautiful creatures on our planet. These stereotypes are simply not true for the vast majority of hunters. In fact hunters are the key to maintaining healthy herds by preventing disease and starvation by controlling animal populations. A lot of people, who dont hunt, often see hunting as an unnecessary sport that results in endangering species by reducing their populations. This was only true in the past when hunting was not regulated and hunting became a business which resulted in greedy hunting practices with no consideration for animal conservation. In modern times things are quite different. In the United States specifically, hunting is well regulated and has been shown to actually be able to increase populations and reduce the spread of disease (CDOW). This happens for two main reasons. Hunting gives wildlife managers the ability to control animal populations age, sex, habitat, and food supply and it generates large revenues that go towards wildlife conservation. The basic principle behind maintaining a healthy population is the fact that Mother Nature can only provide enough food for a certain number of animals to survive in any given area. For example grazing animals such as elk, deer, moose and antelope have to fatten up before winter comes and the snow covers up their food supply. If hunters were not allowed to hunt each year the population would grow to the point where there is not enough food on the ground for all the animals to eat. There would eventually be a massive die off of animals due to starvation during a harsh winter and then the cycle would start all over (CDOW). It is better to hunt a controlled number of animals each fall which results in a herd that is just below the carrying capacity of the

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local ecosystem. It is more humane to shoot a few animals each year than to have large numbers of animals starve to death every couple of years. While researching this idea of keeping a herd just below its carrying capacity I came across an interesting article, Quality Deer Management Guidelines for Implementation by Craig A. Harper. The general thesis of this article is that a well controlled deer management system is needed in order to maintain an ideal population of animals through well thought out regulation. The methods discussed in this article promote a healthy and large population of deer that allows for plenty of quality hunting and minimizes animal starvation as well as protecting farmers crops from starving animals. Harper believes that deer populations should be controlled by analyzing habitat conditions, the age of the deer, and the sex of the deer. After analyzing these conditions then effective hunting practices can be implemented in order to encourage a healthy and steady deer population. Males should not be hunted until they are at least 2 years old (Harper 4). This is the age in which they have become mature enough to have already engaged in healthy breeding. Females should be more regularly hunted in order to strive for an ideal 1:1 or 1:2 male to female ratio (Harper 9). The author, Craig A. Harper, suggests that age is the most important factor in regulating deer populations, he states The presence of mature deer helps ensure normal social behavior within the herd. Mature bucks and does maintain a dominance hierarchy, whereby the fittest bucks do the majority of breeding and the older does command the best habitats, providing increased recruitment and higher fawn survival. The author also believes that a well controlled population that is proportionate to its habitat will produce the healthiest herd. Each habitat has only enough food to support a certain number of deer. Keeping deer herds at or just below their maximum allowable population provides a steady supply of food and nutrition (Harper 6). The author shows what importance this has when he states By keeping

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the deer population below the carrying capacity of the available habitat, more forage (nutrition) is available per deer. Thus, does are healthier, reproductive success is higher and more does are able to carry two fawns. these offspring ultimately provide a large number of deer to hunt each year which provides more food for us and hunting ensures a good food supply for the deer. In conclusion the article has many suggestions on what a healthy herd of deer should consist of as far as gender ratio, age and overall population and the most effective way of achieving this ideal herd is through a well regulated hunting process. Another way to maintain a healthy population of animals is to actively reduce the spreading of diseases like Lyme disease and chronic wasting disease found in deer, elk and moose. Every year hunters are encouraged to have their harvested animals tested for disease. This allows wildlife managers to find out where diseased animals are located and how concentrated the disease is in a particular area (CDOW). If a disease is found highly concentrated in a specific area then an increased number of hunting licenses can be issued in that area in order to slow down the spread of the disease to a different group of animals (CDOW). Chronic wasting disease is particularly dangerous. It was originally found near Fort Collins, Colorado but has since spread to many other western states as well as two Canadian provinces (Blakeslee). Chronic wasting disease is closely related to mad cow disease which eventually mutated and transferred to humans, resulting in over 100 deaths in the UK (Blakeslee). There have not been any cases of chronic wasting disease transferring to humans yet and experts say it is unlikely to happen, but just to be safe hunters should avoid handling the brain and spinal fluid when they butcher their animal, and they should have the animal tested before eating the meat (CDOW). Testing is available for chronic wasting disease through the Colorado Division of Wildlife for a fifteen dollar fee and if a hunter kills an animal in an area where they need more testing to be

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done, the fee will be waived (Brighid). Hopefully the spreading of chronic wasting disease can be slowed down enough through hunting to allow researchers the time they need to find a cure. Finding a cure however will not be easy or cheap. Hunters contribute large amounts of money through license fees, testing fees, hunter education fees, and special taxes placed on ammunition that go directly to wildlife conservation (CDOW). The Colorado Division of Wildlife uses the money they collect to pay for wildlife reserves as well as the reintroduction of animals that originally lived in Colorado but became extinct before hunting became properly regulated. For example the lynx and moose have been successfully reintroduced into the wild here in Colorado thanks to the contributions of hunters (CDOW). When a species is reintroduced in Colorado it is not a cheap process. The animals are not just bought and then turned loose in an area and expected to survive. Researchers must follow complicated and expensive procedures in order for the animal to have the highest chance of survival. The animals are equipped with ear tags and radio collars for tracking. Selected animals are recaptured annually so they can be inspected in order to make sure they are well fed and not infected with any diseases. The radio collars are also used to track migratory patterns. In the case of the lynx it has not been an easy introduction. The lynx is a large predatory animal weighing approximately 20-30 pounds. It has a similar appearance and is related to the bobcat. It was once extinct in Colorado but was reintroduced in 1999 thanks to an elaborate program managed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. As of 2005 over 200 lynx were released back into the Colorado wild (CDOW). They were placed primarily in Southwestern Colorado in the San Juan Mountains. Each year researchers go out and try to find dens and kittens in order to estimate population and growth rates. This complicated reintroduction process is very expensive. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has budgeted over a million dollars for the project and that

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number is expected to grow (CDOW). The only reasonable way to meet the financial demand of these types of reintroduction projects is to continue to allow hunters to buy licenses each year and contribute large amounts of money through special taxes placed on ammunition. The cost of hunting provides much more than just fees going towards conservation. It also provides a boom for local economies every year. Every fall hunters spend millions of dollars on equipment, food, shelter and other expenses. For example, a good rifle for hunting big game such as deer and elk is not a cheap investment. The cheapest name brand rifles start at around four to five hundred dollars and quality scopes usually start at around two hundred dollars. After investing in a quality rifle the hunter must sight it in at the rifle range. One of the cheapest ranges in the Denver area for example is the Family Shooting Center located in Cherry Creek State Park. The range fee is fifteen dollars plus the five dollar park entrance fee. It is usually over an hour wait during the fall before a person can shoot due to the overwhelming number of hunters trying to sight in their rifles at the same time. There is also the expensive of shooting the rifle itself which involves buying eye protection, ear protection, cleaning supplies as well as the expensive ammo itself at roughly seventeen to fifty dollars per box of twenty rounds depending on what type of rifle and ammo is being shot. Even though the rifle is often the most expensive single item a hunter needs it is not the only one. Many hunters invest thousands of dollars in four wheelers or horses in order to aid in their hunt, as well as making it easier to pack out hundreds of pounds of meat from a successful kill. Hunters must also purchase special clothing and boots for cold weather. Other more common items such as tents, sleeping bags, cots, lanterns, stoves, backpacks, GPS units, maps, laser rangefinders, binoculars, spotting scopes, scent covers or attractants and animal calls are just a few of the many things being wiped off the shelves every year. Most of these items are bought in advance in the hunters home town or online in order to

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get the best price but with so much necessary equipment a hunter is bound to forget something. This is where the small town stores closer to hunting areas really make their money. Hunters are forced to pay inflated prices for commonly forgotten items like batteries and toilet paper or items that tend to run out unexpectedly like propane or breakable items like lantern mantles and globes. There is also the cost of buying fuel in order to drive the long distances necessary in order to get to a desired hunting spot. Most hunters bring their own food and camp in the woods but some choose to stay in local motels and eat at local restaurants which can dramatically increase the cost of a hunting trip. Obviously there can be a lot of money spent preparing for a hunting trip and even more after the trip. If a hunter is successful they can expect to pay hundreds of dollars more in meat processing and taxidermy costs. Due to all of these expenses hunters provide a huge economical benefit to both small and large communities. Even though current hunting practices are designed to encourage a healthy wildlife population there are still plenty of animal rights groups who are against the act of hunting. Groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), according to their website, are against eating animals in general and are strongly opposed to hunting. PETA believes that animals have the right to not be eaten, worn, experimented on, or used for entertainment (PETA). PETA supports letting nature take its course stating Starvation and disease can be tragic, but they are natures ways of ensuring that healthy, strong animals survive and maintain the strength level of the rest of their herd or group. They feel this is a more humane way than hunting to manage population size and they continue their push to ban hunting (PETA 2). Others suggest giving the animals birth control to prevent over population and putting up fences in order to protect farmers crops from being eaten as well as to reduce the number of animals being hit by cars (PETA). Most animal rights activists argue that hunting can cause animals to suffer too

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much before they die and some animals that are shot sometimes are injured and they are not recovered. Even though animals are occasionally shot and lost, as a whole the process is still humane. Most of the people associated with organizations like PETA are vegetarians of some sort but there are some people out there, who eat meat, who think hunting is cruel and unnecessary. These meat eaters should consider how their meat ends up on their plate. Many people think that the process in which meat ends up at the grocery store is cleaner, safer to eat, and a more humane way to get meat. This thought forces one to compare hunting to modern slaughterhouse techniques used today. There are many concerns about how humane slaughter house techniques really are. There are also concerns about how safe and clean meat processing techniques are. Animals are often kept in close proximity to one another which allows for faster spreading of disease. They are pumped full of hormones to provide rapid growth and larger quantities of meat at harvest. Livestock are driven long distances crammed in open trailers that provide little protection from extreme heat, cold, rain or snow. Transportation often results with crush injuries and sometimes death (Wikipedia). After the animal has endured being raised on a ranch and survived transportation, it will be time for the actual slaughter. The modern technique used for cattle is to stun the cow by hitting it in the skull with an air powered device. This device is designed to knock the cow out but not kill it. The cow is then hung upside down and its throat is cut. Cows are intentionally bled while their hearts are still beating in order to provide the freshest and best tasting meat. This is just one of many controversial methods used in slaughterhouses today. The technique Slaughter houses use may not be perfect but they do usually try to kill in a fast manner, resulting in minimal pain for the animal. The same is true for hunters when they harvest their prey.

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The goal of the average hunter is to kill the animal as quickly as possible, not just for the animals sake but for the hunter as well. Tracking a wounded animal can be difficult, exhausting and even dangerous with certain types of game like mountain lions and bears here in North America or even more dangerous animals in other parts of the world. Hunters are always trying to find the best technology in order to kill their animal as quick as possible. With new rifles and bullets or bows and arrows technology has allowed for a humane hunt. Modern high powered rifles can kill instantly by breaking the spinal cord of an animal if the shot placement is somewhere high in the neck. This is ideal but can usually only be done at close range. At longer ranges, or with a bow and arrow, hunters aim for the area just behind the front shoulder on the animal. This is the best way to puncture the heart and lungs of the animal. Bullets are designed to expand after impact, resulting in massive trauma to these vital organs. Modern arrows are also designed to kill as quickly as possible. Arrows often go straight through both sides of the animal resulting in a very rapid bleed out time. If the arrow sticks in the animal then it will continue to cut more veins and arteries as the animal moves around. Ultimately the animal will die quickly and humanely with either a gun or bow and arrow. Even though modern hunting equipment is designed to kill quickly and humanely there is still plenty of opposition to it from groups like PETA and other people who are against hunting for their own reasons. Negative views held by many people have lead to a decline in the number of people who still hunt and these views threaten the future of hunting altogether. The future of hunting is a dim one. It is an activity that must be learned from someone who has the experience needed to be successful. Hunting is not something one can just go out and do on a whim like seeing a movie or going shopping. It is more of a skill and tradition that is handed down from one generation to the next. Hunts are usually planned a long time in advance sometimes even years for a once in a

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lifetime hunt. This is due to the fact that hunters cant just hunt anywhere they want or whenever they want. The Division of wildlife only allows a certain number of hunters in the good areas (Brighid). This is done by only allowing the hunters with the most points to hunt in these good areas. A single point is given each year to a hunter if he applies and is denied for a license in an area (Brighid). If an area requires five points to hunt then it will be approximately six years before a hunter can even have a chance at success. This can be discouraging and requires a lot of patience. The small chance for success is why many people dont get into hunting. Most people who do get into hunting often do it because their parents got them started. Parents usually start out taking their kids hunting at a young age in hopes of being successful after a few years of hunting. If the children dont experience success it will be unlikely that they will continue to hunt in their adult lives. In my own experience, it is my father-in-law, Ken Wolter, who taught me about hunting. I consider Ken an expert in the field due to the fact that he is an avid bow hunter and guide in Colorado, as well as a bush pilot in Alaska during the summer months. If it wasnt for him and my wife actively trying to get me into hunting I probably would have never done it. Due to his knowledge and guiding ability, my father-in-law has led me on two successful elk hunts since I first started hunting three years ago. While on our last hunt I talked to him about the future of hunting and how it has changed since he first started. He told me that the amount of regulation has increased and that the sport has become more expensive in general. He has also seen a slow decline in the number of hunters over the years. With the record gas prices and a downturn in the economy, this last fall hunting season was not very popular. My father-in-law was able to take me to a spot that was normally packed with hunters but this year there was nobody around. The lack of people in the area resulted in the elk not being as pressured as much as normal. This lack

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of pressure allowed me to have a successful hunt first thing in the morning on the opening day of the season. After I killed my first bull elk my father-in-law told me this was a once in a lifetime hunt. He told me its never as easy as it was that day but the decline in hunters and recent downturn in the economy made us very lucky. Even though these conditions are good for the individual hunter, who now has less competition in the woods, the decline is bad for hunting in general, due to the fact that fewer licenses are being sold and less money is being contributed towards wildlife conservation. If this declining trend continues it will mean that hunting itself will eventually become extinct. It is imperative that this is never allowed to happen. If hunters stop hunting, money for wildlife conservation will dry up, animals will suffer from disease and starvation, and ultimately wildlife will pay the price. There are just too many benefits that only hunting can provide. Know the facts, disregard the negative stereotypes, and allow the great sport of hunting to continue. All living things are competing for the same resources such as food and shelter and there must be some sort of balance in our ecosystem. Whether that balance is natures method of overpopulation, followed by starvation, or mans way of hunting for a steady population, it is ultimately societys decision to make. Currently we have a hunting system that is working well. The current system has been providing healthy animals and large revenues going towards wildlife conservation. Extreme animal rights groups will never be happy as long as animals are being killed even though these animals are being killed in way that is more humane than what would happen if hunting was not allowed. Negative stereotypes should be dismissed and people should learn the facts about hunters. Whether or not people hunt is their own personal choice, however after seeing the great benefits that hunting provides hopefully hunting will at least be respected enough to remain legal and allow the tradition to carry on.

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Works Cited: Blakeslee, Sandra. Experts Consider How to Stop a Variant of Mad Cow Disease. The New York Times On the Web. 7 Aug. 2002, <http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/07/science/07DEER.html> Brighid, Kelly, ed. 2008 Colorado Big Game. Denver: Denver Printers, 2008. CDOW, Colorado Division of Wildlife. Home page. 08 Oct. 2008. <http://wildlife.state.co.us> Grinnell, George Bird and Sheldon, Charles eds. Hunting and Conservation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970. Harper, Craig A. Quality Deer Management Guidelines for implementation. University of Tennessee Extension. 15 Sep. 2008 <http://www.utextension.utk.edu/publications/pbfiles/PB1643.pdf> Mahoney, Shane. Hunting For Truth Why Rationalizing the Ritual Must Fail. 2008. Aug. 16 2008 <http://www.cic-wildlife.org/index.php?id=17> PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Home page. 08 Oct. 2008. <http://www.peta.org> PETA 2. Why Sport Hunting is Cruel and Unnecessary. 2008. 16 Aug. 2008 <http://www.peta2.com/TAKECHARGE/t_factsheet_hunting.asp> Wikipedia, Captive Bolt Pistol, 25, Oct. 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captive_bolt_pistol> Wikipedia, Slaughterhouse, 25, Oct. 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slaughterhouse> Wolter, Kenneth. Personal interview. 18 Oct. 2008.

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