Far too often, we only hear the bad things about hunting in the media. There are always reports of shootings caused by carelessness, and not identifying game properly. We hear reports of tree stand accidents, reported as “hunting accident” as well as heart attacks from hunters who are out of shape reported under the same pretense. So, it is refreshing to hear it reported that safety is on the way up. That’s exactly what happened in Kansas this year!
According to an article in the Kansas City InfoZine, there were fewer hunting accidents this year than ever before. This is a credit to the hunter safety courses that are taught in the state. According to the article, there are about 1300 volunteers who provide about 20,000 hours of instruction. That all adds up to only 12 reported accident for the 2009 hunting season. Of those, none were fatal. Kansas has 271,000 hunters, and 3.5 million hunting days among them. Of the 12 accidents, 8 were attributed to the “careless handling of a firearm” and 4 were accidents that occurred while swinging on game. It is actually surprising that there were not more of these types of accidents, considering how much bird hunting takes place in the state.
So, what is my point? We hear all the time how dangerous the sport of hunting is. We hear about how dangerous guns are, and that there is no rational reason for people to have, or use them. These statistics show that hunting is a relatively safe sport. What other sport has 271,000 participants, and has only 12 accidents? There are more serious accidents than that in high school football, and yet no one (in their right mind) is calling for a complete ban of that sport. I realize that there are many other arguments for banning hunting, but this argument falls when the facts are examined.
It is great to hear good news in the hunting world. It is helpful for the hunting community to have good press. While some may try to make any accident fodder for the antis, rational people will see just how these statistics prove the safety of hunting. Maybe next year the number will go up a bit, but that doesn’t change the bottom line. More people are hurt by getting in their cars than by taking up a gun and enjoying the outdoor sport of hunting. I’ll be taking my chances come next fall.
Most states have a point system that is used to dictate the punishment that comes from various game law violations. For example, in West Virginia, one can lose points on their license for various violations. Here are some of the violations listed in the game law book:
When a person racks up 10 or more points, they lose their hunting or fishing privileges for a period of 2 years. I could not find any evidence in the game book that longer penalties are enacted in the state of WV.
While doing some “online reading” today, I came across a story that I thought you all might be interested in. In North Dakota, there is a current bill that has been proposed that will lengthen the period of time that a hunting license can be taken away from a repeat offender. This is to help close a loop hole where hunters from other states who have lost their licenses for a longer period of time than the 3 year maximum now in the ND law, come to the state to get to hunt. ND, like many other states, have a reciprocal agreement. If you lose your license in Wyoming, for example, you cannot go into ND to hunt. However, other states have a “lifetime ban” for those who are chronic repeat offenders. The 3 year maximum currently applies to even those who have lost their license on a lifetime ban in other states. The change in law would make it possible for ND to ban these chronic offenders as well.
I personally like the idea that chronic game law offenders can lose their license for life. Granted, this is not going to stop those who have no regard for hunting laws anyway (like those that are mentioned in the linked article above). They are still going to poach deer. However, if they have their license taken away, the punishment can be much more harsh when they are caught, even if caught in a different state.
The point system is fair for most of us. It allows for us to have minor violations by accident. Regardless of how honest and careful we are, there is still a chance that we could violate some law without knowing it. The point system makes it so that unintentional violations do not cause a person to lose all hunting rights. But, I think that all states should move toward what ND is doing. Every state needs to have a provision for those who simply have no regard for game/fish laws.
You all know that I strive for keeping every game law. These laws will make it possible to punish those who insist on violating the law. These chronic violators reflect badly on the rest of us, since they gain far more press than the honest, lawful hunters. Being able to inflict greater consequences on these offenders will make it possible to show that we will not tolerate intentional violations!
Some time back, Arthur over at Simply Outdoors asked us why we hunt. He posted a request for me to write on that topic, and I have put it off for several months. I have had the thought brewing in the back of my mind for some time, but have wanted to make sure to give it the attention that it deserves before sitting down to do some actual writing. The reasons we hunt are probably very similar across the board. However, I would like to throw out my own personal thinking on the subject, and tackle some of the reasons that I started hunting, and why I continue to do it today.
When I started hunting, it was because my family did it. My dad hunted. My grandfather hunted. My older brother hunted. I can still remember the first year he got to go out, and I had to stay behind at the house because the age limit in Pennsylvania was 12 years old. He is only one year older than I am! That certainly didn’t seem fair at the time. And when he came back with a nice 8 point that first year, I must admit that I was jealous.
The next year, when I finally got to go out, I can remember sitting in the stand (which was a barn on an old farm) and wondering if I would actually be able to pull the trigger. Many people think that hunting is all about killing something, but in my experience, killing the animal is only one part (and a small part) of the experience. I was happy to discover that I could indeed shoot at the deer that stepped out in the field. That first year, I started out with a decent 7 point from Pennsylvania.
Those first few years, I was driven by the hunt itself and the competition between me and my brother. But, it wasn’t long before I really started to hunt for the experience. I hunted because I loved being outdoors, enjoying God’s wonderful creation. In fact, by the time I was in High School, the great outdoors had become a significant distraction for me. If something was in season, I’d come home from school and grab the .22 or a bow, and head out into the woods. I don’t think I even opened a book to do homework for my last 2 years of high school!
Hunting, for me, is a lot more than just killing an animal. There are many things that come together in hunting that make it an experience that I hope I will be able to do for my whole life! Here are a few of the things that I think about when it comes to determining why I hunt:
I hunt to spend time with family and friends. Very rarely do I go hunting by myself. Even when I will be hunting by myself, I typically take my family with me to camp. I cannot understand those who try to get away from their families. A couple of years back, there were some guys who were looking to buy the land beside our camp, and they made it clear that they wanted a place to get away from their wives and kids. All I can say is that their families must not be like my family. I love taking mine with me, and the joy on my kids’ faces every time I bring a deer back to camp reminds me why I like them being there, and how much I enjoy their company. I can’t wait (in some ways) till they are old enough to really hunt with me. I know that hunting with my dad was some of the most special times I can remember growing up, and I know I have a lot of stories that come from those times spent together. I also enjoy sharing the hunting experience with friends who are new to the sport. I have taken a few friends, and started them on hunting. It is great to have that in common with others. I enjoy watching people learn the skills necessary to be successful, and it is great to see them enjoying themselves in the area that I love so much!
I hunt to enjoy the natural world. It is so easy to become consumed with the pressures and cares of this world. Hunting provides an escape from those pressures. I can go out into the woods and become completely immersed in the surroundings of nature. The sights, smells, and sounds of the woods cannot be matched anywhere. Far too many people today are stuck inside, and have no idea what happens out there in the natural world. Hunting gets us as close to what is “natural” as possible. It is one of the only ways that we can take part in the natural hierarchy, just as God created it.
I hunt for the challenge. There are many who do not hunt who claim that there is not challenge in hunting, and that the animals have no chance, especially if one is hunting with a rifle. But, those who say such things have no idea what hunting is about. If the animals have no chance, then why is the success rate for hunters so low? Hunting is far more difficult than most non-hunters can ever imagine, and they will never understand it because they are unwilling to examine it. Learning to take white tailed deer on a regular basis takes skill, and it takes the ability to learn and conform. Changing environments, changing weather, and changing circumstances can make it very difficult to be successful. However, learning to change and adapt to these changing elements can make one a very successful deer hunter. Every day afield leads to growth as a hunter, and learning to change with the various elements causes us to be better at our endeavors.
I hunt to provide food for my family. I know that I could go down to the Wal-Mart and pick up meat for my family, but the meat I provide is much better quality. I don’t have to worry about what drugs or other unnatural concoctions have been put into my meat. It is amazing to me how many people out there encourage organic, and natural foods, but then complain about those who would hunt. This is the most natural way of providing food for ourselves and our families that exists. I am happy that I am able to provide food for my family in this way!
I hunt to kill. Yes, you read that right. I hunt to kill animals. I could enjoy most of what I have written thus far without actually killing anything. After all, I could sit in the woods with a camera, and take pictures of the animals that come by my stand. That would be fine. But, I like being a real part of nature. I enjoy everything about the hunting experience, including taking a game animal. This is a part of nature. Kill to eat, eat to live. I once read that if you eat meat you are either a predator or a scavenger. If you go down to the local market and buy your meat, you are eating what someone else killed, and thus you are a scavenger. If you hunt, you kill your own meat, and thus you are a predator. Personally, I prefer the idea of being a predator.
I hunt to be a good steward. Hunting is a crucial part of our ecosystem. There are few natural animal predators left to control the ever increasing game animal populations. At least in the eastern United States, there are very few predators left to control deer herds. Many people complain about the deer herd eating their decorative shrubs, and causing damage to vehicles when collisions occur. Without hunters to help control populations, the deer herds will continue to grow, and will continue to cause more and more damage. We as hunters play an important role in making sure that the balance of animal life in our areas are well maintained. Overpopulation of any animal leads to serious problems, such as disease and destruction. We should be good stewards and do our part to control these populations.
I am sure that there are many other reasons that could be discussed as to why I hunt, but these cover many of my thoughts on why to hunt. I know hunting is not for everyone, but for those of us who choose to do it, it is a way of life. I look forward to hunting season every single year. Many will read this and be angered by my choice to hunt. But, it is my right, and I will continue to enjoy that right as long as I have a place to hang my stand!
© Kris Brewer