Why would a person who was taught not to, and who values and respects wild critters, kill an animal for other than food?
This despite the fact that said animal is intended neither for the trophy room nor for the hide market?
Coyotes, prairie dogs and rock chucks come to mind here. This is but one of the many questions I have asked myself on the matter of hunting, and I am not entirely comfortable with my answers. Yet, winter and spring, I still, despite my limited mobility, hunt these critters as time and circumstance allow.
It is difficult for most folks, myself included, to be objective about predators and noxious varmints. Especially the larger predators like bears, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and badgers.
Many urban folks tend to go through life with a biased load of beliefs in their heads. You know, Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs stuff from childhood stories that lurk in the dark corners of our minds. Or, with some of us we long ago learned the truth about night monsters. (Yes, Martha, they do exist, but mostly in human form, so keep the night light on!)
Possibly, some form of genetic memory is responsible for those fears from times before records, back not so very long ago as geologic time goes, when humans huddled in caves as the night sky darkened and soft foot pads and growls sounded through the darkness. If you think about it rationally, in terms of our time on this planet, that era when mega-carnivores were real and a constant threat to human survival is only a few moments past.
Animal rights zealots call themselves conservationists when they are radical preservationists. They damn the ranchers, the small stockman, the hunters and especially the mythic lore surrounding predators that is still being marketed. In the zealots’ skewed view of this world, the critters are all blameless and the humans are the root cause of all evil. Kind of like how liberal media views the white, Christian, American male, damning all men because of their being born with exterior plumbing. However, unlike thinking humans, nature’s predators, be they dragonflies or grizzly bears, have no choice. Never mind that the prey is a mosquito larvae or a healthy elk cow or her day-old calf, an animal, insect, fish or reptile predator kills because it is a killer. There is no right or wrong in the predator’s mind. There is just the business of staying alive.
However, the animal rights people condemn all hunting by humans for a number of reasons. To my mind the most fanatical of all of those reasons is when they accuse us of enjoying ourselves. Accusing hunters of killing for the pure pleasure of it and insisting that humans are the only species on Earth that do that! Bovine effluent!
A weasel, skunk or raccoon will kill every chicken in the hen house and leave, eating none. A wolf pack will kill several elk in a herd and, after feasting and sleeping, go on to hunt down and kill more fresh meat, leaving the uneaten, whole carcasses of previous kills to be picked over by nature’s clean-up crews. A bear or mountain lion in a sheep pen will destroy several, if not all, head of stock, select one and go on its way, pending its return to recreate havoc again. Don’t tell me that wild predators don’t enjoy killing.
I think that, rather than joy, I feel a sense of completion and accomplishment when I’ve killed an especially elusive or desirable animal. Or after the season closes and my freezer is stocked with enough wild meat to see the family through the winter.
For over six decades the local deer, elk, and pronghorn populations have fed my family and were gratefully appreciated. Yes, I have a predator’s intellect. I have often used it to allow me to apply those skills which enable me to take advantage of a prey animal’s weaknesses. Pending and despite possible future physical limitations, I will, in my limited form of mobility, try to apply those skills when occasion permits and kill legitimate prey.
It is only through that venue that any of us can truly know the complex and sometimes conflicting emotions that separate human hunters from their animal counterparts. Mostly I will kill, humanely, rationally and legally, because I do these things for the same reason all predators do. Simply because I must.
As long as I can remember to put in for my tags before the end of May. Yeah, there’s that!
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