10 September 1999

As I was out riding my bike in the nearby National Forest, I was reminded that it is once again hunting season - not just from the sound of guns in the distance, but from the piles of trash at primitive campsites that don't seem to appear other times of the year.

I realize that there probably is a small minority of hunters who hunt because of the needs of providing for a family. But it's the overwhelming majority of hunters who I have yet to hear some reason for hunting that doesn't boil down simply getting a thrill of killing. It's sad to me as a species that can send our own to walk on the moon and can send our machines out of the solar system that so many can't move beyond getting their kicks from killing.

And to prove what? I'm amazed at the pride a person takes in showing that he and his powerful weapon (that he had no hand in creating, but bought at some store) was smarter than a... duck. It's a warped sense of accomplishment. While a small number of species use simple tools and innovate methods to reach goals, humankind is the only species that truly builds things. Isn't that really a sign of accomplishment? Instead of showing off the remains of a life taken for "sport".

I've heard hunters explain that it's a cultural part of being a man and a right of passage from boyhood to manhood. A right of passage to what? To trivializing the sanctity of life?

And even if it is a tradition, not all traditions are necessarily good - a point made quite well in The Lottery.

And then there are those who so easily mix this with their Sunday worship. I have a hard time imagining Jesus Christ coming down, doning an orange cap, and saying, "Let's go blow some brains out". Not quite in character with one of history's most well-known pacifists.

And whatever creator you may believe in, I find it hard to imagine that the "sport" of killing was part of the design. Consider the sheer marvel of a goose's flying ability - an ability by which our machines are clumsy in comparison. I doubt that the creator would consider blasting such a marvel of his work with a shower of birdshot very respectful. Even if you subscribe to the Judeo-Christian view that man is given dominion over animals, I would be surprised if vandalism is a respectful part of it.

Imagine Michealangelo and all the beauty and majesty he put in La Pieta. He could have said, "Here. This is yours." Even if it is yours, is the sign of respect putting it in the Vatican for people to see? Or showing off by and taking a sledehammer to it? Did the sledgehammer really show any accomplishment? "I'm smarter than a rock... a duck... a deer..." Build a chair and you've proven that.

And for those who still try to hide behind the vaneer of an excuse of the thrill of the chase of an unpredictable opponent, I say why a weapon of death instead of a camera?

Or take up laser tag or paint ball. While they can be considered warlike, they aren't very different from kids games of tag or capture the flag. And when I was a kid, I certainly didn't confuse the playful nature of the games with killing, and my opponents were probably more challenging than those animals being hunted. At least in laser tag or paint ball games your opponent has the capacity to understand the significance of your approach, and can formulate a more sophisticated and challenging response than "Oh shit! Gotta run!".

Then there is the "wildlife management" reason given by many. It sounds like such an excuse to cover other motives. First of all, Mother Nature has been doing fine managing wildlife without us. Plus, hunters seem to be more interested in bagging a trophy than culling the weak and infirm. So the humans are trying to kill those most likely to survive, removing the strongest, leaving the rest. Not a terrific wildlife management tactic from what I've read is taught at schools.

And if hunters were really out there from some moral obligation to Mother Nature, why are they, as a group, some of the most destructive of the outdoors. Wherever I've been in the United States I've witnessed a notable difference in how trashed the outdoors gets during hunting season versus the rest of the time (not that it doesn't get trashed then too, but there's a large difference in how trashed), not to mention that a great many of the signs anywhere near hunting areas are riddled with bullet holes.

The wildlife management justification for hunting generally boils down to the fact that human population has expanded not that the animal population has. There are fewer animals in the world than there were 100 years ago. If we need to manage populations, we should be managing our own, not further reducing others. Humans have expanded into territories of other animals more rapidly than natural species spread. So now the humans are upset that these animals that we've displace are now traipsing around our manicured yards revising our decorations. If wildlife management were really close to hunter's hearts they'd be supportive of steralization efforts instead of against them.

All life is precious and killing is not a sport. I've got to go with the Costa Ricans, whether you take it as a simple idiom, a complex metaphor, or a spiritual philosophy, when they say "Pura Vida!"