By Wallace Kaufman
The anti-hunters, of course, have yet to put significant money in play. More wildlife and wildlife habitat have been preserved and restored by hunters than by anti-hunting environmentalists. (Environmentalists tend to focus on nearly extinct species and on unusual specimens—elephants, rhinos, hippos, grizzlies, the albinos, and the big predators at the top of the food chain.)
Environmentalists concentrate on persuading governments to spend money to preserve and expand habitat and control poaching. Non-profit conservancies and land trusts, however, have made important acquisitions and are expanding their efforts. One of the oldest conservancies, the Nature Conservancy, has by itself preserved over 100 million acres and has over 1 million contributing members.
The alternatives to hunting are multiplying rapidly along with their enthusiasts and the funds they provide. I have hunted with a gun, but digital photography has radically reduced the cost of shooting with a camera. I go hunting every day without a license. I shoot with my camera. That requires as much, or more knowledge and skill than bow or gun hunting. The birds, deer, bear, elk, and other wildlife don’t know I’ve shot them, and I can shoot the same ones as many times as I like. Other photographers can continue to shoot them and amateur naturalists to watch them.
To memorialize the hunt, a photo is not the same as a piece of the animal or the whole thing stuffed. I admit that hanging a giraffe head on the wall or spreading a bear skin on the floor gives the former animal a more powerful presence, though a bit like having good old grandfather’s head on the mantle. When I was a boy 70 years ago Osa Johnson’s best seller, I Married Adventure, kindled my love of wildlife. Osa and Martin were hunters in Africa, but it was their daring photography and cinema that captivated me. Even taxidermy can’t quite compete with the best live action photos, not to mention videos. And soon, for those who want the 3-D animal, we’ll have 3-D video on wall-sized screens or perhaps animated holograms.
Meanwhile, I pose this question—what inspires more people to appreciate wildlife: fine photography and video of animals and behavior in the wild or a head on the wall, rug on the floor, giraffe skin pillows on the sofa? Or even video of an animal felled by a bullet or arrow?
“When it comes to contributions to local communities, the average trophy hunting operator in Tanzania spent US$0.08 per hectare per year, compared with tourism concessions in Kenya’s Maasai Mara paying US$40 per hectare per year—without counting the redistributions linked to entry fees and employee salaries.”
Given the early stage development of biological controls–chemical abortants and sterilization, vaccines, surgical sterilization, and genetic manipulation—we still need to shoot and kill a certain number of the most overpopulated species. White tail deer in city and suburb are the easiest example. Shouldn’t the victims be the weakest and sickest and at times the most productive males? Any population reduction killing should be done not by hunters’ preferences but by plans that create the strongest gene pool. We do not need sport or trophy hunting at all. We need science-based executioners.
Except for the people who argue that killing other animals is an enriching, pleasurable, and ennobling ritual or rite of passage, all other arguments for sport and trophy hunting will soon be irrelevant and self-serving. Time has come to look ahead to new and more civilized ways of preserving wildlife and its habitats.
I invite my hunting friends and all friends of hunting to shoot at these ideas, but hunter, spare the thinker.
Photo by Chuck Venable.
Other relevant information:
Chris T. Darimot, Brian F. Codding, and Kristen Hawkes, “Why Men Trophy Hunt,” Biology Letters, 29 March 2017, https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0909 .
Mark Bekoff, “The Psychology and Thrill of Trophy Hunting: Is it Criminal? Trophy Hunting Is Gratuitous Violence that Can Justifiably Be Called Murder.” Psychology Today, October 18, 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201510/the-psychology-and-thrill-trophy-hunting-is-it-criminal.
Mindy Weisberger, “Hunting Big Game: Why People Kill Animals for Fun,” “LiveScience” Scientific American, May 28, 2017, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hunting-big-game-why-people-kill-animals-for-fun/.
Ann M. Raiho, Mevin B. Hooten, Scott Bates, N. Thompson Hobbs, “Forecasting the Effects of Fertility Control on Overabundant Ungulates: White-Tailed Deer in the National Capital Region,” Plos One, December 9, 2015, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143122.
Peter Flack, “Hunting Facts versus Animal Rights Fiction,” June 18, 2018.https://www.peterflack.co.za/hunting-facts-versus-animal-rights-fiction/.
 Africa Geographic Editorial, “Trophy Hunting in Africa Is in Decline, and No Longer Pays Its Way, March 8, 2019, https://africageographic.com/blog/trophy-hunting-africa-decline-no-longer-pays-way/.
 Stephanie Boyles Griffin, “Use of Fertility Control to Manage Urban White Tail Deer Populations.” Humane Society of the United States, https://www.a2gov.org/departments/community-services/PublishingImages/Pages/Deer-Management-Project-/HumaneSocietyUSCouncilPresentation07132015.pdf