Monitor Board of Contributors: Deer hunter can’t let these anti-hunting arguments go unchallenged
Gary Brown, left, and Michael Bielecki drag an eight point buck out of the woods that Bielecki shot in the Lackawanna State Forest, Lehman, Pa., Monday Nov. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Mark Moran) MANDATORY CREDIT
e_SSLq Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”
This famous Al Pacino line was on my mind after reading Barbara Bonsignore’s column, “The many myths from hunters” (Monitor Forum, Dec. 6). As an outgoing member of the Monitor Board of Contributors, I said my farewells in my last column. But I can’t allow her anti-hunting arguments to go unchallenged.
Let’s take her points one at a time:
∎ Hunters kill the fittest, nature kills the weakest.
This is untrue. Let’s take just one example concerning deer. Google “exertional myopathy,” and you will learn that the most dominant bucks – the ones with the best genes – often breed themselves to death during the month-long rut. A mature buck loses 25-30 percent of his body weight during November. The more does and the fewer bucks there are, the worse it is, as what few dominant bucks there are run themselves ragged chasing and breeding does. This greatly depletes their fat reserves and makes them the second-most-common age class of deer(aside from fawns) to succumb to winter mortality.
∎ Hunting creates an overabundance of certain species.
This is also untrue. Bonsignore seems to have her species confused. She claims deer counter decreases in numbers with increased fawn production. To the contrary, there is research going on right now among wildlife biologists that suggests that increased numbers of bears and coyotes across many parts of the country are responsible for higher rates of fawn mortality. This evidence is backed up by a dearth of fawn pictures appearing on trail cameras across the country in the past few years. Many predator species, however – coyotes in particular – are able to counter the effects of population losses by producing more offspring.
∎ Hunted animals suffer.
This is not entirely false. Of course it is possible to wound an animal while hunting. But most hunters I know pride themselves on taking only ethical shots at ranges within their capability and at angles that offer a quick, clean kill. I passed up shots on two different deer this fall because I had a less-than-perfect shot. The one deer I did kill ran a mere 50 yards and dropped. When you consider the alternatives – coyotes feasting on your vitals and hindquarters while you’re still alive, getting your antlers locked while fighting with another buck and dying from exhaustion or starvation, etc. – death from a hunter’s bullet or broadhead is quick and painless.
∎ Hunters don’t pay for conservation.
I offer just one piece of evidence from one state:
“The agency receives no general tax revenues. The bulk of department income is generated from the sale of annual hunting and fishing licenses. The agency still works for all of the citizens of Oklahoma, though. The next time you see a white-tailed deer, a bald eagle’s nest or a child’s smile after catching his or her first fish, you can thank the Wildlife Department and the many dedicated sportsmen and women who pay to keep our outdoor heritage alive.”
∎ Hunters poison the homeless with unhealthy meat.
This is quite possibly the most outrageous claim. There have been many studies done on wild game. All conclude that wild game meat is higher in protein, lower in fat, higher in good cholesterol and lower in bad cholesterol than commercially raised meat. The 2.6 million pounds of meat that hunters donated in 2009, for example, went to feed homeless and needy citizens across the country and fed them better – and with less negative environmental impacts and suffering – than beef or chicken.
I understand Bonsignore’s need to combat what she sees as a menace. It must be difficult for her to deal with the recent rise in popularity of hunting. There are more women hunting than ever before. More people are taking up hunting later in life than ever before. Television networks are brimming with shows like Mountain Men, Alaska: The Last Frontier and Swamp People that depict self-sufficient people living off the land in a respectful and positive light.
When you say the word “hunter” today people don’t automatically see Ted Nugent, Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin. They see Steven Rinella, Tovar Cerulli or Lily Raff-McCaulou. These three writers are the new face of hunting, perfectly in tune with their environments, providing sustainable, locally-sourced food for themselves and their families – the way nature intended.
(Dan Williams of Concord is a professional musician and educator.)