By: Melissa Smith
Many sport hunters proudly post pictures of themselves with their “harvest” and this year’s deer gun season was no exception. Some defend that these actions pay for conservation — a strange kind of argument with many flaws.
For one thing, the money does not always end up in any conservation program and non-consumptive users pay for more than hunters now.
Trophy hunting is likely having a damaging effect on the deer herd as many hunters will go after the deer with the largest antlers, biggest bucks etc. In other words, males in their prime, those which carry the genes likely perpetuate strength and disease resilience.
We need our deer herd to be strong, but CWD is spreading quickly and is showing up most often in young, spike bucks and does.
It also has led to facilities I call “Bambi in a Barrel” where game farm owners privatize our deer, putting wild deer at risk, all for a trophy. Might as well shoot a pet cow.
For years I have puzzled about the mentality of the trophy hunter. How can hunters feel “happy” with the severed heads, the trophies that even a six-year-old child this year might take back to her home. This is very different from the emotions of many Indigenous and ethical hunters that I consider dear friends in the conservation movement. Intention and understanding matters and those who thank the animal they have killed for food understand that deer are not the only animals in the woods.
But I simply cannot put myself into the mind of a person who pays hundreds of dollars to go and kill deer simply to brag. Especially as it often involves no skill whatsoever, when the deer is shot over bait with a high powered rifle from a safe distance in a tree stand. These types of hunters represent a sadistic desire to attract praise from their friends at the expense of compassion and what is best for deer and biodiversity.
Is the DNR, the agency who grants a license to the hunter or the legislator, who drafts the laws that make it unsustainable and hurt forest ecology, as guilty as the person who pulls the trigger? I think so. Look no further than the complete mismanagement of CWD in this state.
Trophy hunting is hard to defend. And the outpouring anger of elephant trophies shows how many people feel that the days of the great White Hunter should be brought to a close. Instead of Making America Great Again, maybe we should be focused on making land ethic great again.
(photography by Gabriella Ricci)