For those of you that are unaware, November officially marks the beginning of hunting season in Minnesota. Recently I had the pleasure of spending the weekend, which also happened to be hunting opener, with two friends of mine who are hunters. During our car ride up north, they asked where I stand on hunting. The answer is simple, I love animals, so I object to seeing them suffer in any way. That was not enough. My friends wanted more details.
This got me thinking. While I had heard a few arguments against hunting in the past, I could not think of anything really convincing. My friend and I went back and forth on the population control issue. He argued that hunting was necessary to prevent famine. I argued that there were alternatives. Then we argued about the causes of overpopulation. This went on for a while, but it didn’t really get to the root of why hunting is wrong.
I will focus on white-tailed deer because they are the most hunted species in Minnesota, based on number of permits issued per species. My own encounters with white-tailed deer have been nothing short of breathtaking. Last year I lived in a rural area where deer could be seen on an almost daily basis. I saw them walking through the yard, eating from the apple tree and even locking horns! Seeing two males battle it out over a female is quite a sight. Does choose their mates carefully knowing that a strong male will create strong offspring. I have also seen a mother and fawn walking side by side. Newborn fawns do not know their mother immediately. Newborns have a tendency to walk off and follow just about anyone, so the mothers keep the fawns close in order to establish a parent-child relationship. However, fawns are instinctively intelligent when it comes to safety. At just a few hours old, fawns will fall to their bellies at the site of any unfamiliar movement and they will stay hidden until they feel it is safe.
Reading up on deer, I found out many amazing facts. For instance, I didn’t know that deer are great swimmers. They can swim for up to 5 miles! Deer may use this skill when trying to escape a predator. Another skill they use to escape a predator is a hide and run maneuver, where deer hide until the predator is near and then sprint away. If this plan fails, they have back ups, like taking the predator through a course of obstacles which is well-known to the deer.
Here is a brief excerpt from a study conducted by M.P. Skinner in 1929. He closely observed and recorded the lives of white-tailed deer in Yellowstone National Park:
“Causes of extermination. It is unknown just what caused the extermination of the white-tailed deer, but no doubt accidents, cougars, coyotes, and emigration all had their part. But since all these destructive forces had operated for years, it was more probable that man was responsible for finally turning the scale against them. That the white-tailed deer should have been the first animal to disappear in the Yellowstone seems very strange indeed, for elsewhere they have been very resourceful and able to maintain themselves long after all other large animals have been locally exterminated. Over most of their range, and changes wrought the white-tailed deer withstood the improvements
by man, and were often able to live in a comparatively small patch of wilderness. This they could do because they were adaptable, and quick to suit themselves to changing conditions.”
These creatures are beautiful and intelligent beings with rich lives that they value. I cannot fathom releasing a bullet to steal their lives just for my own momentary pleasure.