by Darrell Arnold
For the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the best way to manage the state’s big game wildlife populations is through hunting. Without population control, elk and deer have a tendency to outgrow the capacity of their ranges to support them.
Some people believe the best way for excess populations of animals to be controlled is by nature, through drought, harsh winters, disease, or predation by wolves, lions, or bears.
Those people don’t like guns, and they see sports hunting as a barbaric practice, even if the meat is used for human sustenance. They somehow believe that it is more humane to allow an elk or deer to painfully starve or freeze to death, or to die painfully in the jaws of a savage wolf. They never consider that a swift death by bullet may be the most humane death of all.
Further, they choose to believe that human predators are not part of nature, and human predation on wildlife is not natural.
Hunting has been part of the human experience for millions of years of evolutionary history. It is as natural for people to hunt as it is for people to pick fruit off a tree.
Because we are people, and unlike the other predators on the planet, we are conscious of what death means. In primitive societies throughout the world, when a kill is celebrated, the spirit of the slain animal is paid homage to. In essence, the animals are thanked for giving up their lives for the sustenance of the hunters and their families.
Death is not pretty. Almost all women and a good percentage of men do not want to face the idea of death, and they certainly don’t want to be responsible for it, especially if it means destroying the life of a beautiful animal minding its own business.
I have wrestled with this dilemma myself. I have hunted and slain my share of animals. I never feel good about taking that life, but I also never feel as alive or feel so much a part of the natural world as I do when I experience that great wild creature’s life in such an up close and personal way.
In addition, it is fundamentally satisfying to be able to place meat directly on my own table. It ties me back to my biological hunter/gatherer roots.
Most hunters love hunting because it gives them an opportunity to get out in the natural world and experience wind, rain, cold air, snow, fall colors, and the wonderful world of nature first hand. And though it is wonderful when you manage to collect an elk or deer and take meat home with you, it is also wonderful if all you get out of your hunt is the rejuvenating experience of spending a week out in the natural world.
There is nothing wrong with hunting. If it isn’t something you want to do, don’t do it. But hunting is a good thing, both for the wildlife population and for the hunter. Hunting puts people back in the natural world, the world from whence they came. What could be more normal than that?