Sport Or Recreational Murder?
by Brenda Shoss
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Sunlight crisscrossed trees as the hunter silently stalked his prey. The web of light at dawn reminded him of similar treks with his Dad. They'd worn rugged boots and warm flannel shirts to hike in search of squirrels, rabbits or ducks. He still cherished their quiet fellowship in the woods.
After shooting his first deer, he'd peered into the bewildered animal's eyes and cried. But Dad told him to forget the "silly old animal." In time, the little boy with tears evolved into the man without empathy. Animals were merely targets in the sport he'd learned as a child.
A group of nesting ducks interrupted his reverie. The hunter aimed and pulled his trigger. A duck screeched, her wings arching into a fan before she slumped over. Within seconds, a male duck frantically circled the dying female. Ducks, the hunter recalled, mate for life. His fingers froze around his gun as he witnessed the pair's anguish.
He never thought about the lives he ended. But somehow he understood that this dead duck's life mattered-to the other duck. Though his buddies would say he'd gone soft, he decided to walk away. In that moment he knew that blowing the life out of a defenseless animal was a lame excuse for a sport.
Many hunters allege to be animal lovers. But unlike the duck hunter in this true story, few experience remorse. The U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, report that 54 percent of people oppose sport hunting. A marginal eight percent of the population annually kill almost 250 million animals. Taxpayers support the public lands where 45 percent of these hunters go to kill. Most pro-hunting babble comes from Game Commission personnel whose revenue depends upon hunting license fees.
Fish and Game agencies initiate a seasonal frenzy to promote hunting as wildlife overpopulation control. During deer season, we're warned about the herds of famished deer who will feast on crops and gardens when they're not busy colliding with cars. Yet prey species, such as deer, are deliberately augmented to maintain opportunities for hunters. Hunters argue that it is more humane to kill the surplus deer than let them starve. Many claim to to slay frail animals so the strong can thrive. Do you know any hunters who pursue anorexic whitetails over trophy-caliber bucks?
Some game agencies alter terrain to favor target animals. For example, to lure waterfowl and deer to new tender edible growth, agencies ignite forest fires, clear timber, and flood areas. Manipulating an ecosystem to bolster one species can lead to the demise of another. The Federal Endangered Species Act asserts that "the two major causes of extinction are hunting and habitat destruction." Hunting wiped out the passenger pigeon and endangered the gray wolf, bald eagle, grizzly bear and Florida panther.
Nature manages itself through habitat size, food and water accessibility, natural predators, and severe weather conditions. Hunting actually triggers herd growth. New animals migrate in or the remaining population rebounds due to food abundance. With fewer males vying for territory, mating becomes the primary focus of the herd and the birthrate escalates. Pregnant females left with an ample food supply tend to produce more offspring. Killing, in effect, creates a neverending population surge.
As more residential/commercial properties render wild animals homeless, government authorized hunts are deployed to destroy "nuisance animals." In response to complaints about Canadian geese droppings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recruited hunters to gun down migrating flocks. The Missouri Department of Conservation sanctions deer-kills in state parks where hunters are often armed with muzzle-loading guns. When the gun's single, close-range bullet misses a vital organ such as the lungs or heart, a wounded deer retreats into the woods to slowly die.
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