Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

A Friday Provocation: Is Hunting Really Vital to US life?

So this is brief provocation rather than a proper essay, and I truly hope to inspire some contrary points rather than nods of assent. Without going into the emotional question about assault weapons after Newtown, or indeed concealed hand guns etc, I’m just querying a suggestion – often put – that rifles are essential to US life because so many rely on hunting.

Tendentious one sided image of a Moose Hunter to get y’all riled up

So here’s a comment I put on Orange which I hope you will (pardon the pun) shoot down, or at least discuss in animated (but always civil) terms.

Ya all know them roolz.  

OK here’s my comment from another place…

If you look at US weapons ownership, it has NO correlation with rural life or hunting. Indeed, though the mystique of the frontier and the cabin in the woods still possesses many of my US friends, by the mid 19th Century the US was one of the most urbanised countries in the world, and the percentage of its population who inhabit rural areas is negligible compared to most countries in Europe, let alone Africa, where hunting genuinely a vital part of the local diet.

The hunting lobby – it seems to me – while on much surer footing than the NRA, is actually perpetuating some unsustainable myth of self reliance, which vanished for most Americans by the early 20th century. Of course, and this is their legitimate defence, there are millions of Americans who hunt, occasionally, mainly for sport rather than sustenance. Hunting and culling plays an important role in semi-agrarian areas in reducing crop loss and maintaining sustainable populations of certain wild life.

But the idea than any substantial numbers of Americans rely on firearms for their daily sustenance is…  still tosh, piffle and balderdash

When I get a moment I’ll see if I can dig up some stats on this. I remember looking at this a while back, and finding data to back up my arguments.

But I might have misremembered, misinterpreted, and more than happy to be proved wrong.

Another tendentious image: Palin’s Real Women Hunt Moose

For the annoying sake of fairness I should link to Slate article (HT onomastic) which outlines how those who hate industrial food production have returned to hunting;…

But enough balance from me.

Now have at it!


  1. Tendentious one sided image of a Moose Hunter to get y’all riled up

    Well, I am aghast and agape and aggrieved.

    At the risk of offending your Pun Police:

    I will be back as soon as I can bear to read the rest of your article.

  2. Never have hunted, never will, but for a variety of reasons the answer to your question is yes.

    Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Hunters for the Hungry

    The Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry (HFTH) program is reporting another record year, with total venison donations up 13 percent over last season’s record. Tennessee deer hunters donated nearly 63 tons of lean, high-protein venison that provided more than half a million meals to their hungry neighbors through local food pantries.

    This author is similarly not a hunter, but makes the argument I have lived with in Canada and California. Starving deer are not a pretty sight, and bringing large carnivore populations up to pre-human levels in populated areas is not an option:

    Hunting controls deer overpopulation

    Those cute doe-eyed fawns and weeping momma deer cry not from the hunters bullet, which is usually quick, but from a very slow and agonizing death by starvation. Once starvation sets in, disease kicks in. Then all those thriving beautiful deer that you were so proud to defend die those slow painful deaths.

    Either way, nature will thin the herds. Either we do it, by hunting, as mankind is the natural predator now that we have eliminated most of the natural predators in this area, or we do not do it and they eventually overpopulate and begin dying off in large groups, weak, starving, diseased, gasping for breath, unable to even stand for the last several days of their miserable lives. I have seen it first hand. Not with deer, but with other starving animals.

  3. zenor

    The premise that conclusions from it make arguments stronger or policy easier is not so comfy.

    Leaving people alone is always a trend to be considered.

    What’s in peoples minds as they live, breathe, shoot or decry is their private business.

    The xception to that is when people, politics and cartels and lobbying entities try to push one side to the exclusion of all others.

    I fear guns and rifles and drones.

    But I don’t wanna put myself against hunters, or pickup trucks or woods people or game shooters. Not that I like people shootin birds or deer or anything particularly. But I know my preferences would make a lot of people very unhappy and upset, and if an attempt to legislate so narrowly was foolishly pursued, it wouldn’t be good at all.

    Guns are a cringe to me, often. Locking them down too far, real complex, and probably, in all that would ripple out, more wrong than right.

    Whatever can be wrought that reduces the violence craze thru sane rules I will vigorously support. The straw purchase laws are smart. Assault weapons bans should come back. 10 bullets in a clip, ok. etc.

  4. jlms qkw

    yes.  people hunt for food, community, and recreation.  

    less than half the deer tags get turned in with an actual shot deer in utah – i was told this by a former coworker quite a while ago.  when i was expressing sympathy for the deer.

    the deer can get so freaking overpopulated, and it is bad in an urban area.  now the deer who live in the cemetery by the university seem to understand the rules of the road.  

    let the hunters stand up and be counted and keep their appropriate hunting weapons.

    i am sure that Natural Resource departments keep track of tags, success, populations, etc.  

    oh, and the wolf hunting – that’s morally abysmal, imho.  

  5. bubbanomics

    (1) The appeal to “self reliance” you mention is pretty much the entire appeal of the GOP to those not incredibly wealthy, as I see it.  Voting maps correlate with this observation: rural areas tend to vote more GOP, urban, more Democratic.  Other issues involve fundamentalist or conservative flavors of Christianity more popular in rural areas. I think the self-reliance thing is much bigger than hunting.

    (2) Is hunting vital to the US?  Maybe it oughtta be.  Read Fast Food Nation.  

    (3) If hunting rifles were the real problem for gun violence, this conversation might have some impact. The guns people hunt with are not the guns involved (these aren’t the guns we’re looking for … move along).

    There are 300 million guns in this country.  Even if we banned all sales now, we’d still have a huge problem.  Of course, when in a hole stop digging, so new restrictions on sales are necessary.  TO stop gun violence will require much more than that tho… the hole is pretty deep.  The argument presented in this post probably makes the necessary work of getting rid of existing problem guns more difficult.  We will need allies in the gun ownership community.  Best not to go after the ones more likely (maybe not very) to support gun reduction measures.

  6. bill d

    it usually involves spending a lot of money leasing a piece of land and drinking a lot with your hunting buddies.

    The worst day deer hunting is when you actually do shoot a deer because there is a lot of work involved in that.

    Besides the tenderloin, the meat is slightly edible when ground up with a lot of pork fat and spices. Wild turkey are stringy and nasty, geese are greasy, younger pigs are ok but are full of parasites, dove are a lot of work to clean, quail are rare and delicious and ducks are ducks.

    Pheasants are the only game that I have hunted that people actually want and ask for.

  7. Every year the north woods are filled with hunters of all ages and genders intent upon shooting deer. Very often it is accompanied by beer drinking and each year there are  a half-dozen tragic stories of someone being shot and killed by a fellow hunter.

    Not being a hunter and having no acquaintances who hunt, I don’t know if the “partying in the north woods” is the lure or if wanting to be part of the effort to cull the herd so that deer don’t starve in the winter is what is drawing them there. I do know that people jogging on rural roads have been killed because they “looked like deer” (one woman dared to jog with a snow cap that had a round white puffball on it) and that, to me, suggests that hunters pumped to GET A DEER can be a danger to people. Hunters stray from designated areas, hunters start too early and end too late in the day to safely identify their targets.  So hunters are on my list of folks who I wish would be more careful with their hobbies because their hobbies can be deadly for innocent bystanders.

    Hunting is not vital to me. I get my food from grocery stores and none of it is hunted.

  8. Cheryl Kopec

    Usually I stay in the shadows, but there are so many new names here that I figured this was as good a time to poke my head up as any…

    The herd culling argument is the only one I’ve ever heard that makes any sense to me. But in my ideal world, we’d let nature do the hunting. Even predators have their role, and I’m big on wolf conservation. If our cities are consuming natural habitat, build smarter and more sustainable cities, roads, etc. If people want to eat meat, support your local organic farmer. If people want to drink beer in the woods, go pitch a tent and do it — you don’t need to chase down unwitting animals and shoot them to have a good time. If you feel unsafe in your home, keep wasp or bear spray around, and consider adopting a dog with a loud bark (seriously). During the period of my life when there was a firearm in my home (my ex’s), it was far more a danger to me than to any intruder, of which there were none.

    The proliferation of guns and other weaponry in our society just makes everybody more antsy, including police, who are making an alarming number of mistakes lately.

    That’s my $.02. I realize that my idealism is way off-center and may even be impractical, but so be it. Nice to meet you all, BTW!  

  9. I think it’s very philosophical actually.

    I shoot (as you know) but I don’t hunt, I am in the process of buying a rifle (and that will be that for guns, so I will have one Rifle and one Handgun – I don’t need more) but, again not for hunting.

    That said, I think the answer to the question is… “I don’t know”. Our society has certainly made it so that people can survive (not everyone but most) on Industrial Food production. So from that aspect is hunting absolutely necessary for food? For an overwhelming majority, no. For some, yes but not for most people.

    BUT… hunting is something that people do, and their is something in the American (and Canadian from those of our friends in the Great White North) psyche that puts a cultural value on hunting, or at least on the ability to hunt. Something about it makes our society feel more in touch with our own humanity.

    SO honestly I can’t answer the question but I lean towards saying that “Yes, hunting is part of who we are”, even as a person who is not a hunter (well outside of hunting in the local food market)


  10. princesspat

    This Wa. State Department of Fish and Wildlife site is interesting….

    Welcome to GoHunt, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) most comprehensive mapping information site. Display options include layers displaying game management unit (GMU) boundaries, public and private lands hunting opportunities, as well as roads, topographical features and county lines. Based on input provided by users, the mapping tools have been simplified and improved to make this site easier to use while still providing the information that you need to get outdoors.

    This information is my attempt to be rational…..because I have an irrational aversion/fear of guns and of hunting. Growing up on a western ranch where just about every pick up truck had a loaded gun rack frightened me and helping my dad in his slaughter house left a mark on my soul.

    For some reason helping my grandfather go to the meat house and cut some well aged venison for supper didn’t….but that’s my emotional reality to sort out.

    What I do know is that I have to be very careful discussing this topic….emotions overcome logic all to easily for me. I try to understand and accept hunters point of view, but  it seems hunting has more institutional and social support than the fear of hunting.

  11. Hedwig

    in an ‘idyllic’ way. Plus, using the hunting defense can still make the case without pushing the less supported concept that people need guns in case they need to shoot US Soldiers…

    There are still people that feed themselves using guns. The argument isn’t about them. There are people who need safely stored handguns for home protection. Not about them either.

    But the main point is that it doesn’t violate the Constitution to insist that gun manufacturers no longer make and gun sellers no longer seller certain hi-powered rifles and handguns and the hi-capacity magazines that go with them.

    But the ‘We’re going to stop a tank/helicopter/B-1 with our arsenal’ is quaint.

    Maybe if responsible gun owners had been pushing for laws that would prevent massacres…by, say, Universal background checks and an assault weapons ban that would work…then maybe they’d have a leg to stand on. Now they should just be ignored and move to what ~90% of the nation wants.  

  12. princesspat

    Urban deer are an annoying nusicance, but my neighbors would rightfully object if we “hunted” them. They are eating the tops off the tulips and hostas now…grrrrr!

    ps  Will someone please show me how to post a photo. I tried unsuccessfully with the FAQ info.

  13. cassandracarolina

    offered an interesting window into this question. I made the mistake one year of scheduling a trip to Moosehead Lake during that autumn week. Killing a moose scarcely seems sporting. As I recall, hunters could apply for the hunt based on a lottery. It would have been better to base the selection process on hunting expertise.

    I have a few friends who are “proper” hunters and very much dedicated to the environment and to gun safety. They are very conscientious people, and respectful of the animals – mostly deer – that they kill. They also understand the logistics of hunting, an ability sadly lacking in some of the Maine moose hunters.

    Shooting a sizeable moose – or even a small moose – in the woods is evidently not that challenging, but dealing with the “next steps” requires advance planning. Still, it was not uncommon to see a moose winched out of the woods, flopped onto the hood of a truck, or left by the side of the road until the hunter could figure out what to do next. While hunters were encouraged to donate the moose meat to local charitable organizations or native Americans, the long duration from gunshot to refrigerator would almost certainly spell food-borne illness for those who didn’t have the skill to handle their kill.

    Perhaps the most distressing thing I saw personally was a moose head that had been sloppily removed – possibly by chain saw – and left next to one of the cabins where I was staying. The unusually warm temperatures and flies were making a mess of things, and I imagined that any decent taxidermist would have had a challenge with it. Sadly, from the paltry appearance of the antlers, this was not some ancient moose who’d lived a great life.

    In summary, I would say that there are plenty of true hunters, properly trained, who respect the process and the animals they take, and who utilize the meat and hides to good purposes. There are also many dangerous, witless jackasses roaming the woods shooting at anything that moves, and too often finding that they’ve just shot people – including their fellow “hunters” or livestock. Rifles are vital for the former group, and should be snatched from the hands of the latter.  

  14. dear occupant

    the word ‘vital’ is open to interpretation, aside from a connection to our heritage, hunting to cull herds and if practiced safely spending time with like minded folks, there is the economic contribution and jobs that are supported by hunters. depending on which survey you read this amounts to 23-33 billion dollars a year, certainly not chicken scratch.

    the closest i ever came to experiencing a family hunting because they needed to put food on the table was in the ’80’s, in far northern Maine, 50 miles south of the Canadian border near Mt.Kathadin. i owned some acreage up there when i lived in New York, it was an incredibly remote and dirt floor poor part of the state. i met a Vietnam vet with a family, he had full blown PTSD and was almost unemployable. they barely scratched out a living but shooting a moose, cleaning it and storing it in their many freezers put protein on the family dinner table for a year. 900 lbs. of meat from a 12 pt. buck went a long way.

    i’m not a gun owner nor will i be, if ever until my daughter becomes an adult, she’s 12. we

    co own a 100 acre family farm near Evansville, In. which we will be transitioning to over time. i might consider owning a rifle then for protection and maybe target practice. will i hunt, no, i couldn’t. if the economic shit ever hit the fan i would revert to being a vegetatrian and or buy or barter if i needed meat.

    i live in a sketchy part of town here in Chicago, owning a gun personally won’t make me feel safer but i do understand others who feel it does. i just don’t believe those guns needed for personal protection need to be assault type weapons.  

  15. DeniseVelez

    We have some very poor people in this part of NYS and the farther upstate you go the poorer people are.

    I don’t hunt to eat.  Nor do I hunt for sport. I do use weapons to protect my farm animals from predators.

    So do other people I know who raise animals.  

  16. Moozmuse

    he was growing up. His parents were poor and had grade school education, and were itinerant farm workers part of the time. The only meat they ever had was what they shot themselves.  My sister doesn’t like guns, but didn’t try to stop him or her son from hunting. My brother-in-law has a PhD in Engineering, and didn’t need to hunt when he became a bread-winner, though I think he did still hunt occasionally. However, he doesn’t do it anymore. I asked him a few years ago if he still hunted but he said no, because he was no longer a good enough shot to take a deer down with one shot. My esteem for him went up quite a bit when he told me that.

  17. blue jersey mom

    and Princeton. This is not a rural area, but many folks hunt around here. One of my former students used to live a couple of miles down the road in Lawrenceville. Her husband hunted, and they ate the game he killed (deer, geese, etc.). I let a local bow hunter hunt on my property. I don’t hunt (I rarely eat meat), but I have no problem with people who do.

  18. Mnemosyne

    I think, that in the family of nations, the US is really very, very young. So we’re still going through the bratty kid stage where we have to have everything our way, as well as all the latest toys even though we may not have the maturity to handle them properly.

    If the European countries are the adults, the US is somewhere around pre- or early teens.

  19. justme

    Something along the lines that it all goes back to the earliest settlers.

    I wish I could remember the rest of my theory, but in essence, certain Americans descended from those earliest settlers have retained the mindset of their ancestors, including beliefs that their rights to hunt must be preserved because they had no right to hunt in the lands they come from.

    I wish I could remember the rest of my theory (or is it a hypothesis?), but it’s Saturday morning and I’m still recovering from a crazy week.

    I do know I grew up in a family which didn’t necessarily depend on hunting and fishing, but which regularly ate fish and meat that had come from fishing … and hunting, and which taught that knowing how to hunt and fish was a good survival mechanism.

    I’ve also lived in rural areas where hunting (and fishing) were regular activities, and extremely poor people did depend on both to eat. To that end, you might be interested to know that I once had a friend who liked eating at Kentucky Fried Chicken specifically because the gravy there tasted like squirrel gravy.

    Anyway, this is a pretty complex issue. When I’ve had more caffeine, I’ll see if I can explain myself better.

  20. somsai

    Besides it’s traditional place in America which was largely gone with the decimation of game herds a century ago hunting is conservation. Overpopulated deer are only one aspect of that conservation. Wildlife biologists use hunters as one of the more precise tools they have in managing wildlife.

    Besides management hunters (and firearm enthusiasts) are the sole source of revenue through taxes and license fees to fund almost all wildlife conservation of any sort and of any species, wether that species is hunted or not.

    While I’m glad that people can understand hunting to eat the meat, until they can understand why wildlife managers want people to hunt wolves or bears we are only part way there in educating the wider public. They are hunted because there are compelling conservation reasons for doing so.

    As to your question of how many Americans depend how much on eating wildlife…. Last week we were given a Canada Goose. We got about 4lbs of useful meat and another 2lbs of useful bone out of it. Many goose hunters will hunt a hundred birds a year, they give them to people like me. If they are all plucked and used in entirety that would be a lot of meat.

    I still have 40 lbs of elk and deer from the 500lbs I got in 2011. It has taken 4 of us more than a year to eat it. And the meat is much much better than anything we’d ever be able to afford. So ya, hunter numbers are up 9% over 5 years ago. I’d say hunters eat meat.

  21. louisprandtl

    the Affordable Care act also known as Obamacare.

    In the Affordable Care Act, the gun lobby’s section is in Title X, starting on page 2,037, line 23.  “Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights” contains five provisions mostly dedicated to shutting down conversation about guns in medicine.  What do these sections contain?

    Wellness and prevention programs may not require the disclosure or collection of information relating to the presence or storage of a lawfully possessed firearm or the use of a firearm.  At least the law didn’t say we couldn’t ask about it, we just have to do it clandestinely.

    The next provision states we can’t collect data related to owning or using firearms. So we can’t write it down? Sounds like an effective way to stifle research related to gun violence so we can no longer prove that easier access to guns increases the risk of mass violence.

    Provision three states we can’t use or maintain records of individual ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. I’m fine with that not being allowed in medicine, but that information should be tracked somewhere. A person amassing an arsenal should raise an eyebrow.

    Provision four limits the ability to determine rates or eligibility for health insurance based on gun ownership. Now why is that even in there? Title I of the ACA states that insurance will be guaranteed issue so no one can be turned down. Even if they own enough guns to hunt every squirrel in the United States, they will qualify for health insurance. Just so the gun owners have the correct information, rates are based on only four factors – age, location, number of family members, and smoking status. Wait – guns smoke, so maybe they thought that was meant for gun owners.

    The final provision related to gun owners is that individuals do not have to disclose they own a gun. We know you can’t make people tell the truth, but fortunately most people in the throes of mental anguish and considering violence will tell the truth when asked.

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