E Van Staden private collection

Why hunters hunt

Why do hunters hunt –  really?

There has been a lot of anti hunting sentiment in the media, & I get it.  The sight of an animal that is roaming majestic & proud lifts the spirit & makes the world seem right somehow.  They are beautiful, awe-inspiring & remind us of an earlier world.  A perfect world the way it was before man stampeded his way through it, decimating everything in his path.  Seeing animals in the wild takes us back to the time before pollution & litter & big corporations with their greed & poisons.  We want to preserve & treasure them – Keep them safe so that our children might also experience the pleasure of getting a glimpse of what our fragile world once was & might have been still if we had taken better care of it.

The thought of that animal being shot, hurt & ultimately dying evokes the strongest emotions in most of us.  It’s brutal, harsh & wasteful.  We cannot understand anyone wanting to reduce a majestic, free animal to a fur bag of blood & bones for their own greedy pleasure.  We equate people like these  with mass murderers.  Psychotic, cruel unfeeling maniacs who kill for pleasure & must therefore be capable of unthinkable actions towards weak & vulnerable people.  Certainly not the sort of people  you would want near your pets, let alone your children.

The animals are innocent, & the hunters are evil.  Simple.  But is it really?

Why hunters hunt
A hunter employed by the District Commissioner’s Office in the Matetsi area of Southern Rhodesia. Duties included the control of problem animals & the supply of rations


Hunting in the media

I watch the videos, I see the pictures & my heart breaks.  I get nausea, angry & very sad – often for days & even weeks afterwards.  The videos can be avoided if they are correctly tagged & titled.  Sometimes though, they catch you before you realise what they are & pictures pop up without warning.  If the hunter is in the photograph, the angst spins into rage & every nerve in your body seems to burn as you look at his face wondering what sort of person exists behind that proud smile.

Hunters & public opinion

Comments follow.  Rational, peace-loving people say how they wish all kinds of curses & comeuppance for the man or woman who could do such a thing.  I have felt that righteous rage myself, & it is enough to make me believe that under certain circumstances I too could kill.  Kill people, with guns – Especially the sub-human type of people who kill animals to feed their ego & indulge their worst urges for self-gratification.  Is there more to it than this?

Who hunts?

People I love, respect & am proud to call family & close friends hunt.  They can buy food at a shop, but they willingly go into the bush with a gun with the intention of shooting an animal and killing it.  They are not psychotic, they are kind, loving people who would stay up all night to tend a young bird that fell out of the nest, hand rear the runt of the litter & never allow an animal to suffer.  Kind thoughtful men who mow lawns, play with their children, do the dishes & cook when they are off work over the weekend.  How can these sensitive, loving human beings kill living creatures when they are not starving, when they love nature & get angry when other people drop litter & disrespect the environment?  There are people I know on-line, too.  Rational, normal people who are polite & respectful, & who also kill animals.

The big question

I couldn’t work it out, but the question burned me.  Eventually, I asked them.  Some of their answers were expected, others were not. They follow here in no particular order. My question was short & simple.

                    Why do hunters hunt?


  • I like to kill things, especially deer
  • I hunted because we could.  It was something to do & we always made sure that whatever we shot was eaten by ourselves, our family or the staff
  • It’s not about the hunting.  The hours alone with just my own wits & company are precious.  Often I come back empty-handed, but when I am able to kill the animal that I have set out to get it is exhilarating.
  • Hunting is hard work.  It takes patience, planning & knowledge of the animal & the area.  After you kill it, you need to clean & butcher it, so it is very physical.  It is worth it though because you feel like you have achieved something.
  • I like to eat meat, & will not stop.  Where possible, I try to kill my own food because the way farm animals are raised is disgustingly cruel.
  • Wild meat is healthier to eat.  Less toxins from poisons like hormones, inoculations & from animals being fed unnatural food.
  • I hunt because it is kinder.  Everything has to die sometime, & when you hunt you take an animal that has lived a good life & not been captive since the day it was born.  It dies quickly, where it lived.
  • Economics.  Food is getting expensive & hunting is cheaper.  Populations need controlling, so that is an added bonus.
  • Tradition.  My grandfather taught my Dad how to hunt, he taught me how to hunt.  He is gone now, but I like to keep my hand in & intend to pass the skills onto my son.  Who knows what the future holds?  We might all have to kill to eat at some point,  I would like to be able to do it competently
  • Hunters get on with each other & have common interests.  It is impossible to explain the attraction of hunting to someone who has never hunted, so spending time with other hunters is comfortable & enjoyable.
  • If you eat meat, then you are eating an animal that someone killed.  I believe that if you want to eat meat, you should be able to kill the animal.  Shop bought meat is from animals too.  I think that it is important to understand that we take life when we eat meat, & be prepared to do it ourselves.
  • Growing up, beef was expensive.  Everyone hunted, & if we had spare we shared with our neighbours.  It’s just how it was.  We used a pellet gun to kill small animals when we were young, then moved onto guns & real game.
  • Fun, food & more ethical than slaughterhouse
  • After FFA in high school I feel a pretty big temptation to move towards a “vegetarian unless I personally kill it” philosophy of meat
  • I don’t even touch beef anymore because of how messed up it is now. The hormones, the additives, the fact that they bulldoze the cow’s guts off into a pit after killing it. You know. Good reasons. My go-to is bison now.
  • Two things: First, knowing that I can provide food for myself and my family. Hunting on your own is not easy. You need to learn it. It’s a skill. Secondly, the peace and quiet. I really enjoy walking around the mountains and listening for sounds and looking for signs of what I am hunting for. I have seen some pretty amazing sights while hunting.
  • Food! I love to cook with venison.
  • The thrill of the hunt, and eating something you killed has a very different feel than going to a supermarket. Makes in better in a way
  • Trophies and meat.
  • Subsistence and ecological maintenance, mostly. Though on a personal note, a lot of it has to do with my wanting to behave in a manner that doesn’t dishonour my ancestors and the struggles for survival they endured. There’s no reason whatsoever that I should be weaker than the ones who came before me. I try to behave as if I could be called to join them at any minute, and be forced to survive as they would. That means being willing and able to kill if necessary.
  • Meat, and yeah it’s more humane.
  • There is a spiritual side to hunting.  It reminds me that we are all part of the cycle of life.
  • Cost of Meat. Care of farm raised meat is not the best while being increasingly expensive. The ethical part is there too, eat only what you can kill.
  • Killing things. I don’t even really care for venison. I just like killing deer. (Like fisherman who not eat fish)
  • Hunting is about being outside & enjoying the time spent with family/friends.  it is also about providing meat. Hunting is about leaning up against a tree, tracking, being quiet, & eating whatever you have with you.  It’s about making do & living in the moment.
  • Organic meat is better for you than the plastic stuff you buy in the shops
  • Resource management.  People shout when you cull, but nobody wants to buy & spend money caring for animals when they become unsustainable. When an animal is shot, nothing goes to waste –  Every part of the animal is used.
  • What we call the wild mostly no longer exists.  There are patches of land where animals live but migration & other natural behaviours can no longer happen.  The area is not natural, the ratio of game to natural predators is wrong, & man has to manage these areas as well as he can.
  • Hunting brings in money that people use to make a living from.  In our country, it is one of the few ways to get currency flowing, & indirectly many families & even communities rely on the proceeds to live.  Sure, the rich guys make the most money, but the community make a living that they wouldn’t have without hunting.
  • So many animals are snared for food & often left to go rotten.  Hunting is kinder & less wasteful.  It is also less indiscriminate & more sustainable
  • Animals in the wild have to earn their keep here.  If they cost more to keep than they bring in, people will do something else with their land & resources & the animals will disappear.  Horse & greyhound racing for example is inhumane, but banning it would mean these animals would quickly dwindle.


Hunters comments/opinions & concerns

Responses were mainly from the USA, Canada & some were from Africa.  Most hunters were anti poaching, all respected the seasons & the laws on what animals could be taken when & under what circumstances.  There was some sympathy for poachers who were feeding their families, but universal anger against syndicate poaching.

It would seem that hunters either hunt to live (from the meat or to make a living from their own or others hunting trips), or for recreation /rebalancing themselves.  There was repeat mention of obtaining food the way nature intended or getting more connected with the food they eat.  Tradition & feeling a “part of things” plays a role for some. Others like spending time alone in the bush & honing their hunting / weapon handling skills.

Trophy hunting

There was little mention of trophy hunting. Media focus around this might have made people reluctant to give their opinions.  In almost all answers, the fact that death is inevitable for every living thing & that people have to make a living somehow was accepted as a base fact.  When  it comes to larger or protected animals, the hunting question moves more into the realms of conservation. The general opinion here is that if culling is required, then it should be done as profitably as possible.

Hunters vs non hunters

Hunters express annoyance & frustration with non-hunters.  This is mainly because they believe that non-hunters & critics

  • Are (non vegan) happy to buy the meat of abused animals that are mass-produced with little concern for their quality of life/slaughter methods but anti the taking of animals that have enjoyed quality of life to provide meat & balance the population to ensure other animals have a quality of life.
  • Equate hunting with poaching
  • Lack understanding / have no experience of living in a community where people have to hunt if they want to eat meat
  • Underestimate the costs of managing a game farm/haven/park/sanctuary
  • Will not pay higher fees to take photographs & close the earnings gap between ‘photo tourism & hunting
  • Live in first world countries & lack understanding of the realities of living in a poor country
  • In many cases, live in countries where they have already decimated their predator animals completely but want to tell poorer countries that they cannot make money from hunting
  • Do not regard all life as being equal.  It’s okay to kill some animals but not others
  • Might not have ever been hungry enough in their lives – Spoilt.
  • Might not have had to think outside the box & use the resources they can access to make a living
  • Live in countries where there is industry or more available options for making a living
  • Are highly critical of hunting but allow terrible abuse of farm animals in their own countries
  • Are highly critical of hunting but sanction experimentation on animals in labs in their own countries
  • Have shocking farm animal transportation welfare issues
  • Have weak animal welfare export laws that allow for live animals to be exported for slaughter under inhumane conditions
  • Have never known the fear of living in a community where humans & livestock are threatened by predators like large cats


In short, there is a belief that critics complain about animal management in other countries while failing to ensure animal welfare standards are maintained in their own wealthy & well resourced countries.

I think the truth is that it impossible for a hunter to explain why he hunts to a non-hunter because words have no sound, nor smell. Whatever people get out of the hunting experience is received through so many of the body’s senses simultaneously, while the body itself is on high alert.  The chemical surges that follow a period of silent but intense physical exertion while carrying a deadly weapon must be intense.

I was surprised that hunters are confused as to why non-hunters have any problems hunting.  They do know that most people frown on the activity, but are unsure why it is such a big issue when society is so accepting of other forms of blatant animal abuse.  Hunters themselves do not regard hunting as cruel as long as it is over quickly.  Most are totally anti poaching, many work in animal conservation & regard themselves as responsible because they adhere the laws of the land & the extra rules regards quick kills & animal utilisation that  they impose on themselves.  They know that sometimes things do go wrong, but consider that is far from the norm.  One other aspect of this short piece of research was the love that hunters clearly feel for the animals they hunt & the environment they hunt in.  It does seem like a paradox, but then I am a non-hunter.

Interested in reading more?  Try  https://firstforwildlife.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/the-science-behind-sustainable-use/

What do you think?

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