Why hunters hunt––and why far more men quit hunting now than take it up
Seán McCormack, managing trustee of the Animal Care Trust in Taiwan, recently brought to our attention “Hunting Linked To Psychosexual Inadequacy & The 5 Phases Of A Hunter’s Life Of Sexual Frustration,” by Brent Lambert, published in November 2016 under the subject headings Neuroscience, Psychology, and Society by the lifestyles web site FeelGuide.com.
Observed Lambert, a prolific writer on many topics, yet better known as a Hollywood set designer, “In his 2015 book, What Is Sport: A Controversial Essay About Why Humans Play Sports, social psychologist Rob Alpha explains how researchers with the Genetic Economic Analytics Group found the neurophysiological link between sex and a man’s desire to hunt.
Same parts of brain activated by hunting & sex
“It turns out the same regions of the brain that are activated in the sex drive and orgasm are also activated by the compulsion to hunt animals.
“Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger (1893-1990), who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1981, and is the namesake of the Menninger School of Psychiatry, wrote extensively about the Erotic Sadistic Motivation Theory of sport hunting,” Lambert continued.
Said Menninger, “Sadism may take a socially acceptable form [such as deer hunting and deer stalking] and other varieties of so-called ‘sport,’” yet “These all represent the destructive and cruel energies of man directed toward more helpless creatures.”
“Abnormal psychology & modern life”
Resumed Lambert, “In the groundbreaking 1948 book, Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life, which remains the most authoritative survey of abnormal psychology, the authors state, ‘Perhaps more directly relevant are experiences in which individual infliction of pain on an animal or another person has given rise to sexual excitement. We have noted elsewhere the connection between strong emotional and sexual stimulation.’
“Menninger’s theory was later expanded by other leaders in the field of psychology, including Dr. Joel R. Saper (University of Michigan), who theorizes that hunting ‘may reflect a profound yet subtle psychosexual inadequacy.’
“While clinical psychologist Margaret Brooke-Williams adds, ‘Hunters are seeking reassurance of their sexuality. The feeling of power that hunting brings temporarily relieves this sexual uneasiness.’”
Lambert then extensively quoted and paraphrased “Killing the Female: The Psychology of the Hunt,” an often cited September 1990 essay by ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton, of which no current, updated, authorized version has been in print for many years––until now.
Killing the Female: The Psychology of the Hunt
(2019 expanded edition)
My former neighbor Lynn, the last time I saw him, nearly 30 years ago, had not shot a deer the preceding fall. He was the only adult male of his family who had not bagged a big buck.
Photos of Lynn’s elder brother, his son, and his nephew appeared on the display board at the country store that served as local buck pool headquarters, each standing or kneeling beside an entry in the annual competition, whose winner––the person who killed the biggest buck––took home a few hundred dollars.
“Just didn’t see a deer I wanted to kill”
As president of the local rod and gun club, and as a multi-time buck pool winner in past years, Lynn seemed conspicuously absent from the long list of buck pool entrants – over 150, in a rural district whose total population is under 1,500.
Sipping a non-alcoholic beer in a living room packed with mounted heads and a whole stuffed bear he later regretted killing, Lynn seemed unperturbed by his failure to kill a deer in the most recent hunting season.
“I was out there in the woods every day,” he told me, “same as usual, but I just didn’t see a deer I wanted to kill. I helped Sonny and Bubba get theirs, but you know, I don’t have to kill a deer every year any more. I’ve been hunting since I was nine, and I’m 49 now, and it’s kind of to the point where I don’t want to shoot anything unless it’s something worth having.
“I like to go out in the woods, take my time”
“Don’t get me wrong. I love to go deer hunting. It’s my favorite thing to do. But it’s not like when I was one of these guys who’s always in a hurry to get out and be the first one in town to get his buck and be first one back to the weighing station and then it’s all over with until next year.
“I like to go out in the woods, take my time, and enjoy the whole ten days or two weeks or whatever they give us to do it in. If I see the buck I want, I’ll shoot it, but if I don’t, I’ve shot plenty of deer in my time and I can kind of psychologically feed off the one I killed last year or the year before.”
In fact, Lynn had not killed a deer in three years. A construction worker with a high school education, Lynn was markedly more relaxed than he was three years earlier, when we first became acquainted, shortly before he shot what was was then his last buck.
Lynn knew then that I did not hunt, never had, and was a lifelong vegetarian, but that was never an issue between us.
Overcoming a difficult start
We talked about animals, baseball, and local political issues, and I quickly saw why Lynn had become a respected community leader despite a difficult start in life.
With the aid of his priest, Lynn had long ago controlled the alcohol problem that had raged in his family for three generations.
Thirty years of a difficult and sometimes violent shotgun marriage had settled down into a comfortable truce: he hadn’t hit his wife in four or five years, nor had she hit him. Both were proud enough of their progress in learning to defuse stressful situations to tell me about it, and about the church-hosted 12-step program that had helped them both.
Lynn had also learned to ignore old and malicious stories told by envious former buck pool rivals, who pretended to be friends but were anything but, that he might be homosexual.
Those behind-the-back whisperings probably began in grade school when other children decided Lynn had “a girl’s name,” and as best I could tell, never had any credible basis.
“Armed nature walkers”
Developing an internal sense of self-worth, Lynn appeared to have become one of the growing number of licensed hunters – as many as 20% – who rarely if ever fire their guns, for whom hunting is mainly “armed nature walking,” as sociologist Thomas Heberlein of the University of Wisconsin put it in a study published five years earlier. The study, however, was then unknown to either me or Lynn.
“Armed nature walkers” still carry weapons, because they learned young, like Lynn, that men who don’t carry weapons when walking in the woods may be thought effeminate.
Imbued with the work ethic, hunters like Lynn still pretend that they are hunting for meat, because this provides an economic rationale for their activity––though, as Lynn admitted, “You could live on filet mignon for what shooting a deer costs,” in license fees, equipment, ammunition, and time.
Vulnerable to peer pressure, “armed nature walkers” vocally support hunting and gun ownership. But “armed nature walkers” are also just one “jail break” away – in self-confidence and self-understanding – from teaching a lesson to their sons and grandsons slightly different from the one they learned themselves, from passing along their love of the woods and knowledge of wood-lore without punctuating it all with a baptism in blood.
Still trying to prove something
Gerry, a mutual friend who lived around the corner and was ten years younger than Lynn, was another story. Gerry did not have anything to prove to us, but his life often seemed to center on trying to prove something to someone.
Though of semi-rural background, Gerry held a dead-end white-collar job in a nearby town. His wife hated hunting. His two sons took after her.
Hindered by an old knee injury, Gerry had all but given up hunting, until, as domestic and professional frustrations mounted, he found refuge at a deer camp one autumn with old buddies.
He shot an underage deer, was nabbed by the warden, and became the butt of considerable rough humor – about his limp and his marital troubles, as well as “buck fever,” the hunter’s term for what nonhunters call being “trigger-happy.”
Gerry, the last I heard, was still out there every deer season, hoping to regain lost standing with “the boys,” who by then mostly considered him slightly dangerous.
What hunters kill, and why
Lynn and Gerry, by then exclusively deer hunters, make up 80% to 85% of the U.S. hunting population, according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Shooting Sports Foundation surveys.
After deer, the next most popular targets are rabbits, hunted by 71%, and squirrels, hunted by 60%, followed by quail (48%), pheasants (45%), turkeys (26%), and waterfowl (21% to 24%).
Both Lynn and Gerry also fell easily into categories defined in 1977 by Robert Jackson and Robert Norton of the University of Wisconsin, who in a study done for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service discovered hunters typically pass through five phases of outlook and behavior that roughly correspond with stages of maturity.
Most start as “shooters”
Interviewing 1,600 licensed deer and waterfowl hunters, Jackson found that in phase one, the Shooter stage, hunters are principally concerned with exercising their firepower; they don’t much care what they hit. Such hunters tend to be young.
As actor Richard Kiley recalled, speaking out against mountain lion hunting in California in the 1980s, “When I was a boy on my uncle’s farm in Michigan, I killed everything that moved. Birds, rabbits, woodpeckers, squirrels. It was a wonderful game. I loved guns – the feel, the smell, the power of them. And I remember the moment it stopped,” the moment Kiley broke a squirrel’s back without killing it outright, and felt, watching it struggle, “as though a door opened in my head and a bright light flooded in,” carrying “an overwhelming burden of sorrow and shame and compassion and regret.”
While Kiley gave up hunting as a result of his flash of insight, most hunters merely progress to phase two. As Kiley theorized, they are not evil but asleep: “A portion of their awareness is obscured.” They go from random killing to the Limiting-Out stage, where satisfaction still comes from firing the gun, but success – and social status – comes from “bagging the limit.”
At this stage, as then-Lewiston, Maine Morning Tribune editor Bill Hall succinctly put it, “They hunt for the bragging rights on what they kill.”
The trophy stage
When killing in volume no longer wins the desired amount of acclaim, hunters pass to phase three, the Trophy stage.
Now winning the buck pool becomes a paramount objective. Hunters begin passing up shots, trying instead for the heaviest weight and biggest rack of antlers.
Trophy stage hunters are typically in their mid-thirties or early forties, at about the same point in life where basic economic needs have been satisfied and community status is being established. The car and house have been bought and mostly paid for.
Raising status through obtaining a newer car and a bigger house are the major economic concerns for men in this age bracket; killing a bigger buck is an abstraction of the same objective.
The Method stage
By phase four, the Method stage, the hunter – like Lynn – has already won the buck pool and collected trophies of local species. He now takes maximum pride in his ability to kill animals by more difficult means, e.g. bowhunting and with muzzleloaders, and in his ability to use woodcraft, such as luring and tracking, rather than relying on sheer firepower.
Killing the target animal has become the climactic part of a quest.
For the most affluent 1% of hunters this may include trophy hunting expeditions abroad, to shoot species that are reputedly more difficult and dangerous to kill––albeit that in reality, shooting trophy animals on African hunting ranches is really little more difficult and dangerous than shooting fish in a barrel.
The biggest risk in that is that the hunter might get his feet wet.
Then comes phase five. After years of hunting and a few years of not killing, for various reasons that translate into no longer wanting to, the hunter acknowledges that killing simply isn’t necessary, that nature can be most fully enjoyed by simply sharing in the life of the woods.
As Jackson and Norton summarized, the phase five hunter “seemed to be more fully mature as a person and as a hunter, and no longer needed to measure his worth, or control his world, by the taking of game. Instead he talked of hunter satisfaction in terms of total appreciation of nature or the companionship of partners or family.”
Many an animal defender has found friendship and even emotional kinship with elderly ex-hunters, some of whom become volunteer wardens or in other ways seek to protect the animals they once would have killed.
“A successful hunt if we just see deer”
I certainly did. Though I did not hunt, most of the older men I enjoyed talking with in my younger days were phase five hunters or former hunters, like Lynn, who enjoyed sharing with me everything they knew about wildlife.
Two of these older men had become local game wardens. I helped one of them to find and remove traplines illegally set on posted land every morning for 12 winters, until he died and I moved away.
“I consider it a successful hunt if we just see deer,” 63-year-old Cecil Smitherman told Bob Secter and Tracy Shryer of the Los Angeles Times at about the same time I last saw Lynn, a man for whom I had come to have a high regard, despite the heads and stuffed bear in his living room.
Unfortunately, between the anti-hunting animal defender and the gentle middle-aged to elderly man who delights in describing animals he has seen alive, there remains an army of often hostile, aggressive, mostly younger men––or older men afraid of aging––with rifles and shotguns blazing – and as many as 100 million animals die each year (about half as many as 30 years ago) in a journey toward self-understanding that many hunters never complete.
“It’s like a bar mitzvah”?!
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the average hunter starts at age 15, just past puberty, at about the same age he begins seeking such other symbolic transitions as learning to drive and gaining his first sexual experience.
“It’s a big thing when you get to go deer hunting,” Cecil Smitherman’s grandson Todd Dennis told the Los Angeles Times reporters. “It’s like a bar mitzvah. When you go deer hunting, they start to look at you as a man and you feel like a man.”
“There’s something addictive about deer hunting,” opined Dave Petersen in the Mother Earth News “Beginner’s Guide to Deer Hunting,” and then suggested why: “Consider that the term venison, for the meat of the deer, is derived from the name of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Venery means both ‘the art of hunting’ and ‘the pursuit of sexual pleasure.’”
Subliminal confusion of hunting with sexual pursuit and achievement of manhood gushes through hunting terminology, from the ritual of “first blood” to technical discussions of the penetration power of ammunition to the frequent, casual, unconscious use of “her” (as in “I shot her right there”) to describe male animals.
When symbolically represented, the hunter’s effort to assert sexual supremacy often looks transparently silly, e.g. 1990 Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams’ rumored “honey hunts.”
“In one version of the story,” Newsweek recounted, “Williams and his chums strip to their underwear and shoot water pistols at nymphs dancing in the nude. Another version has Williams inviting prostitutes to tag along at deer hunts and cattle roundups. A third sends Williams to Africa on safari with hookers in tow.”
Williams, incidentally, though holding a 20-point lead in the polls over Ann Richards at the time, eventually lost to Richards, who was Texas governor for one four-year term, after she prominently posed with hunting weapons in hand.
When the symbolic turns sinister
Symbolic representations of hunting as sexual conquest can turn sinister.
In his teens, Marc Lepine of Montreal massacred pigeons with a BB gun. On December 6, 1989, he donned hunting fatigues, declared his intention to massacre “feminists,” and killed 14 female students at the Université de Montreal with a semi-automatic rifle and a buck knife.
Whether or not hunters shoot deer to demonstrate sexual potency or out of sexual frustration, in symbolic lieu of raping and killing women, there can be little doubt that as a social ritual, much hunting is all about killing the feminine in the hunter’s own self.
Not only are the targets male animals with the stereotypical female traits of grace and beauty, but as a social ritual the pursuit itself involves – indeed requires – sequestering the hunters, the men, away from female influence.
Deer camp is an all-male world. Instead of cleansing themselves as women require, as prelude to sexual contact, deer hunters cover themselves with “scent lures,” a polite name for urine and feces.
Deer camp hunters don’t wash because detergent residues reputedly reflect ultraviolet light that deer can see, making camouflage useless.
Deer camp hunters wear boots indoors, curse, play poker, drink from the bottle and eat from the can – and many never actually hunt at all, getting no closer to a deer than viewing a so-called stag video.
“I went with five other guys,” ostensible hunter Steve Costello admitted in 1989 to a New York Times correspondent who wrote about the deer camp culture. Costello’s group didn’t even take weapons. Admitted Costello, “We never even left camp.”
Deer camp & gay bars
A 1974 study by James Kennedy for the Wildlife Society found that 75% of the hunters surveyed would prefer hunting with their buddies in an area with only a 10% chance of killing a deer to hunting alone with a 50% chance of making the kill.
Seeking the kill is only the pretext for the various other rituals that “separate the men from the boys,” determining “who’s a pussy.”
This, not the supposed difficulty of shooting a deer, probably best explains why approximately 70% of all licensed hunters don’t get one – while those for whom the kill is the paramount experience tend to “get their deer” year after year, perennially bagging the limit and/or placing high in the buck pool.
The deer camp atmosphere of exaggerated masculinity is apparently not unlike the atmosphere of “leather trade” gay bars, albeit that the gay bars more likely try to emulate deer camps than the other way around.
“Hunting is anything but expression of manhood”
One must wonder, ultimately, how sexually secure any of the posturing denizens are.
“You can take my word for it,” snorted former hunting guide Douglas Townsend some years ago. Having escorted hundreds of big game hunters, he concluded, “This hunting habit is anything but an expression of manhood.”
Gregory Hemingway, son of author Ernest Hemingway, would probably have concurred.
Trying to impress his macho father, a living symbol of hunters and hunting to a whole generation, Gregory at age 11 won the World Life Pigeon Shooting Championship. At 19 he was arrested for transvestitism. Trying to regain his father’s respect, he next slaughtered 18 elephants on a single African safari.
Gregory turned Gloria
But Gregory Hemingway remained an unhappy transvestite, who spent, he admitted in a 1987 interview, “hundreds of thousands of dollars” trying to overcome the cross-dressing habit. He had partial sexual reassignment surgery in 1995 and changed his first name to Gloria, but then changed his mind, tried to have the surgery reversed, and remarried his fourth ex-wife.
Gregory/Gloria Hemingway died on October 1, 2001 at the Miami-Dade Women’s Detention Center, hours before he was to appear in court after being arrested for indecent exposure and resisting arrest.
Gregory Hemingway appears to have never been an actual practicing homosexual, just insecure – like his father, who likewise spent his whole life trying to prove masculinity that no one else ever seriously called into question.
“Killed the wrong animal”
Literally killing the female, Cameron Robert Kocher of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, nearly ten years old, said he was only “playing hunter” on March 6, 1989, when he fatally shot Jessica Ann Carr, age seven, with his father’s rifle.
Observing subsequent legal proceedings, Cleveland State University law professor Victor L. Streib unequivocally blamed the killing on Kocher’s exposure to guns and hunting. “All he has done,” Streib summarized, “is kill the wrong animal.”
There have been hundreds of comparable incidents, including one not far from ANIMALS 24-7. Avid hunter Jaylen Ray Fryberg, 14, on October 24, 2014 shot five fellow students at Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington, killing two, putting two more into critical condition, and then killing himself
(See Marysville school shooter loved hunting & pit bulls; and Killing the white deer & the Marysville massacre.)
“Just another woodchuck”
An upstate New York man named Dave Goff cited childhood hunting experience, which he said helped him learn to “kill the wrong animals,” in persuading former Congressional Representative James T. Walsh to obtain for him a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and nine other medals for Vietnam War service that he never performed.
“I was brought up on a dairy farm,” Goff explained to syndicated veterans’ affairs columnist Laura Palmer. “I used to shoot woodchucks all the time. It got to the point where I would flash it through my head that it was just another woodchuck and it didn’t mean anything. It was just a job.”
Goff claimed to have been assigned to killing civilians as part of the CIA’s infamous Operation Phoenix while still in his teens. After military service, Goff said, he went through 13 years of breakdowns and alcohol abuse, trying to deprogram himself from having been a killer, trying to find his way into becoming a caring, responsible human being.
Walsh saw to it that Goff in 1989 received the medals he said he had earned. But Goff was in 1994 prosecuted for unlawfully wearing military medals and decorations, after Stolen Valor author B.G. Burkett established that Goff actually spent his alleged time in Vietnam as an Army mail clerk in Okinawa.
Culture of hunting, not the killing, may have had the greater influence
All of that leaves open the question of how shooting woodchucks––or saying he had shot woodchucks––really influenced Goff.
It may be that what Goff really learned was the knack of rising in status among other men by telling what are often called “fish stories,” whether or not fish are involved.
“My objection to deer hunting,” once observed the former syndicated columnist Sydney Harris (1917-1986), “is not so much to what is done to the deer as to what is done to the boy,” who witnesses a hunt for the first time. “For one thing, it desensitizes him to cruelty; for another, it justifies whatever is done to win your antlers (the symbols of manhood); and for another, it turns killing into a casual, thoughtless act.”
Douglas Townsend had made a similar observation almost a decade earlier. “I am convinced,” he said, “that there is a relationship between the obsession with guns and hunting and mounting violence and crime.”
Hunting & violent crime
While psychologists have long theorized from case studies that early and intense exposure to hunting can desensitize young people, making killing unnaturally easy, University of New Hampshire director of Family Research Murray Strauss in 1987 sought objective proof.
Strauss used indicators including the audience for violent TV shows, football player production per capita, National Guard enrollment, and sale of hunting licenses to determine which states most seemed to condone violence.
Strauss found that the states most culturally predisposed toward violence had the highest rates of homicide by teenagers, with Alaska leading the list and several western states with strong levels of hunting participation ranking high.
Unfortunately Strauss’ analysis was so complex that quantifying an exact relationship between hunting and homicide statistics was impossible.
Crimes against children
Taking a similar approach to Strauss, but simply comparing rates of hunting participation per capita to crime rates at the county level, in 1994-1995 I found that rates of hunting participation stratified parallel to rates of crimes committed against children, especially sex-related crimes, throughout the states of New York, Ohio, and Michigan.
(See also New York state statistics show link: hunters & molesters; Ohio data confirms hunting/child abuse link: stronger than link to rural poverty; and Michigan stats confirm hunting/child abuse link.)
99% of hunters are male
According to Thomas Heberlein’s 1985 demographic profile of U.S. hunters, “most [like Lynn and Gerry, and Goff] grew up in rural areas and were taught to hunt at an early age by their fathers.”
Over 99% were male; only 2% of all American women hunted, most of whom were the firstborn or only children of avid male hunters.
The greatest number of hunters were aged 18 to 34, which was then also the largest segment of the U.S. male population.
The next greatest number of hunters were aged 35 to 44, the second largest male population group. The National Shooting Sports Foundation simultaneously pegged the average age of hunters at 38, six years older than the average U.S. male.
Hunting participation drops over age 45
“Over the age of 45,” Heberlein found, “there is a substantial decline in the proportion who hunt.”
While Heberlein suggested that this might be due to “the strenuous nature of hunting,” the decline could also reflect the number of one-time hunters who have passed through the fifth phase of maturity and laid down their weapons.
Ten percent of licensed hunters were over age 60, Heberlein learned, but many of these men apparently bought licenses primarily because they believed the money supported pro-hunting conservation programs that they favored.
The Heberlein and National Shooting Sports Foundation data together indicated that as the general population aged, the number of hunters would decline even more sharply.
That is exactly what has happened, continuing a trend already well underway even then.
Hunting population aging out
Nationally, according to the 2016 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, & Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the licensed hunting population has decreased from 17.9 million in 1975 to 11.4 million today. The annual dropout rate is roughly 6.3 percent, against annual recruitment of about five percent.
Six million of the 11.4 million currently licensed hunters are older than 45 years of age; 3.5 million are older than 55; 1.5 million, or about 25%, are older than 65.
Noting that hunting participation is lowest among teenagers, and that hunters are most likely to begin hunting in their early teens, most states and pro-hunting organizations long ago escalated hunting recruitment efforts.
“Discover” passes vs. killing contests
But, beginning to recognize that hunting is a dying pursuit, most state wildlife agencies have also begun issuing “non-consumptive use permits,” such as the Discover Pass required of visitors to Washington state parks, as a means of raising money from people who visit state lands for purposes other than killing.
Increasing reliance upon revenue from non-consumptive visitors is slowly, grudgingly obliging state wildlife agencies to move away from serving consumptive interests first––albeit often only when prodded by lawsuits.
A hard-core nucleus of some of the most avid hunters still hopes to perpetuate the status quo, or even to turn back the clock to frontier days, when there were no season restrictions on killing animals, and no bag limits. Killing contests targeting species such as coyotes, crows, and prairie dogs, who are not protected against massacre, have proliferated in recent years in the name of hunter recruitment.
Sign for the future
But the number of active hunters continues to drop at both ends of the age range.
Even as far back as 1977, a study by James Applegate found that in New Jersey, at least, there were already more than twice as many ex-hunters as actives.
This was, and is, a promising sign for the future.
Argued Margaux Hemingway (1954-1996), granddaughter of the author, on a promotional visit to the Peninsula Humane Society, in San Mateo, California, around the time her uncle Gregory was becoming Gloria, “Hunters are the greatest lovers of nature and wildlife. If you can just reeducate them, they’ll be a real force.”
Like Ernest and Gregory, Margaux also hunted and fished, and even modeled furs, she said, until “about two years ago I woke up.”
Stepping out of her grandfather’s shadow, Margaux went on to speak out against hunting and the fur trade, at last freely expressing the love of animals two generations of men in her family felt, but could only express with gun in hand.
Unfortunately, that did not sufficiently liberate her from the shadows of her past. Her death, like her grandfather’s, was by suicide.
jigs gaton says
I’m a 62 year old male who grew up in rural upstate NY, and after all of that, I still have never hunted an animal (and never will, outside of trying to track down my naughty dog when he gets loose). So, all those great paragraphs and research are great, but it comes down to one simple thing: to hunt or not to hunt, or to kill, or not kill. Seems like an easy decision to me.
Reagan Harvey says
This insightful article on the Psychology of the Hunt explains to me why this disgusting tradition of the legal killing of innocent animals by humans is promoted and defended by hunters. I have discussed the reason with those who hunt why they feel it is necessary and the classic answer is “to cull the herd” which is a lie they tell themselves and others to try and justify their lust for killing. Sadly, according to this article it takes decades for hunters to either realize the truth of their evil deeds or just age out of the process. By this time they have likely passed down their perceived right to kill animals and taught the younger generation they can also kill animals without penalty and even receive praise and glory for doing so. The good news is the percentage of hunters has been declining over the years. Thank you for all your animal advocacy and activism.
Karen Davis, PhD author says
Excellent analysis, Animals-24-7.
Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns http://www.upc-online.org
Jamaka Petzak says
These studies point out what has always been patently obvious to me. Additionally, the use of the word, “pussy” by intolerant and hate-filled males to denote somehow “effeminate” (meaning, I suppose, gentle, compassionate, or disinclined to condone and/or participate in acts of violence against the innocent, blameless, and vulnerable, whether they be human or non-human targets) and therefore sub-human males and the acts of verbal and physical violence, intolerance, and hatred against cats are also “killing the female” to many of these males as well as the females who presumably have been raised in cat-hating families. Many of these people go on to commit acts of violence against humans.
Eric Mills says
A relevant poem by former U.S. Poet Laureate, William Stafford (in the collection, “The Way It Is”):
Animals full of light
walk through the forest
toward someone aiming a gun
loaded with darkness.
That’s the world: God
letting it happen again,
and again and again.
Penelope Smith says
Thank you for your very perceptive, engrossing, and encouraging article re the demise of hunting.
Happy New Year!
B Smith says
Agree, hunting is deplorable. But I have several friends who flew to Africa to hunt, I can’t believe they did this. Africa does depend on money from the USA. It just makes me sick. I can set out a mouse trap without guilt, but killing an Elk is another matter. I don’t agree with the theses, the Big Box hunting stores are doing a great business, so hunting is big. Look at these Mega Hunting Stores, and the size of their catalogues! Its Big. I love fish, most are bred by state fisheries. Killing wild mammals is another thing. Again most wild animals are also being bred sustainably for market. We no longer need to hunt.
Merritt Clifton says
The dollar volume done by sporting goods stores and web sites catering to hunters and the actual numbers of hunters in the field bear no direct relationship to each other, for reasons detailed at book length by Deerland author Al Cambronne (reviewed here: Too many deer? Spotlighting the “deer-industrial complex”.)
The gist of it is that as hunters age, from the “Shooter” stage to the “Method” stage, the amount of time and money they spend in actual pursuit of animals declines sharply, even as the amount of time and money they expend on hunting preparations, accessories, travel to hunting sites, leasing hunting land, and taxidermy soars.
Did you see the lower range of hunter numbers in the survey? Dicks is dropping hunting with little effect. I track the numbers of animals killed. The surveys are getting low response rates from low samples. There seem to be less than 10 million squirrels killed now, down from 26 million at the turn of the century, but the real number is probably closer to 2 to 5 million.
Nobody in my family hunted. My dad fished, bringing home trout three times a week from the Madison River in season to feed his wife and three children in the middle of the Depression.
He grew up the fourth in a family of 12, and there was never enough to eat. Once his Uncle Charlie shot enough squirrels to make a pot of stew and had Daddy and his next younger brother Jesse over to eat. They ate until they could barely move, the only time they had ever had enough to eat.
Other than that, I never heard any stories of hunting by anyone, and I can’t picture any of the menfolk going off to a hunting camp or doing any of the other activities.
Years later my boys took the 4-H gun safety course, but they lost all interest in shooting anything after that.
My brother never went hunting. My husband and his dad went out hunting once. Bill said that he was sitting there watching a deer run past and realized as the deer disappeared from sight that he did not want to shoot anything. I don’t know his dad ever went hunting after that or even before that. I never heard about any of it.
I never did like Hemingway.
All this to say that I realize that there is a hunting culture, but it has never been part of my life. If we keep multiplying, there won’t be any hunters left.
Peggy W Larson, DVM MS JD says
I grew up on a farm/cattle ranch. Never thought much about sentience and animals until I was in vet school. I worked as a research technician for a neurosurgeon while I was in school. He would take me to brain autopsies on humans and describe the anatomy and functions of the human brain. Over in the vet school, I was studying animal brains in anatomy and histology. THE ANATOMY AND FUNCTIONS WERE THE SAME! Only the size was different.
That is when I realized that animals were no different from humans and began a life-long desire to help animals.
I was at a Fish and Wildlife Board meeting last year to protest against trapping. As a veterinarian, I have treated trapped dogs and cats and they suffer serious injuries and pain. A man who was a trapper was leaving the meeting and made this statement to me and a friend “Animals don’t feel pain anyway.” I wonder if hunters have the same attitude towards animals?
I’ve hunted since age 5. I am 50. Very out dated references. And somewhat sexiest!! Very disappointed!
Doris Muller says
Those who take joy in killing are all afflicted with the same conscienceless tendencies. In most cases, the killing urges were indoctrinated by prevailing value systems and their own families. The standard hunter’s mantra of justification goes something like this: I eat what I kill; I help manage nature (which by-the-way didn’t need managing until humans interfered); I contribute to nature by purchasing licenses (Never mind that these licensing programs were put in place to keep conscienceless humans from decimating all of the living nature); I reduce the deer population which leads to less traffic accidents (BS); I carry on tradition (Some traditions are just too cruel, and they should not be handed down); I pray for the animals I kill (dead animals don’t need prayers, but brutal, violent, conscienceless human killers do). If your ancestors didn’t hunt, you wouldn’t be here. (if a person never existed, would that person have ancestors?); I donate the “meat” to support charitable programs (They donate the bodies of victims to gain emotional support for their joy-of-killing).
A more accurate hunter’s mantra: I enjoy killing animals; I get a huge thrill out of stalking; killing animals is good target practice; I love to brag about my killing successes; I feel empowered by killing; I love all the hunting accouterments; stalking and killing animals is a fun and exciting way to use my weapons; I love the comradery with my like-minded buddies; while I’m stalking and killing, it’s all about me, therefore, I could care less about the life of an animal. I tell others that I pray for the dead animal, that way, others will think I care about the victim: Sure, I will consume the victim, after I experience the thrill of killing it.
Regardless of the species of the victim, A KILLER BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A KILLER!
Doris Muller says
Recently, I exchanged comments with a serial killer psychopath on a site about saving wolves. This killer, while admitting to killing every other species, has empathy for wolves, perhaps because of their dog connection. The following is a partial exchange of comments the two of us had:
His response to one of my comments, “Viciousness? Serial killing? Psychopaths? It is hunting, not murder. Quit trying to humanize something that is not.”
My response: Society indoctrinated society to refer to those who are animal serial killers as “hunters.” As society puppets, we comply. The truer title for anyone who displays conscienceless, vicious, joy of killing, regardless of species being killed, is serial killing psychopath.
The fact that you can kill a living being, who has GREAT capacity to suffer, without feeling any remorse, and, in fact feel great satisfaction, definitely qualifies you as a psychopath. Of course, you refuse to accept the truth.
You ask, “I would assume your statements mean all hunting is bad? ” When the serial killing of any living being is done for the thrill of doing so, society should be concerned. The ISIS faction’s victim is the human species. Nonetheless, this faction thrills in accomplishing its victim goal. The difference between the animal killers and the human killers, in regards to their lack of conscience, is one is legal and the other is not.
(Edited down from excessive length to focal points)
All of this pseudo science is blowing my mind. You can’t actually believe the reaching judgements you’re going for here, right? Adrenaline release during sex and a landed shot is hardly related, just as your breastfeeding neurochem releases aren’t related to the same ones being released during sex or arguments!
Cherry picking examples about teen boys with likely mental illness who just so happen to hunt is absurd.
This “men wanna be big tough guys, deer look like women, so that means they wanna kill women,” idea is absolute bull. Anthropomorphizing your wildlife and throwing your emotions onto it will only hurt the point you’re trying to make.
I really hope that this article doesn’t dishearten a young man or woman from hunting if they enjoy it. Kicking up sand around the issue isn’t going to work.
Barb Smith says
I can understand hunting to feed a family of several children. So its not fair to condemn all hunters. But hunting just for the sport is actually kind of nauseating. Like eating a 28 ounce steak just for the experience of gorging on meat. But I don’t condemn hunting and fishing to feed a family. Personally I like fresh trout. I know people who hunt for the comradeship and exercise, but its not the same as feeding a family. Buying a hunting license supports the state wildlife agency, so yes I sometimes buy a license and never use it just to support wildlife. If you get lost in the mountains its a great insurance policy the state does not charge you for assistance.
Merritt Clifton says
We are now several generations past the last point in history when any significant percentage of hunters authentically hunted “to feed a family of several children,” or even just themselves. U.S. per person meat expenditure currently averages upward of $600 per year, or $1,560 per average household of 2.6 people. Per hunter expense averages $2,226 per year (not counting capital expenses such as hunting land acquisition.) This is just under the total meat expenditure for a household of four adults, and much more than the average meat expenditure for a household of two adults plus two children.
Doris Muller says
Barb, it’s a well documented fact that NOBODY(!) needs to eat other beings to live or to be healthy. Killing and eating defenseless victims started out of need, it continues out of greed. Those who use the the excuse of “feeding the family,” are using this *excuse* to justify their self-serving arrogant psychopathic joy-of-killing behavior. If animal flesh constituted 100% of their diet, they might have a case. However, it is only a portion of what constitutes their diet.
“Buying a hunting license supports the state wildlife agency…” That’s true. But the question is, why were these agencies established? Without these agencies, the dangerous human predators would joyfully decimate the living nature while engaging in their psychopathic pleasure.
This is one area of society where we need to wake up and stop being puppets who follow blindly to the acceptance of humans deliberately killing defenseless creatures for the sheer joy of doing so. We need to hold governments responsible for supporting vicious, cruel psychopathic behavior, with laws that allow it. ALL creatures, not just cats and dogs, should be protected by laws, against the most dangerous predator on earth.
Merritt & Beth Clifton, editors, ANIMALS 24-7 says
Editor’s note: Practically any public discussion of hunting soon brings a lengthy posting from an individual of unverifiable identity reciting talking points in favor of “ethical hunting,” all of which rest to varying degree on false claims and half-truths.
Among the reciting talking points received in response to “Killing the Female: The Psychology of the Hunt” were the following, stated in summary with brief rebuttal:
If you think that you’re doing anything better for the environment than your local ethical hunters
Note the change of topic from the psychology of hunters to “the environment.”
Note also the presumption that there are “ethical hunters,” when the act of recreationally killing another being is inherently unethical in every major religious and philosophical tradition, hence the urgency with which recreational hunters strive to assert other alleged motives for pursuing killing as “sport.”
who participate in special hunts ordered by the game and wildlife commission
Reality is that those hunters are not participating in anything under “orders” comparable to military orders. Rather, they are participating in events promoted in the belief that hunters will buy more licenses to kill more animals if they are encouraged to do so.
People should go to their neighbors for venison, rabbit, turkey, etc. INSTEAD of to the grocery store to pick up a nicely wrapped bundle of meat that harbors no signs of previous life, but took over ten people to create it.
Since more than 75% of Americans live in urban areas far from any legal hunting, and since the numbers of animals raised for meat on factory farms (close to 10 billion) vastly exceeds the legally huntable U.S. wildlife population, let alone the 100 million or so animals who are hunted, this seems to be an unwitting recommendation that most Americans should reduce their meat consumption by about 99%.
But while doing that, why not go all the way and quit eating meat altogether? Nothing could help the environment more, including to help roll back global warming.
Not eating meat is simply not enough.
But nothing makes a greater start.
Hunting, when done as we’re all supposed to, is to create new opportunities in the gene pool, take the sick out, take the injured out.
This is what natural predators do. What human hunters do, for the most part, is target the biggest, healthiest bucks, the biggest fish, etc., eliminating them and their possible descendants from the gene pool.
We’ve taken predators away from their prey, so we have to step in or there will be massive imbalances (which have already been forming for years) in both the wild and in our neighborhoods.
It is not non-hunters who hold coyote-killing contests, clamor for culling wolves, made lynx an endangered species, kill bears by the thousands, and hound pumas and bobcats to the point that many have fled rural areas to live quietly in suburbs where they are not hunted, rarely causing any trouble for humans.
More people die from deer every year than any other wild animal because of their overpopulation and acclimation to humans making them unafraid. They’re killing fauna from hyper-grazing, they’re killing us through car crashes and attacks.
Can anyone cite an instance of a wild deer ever killing anyone?
Indeed, as many as 200 people per year are killed in deer/car collisions, but the creature causing most of those accidents is the one with his/her foot on the gas pedal. The surest way to avoid those accidents is to learn and make a reflexive driving habit of 29 ways to avoid hitting animals that may save your life too!
Do you enjoy hiking? Do you use public land? We, hunters, pay for that land to stay public and clean.
In truth, state and federal licensing fees and Pittman-Robertson excise taxes on outdoor equipment (including much that is purchased by non-hunters) make up less than a third of the cost of funding state and federal wildlife agencies, and have almost no part in funding other public land management agencies that provide recreational access and wildlife habitat, such as the National Parks Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management, along with their state and local equivalents. For further info, see Killing for Fun(ds), by Laura Nirenberg, Trevor Desane, & E. Anne Benaroya Center for Wildlife Ethics.
In 2016 it was found that women are on the rise in outdoor sports. We’re at 11% of hunters
According to the 2016 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, & Wildlife-Associated Recreation, “Of the U.S. population 16 years and older, 8 percent of males and 1 percent of females enjoyed hunting in 2016. Of the 11.5 million participants who hunted, 90 percent (10.3 million) were male and 10 percent (1.1 million) were female.”
This means that while the population of male hunters has fallen by nearly half, the number of female hunters is still just about what it was more than 40 years ago, not growing, despite aggressive recruitment efforts by the hunting industry.
Karen Davis, PhD author says
Re: Pro-hunting comment:
“More people die from deer every year than any other wild animal because of their overpopulation and acclimation to humans making them unafraid. They’re killing fauna from hyper-grazing, they’re killing us through car crashes and attacks.”
Anyone who lives in rural areas as I do (Virginia) and have done (Pennsylvania) knows that the hunting establishment, using tax dollars, manipulates the environment specifically to increase deer populations. For example, “corn stations” are maintained specifically to feed the deer. Vegetation is managed by burning to create more browse for the deer. Every effort is made to ensure an “overpopulation” of the animals hunters just happen to want to shoot. Pheasants are specifically factory-farmed for the purpose of canned pheasant “hunting.” Likewise, quail-breeding farms in Florida and elsewhere are maintained for the specific purpose of recreationally blasting these little birds to pieces. Interesting how Fish & Wildlife and its supporters blame the animals for their “overpopulations,” endangerment of humans and other situations deliberately cultivated by the blood-sport constituency. The rhetoric of exploitation always cynically involves blaming the victim as an excuse to make them suffer.
Thank you, Animals 24-7, for addressing these pro-hunting (“hunting”) assertions factually.
Karen Davis, President, United Poultry Concerns http://www.upc-online.org
Buckshot Bill says
Nothing gets my dick harder than wounding a wild pig and having to walk up on him while hes squealing and cut his throat from ear to ear so as to save the extra bullet it would take to end his pathetic crying. Absolutely love that I can legally slay these animals whenever I want with whatever I want and its totally legal. Want pics?