Got an interesting note in my email this morning.  At first read, I sort of doubted the authenticity of the source, claiming to be 15 year-old “Jessica”, a high-school freshman researching “The Dangers of Hunting”.  Despite the all-caps (implying that she was yelling at me) and the run-ons, it wasn’t a badly written letter.  So after a while I decided that it didn’t really matter if this was bait from someone I knew, or a real email … I’d respond anyway.  What the heck, right? 

Anyway, here’s what Jessica wrote:

HELLO [she used my email address, which I’ve deleted here to avoid spambots],

 I THINK THAT YOUR WEBSITE IS A DISASTER, I CANT BELIEVE THAT YOU THINK HUNTING IS SO GOOD!!!  I AM WRITING A PAPER ON THE DANGERS OF HUNTING AND WHY IT IS SO BAD, AND I CAME ACROSS YOUR WEBSITE JUST TO SEE WHAT I CAN FIND!!! BUT IF ANYTHING THIS WEBSITE ANGERED ME!!! I WAS WALKING HOME FROM SCHOOL YESTERDAY, AND SAW A TRUCK PULL UP AT THE STOP SIGN WITH A DEAD BUCK LYING ON THE FLAT-BEDED TRUCK. IT MADE ME CRY TO THINK OF ALL THE THINGS YOU PEOPLE DO TO ANIMALS IN OUR SOCIETY!!! I ASK FOR HELP IN CON HUNTING ALTHOUGH ALL I GET IS MORE AND MORE PAGES ABOUT HOW HUNTING IS A SPORT AND WHAT IF THEY TOOK OUR REGULAR AND DAILY SPORTS AWAY HOW WOULD WE FEEL… PERSONALLY I WOULDNT CARE JUST AS LONG AS YOU PEOPLE STOP HUNTING!!! I AM A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL AND IT SADDENS ME THAT ALL THE HUNTING YOU GUYS DO… THERE MAY NOT BE THAT MANY ANIMALS LEFT FOR MY CHILDREN TO SEE… THANKS FOR LETTING ME TAKE MY ANGER OUT… AND IF YOU GET OFFENDED I AM SORRY… IT JUST ANGERS ME TO THE FACT THAT YOU HUNTERS LOVE TO RUN OUT AND “SHOOT YOU UP A BUCK…” I MEAN SERIOUSLY IT WOULD BE DIFFERENT IF IT WAS THE END OF THE WORLD AND YOU NEEDED FOOD… THEN MAYBE GO SHOOT A DEER OR SOMETHING… BUT NOT JUST FOR PLEASURE OR AS A SPORT…. I MEAN COME ON…THANK YOU!!!

                                                                    – JESSICA

                                                                        AGE: 15

The following is my response. 

Hi Jessica,

I can understand how hunting must look to someone who doesn’t participate in the sport.  It seems harsh, I’m sure, and maybe even a little bit scary.  I mean, here are these people with big guns out there killing “innocent” animals.  Right?  It probably looks mean and wasteful.  It makes you angry because you don’t understand.  And, human nature tells us to fear what we do not understand.  So your feelings are understandable. 

But I ask you to step back from your own prejudices for a moment and consider a couple of things. 

First of all, you wrote that you are afraid that there may not be any animals left if we keep hunting.  You should be aware though, that legal sport hunting has never been responsible for the eradication of any game species.  In fact, after hunting seasons and laws were enacted, the populations of most game species actually increased.  An example is the whitetail deer, once nearly extinct in the southeastern United States due to market hunting (not the same as sport hunting) and habitat loss.  Through the efforts of sportsmen and paid for by the money raised from the sale of licenses and hunting equipment, whitetail are now one of the most populous big game species in the country.  Wild turkeys, elk, and waterfowl are all similar conservation success stories.  Sport hunters did this.  While we may strive to kill a few individual animals, our efforts ensure that there are many more there to replace them. 

The fact is, without hunting many of the animals you love to see would very likely not exist any more.  Hunters put billions of dollars into conservation, both through license and tag fees and through voluntary contributions to conservation organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  These organizations buy and manage wild lands, not only for the specific game animals but for all of the creatures that depend on the habitat to survive.  Without this conservation effort, millions of acres would have been plowed under, paved over, or developed for housing and industry.  In the US , hunters put more money into saving the environment than any other special interest group, including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, or the Audubon Society.  PETA, the animal rights and anti-hunting organization, has made NO demonstrable donation to habitat restoration or the environment that supports the animals they claim to represent. 

I challenge you to talk to some hunters about what they do.  Speak to them as individuals, as you have written to me.  Abandon your stereotypes for a moment, and see the hunters as people.  Very few of us hunt simply because we like to kill things.  The kill is an integral part of hunting, but it is never the sole motivation. 

Most hunters strive to kill humanely and quickly.  In most cases, the kill is more efficient than the methods employed in the slaughterhouse, and the animals feel little or no pain.  The majority of hunters feel a sense of sadness when we kill an animal, and we accept the responsibility for the results of our actions.  This is much more than can be said for the average person who doesn’t even realize how many animals are killed or displaced simply to ensure the comforts of daily life. 

I cannot rationalize why hunters hunt in a way that could ever make sense to a non-hunter.  I cannot explain why we feel it is ok to kill for sport in terms that would ease your own discomfort with the idea.  It is, quite simply, a difference of opinion.  Nothing more.  You see it one way, and I see it another. 

But at the same time, I challenge you to consider how you would make your case against hunting.  Show me how legal, sport hunting is harmful to the environment or to the game species that we pursue.  Give me data that supports an allegation that hunting creates a psychotic detachment from the value of life.  And provide me with an alternative source of funding to support the wildlife habitat, research, and restoration that is paid for by hunters’ dollars.  But I warn you that other people have tried, and the facts simply don’t bear them out. 

It always comes back to your emotional position.  You, personally, could never directly take the life of an animal, so you cannot understand why someone else thinks it’s OK.  That’s normal… it’s OK.  I don’t mind that you’re exploring your feelings here, nor do I mind that you’ve chosen to voice them to me.  I can appreciate where you’re coming from.

Likewise, although I’ve given you some facts and logic in support of hunting, let me give you my personal and emotional position.

By hunting, I am making myself a part of nature in the most real way there is.  Life and death are part of the world we live in, and hunting grounds me in that reality.  When I choose to kill (and I often choose not to), I am choosing to embrace my role as a predator and to take direct responsibility for the meat I will eat and feed my family…even if this role only lasts a fleeting bit of time.  The blood on my hands reminds me that everything has a cost, and my survival is only ensured by the death of something else… and at some point, my death will likely provide life to something else.  This is where we come from.  We are, after all, animals too.  We are nothing special, and hunting serves as a great reminder of that fact.  Even with technological superiority, the game outwits me more often than I outwit it.  I come away remembering my place, and with a renewed respect for wild nature, and with a sense of self that no other pursuit provides.   

I leave you with this.

Be yourself, Jessica.  Hold to your convictions, but explore them carefully.  Do not be quick to judge things that you do not understand, but continue to challenge them.  Learn all that you can, and dissect the facts until you’re satisfied that there is no hidden truth you haven’t discovered. 

And understand too that some things simply can’t be broken down into quantifiable pieces.  You have to set your values and live by them, but respect the fact that your values are your own…and mine are my own.  They don’t have to be the same.

Respectfully,

Phillip Loughlin

I don’t know if this came off as patronizing, or if I was too soft on her?  How would you, fellow hunting bloggers, have dealt with this?  And if you’re a reader who doesn’t hunt, do you think this response was a positive thing?