Friday, March 10, 2006


As we all know, pudgy Old Dick shot his hunting comrade during a fit of mindless recklessness. Cheney admits to having one beer before the so-called "hunt," but he could have been half drunk - all we have is his word (for what little it's worth) that he was not drunk. Hunters commonly drink beer during hunting trips, probably because it adds to the thrill - the fun - of killing innocent animals.

Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing said Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting. Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.

Hunters like to think of their sport as relatively safe and virtually all hunters imagine themselves to be expert marksmen. Even crazy Old Dick was considered - or at least he considered himself - to be an experienced marksman.

Despite what newspapers and hunters tell us, hunting is a potentially dangerous sport! Every year, about 100 people are killed by hunters in the U.S., and approximately 1,000 people are wounded. Hunters can and will shoot too close to houses, roads, hikers and campers. According to the International Hunter Education Association, in 1995, 1130 non-fatal hunting accidents occured, and 112 people were killed. In 1996, 957 humans were wounded and 91 humans were killed by hunters. Ted Nugent claims to kill every domestic cat that he sees, and you may read about his animal-killing insanity on my Antihunting Resource Site.

Pet owners who live near hunting areas may find their beloved pets dead or missing. Hunters typically hate predators - especially coyotes - but they also hate any number of animals based on arbitrary notions of what constitutes a "good" animal as opposed to a "bad" animal. This type of thinking opens up a whole can of worms. Stray cats and dogs - because they're feral - are perceived as fair game to some people. We'll never know how many domesticated animals have been shot by hunters; there is no record keeping on this matter.

Sport hunters want nonhunters to believe that hunting is a serious sport for dedicated conservationists. They would have us believe that hunters don't enjoy getting drunk and killing animals, that they don't trespass and harass people, that all of their depravity is part of a serious conservation effort. And wildlife agencies are more than happy to present "outdoorsmen" as dedicated souls who kill only out of sheer necessity. Now, I'm not stating that slaughtering BILLIONS of animals for cheap junk food is okay, or that rodoes, ranching, and vivisection is just fine, either. Sport hunting is just one aspect of institutionalized human-caused suffering on this planet of misery.

From an ethical standpoint, hunting is very unimpressive. The hunting community is mainly composed of grown men (and some women) with nothing more intelligent to do than kill little birds and animals because it provides fun and excitement for people who need to feel potent. No matter how abysmally cruel or wasteful hunting is, it will always be defended by the hunting community.

Hunters fancy themselves as part of a natural cycle. Of course they are part of the cycle that kills and destroys, not the part that gives life or protects. The hunter only wants to be the hunting part of the cycle; even when stalking those relatively few species of animal capable of utilizing a human as prey, the sportsman is careful to overwhelmingly stack the deck in his favor through access to various forms of trickery augmented by heavy firepower.

But no less important to the sportsman than his high-tech killing toys is his (or her, but more often it's men who are sport hunters) unquestioned faith in a complex, shimmering, and fragile fabrication of myth, half-truths, self-delusion, and denials. In these essays we'll explore a few (not all) of those myths. Much of the followng writings are derived from Barry MacKay's essays which are posted on my Antihunting Resource Site.


Most folks are not sport hunters, but do not particularly oppose the practice, although those who do seem to be a growing majority in the U.S. Within their ranks are those who actively oppose sport hunting, characterized by the hook-and-bullet fraternity as the dreaded "antis." They are called "antis" because they are "anti-hunting." The phrase is favored by sport hunters because it is negative. The ranks of sport hunters, themselves, are in

The majority of Americans are not sport hunters, and so have no personal experience with which to counter the myth. Among that not-so-small minority - the true "antis" who are actively opposed to sport hunting - few have much (or any) personal experience with hunting. However, in their desire to rescue animals from the suffering and death needlessly imposed by sport hunters, the antis have a powerful weapon: Fact.

The simple fact is that sport hunting is cruel- bloody cruel! It can't be otherwise. It is important to note that animal cruelty is a gigantic nonisssue within the hunting community, because animal cruelty is the very essense of hunting itself. There are absolutely no laws preventing people from committing horrible acts of cruelty against wild animals. Futhermore, these vicious acts are done away from public view, because while the public may tolerate killing wild animals, most people do not care to witness it.

Studies on wounding rates clearly show the suffering imposed by bow hunters; black-powder hunters; varmint hunters; waterfowl hunters; big game trophy hunters and so on. Virtually anyone who has had experience with hunters and hunting can refer to compelling personal anecdotes relating to the brutality of sport hunting. The cruelty of hunting is exposed in any wildlife rehabilitation center within reach of a hunting area.

The problem is this: Each hunter you meet will deny responsibility for being the source of such horrible suffering. I have, more than once, sat with hunters in a blind, heard them say things like "Got a piece of him ..." or "Stung that one …" or "Bet he felt that..." as ducks wavered, but did not fall, when struck by shotgun pellets. And I have had those same hunters, later in the day, claim with apparent sincerity that hunting was NOT cruel and that they, themselves, were "good" hunters who took care not to wound birds.


Sport hunters often become utterly absorbed by such details and will endlessly debate the merits of this or that combination of powder, shot size, barrel length, and choke. However, in the end the shotgun's nickname, "scattergun," holds true. A stream of pellets is blown out of a barrel at high speed, spreads and loses velocity (energy) as it travels down range, and hits the target. If there are large gaps in the pattern, there is an increased likelihood of wounding.

Shot sizes are numbered, with the smaller number designating the larger pellet. Number two shot might be used for geese or hares, number four or six for ducks, number seven and a half or nine for doves, snipe, cottontails, or quail.

The diameter of the barrel, called the gauge, dictates how much shot and powder can be used, as does chamber length. When a target is moving the spread of pellets should be wide enough to include the target (thus the aim need not be deadly accurate) but dense enough to produce a kill. Shotgun shell manufacturers recommend six pellets of sufficient size and velocity as the number that, upon hitting a moving duck, should bring it down. However, the amount of damage done obviously depends on where those pellets hit. A single pellet penetrating the brain may bring instant death.

I was once brought a merganser who had escaped hunters, and she eventually tired and came to earth with no more obvious an injury that a shattered leg (which prevented her from again becoming airborne - mergansers must run along the surface of the water to take flight.) However, when the duck was X-rayed she had, in fact, six pellets in her body. She was still alive, still suffering. Whoever shot her presumably did not know or care what happened to her, but presumably would vigorously defend the "sport" of waterfowl shooting. Incidentally, mergansers, are often not eaten. It may be illegal to waste game, but the law is unenforceable.

Waterfowl killers are notoriously wasteful. The October 2005 issue of Field & Stream highlighted the documented fact that ducks and geese are excessively wounded and crippled by waterfowl hunters. Even some hunters admit to the wastefulness of duck hunting, but their concern has little or no effect on waterfowl killers who are driven by their need to kill innocent birds.

Getting back to shotguns: It's important to realize the nature of shotguns to appreciate their inescapable cruelty. If the target is too close, the pattern has not spread out enough to make it easy to hit. If hit by most of the shot, a bird or other animal will die quickly, full of lead. A bird that is too close may be blown into pieces. If too far away from the gun the spread of the shot pattern may be wide enough to make hitting the bird an easy matter, but too few pellets may hit to bring the bird down, or with too little velocity to penetrate a vital organ. The bird is wounded, but may get away, to die or to recover. The angle at which pellets strike the bird will also be a factor in how deep they penetrate.

Shotguns are meant for moving targets. You don't "aim" a shotgun so much as point it. The fact that the "target" (waterfowl, upland game birds, hares, rabbits and God knows what else) is moving contributes to the "sport." The expression "a sitting duck," meaning a person who is extremely vulnerable, derives from the "unsporting" act of shooting a duck sitting on the water. No skill is required to hit a sitting duck. (No hunter would admit to shooting a sitting duck, of course, but you have to wonder why so many decoys have pellet holes in them.)

But precisely because the target is moving and because of the numerous variables contributing to the shot pattern, wounding is inevitable. Rates of wounding have been estimated in different ways. Spend any time watching waterfowl hunters at their sport and you will hear many shots for every duck or goose that is dropped to the water and retrieved.

The nature of shotgun patterns dictates that between a kill and a clean miss there are variants were a few pellets strike the target and wounding occurs. Some hunters are "sky busters" who fire at birds out of range, hoping that a stray pellet will do enough damage to drop a bird.

The proof of high wounding rates exists, in part, in the percentage of wild-caught waterfowl who, when X-rayed, are found to be carrying shotgun pellets in their bodies. These are the "lucky" ones who survived the wounding. Many have the pellets encapsulated just beneath the skin, where tissue has grown around them. We can hope that such birds suffered little. Those who were somewhat more severely wounded tend to die in the marsh or woods, unseen.

Years ago I used to search marshes and shorelines on Sundays, when hunting was suspended for a day, to pick up the dead and dying birds. I can't translate their numbers into an exact statistic, but I do know from such personal experience that many birds are wounded by the practice of waterfowl hunting. And I know from many conversations with hunters that each one generally prefers to think that he, at least, is not responsible for such suffering. (And although I emphasize suffering, it does not mean that I'm indifferent to the act of killing even when death is instantaneous.)

In the prairies one study determined a wounding rate of waterfowl of over 30%, but I defy you to find a single waterfowl hunter who will admit that three out of ten birds he shoots are wounded. Someone is responsible for all those wounded birds - millions each year - but it's a responsibility the myth-believing hunter will rarely acknowledge.


Wildlife commissions in Western states are controlled by ranching, hunting, trapping and outfitter representatives. Each state's governor appoints a disproportionate number of hunters and pro-hunting representatives and a much smaller percentage of pro-wildlife advocates to its dubious "wildlife commission."

In eleven Western states, mountain lion hunters use packs of trained hounds fitted with radio telemetry equipment. To track these cats, a trophy hunter releases a pack of dogs fitted with radio transmitters. The hunter monitors the chase on a handheld directional antenna. When the dogs eventually tree a lion, the hunter picks up a stationary signal on his or her antenna, walks to the site and shoots the harassed, treed animal. And they call this hunting!

Ah, but wait, it gets worse. For the "sportsman's" personal amusement - sanctioned by wildlife agencies - mountain lions sometimes fight the dogs, resulting in bloody battles. More commonly, the dogs may find and tear apart lion cubs and according to my research, hounds become lost or injured while fighting and tracking lions. This is blatant animal cruelty at its finest with no ecological or ethical justification.

Research at Utah State University indicates that in some areas, cub mortality from maulings and orphaning is as significant as adult harvest. Mountain lion hunting amounts to little more than depraved cruelty and crass, commercialized hunting.

In Alaska a judge halted the state's "wolf control program" on Jan 17, 2006. This program has been on - and - off again since the early 1990s. The idea of the hunt is to kill wolves who are preying on hunters' favorite big game species. In reality, the wolves pose no threat to Alaskan ungulate populations. "Wolf control" is about giving a few twisted macho men a chance to blow away a wolf ... from an airplane. How sporting!

Hunters and ranchers want a hunting season on grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area where the bears have barely rebounded to a paultry 600 in number - Yellowstone is not exactly teeming with grizzlies.

Deliberate mismanagement of big game species is commonplace in the United States. Consider that white-tailed deer are nearly ubiquitous in the Eastern states. However, the mere presence of deer in a suburban area, munching on flowers and sapplings does not justify calling SWAT teams of hunters or game wardens to "solve" the perceived problem, if a problem even exists. Remember that hunters and game wardens are responsible for massive mismanagement of deer from Michigan to Pennsylvania to Alabama.