Coyotes, deer, and the very idea of ‘game’

Photo by Christopher Bruno

A few nights ago, coyotes yipped and howled nearby. I was delighted to hear them.

Granted, I was in bed at the time. My sentiments would, I suspect, be substantially different if I was, say, deep in the woods with a turned ankle and no flashlight.

The next day I got thinking about those wild yelps, and about coyotes.

Here in Vermont, some hunters are happy to have coyotes around, and never think of killing them. Other hunters despise coyotes and shoot them at every opportunity. Still others are somewhere in the middle: perhaps ambivalent, perhaps hunting them occasionally, perhaps happy to co-exist as long as Fido and Sylvester aren’t getting snatched from the backyard.

These hunters would, I imagine, respond in various ways to Aldo Leopold’s thoughts about predators on the land:

Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators; you cannot conserve the waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm. The land is one organism.

Photo courtesy Charles & Clint Robertson

What catches my eye in that passage is the word “game.”

As a broad category,  of course, it simply indicates creatures that we hunt or catch. “Game” says deer, not shrew. It says grouse, not egret. It says bass, not minnow.

But doesn’t it also say something else?

By saying “game,” don’t we stake some kind of claim on these creatures? Don’t we define them as somehow different from other “wildlife,” perhaps one step closer to “livestock,” to “property”?

When hunters talk about what impact coyotes do or don’t have on white-tailed deer numbers, isn’t the entire discussion built on the very idea of “game”? On the notion that deer—almost like cows and sheep, or Fido and Sylvester—are, at least in part, off-limits to coyotes?

What are the consequences of believing that certain wild animals should be killed and eaten only—or at least mostly—by two-footed predators, not four-footed?

© 2010 Tovar Cerulli


  1. Casey Harn says:

    Yeah, I think a lot of that thinking comes from being in competition with other predators since time immemorial. As far as consequences to that kind of thinking, I’m afraid that I may not be capable of thinking that far out. A lot of these predators were almost hunted to extinction, and as for me, I am glad of the forward thinkers in this arena showed us the problems in time.

    But I’m thinking our “competition” with the other predators won’t go away. And, those other predators also prey on us…

  2. Hi Tovar,
    Good thought provoking post that has struck a chord with me in a way that is difficult for me to explain (laying deeper thoughts or feelings on the table has never been a strong point of mine). Aldo Leopold’s quote sums up some of how I feel in that this sphere that we live on is so interlinked, from the smallest of creatures to the enormous cycles of weather that shape the land that it does seem to be a living entity.
    Unfortunately as humans we seem to have lost the connection with the rhythms and cycles of the planet and instead of being part of the whole we seem to be a parasite upon the outside. The majority, I feel, seem to shape their rules of how to treat the planet and what to take (take, not exchange) to what suits themselves as individuals and not facing or understanding the affects of millions of others doing the same.
    So yes we conveniently class different species to suit our needs, game becomes a title to one group that are exclusively ours to hunt, livestock are ours to consume and predators who partake of these earmarked species are to be treated with fear, loathing, enmity and must be eradicated to protect our existence and our ‘ordered view of how things should run. Unfortunately we forget that for every extinct species (predator or not) or man made desert a link is lost of the fabric of this planets life and ultimately may well lead to our own demise.
    Sorry if this is a tad rambling, like I said; laying deeper thoughts or feelings on the table has never been a strong point of mine.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, John. You did a fine job of “laying deeper thoughts or feelings on the table.” And I feel the same way about the links lost in the fabric of life.

  3. Art says:

    As always, Tovar, a very thought-provoking post.

    I have a love/hate relationship with coyotoes. And it’s not so much because they kill deer, as it is because they have become so over-populated in our area, that they have become dangerous – preying on small animals, and even children on occasion.

    And, being that I’m at the top of the food chain, and small children come first, I think it’s my responsibility to help control their numbers somewhat – to keep them in check, while still allowing them to be predators. But still keeping them in check so that they prey on the right things.

    The term “game” is interesting as well. I suppose I can “claim” particular animals, because of my religious beliefs, and because I believe they were put on this earth for us, but that still comes with a lot of responsibility, and requires one to only use and eat what he can. I don’t consider animals to be “mine”, though. They are a resource I get to use, and because of that, I have to use them responsibly – no senseless or wasteful killing.

    I do not think that we can be particular, though, as to what coyotes, or any predator for that matter, can prey on. We are merely part of the checks and balances that keep predator numbers from increasing to a point where they start to prey on things – such as humans and domestic pets – that aren’t really part of the process. That sounds like a little bit of a contradiction, though, I suppose. Hmmm…

    I’ll stop there, because I guess I’m rambling a bit.

    A very interesting topic, though.

    • Tovar says:

      Interesting thoughts, Art.

      Where my uncle lives on Cape Cod, the coyotes are about the same as you describe them in your area: quite numerous, often killing pets in people’s backyards, sometimes strolling down the road in broad daylight, occasionally getting into an altercation with a human (especially one trying to protect a pet). As other commenters below suggest, I’m not sure whether hunting them actually helps control their numbers much.

      I’m struck by your phrase “things – such as humans and domestic pets – that aren’t really part of the process.” I think that is how we often perceive ourselves: as separate from the process. We feel that we shouldn’t be prey, shouldn’t be part of the food chain. Inevitably, of course, we are, but we don’t like to think of it that way. (You might recall my very early post on this topic.)

      Yet many folks who hunt talk about “being part of nature.” Guess we’re fussy about which part!

  4. I was interviewing a Montana author recently, a guy who hunts and fishes, and somehow, coyotes come up. He’d lived on Montana ranches for forty years, and he said he’d seen a clear pattern: Coyotes never become a problem until people start trying to get rid of them. So he never shoots them.

    Me, I won’t shoot them unless I plan to eat them (or unless they’re threatening my animals). And because Hank refuses to cook anything dog-like, I won’t kill them (though I’ve heard from a guy who ate one on a dare that they taste like rabbit – not surprising, given that you are what you eat).

    But that’s not what your post is about; it’s about classification and competition.

    I follow the reintroduced-wolf/wolf-hunting debate (amazingly, without weighing in on it), and I’ve read a lot about the devastating impact wolves have had on elk herds.

    I’ve also read about how some old forests are regenerating because the wolves have brought the elk back down to numbers that are in balance with those ecosystems, so the elk aren’t devastating the forests anymore.

    The point of people who cite these facts is that we’ve grown so accustomed to hunting so many animals without competition that we forget what the real predator-prey balance is, and we bristle when another predator out there wants to eat the same animal we want. This seems consistent with other human attitudes: We have a long history of going to war over competition for resources.

    We’ve basically come to view our game animals as entitlements. And while I find this notion a bit repugnant, I have to say I buy into the entitlement mentality at least a little, because if someone told me I couldn’t hunt ducks anymore, with the time and money I put into duck conservation activity, I’d be pretty pissed.

    But I also try to stay aware that I’m not the only one who likes to eat them, and that other predators are entitled to their share.

    • Tovar says:

      Good points, Holly. I agree with you right down the line. I, too, have been thinking about how the eastern coyote situation does (and doesn’t) parallel the wolf situation in the Northern Rockies.

    • Ingrid says:

      I was interviewing a Montana author recently, a guy who hunts and fishes, and somehow, coyotes come up. He’d lived on Montana ranches for forty years, and he said he’d seen a clear pattern: Coyotes never become a problem until people start trying to get rid of them. So he never shoots them.

      This is absolutely true, Holly. We see it time and again with various species. Animals fill their biological niches and tend to over-reproduce to compensate for the population loss. When you look at any case of animal “over-population,” invariably it’s human involvement — included skewed game management principles — that lead to the imbalance. Humans are almost always at the root of these issues, and yet the predators are almost always penalized for their nature, while we reserve the entitlement to kill prey for ourselves. All hunting makes me sad, as you know. But this type of wanton destruction — particularly the types of predator control and hunting I’ve seen — simply disgusts, whether it’s at the hands of hunters or exterminators. Especially since it does, in fact, often perpetuate the extermination, owing to this biological principle.

      Norcalcazadora wrote: “I have to say I buy into the entitlement mentality at least a little, because if someone told me I couldn’t hunt ducks anymore, with the time and money I put into duck conservation activity, I’d be pretty pissed.”

      I wrote a very short thing on an off-shoot of this topic, not too long ago. We all have issues of entitlement. I’d be heartbroken if I could never set foot in a State Park or protected open space again. I was quite angry about Prop 21 not passing, our parks jeopardized by anemic funding. So, we all have some claim, real or illusory, in this corporeal existence.

      At the same time, in working with wildlife and seeing the travails that befall them at human hands and also through habitat loss, somewhere along the way, I made a decision that even if I could never photograph, see or even get near wild space or wild animals again, I would put all of my heart and soul into protecting their habitat — for their inherent value, for their well-being, irrespective of their utility to me.

      I’m not saying this is higher ground. My needs are different from the needs of another. But, harkening back to discussions we’ve had with Josh about utilitarianism and such, I’m suggesting that a sense of entitlement doesn’t have to be part of the equation. It tends to be because pragmatism in life often involves utilitarian considerations. My contention has always been that there’s a huge distinction between genuine need and want in this life. And I have a tough time rationalizing want, when it comes to harming another. That includes these predators.

      • Tovar says:

        Thanks for your thoughts, Ingrid. It’s good to hear your clear, heartfelt voice again.

        I hope that things are going well up in Seattle, and that you aren’t missing California too terribly!

        • sam says:

          There is some irony in the episode and what’s happened on the ground. Deer crop destruction laws were changed a year or so prior to the episode. This stemmed from a x-mas tree farmer in Stannard who killed something like 68 deer over a 3 year period. My numbers may be off, but kill was significant enough that it brought the ire of the hunting community. This pressure brought a change in the law that specifies only 3 deer may be killed. The hunting community thought the tree farmer shouldn’t be killing deer and he should fence his land to avoid damage. Prior to the law, there were several meetings in attempts to persuade the farmer to fence his land rather than kill deer. After the law passed, that is what he eventually did.

          The irony and double standard is that relative to wolves and coyotes, the hunting community position is completely opposite. Their position is eliminate the predators and that people shouldn’t have to secure their pets and livestock.

          In both cases, common sense says put up a fence and bring in your pets and livestock, but there is a different set of responses to what amounts to be the same problem.

          There is another irony in the deer crop damage laws. A landowner/farmer can’t obtain a license to kill nuisance deer if they post their property. Off hand, from a deer population perspective that sounds reasonable. However, crops grow in summer and deer season is in late fall after any harvest. During the summer, the deer population swells. In winter deer yard up. In spring they come out of yards, but don’t necessarily return to where they were in summer. This means killing deer during hunting season does nothing to the summer population or to lessen crop damage. Requiring the land be open for hunting is purely political. But not only that point, one has to think that deer (game) management is at the expense of farmers and others who might suffer deer related damage.

          • Tovar says:

            Good points, Sam. There certainly is a double-standard for “game” and “predators.” I do remember some of the brouhaha over the persistent deer-killing at the Christmas tree operation.

  5. Human hunters who view coyotes as competition do not suffer such prejudice alone. Animal predators do the same thing; wolves kill coyotes, coyotes kill foxes, lions kill hyenas, etc. etc.
    That said, every scientific study I’ve read on the topic of killing coyotes suggests the same conclusion as Holly’s rancher. The coyote population that’s pressured by hunting responds by more frequent breeding to counter the losses.

    • Tovar says:

      Hey, BB, thanks for commenting, and welcome!

      It’s true that other predators do sometimes kill each other. Humans, though, can be far more diligent about actual extermination, don’t you think? We have the technology (guns, poison, aircraft, etc) to do it. We also dominate a far broader range of geographic regions and ecosystems than any other predator I can think of.

      Yeah, I’ve read about those same studies, though I haven’t reviewed the data myself. They make me wonder: if coyotes, rather than wolves, had inhabited the eastern seaboard when European colonists arrived, would they ever have been completely extirpated?

  6. Matt Smythe says:

    Since many prey species, in Antiquity, held a divinity (born of mythology) it was taboo to disrespect or impede them. The term “game” in its earliest use denoted the honoring of prey species through fair chase…thus the phrase “a game chase” or “game chance.”

    As time went on and hunting larger, dangerous animals became more a sport for the rich and less a way of sustenance for the masses, classifications like big and small game came into play, and eventually “game” became the vernacular.

    I guess, in some way, we use the term “game” to indicate both ownership, and respect.

  7. sam says:

    I’m not sure there is any difference between “game” and livestock other than a fence. Consider what we do with game fish. For deer, we make specific habitat changes to maximize their numbers. We log to establish their habitat (at the same time destroying the habitat of other animals). We grow food plots, prune apple trees, etc. We protect winter yarding areas. For some reason, we need to see a deer behind every tree.

    There is a sense of entitlement. Perhaps if coyotes bought hunting licenses, the ones that despise coyotes would feel better about them.

    In my view, coyotes mostly eat mice. They will kill and eat deer, but that’s really a service to us since we manage the deer population at a precarious and unbalanced level.

    • Tovar says:

      Along the lines of the livestock analogy, I find it interesting how people refer, for example, to “Vermont’s deer herd.” It’s just a colloquial expression for “population,” but it makes it sound like one herd that travels around like a flock of sheep.

      Habitat management for deer goes way back, of course, on both sides of the Atlantic. Long before colonists set foot on the east coast of North America, native folks were managing the forest (especially with fire) to make deer more prevalent and easier to hunt. Whether they also tried to thin or eliminate the wolf population, I don’t know.

  8. Jason says:

    Interesting post, Tovar. Given that the word “game” has roots in Old English meaning “amusement,” I’ll bet if you trace the history of its usage for animals, it probably goes back to upper-class and royal traditions of sport-hunting — mainly for fun. And of course at that time all “game” belonged to the king.

    One way that the use of “game” has benefited wildlife in America is that game species are often managed differently (and one could argue more favorably) than species that are managed for commercial harvest or as predators or not at all. Although it’s hard to see from a non-hunter’s perspective, deer are actually managed with greater protection than, say, rattlesnakes. I’m not sure there are any laws preventing you from killing every rattlesnake you encounter, but there certainly are regulations about killing deer and other game. Not because game are more important to the ecosystem, but because they are more important to the economy in terms of license fees and equipment sales. I guess, in the end, it all comes down to which animals make us money and which animals cost us money. That’s why many of the new arguments for supporting wolf reintroduction focus on the money generated by tourism, wildlife watching, and even the emergence of bigger elk and deer as a result of wolves culling weak animals from herds. It’s sad that everything has to have an economic rationale, but that’s the world we live in.

  9. Lyingwolf says:

    As a hunter Ed instructor and taxidermist I’m often asked about coyotes and I take the Indian’s View. Old man coyote is here to stay, Loving parent, the trickster, he’s been shot and poisoned, trampled and trapped, God’s dog, a reflection of our selves, and at the top of the adaptability list, grass or carrion, apples or berries, able to adjust litter sizes, gov.’s have spent millions trying to stamp him out yet he remains. The afgan of the animal world, blamed for all, by all and still the ultimate survivor. The natural vacuum created by man was filled by this seemingly innocent carnivore that man helped shape through a hundred years of persecution into the animal that can hear a mouse under 14 inches of snow and live in downtown L. A. (Aprox.4000!) Kill him if you want, blame him if you must, but when the last man falls he will remain. ” The track of the coyote ” Great reading!

    • Lyingwolf, I love that!

      I once saw a coyote on the freeway near where I live in Sacramento County. He’d trot in the median, then hop on the jersey barrier and keep trotting, then down to the other side. It was rush hour and there was no way across the road, but it was like he was just saying, “I’ll figure this out, somehow.”

      I never did see his carcass on that stretch of freeway, so I always hoped he’d made it.

      • Lyingwolf says:

        Some coyotes are known for living quite some time. The best coyote nieghbors are dogs that don’t eat your sheep and they should be left alone. But sheep or cat killers should be dealt with immediately, as they teach young to eat sheep in a hunt or two. Farmers and ranchers learned long ago that an education in wild life was important and not to train wildlife to cash in on waste animals or grains. Disease transmission, parasites are of the utmost importance for both sides of the issue. All predators have some specialized methods to accomplish goals. The owl uses the tree stand method. The cat stalks and pounces. Man lies, ” I’m A tree, (camo) I’m A duck (call) I’m two buck’s fighting (rattling horns).
        The wolf tests them and runs them down and they know its coming. I hunt the worst state in the union,(Maine) for deer per square mile and the areas are vast. When snow comes we find the biggest buck tracks we can and follow up the deer, stalking and following his travels until I get close enough to shoot, if I can’t see him I’ll call to him (grunt , bleet) and lie . “I’m a deer!” Hoping he comes to me. If he wind’s me or knows I’m a man all bets are off and there is no more lieing and its a chase over miles of mountains and cedar swamps or rivers hoping to get a shot. The game goes where he decides, as far as he decides and if it gets dark , he wins . Probably the most satisfing way to test your self in the wild. Hense the name! The challenge and difficulty of a bedded mature animal at close quarters in thick timber, often bad weather, 30 miles from even the nearest home, not getting lost, prepared to spend the night if nessasary is the ultimate.You must read the ground like a book and pick up the clues. 1 or 2 mile drags are common. Woodsmanship, tools and outdoor skills are essential because if you break the laws of Nature you can die. Always wear orange, your moving and sounding real and hunters may think your a deer also. Not a great method for crowded places we have space. (for now!)

        • “The best coyote nieghbors are dogs that don’t eat your sheep and they should be left alone. But sheep or cat killers should be dealt with immediately, as they teach young to eat sheep in a hunt or two.”

          Probably much the same could be said of humans.

          • Tovar says:

            Lyingwolf: Thanks for chiming in. I agree that coyotes may well outlive us as a species, along with cockroaches, of course.

            Norcal: Why am I not surprised that you were the one to make that neighborly observation? 😉

            • It’s funny: Most of the time I just don’t have a very high opinion of humans. Then I’m reminded that we’re really a lot like all the other animals, which I love, so maybe I should give us a break. Then I’m reminded of our unwarranted sense of superiority and I feel justified…

  10. It may be a minor point, but …. We, as humans, use this labeling quite often to dismiss the value of not only animals, the environment, but each other. How often have you heard something like … “well, what do you expect, he’s a (fill in the blank, i.e. republican, protestant, hispanic, man, alcoholic). It is really a shame that we don’t appreciate things for what they really are, not what our labels say they are.

  11. Lyingwolf says:

    I went to the tundra to watch the great migrations , to experience their reaction to the wolf ,as lemmings and tarmigan scrambled out beneath my feet and permafrost cooled the water I drank from a puddle. I shot a barren cow caribou for the meat, and a majestic Bull, to complete the trip. Man ,,especially Americans ,love’s to travel & explore. It’s in our genes. To visit such a place of Wilderness, I am humbled and Blessed. I don’t lay claim to it, nor am I superior to it or it’s inhabitants. The bulls antlers remind me of my own exsistance, that I to am a product of mother earth and belong to something far geater then myself. His meat, hide and memories are now part of me and I belong in his world ,, ,, I feel better he’s part of mine.

  12. jim jelak says:

    great post. I recently wrote a similar piece about wolves in my area.
    i welcome the big predators, but they do give one something else to think about when out in the woods.
    thanks for a great blog.


  13. I have recently been pig hunting on a large cattle ranch up in Northern California, and while I was there, I was encouraged to kill any and all coyotes I saw. I was on a semi-guided hunt, and as we drove out the first evening, we kicked up a coyote, who was summarily executed by my guide. I had been given the opportunity first, but my fumbling and citified reaction times (not yet tuned up by a walk in the woods), led him to take matters into his own hands.
    I have a hunting buddy, who also does my reloading (he has the equipment and the time, I supply the materials), and he is an avid predator hunter. I have gone on a couple of expeditions with him, but have yet to get an opportunity, so I have not made up my mind. I know that I might want to help control the population of coyotes, which have overrun my neighborhood with cat/dog killings, but this population is way out in the woods, where they don’t do much to bother humans.
    I do have a problem with the wily coyote, in that I don’t believe a population control issue should be generic, but rather, as mentioned above, specific to “problem animals.” Unfortunately, the ones that are a problem are not subject to being controlled, as Animal Control does little if anything about them, and there are no depredation permits for my suburban LA neighborhood.
    In the long run, I will probably just hunt rabbits, which I can cook up. I did that a lot as a kid growing up, and still drool at the sight of Bugs Bunny. However, going out of my way to shoot a coyote may not be my cup of tea, and I’d hate to think that I’d do it out of peer pressure. One of the things in which I pride myself is my independent viewpoint, and willingness to experience that which I choose, based on what I want to do, and not what others want me to do. That’s why I make such an eclectic hunter, with my left-wing views, my 4WD pickup, and my fishing boat (soon to be converted to a duck-hunting boat).
    I’ll let you know what I decide, the next time I get an invite to go coyote hunting.

  14. Phillip says:

    Good stuff. I’ve been out of circulation on hunts for the past few weeks, and am just now catching up… glad to see that you’re still bringing up good stuff to think on, Tovar.

    As far as coyotes, I don’t care much for shooting them, but I’ll do so on properties where the owner/manager has asked me to. Their rationale is seldom well developed, but it’s their property and I have no real compunction about the killing… I just don’t see the point. I question the validity of trying to “manage” an animal that has adapted so well to human encroachment, and has spread its territory from one coast to the other.

    At the same time, when I have my property the limited stock I will keep, I will shoot raiding coyotes, coons, or possums with extreme prejudice.

  15. Mark Cerulli says:

    I guess I see the term “game” not as a description of entitlement or ownership but as an obligation and recognition of our willingness to protect and yes, kill, that species when and if the population will support same. Always there is the idea that killing is acceptable only if the loss of that individual(s) will not affect the population as a whole.
    When it comes to coyotes, my attitude is an admitted paradox. On one hand, I am an avid coyote hunter in an area where the population of yodel dogs is rampantly high and much predation of domestic pets is evident. I also hunt them because I see them in the same light as “game”, perhaps not edible but valuable furbearers. Yet, I do not hate coyotes. In fact I revere them as an element of wildness in the woods that makes an area more exciting and primal. Ask anyone who has been followed by a coyote at dusk or who has been surrounded by a pack of howlers (that would be myself)! If my hunting coyotes threatened the chance of encountering brush wolves in the future I would quit today. Just as I don’t hunt deer to eliminate the whitetail from the forest, neither do I call in coyotes with the idea of ridding the area of yodel dogs.

  16. Lyingwolf says:

    The delicate balance of landownership rights and publicly owned wildlife resources that can be positively or negatively influenced by financial or competative,,, humaness. The thought that we only collectively,, own other life forms, yet can individually posses a space of land and do what we please on it,,, to it,,,with only those we choose, it is a sheer miracle it worked in the past and cannot be expected to work well in the future. This concept in thinking perhaps is the reasonings behind modern man’s quest for the old feeling he searches for ,,,,to belong. Freedom, a truely American concept will loose to out to greed, competition, possesion and insecurity. Yet the cure’s to these are found in the forests, mountains, lakes and oceans of this place that is our home. Respect, self reliance,comradery,viablity and tenacity or in-attiquicy are taught best in nature and can be inspiring or humbling. The facts are before us. Man is an intricate animal.He questions his motives and reasons. It is hard for me not to think of society as a child, young , greedy, not worried for itself, unable yet to really consider its actions, looking for its identity and place. Not caring fully yet for the advise it gets from its older members, their deaths locked away.But in every child there is great potential, and certainly all is not lost and hopefully our outdoor children will prove their tenacity and survive with the help of natures lessons in living and thinking.

  17. Swamp Thing says:

    I agree. It’s a good point that a predator is a predator. If a wolf is suddenly not an acceptable predator, then we need to shift our conversation to “farming and shooting deer” not “hunting deer.”

  18. Lyingwolf says:

    The idea of farming wasn’t acceptable to many early americans (indians) because they “Cut mother earth and forced her to grow what they wanted”. I suppose that a cow has value, you don’t have to chase it, but the deer i toiled for following for miles and finally shot resting , seems to “taste” better. In my mind and in my wild heart. I’ve earned my place in world where Quitter’s go hungry. It is often though to explain primal feelings.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      Oh, I agree, the value of the two experiences don’t even compare. The point I made was for all the hunters and landowners out there who want to exterminate everything on a farm that isn’t a huntable species.

      When we exert that level of control (predator control, quail houses, etc) we really are farming game and then shooting it……..not hunting it. I’m not opposed to such (and literally, given the human population, it’s not possible for us to all to fairly chase wild game for sustenance, so meat farming, of some sort, DOES have its place).

      I just think we should call it what it is. When the deer is contained in a fence, be it 1/4 acre or 200 acres, that is not deer hunting. It is shooting a farmed deer. When quail are released out of a box, into a field to shoot later that day, that is not quail hunting. It is shooting a farmed quail. Again, I don’t have an ethical problem with that, but too many people call those things “hunting.” And they are not.

  19. Mark Cerulli says:

    Lying Wolf ‘s thoughts regarding “forcing the earth to grow what they wanted” are interesting and though there is certainly the need for agriculture in this day and age, so, I think, is there a need for some of us to have “earned our meat’ by hunting for it, bypassing the middleman of livestock rancher, butcher, meat wrapper, and retail salesman. To hunt for a deer, kill that animal, then skin, butcher, wrap and freeze the meat is a process that connects one to a protein source in a way that is totally foreign, and unfortunately, repugnant, to most of the population who have seen so much plastic wrapped meat that there is an assumption that that hamburger must have originated in some vague meat producing “machine” in Neverland. I have always thought that we, the hunters, were the lucky ones who have that connection to our source of food and who have walked the walk in obtaining same.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      When speaking to nonhunting (and anti-hunting) meat eaters, the analogy I often use is that “It does not grow on the chicken nugget tree. Someone had to kill that animal. Just because you didn’t do it, you paid that person to do it. You are not off the hook of any perceived “cruelty” ”

      Or karma, as you put it. My personal standpoint is that I want to take moral responsibility for the meat I have killed. I want there to be no question that for me to eat that food, it meant that an animal was killed & it no longer exists as a being on earth.

      And if anyone can’t deal with that, I fully respect it. As long as they do not eat meat, or eat grains and vegetables from a farm that was created by displacing wildlife (and likely kills many animals annually by the chisel plow and bush hog).

      • Tovar says:

        Mark and Swamp Thing: You’ve nicely summarized important elements of why I turned to hunting, especially after years as a vegetarian.

  20. Lyingwolf says:

    The hunter’s image need’s a face lift. They should be demonstrating, conservative, sharing, responsible behavior . Last night at a public meeting on future game rule changes, 2 ladies expressed their concerns for negative tourism effects hunting additional seasons might have, and archery wounding rate concerns. They were promptly booed out at the public hearing. As the last left, I caught her in the hallway and apologized for the men’s behavior and thanked her for stating her concerns and said this is still America and all should be heard. The hunter’s really needed to agree and be concerned too, but they understand the reality of what some times happens , good or bad. Our conversation is webbed together like nature itself . All conected and part of the whole, we are particularly lucky and blessed with our outdoor learning. Now on to life! May you Laugh hard and often!

    • Tovar says:

      I was at that public meeting, too, Lyingwolf. Thanks for talking with the woman who spoke about archery wounding rates. When I looked toward the back of room late in the meeting, she was already gone.

      I have a blog post in mind about how some of the hunters present responded to her, including the booing you mentioned. I often think that it’s not so much hunters’ “image” that needs a face-lift as hunters’ actual behavior which inevitably — and, too often, justifiably — creates an image.

      • Phillip says:

        Good points, Tovar and Lyingwolf, but it’s important to remember that part of the image cultivation needs to include the fact that hunters are people too.

        They’re human, complete with the foibles and quirks that makes each us individual… and the same. Those hunters who booed the lady are no different than the NIMBYs who boo the landfill developer, or the environmentalists who boo the corporate executives. It has much less to do with their identity as hunters, and more to do with the fact that they’re people who’ve run a little short on constructive ways to voice an opinion.

        I do understand that hunters’ behavior is often under a more critical magnifying glass, and there’s a lot we can do to enhance our public image… but all of us on both sides of the discussion need to remember that human nature has little to do with how we spend our free time, whether hunting, playing golf, or writing stuff on the Internet.

        • Tovar says:

          That’s true, Phillip: hunters respond to perceived enemies or threats much the way other folks do. In this case, unfortunately, I think they gave two impressions: (1) they weren’t willing to listen to a non-hunter’s perspective and (2) they didn’t want to hear about wounding rates. The latter can easily lead to the further impression that they don’t care much about wounding rates.

  21. I’m going hunting wild pigs tomorrow, with a guide I’ve worked with before, and this time, with dogs. The interspecies link-up for hunting is often seen of as unfair, until one realizes that birds are hunted with dogs, ducks are hunted with dogs, and so forth. It takes so much training and investment in the process, and it is a “technology” that seems to have been around since the paleolithic era, that it doesn’t seem unfair to me, as long as the animal that’s pursued isn’t chewed to bits by the dogs (I have seen those videos, and find them “repugnant”).
    Today, while I was heading into the area, I saw a deer on a hillside, then looked above it, and saw a coyote racing away up the hill above it, fearful for its life. I believe I probably “blew” his stalk for him, and it looks like he was very close to his target when I came around the corner. I only saw one, but it was about the size of a German Shepherd, and extremely long-coated. Since I’m here in the Lake Sonoma area of Northern California, I don’t think it was a wolf, and I have seen these big dogs before, from my last trip here. That this coyote’s ancestors, or maybe a wolf’s ancestors, were brought into the human fold, probably as pups, and taught to hunt with humans, to me is an amazing feat.
    I have been on one predator hunt, but I didn’t take a shot, while my friend took two grey foxes. I just marveled at the one that ran across my path, leaping and bounding, in sight for maybe two seconds. It showed between me and my friend, so I didn’t shoot; the moment of truth has yet to arrive for yours truly. I thought Mark Cerulli’s viewpoint about using their pelts was a “sensible one,” and these dogs are long-coated and large, so I might see what it looks like, but still not sure if that’s sufficient reason for me to kill one.

  22. Swamp Thing says:

    Good luck to you – hope it’s safe and productive.

    But it does get to my point. For the dogs – it’s a hunt. For you, you will be following the dogs and hopefully shooting a boar. Which is challenging, but arguably, not a hunt. The boar does not have fully evolved defenses against packs of well-trained, well-fed, well-bred dogs. Which are not the same as worn-out, thirsty, hungry, worm-infested wolves.

    My original point is that, other than the physical exercise and possibility of failure, there is not much difference (for the humans) between shooting a corn-fed captive pig (which most people would call “shooting a farm pig”) and shooting a pig that has been “stealing” the same corn from the same farm, who is captured and cornered by dogs, 200 yards from the barn, prior to you taking a shot (which most people would call “hunting a wild pig”).

    I struggle with this whenever I say I am “hunting deer” which in our area, means I am sitting in a tree stand over beans or corn or a vegetable garden, and waiting for a fairly domesticated suburban deer to walk by on a very well-worn deer trail.

    • If you think it isn’t a hunt for me, you’re not paying attention. This land I’m on is nearly vertical, and I’ve hunted it before, having done two 5 mile stints in 24 hours. The dogs are without the ability to put the hog in the ground, so they depend on me to do that, and it’s not as cut-and-dried as your deer stand. The hog is able to not only evade the dogs, but to kill them if need be. If I don’t back them up quickly, it’s a no-win situation for my team, and the hog wins. He may kill a dog in the bargain, which will not make this anywhere akin to your deer stand. With no camera pics to guide us to the right trail, we do depend on the dogs’ noses to steer us to the pig, but then we have to complete the deal, which is no “Slam Dunk.” I’m sure the dogs took lots of training, the guide spends a lot of time scouting, and there is no guarantee.
      It is for the thrill of the hunt, the hounds baying, running through the woods, and to see that I’m up to the contest that I seek this experience. Do you think you’d like to take the job of a labrador retriever, and swim after downed ducks? How about a pointer, you down for that? Do you think that there is a 100% success rate on these hunts? This is my 3rd guided hunt, and if I score, it will make up for the last one, on the same land. My batting average will soar to 67%, and I am not counting the five or six times I’ve hunted public land with no success…all this year. As for wolves, I don’t think you’ve really seen how wolves hunt (please watch “Never Cry Wolf,” or read the book by Farley Mowat), and they have the tools to put the pig down.
      Please don’t condescend when you post about someone’s experience, it’s undignified. I have yet to criticize you about your experiences, and would not even think to do so. I see your point, but all “hunting” boils down to us trying to use our so-called superior intelligence to outsmart these poor woodland creatures. What a surprise, when it doesn’t turn out to be so simple. I think that’s why we constantly put ourselves in new situations, to test our own abilities. I wish all the best in trying to solve the dilemma of the hunting rationale, but for me, I’ll use this ancient tradition, rather than using night vision in Texas.

      • Swamp Thing says:

        Not condescending at all. Making incorrect assumptions (me)? Apparently. What I envisioned as your apparently very far off the mark. I apologize. Didn’t know that guys push boars up in the hills. Boar hunting in the eastern mountains is much different, and most boar hunting is done on relatively flat terrain. So that was my mistake.

        But it’s not condescension. I participate in upland shoots (we have little to no wild quail or pheasants out here), and I’ve shot a deer off of a back porch with a bow. In fact, I’ve even baited for deer (which is legal here). If you can sleep with your own methods and ethics , and you are within the law…..what other standard is there?

        I’m approaching this whole topic from an academic – not a judgment – standpoint. I don’t care whether you buy a domesticated deer and shoot it and butcher it. Or whether you kill a hog from 200 yards (as you’re indicating) or 3 yards (as I was incorrectly assuming). I’m just intellectually curious why we as hunters continue to call one set of animals and experiences “hunting” and “game,” while we can often choose very similar animals and experiences and call them “farming” and “livestock.”

        Sorry for the confusion and the poor assumptions on my part, but trust me, it’s not judgment or condescension.

        • Swamp Thing says:

          And I did chuckle about your “night vision” comment. It goes to my point. 1 guy hikes 5 miles over rocks, chasing dogs, to get a hog. Another guy sits in a treestand over bait, waiting for a hog to come in. Another guy stalks a hog who is in a 1/2 acre pen, hoping for a shot with his handgun. Another guy scouts his farm, finds hog damage to the corn, and sets up a tripod stand there to kill a hog. Another guy tracks his dogs while on an ATV, and arrives to deliver a kill shot after his dogs have mauled the hog.

          All (ALL) of those guys will go home that night and say that they went “hog hunting.” Did they?

          • Phillip says:

            When I eat a sandwich made of a ground beef patty, I call it a hamburger. How ridiculous is it to challenge me by telling me that I can’t call it a hamburger because I ate it on wheat bread instead of a round bun made of processed white bread?

            If I choose to sit a stand over a pile of corn with the intent of killing a deer as it comes to feed, I call it “hunting.” How foolish is it for someone to try to redefine that activity for me, as if that definition will somehow make me reevaluate the very experience?

            The truth is, you can call it “hunting”, or you can call it “Joe”, and you haven’t changed a bloody thing but the name. The name of the experience has no bearing on the value, and the value of the experience can only be judged by the individual having the experience. It is a personal thing.

            The insistence of some hunters to segregate others into narrowly defined categories based on arbitrary value statements serves no good purpose for the future of the sport or for the solidarity of the hunting community. If a method of hunting isn’t attractive to you, then don’t participate in that method. There’s no need to denigrate folks who have a different set of values (which is exactly what SwampThing does here, intentionally or not… essentially telling Richard that he’s “not a hunter” if he uses dogs) as long as those values don’t exceed the law or common sense.

            There are those who’d say, “how we define the hunt is important for our image as hunters.”

            To them, I say, “phooey!”

            To whom is it important to narrow the definition of the hunt until it excludes fellow sportsmen? What purpose does it serve to create an elitist hierarchy in the hunting community to which many (most?) hunters can only aspire? Whose ends are furthered by alienating entire segments of the hunting fellowship based on nothing more substantial than some arbitrary ideal of what “real” hunting should be?

            All of this academic discussion is well and good for what it is, but let’s not get lost in the tightening noose of defining other people’s experiences or dictating values.

            • Lieing wolf says:

              Well said, often times the human in us comes out, even when we are trying to use bigger eyes to see… all. The beauty of that ,can be that we need others to explain the views, feelings and emotions we are blind to and bring us company along the trails of life. This has been a good one for me.

        • No sweat, Swamp Thing. I guess I am just a little defensive, and I also thought you might need a little perspective. I’m hunting over Bay Dogs, which are a lot different than Catch Dogs. The difference can be studied, but most of the Catch dogs are on video, and that can get to be a rough situation, where the pig is literally torn apart by a bunch of pit bulls…not my scene. The Bay dog is more of a tracker, and while they will corner a pig, they don’t often attack since they’re the much lighter breed of dog that you may see on some videos.
          When all’s said and done, it is a joint venture, and to me speaks of more primeval forces at work, the collaboration of two species to hunt a third. The prey is dangerous to both, but the combination is definitely hard to beat-man and dog do triumph most of the time.
          I’ve hunted them from a stand on a trail, but that takes a lot of preparation, scouting, and time…I do that a lot closer to home. Here, I’m passing through, so if I’m going to hunt, it has to be a more efficient and productive hunt (I’m a meat pig hunter, no interest or desire in trophies). I’m also a teacher, so you know my funds are limited. If I pay for a hunt, it’s so I have a better chance of success. No bait, not in California, and with 33 million in the state, there is a lot of pressure wherever you go. Private land leases, like the one I’m on, are often the only alternative for someone who wants to take the responsibility to bring food to the table the old school way.
          Wish I could shoot off my front porch, but since I’m an urban dweller, I’d be hard put to justify that when the swat team arrived.

  23. Lieing wolf says:

    Alone, actions are quite different then in front of a crowd. The first person to speak can often set the tone for the remainder. The negativity soon spread, and the thoughtful reasoning of the original idea was lost. The fact does might be harvested ahead of the rut saving winter range (six weeks) for the rest does that would bare fawns . Much of our lives and hunting are not for crowds or video or the internet, my private thoughts about most any thing are usually just that, but her need seemed to call and my patriotic ( for lack of a better word) side said to us both, that as falable as or system of gov. is I was glad we can speak or write!

    • Since you misspelled Lying, I’m not sure if you’re the original Lying Wolf, but no matter. I didn’t really feel like there was any negativity, as you claim. It was a simple disagreement, and thoughtfully done, by all parties. It’s one of the fine things about this blog, that we can stray a little afield, and not draw Tovar’s wrath, but rather find New and Creative ways to discuss things close to our “hunters’ hearts.” We hear from all sorts, so there is somewhat of a “coming to terms” amongst us, but it is a good thing, in my opinion. We are all appreciative of the forum to discuss these essential and quintessential themes, to whatever we can share with others. I did get my meat hog, and made it home to Southern California in one piece, having shared another adventure with three men whose investments in their equipment and dogs spoke volumes to me about their passion for the hunt. I’m glad to support their livelihoods, in order to have the privilege to return and hunt again.

  24. Lieing wolf says:

    Just some clarification, my last entry was supposed to be an answer to Tovar about the Vermont F&W board’s meeting last week that we attended. I ment it as a reply and it ended up in the wrong location due to my poor hunt & peck skills. The room’s negitivity to a women’s concern about wounding rate’s in a special archery moose hunt was what I was refering to. I am enjoying the conversations on this blog. And my business , home life and daily pressures sometimes get the best of my spelling to. Many different predatores hunt in different ways, the owl takes the tree stand, the cat stalks, the wolf chases, man lies. I’m a tree (Camo), I’m a duck (call) , I’m food (fishing lure) . We all have indian names at camp and mine is lieing wolf. I track the deer grunting at him hoping he hesitates and gives me a shot. If he discover’s I’m not another buck, the lieing is over and the chase is on. Their was a line I read some where about man being the only lier in nature. It was humbling and seemingly true. Happy new year Richard!

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