When I was kid (like eight maybe nine) my best friend came over and we watched Bambi. She had never seen it and I was shocked. How did someone make it to this age without seeing this Disney classic. So I fixed this oversight in her upbringing like a good friend should and would (and did!).
Her dad tried to say we could never see each other ever again.
The problem was this: her dad worked for the GA parks and hunted. He had never wanted her to see Bambi and was (apparently) furious at my intrusion on this choice. I never thought of Bambi as an actively anti-hunting movie, but I get it – it does make it seem like the hunters are evil. I mean – they are evil “from a certain point of view” (5 points to whoever can place that quote!).
A deal was struck between the mothers (I assume it was the mothers, my mother broke the “price” to me) for us to keep being friends I had to understand hunting.
Ok, so I’m making it sound like this guy was terrifying and I was terrified. This was my best friend and in case you couldn’t tell (here, just… here) I don’t use that term lightly. My friendship had been in jeopardy. I had never been treated as the bad guy before. I was a good girl and a good friend and… so yeah, I was upset and almost 30 years later I still remember the shock of thinking something I thought was innocent could be seen as wrong. Like wrongly wrong-wrong.
So he made us both sit down in his den and he explained hunting from his perspective. This was an awesome lesson in perspective.
Anyway, so we had to sit on the carpet in there while he explained why hunting isn’t evil. I don’t remember the details, but I remember walking away with a few impressions. The first was that my friend’s father could get really intense about this. The second was that hunting is not only not-evil but can be highly beneficial.
Here is something of how I remember this conversation going:
You see, when people move into an area they tend to chase out predators like wolves, bears, even coyotes. We don’t like those around because they threaten our pets and even our children – much less when we kept chickens or goats or the like. So we chase out these big predators. We try to chase out foxes, but they’re a different problem. Foxes don’t hunt deer.
You see, we just chased out everything that will hunt deer. You see this in Bambi actually. You don’t see bears or wolves, just people threaten deer. So the deer can have all their babies safely. About the only thing that threatens them is cars. We’ve all seen a pack of deer run out across the road.
So what happens when all the deer grow up and they begin to have their own babies? Well, eventually there just isn’t enough food. So then the deer start starving. Or they start spreading diseases – some of which can just species like rabies. Deer with rabies can do a lot of damage too – they aren’t small animals and if they get into someone’s yard… pets, children, houses – yeah, it’s a scary picture.
It’s part of the job of park rangers to monitor the population of deer – and decide how many can be hunted or should be hunted every year. Controlling that population – keeping it to the same levels predators would is very important [aside: this conversation was pre-reintroducing wolves to yellowstone. Since then some fascinating research imparts how important apex predators are across the flora & fauna of an area: video here].
Without hunters we’d have a lot more deer getting hit by cars. We’d see a lot more rabies (more pets being infected). We’d have more issues with ticks and fleas and diseases they can pass between humans and deer…
Overall, hunting for trophies might not be good – and hunting already endangered species can be evil – but deer hunting itself can be a positive thing. It helps both the people in the area and the animals. They don’t starve or die of terrible diseases.
I’m sure he told us more. I have certainly carried this conversation/lesson throughout my life. Hell, I probably tell this story every year as deer hunting season opens. Someone will talk about the “evils” of hunting and I’ll explain this information to them. Usually very similarly to how it’s explained here.
So throughout high school during the winter when I’d go over to her house, I’d get served venison on a semi-regular basis. I never went hunting, but I also never held hunting against my friend or her family (I even support their choice to bring delicious venison home!). I am, at the end of the day, grateful that I was exposed to this young enough that I didn’t ever become self-righteous or judgmental about hunting deer. Now, you hunt elephants or something like that and only keep some kind of trophy I’ll help come up with the creative and nasty punishments….. but that’s a different post. Today’s post is about supporting the people who are braving the cold and ticks to hunt for their supper.