Rising to the challenge posed by anti-hunting comments and questions

I recently posted a photo of a doe bedded with her fawn of this year on my Facebook page. The photo was taken on the next-to-last day of Pennsylvania’s concurrent rifle deer season, and I mentioned that in my post.

I also wrote — even though it was deer season — “These deer don’t look like they have a worry in the world.”

My list of Facebook “friends” is very diverse — friends, relatives and acquaintances — photographers, naturalists, outdoor writers, trout anglers, as well as people with many other talents and interests. Some of my friends are hunters, most are not.

The bedded-doe-and-fawn photo generated the expected, “So beautiful and sweet,” and, “Nice photo.” However, the post also elicited this comment: “Their beautiful eyes haunt me. I am still traumatized from my childhood when my mother told me that our neighbor killed Bambi.” And another person wrote, “I don’t understand the need for hunting.”

These are important comments that all hunters should take note of and be able to respond to politely and intelligently. We hunt at the pleasure of the vast majority of people who do not hunt. One should always remember this — that is, if you want to continue to hunt. It is our job to help others understand what hunting is all about.

I am a hunter, but when I make hunting-related posts and posts about game animals, I take care to be sensitive to the feelings of non-hunters. In writing and sharing photos, I always communicate respect for the game animal. I never show blood. If you care about hunting, this should be a priority for you, too.

Perhaps your attitude is, I don’t care what other people think, or through your photos or words, you convey the image that you “just like to kill stuff.” This is a problem — it turns people off, and it helps to fashion non-hunters into anti-hunters.

I hunt because I like to hunt, not because I like to kill animals. There is a difference. Yes, I kill game animals during the legal seasons — hunting was part of the family culture in which I was raised, and my family had many dinners from the game that we brought home. However, killing is not my reason for being in the woods. I love being in the outdoors, to experience all of the wonders that nature has to offer.

So, what do you say to the person who does not understand hunting?

You can say that we don’t have mountain lions or wolves to help control the deer population. Without hunting, the deer population would double in two or three years. Explain that auto insurance in Pennsylvania is more costly because of the high number of deer. On average, a deer-auto collision costs thousands of dollars. I know — my wife and I have had our share of run-ins with deer in the past. With each collision, there is also a risk to human life and injury.

You could mention agricultural damage and how deer hamper forest regeneration. These make food and forest products more expensive. More deer means more damage to landscaping, too. One of my sons lives in a densely populated suburban area, yet deer have come through his front yard and eaten budding roses and nibbled on tomatoes.

Then there is increased disease and winter starvation — with does driving their own offspring away from food so that they can eat. Mother Nature can be cruel.

Hunting is part of nature. It provides healthy “organic” food for hundreds of thousands of people in Pennsylvania alone, and it is the best way to control the deer population.

Whether they know it or not, the questioning Facebook posters need people like you and me to hunt deer. If you care about the future of hunting, I hope that you, like me, will politely take time to help them understand. Our sport depends on it.

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