Hunting can be defined as the practice of killing or catching animals for food, trade, or sport. It is an ancient activity that's been around since prehistoric times - we are all descendants of hunters. It began as a necessity — a means of human survival. And, while it's done primarily for sport now, it still offers immense benefits to human health and wellness, society, and the environment. Read on to learn more about why this ancient tradition is so important in so many ways.
Hunting is Good for Conservation
President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter, established the National Wildlife Refuge System, a system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants.
“In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen,” the 26th president of the United States said years ago. “The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality, the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”
Hunting is heavily regulated. Many people don't realize that much of the costs of hunting, from firearms and ammunition to hunting/fishing licenses and land stamps, goes directly to conservation efforts — to the tune of tens of billions of dollars since the program was established in 1937. These annual payments have resulted in the acquisition and protection of millions of acres of wildlife habitat as well as the restoration of countless species of fish and wildlife.
In other words, hunters are some of the most ardent conservationists. And they've been instrumental in the preservation and management of America's wildlife resources.
The NTA even includes it in their mission: "National Taxidermist Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the art of taxidermy, protecting the freedom to hunt and promoting wildlife conservation.”
Hunting is Good for the Environment
Wild meat uses less resources, water, and animal feed, compared to raising livestock. Wild game forage for food in natural forests and fields and get water from lakes and rivers.
In addition, hunting can help reduce the spread of invasive species. These are non-native plants and animals that threaten the survival of the native species. When left unchecked, invasives can cause extensive damage to ecosystems, displace indigenous wildlife, and even negatively impact human health.
Python Huntress: Hunting Pythons to Help Save the Florida Everglades
One example is the invasive Burmese Python population that has invaded South Florida. There are an estimated 300,000 of these non-native pythons in the area. They were released by people who had them as pets or it is believed that they escaped a large breeding facility during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Since they are not native to the area, these snakes have no natural predators and are at the top of the food chain. They have decimated some areas of the Everglades in the last 35 years, killing off nearly 95% of the animal population. They eat squirrels, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, alligators, wading birds, bobcats, and even deer. They also eat protected and endangered species, like the Key Largo woodrat, wood storks, and the mangrove fox squirrel.
Amy Siewe is a former state contractor, now doing guided python hunts known as Python Huntress. She's been fascinated with snakes her entire life and has a mission to eradicate these invasive animals from South Florida. At the same time, she uses as much of the snakes as possible so that they don't go to waste and their lives were not in vain. After euthanizing them, she has their skins tanned to create beautiful leather products.
Hunting is Good for Wildlife Management
Not only does hunting help conserve and protect wildlife habitats, but it also benefits the environment in other ways. For example, hunting is a vital wildlife management tool helping to control animal populations. If left unchecked, certain species can overpopulate and overgraze their habitats, resulting in widespread starvation and disease. This often leads to animals moving into human-inhabited areas in search of food, which can create problems for both people and animals.
In some cases, hunting is the most effective — and sometimes the only — way to manage certain animal populations. This is especially true for animals like elk and deer, which can become overabundant in their habitats.
This overabundance can cause significant damage to plant life, which in turn can lead to soil erosion and loss of habitat for other animals. In rural and residential areas, this can create problems for people as well, such as car-deer collisions and crop damage.
Hunting is Good for the Economy
In addition to helping fund conservation efforts, hunting is a lucrative business, bringing a lot of money into local economies. Hunters purchase everything from guns and ammunition to hunting gear, gas, lodging, food, and more. In 2022, there were approximately 15.2 million licensed hunters, spending about $878 million dollars on hunting and trapping related items.
In Colorado, hunters and anglers fund more than 70 percent of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, CPW, wildlife management programs through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses.
Not only are hunters putting all that money into the economy, but according to a report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the hunting industry supports more than 525,000 jobs.
Hunting for Food and Nutrition
Another benefit of hunting is that it can provide people with a source of healthy, nutritious food. Wild game meat is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein. It's also free of hormones, steroids, and other chemicals that are often found in commercially-raised meat.
The concept of "locally grown" is becoming increasingly popular as more people grow their own fruit and vegetables in backyard gardens and turn to organic options instead of mass-produced. Hunting for meat fits into this lifestyle as well, since it is about as local and organic as you can get.
Hunting offers a viable food source for the hungry, homeless and others. An example is “Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Hunters Helping the Hungry program.” For over 10 years, Nebraska hunters have voluntarily donated tens of thousands of pounds of venison to help feed those in need.
Hunting is Humane
Finally, this is one aspect of hunting that many people never consider. Death is inevitable, and Mother Nature can be cruel. Many animals suffer long, painful deaths from starvation, disease, and predation.
In contrast, a well-executed hunt results in a quick, humane death. In fact, when done properly, hunting can actually be considered one of the most humane ways to euthanize an animal. Animals that die in nature often suffer for days or even weeks before they finally succumb.
It can also be argued that the wildlife that is hunted lived a much better life than an animal that was raised on a commercial livestock farm with one purpose.
Hunting Offers a Kinship with Nature
Whether you’re communing with nature or stalking your prey, there is an undeniable connection between hunter and hunted that can only be understood by those who have experienced it. It’s a feeling that is hard to put into words but it instills a respect for the natural world and its inhabitants that can last a lifetime.
For many hunters, this feeling is what keeps them coming back year after year. It’s the excitement of the chase, the stillness of the woods, and the camaraderie and bonding of friends and family that make hunting such a special experience.
Whether you hunt for food, sport, or simply to connect with nature, there is no doubt that hunting offers a unique and rewarding experience that is unlike any other.
Gary and Kate - father/daughter - with Kate's first whitetail in eastern Colorado
Hunting is a tradition that has been around for centuries and there are many benefits to it, both for society as well as the individual. Not only does hunting help fund conservation efforts, but it also provides people with healthy, affordable meat, creates jobs, and offers a unique connection to nature. While some people may be hesitant to try hunting because they think it's cruel or barbaric, when done properly it can be a very rewarding experience for many.
So, the next time you hear someone say that hunting is bad, be sure to educate them on all the reasons why hunting is good.
Our philosophy also parallels the ancient belief of utilizing all aspects of the animal “Finish the hunt, save the hide.”