Every so often on Facebook or Instagram, I see that one of my friends has gone hunting, successfully killing this or that forest creature. There are smiles all around as the hunter strikes a pose beside a mule deer, turkey or javelina. All involved — except the animal — seem inordinately proud of the conquest, which always leaves me feeling a bit curious.
As in, why such obvious pride? I mean, isn’t hunting sort of a one-sided competition, given that the predator typically has some sort of weapon, like a high-powered rifle, whereas the best a white-tailed deer can manage for weaponry is a set of antlers?
Then I remind myself what I have known for a long time: Some folks simply enjoy killing things a little bit more than the rest of us.
I was reminded again recently when the National Park Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department offered 12 hunters the chance to cull bison from a herd of 500 that have roamed the North Rim of the Grand Canyon since the early 1900s. The bison apparently have been raising all kinds of hell up there, trampling ancient ruins, contaminating watering holes and leaving Budweiser cans and pork rind bags everywhere.
Kidding about that last part. But I’m not kidding when I say that more than 45,000 hunters applied online during the 48 hours the agencies were taking digital hunting applications.
As Matt Mallery of Flagstaff told the Associated Press: “It needs to happen for management purposes. And if it’s going to be somebody, it may as well be me.”
Which is exactly the opposite of my own logic when it comes to killing animals: If it’s going to be somebody, it doesn’t have to be me.
I have no moral objection to hunting. I ate a burger for dinner last night and I have no affinity for, say, javelina, which tend to destroy things I like, like golf courses and small dogs. I wasn’t traumatized by the murder of Bambi’s mommy as a kid. I’m not afraid of guns, which I’ve fired on many occasions. It’s the beaming pride I don’t get — relishing taking an animal’s life.
Listen to James Vasko, one of those 45,000 applicants, explaining himself to the AP: “I just thought it would be a cool experience,” said the 27-year-old, who works in real estate and farms in Nebraska. “I’m an avid fisher, hunter. Going to the Grand Canyon to hunt bison would be absolutely awesome.”
Would it really? Male bison weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can stand six feet tall. They have poor eyesight and run at speeds up to 35 mph. That makes these bulls slightly larger than my parents’ 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, a 50-horsepower behemoth that topped out at about 75 mph. While no one ever riddled that car with bullets, it wouldn’t have been a difficult shot, especially armed with a Browning BAR Mark II Safari rifle featuring the Ballistic Optimizing Shooting System and using belted magnum big game cartridges and a telescopic site.
My hunter friends love to refer to hunting as a sport. They cite rules like “fair chase,” which Game and Fish defines as the “ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of free-range wildlife in a manner that does not give a hunter or an angler improper or unfair advantage over such wildlife.”
Personally, I prefer not to sugarcoat things. Just be honest and admit it: You like killing things. You can try to even up the hunt all you want, but let’s be real: Shooting a 2,000-pound bison will be a sport as soon as the bison can fire back.