It’s been tough work the last 18 months, becoming a hunter, and not because the discipline itself is so multifaceted.

Video by Adam Moffat.

The difficulty has to do with hunters, and with hunting itself as it all too often practiced in the US. I’ve heard endless chest-thumping bravado, about “smoking” an animal and cultivating a killer instinct. I’ve read endless stereotyping of tree hugging, bleeding heart, REI types who don’t understand the wild and out of either ignorance or malice are enacting a conspiracy to make all hunting illegal (be it via the introduction of “Canadian” wolves, or a variety of equally absurd schemes). I’ve witnessed folks advocating, with total seriousness, the annihilation of all predators so that human hunting can become the sole agent of inter-species regulation.

I’m not trying to say that all hunters are idiots prone to overindulgence in the bias to which they are entitled. I am saying that when you’re becoming indoctrinated in a social sect whose cultural underpinnings you do not share, the dogmatic fallacies which underwrite many axioms are easy to see.

This has been good, insofar as the experience has given me cause to question many of the things I take for granted. And I strive to be open-minded in the future, best to learn more. But I cannot be patient with the anthropocentrism which still exists, relic of the 19th century, in 21st century American hunting.

The North American model of game management is hailed for its democratic ideals, preserving as it does animals on public lands, accessible to all within the limits of the law. What is almost never discussed here is the modest place hunting holds in this model of conservation. The idea that we preserve habitat and ecosystems so that we’ll have more things to kill for generations to come is no longer tenable. Not because we preserve large parts of the natural world for reasons which do not have to do with our own interests, I’m enough of a Humeian to think that an impossible notion. Rather, we preserve the world as it exists outside our influence because good human wisdom is admitting we’ll never be able to know everything we don’t know. We will need that reservoir of knowledge down the road, and it won’t exist without foresight and restraint. Hunting, intelligently and conservatively managed hunting, is and will be essential for the future of human development, because we are hunters and we’ll lose a lot if we forget that. But continuing wildlife management as nothing more than a more democratic, empirically informed version of Victorian hunting estates is sickening in it’s myopia.

My hope for hunting is that this sentiment dies off in the next half century, and if it takes a dip in hunting demographics to achieve it, so be it. I’m optimistic about a lot of my generation.