Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hunting Is A Form Of Gambling

I don’t hunt for “sport”. I was first drawn to hunting because I enjoyed the communion with nature, finding it’s secrets, and sitting still and quiet in it’s glory. I had been hunting for some time before I actually experienced the rush of stalk and ambush. In the end, though, hunting for me has always been about putting food on the table (or the freezer, mostly). It is part of stocking the pantry and feeding the family.

For me today, hunting legally for food is not so far removed from gambling for income. When I lived in North Carolina I believe a big game tag with taxes and fees cost about $46. That $46 bought a large ticket with a line for one to four of each big game species available for hunting that year and a hunter possessing such a license could hunt any animal with any weapon provided it was within the season’s parameters. One could hunt with a bow, rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader a variety of game such as white tail deer, turkey, bear, boar, fox, coyote,… probably twenty animals in all with a single tag for under $50.

I now live in the great state of Washington. I love it here. If I could be in Oregon I might be happier, but the Pacific Northwest is my home. Despite all of the great things the Northwest has to offer, hunting in Washington is expensive. A tag to hunt just one deer and one elk (and buy the vehicle permit to park in a hunting area) is between $80-$90 in Washington State. In addition, you have to choose which season you wish to hunt (bow, rifle, or muzzleloader) and you may only hunt that season, regardless of your success. What that means is, if you buy a rifle hunting license for deer and bring home nothing by season’s end, you do not even have the privilege of giving the state more money to hunt the late bow season in hopes of breaking even on the deal. It’s no wonder poaching is such a problem in Washington.

Hunting is not easy. Every now and then an easy shot may present itself and we are thankful when that happens, but even then there is a lot of work to get the animal from hoof to plate (this is true in hunting just as it is from CAFO to Wal-Mart). Most times, though, a single animal successfully hunted, killed, and butchered is the result of countless hours of finding where they are, finding a place to sit and/or stalk, waiting them out, learning to call, learning to shoot, butchering, not to mention all the tools required. I’m not here to argue the virtues of hunting, though…

What I’m trying to get at is the fact that I can pay $80+ and – assuming I already have everything else I need to hunt – MAYBE put one lean, nature-fed animal in the freezer, two if I am very lucky and have a lot of free time on my hands. Or I could pay a little more than twice that and put less meat in my freezer from a decent, but less natural source. It’s a real crapshoot we’ve created.

I feel like it’s time to discuss population and balance…

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