The War Within: Are We Killing the Hunting Tradition?

By Jordan HowellDecember 7, 20123 Comments

LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015

As hunters we all have certain issues pertaining to our great sport that we feel strongly about.  No matter what part of the country we hail from, there is no doubt several topics that local hunters discuss most often amongst themselves. This can sometimes result in rather heated debates.  But why is that?  What causes this tension between fellow hunters? What can be done to stop it? To answer these questions lets first examine how our sport began.

Hunting has a long and storied tradition in North America.  From the Native Americans to the pioneers and mountain men who settled this country, hunting began as a means of sheer survival.  Certainly, the phrase “hunting is a way of life” really meant just that to the earliest inhabitants of this continent.  After centuries of progress, development, and industry growth, hunting has become less and less about survival, and more about sport.  Very few people in our day and age rely solely on harvested game for survival.


Hunters should try to make a good impression whenever we come into contact with non-hunters.

Nevertheless, hunting is in the blood of each and every one of us.  It’s an instinct passed down from our ancestors centuries ago.  Unfortunately that instinct remains hidden and untouched by the majority of people today.  As a result of the constant urbanization of the land, hunting is thought to be by many as a silly, pointless, and even cruel act.  Fortunately though, there are still a few million of us who understand and appreciate the hunting culture and heritage.

Despite what anyone thinks, America has a long hunting tradition.

The War of Access

Unfortunately, as America grows bigger and bigger, access to hunting land is becoming harder and harder for hunters to find.  In fact, loss of property access is the number one cause for hunters leaving the sport.  Many hunters become frustrated with having to settle for hunting small pieces of property or crowded public grounds and give up hunting for good. Many feel that the effort is no longer worth the reward.  Disputes over hunting land access can even spawn disagreements between friends and family members. 

In many heavily hunted areas of the country, gaining access to the best hunting spots can resemble cutthroat warfare.  Hunters tend to get pretty upset when they feel like their hunting spot is being encroached upon or threatened.  This has also created problems for many landowners, which further contributes to the problem.  Many landowners have simply decided to not allow hunting at all in an effort to avoid conflict and drama between hunters.  The only surefire way to escape these issues is to own your own hunting property; which many hunters simply cannot afford to do. 

Unfortunately, hunting has become a rich man’s game. The cost of a lease is going in excess of $10,000 a year (for prime land) and even land prices for hunting property has skyrocketed as of late.  All of these things are making it continually harder for the “average” hunter to gain access to quality ground to hunt.  We should keep this in mind, and keep a cool head, when situations over land access arise.


A hunter should be free to exercise personal choice when selecting a hunting weapon.

The War of Opportunity

With access becoming harder to gain, hunters want to get the most “opportunities on order to be successful under the circumstances they are facing.  I believe this is what spawns many conflicts about the type of equipment a hunter may use or tactics they may employ.  Some hunters don’t want other hunters to have opportunities that they feel gives them an unfair advantage.  For example, hunters are always arguing amongst themselves about these subjects at seminars, deer classics, online forums, hunting magazines, or anywhere else in the hunting community.  It seems as if the bowhunter’s are always mad at the gun hunters, the gun hunters are mad at the bowhunter’s, bowhunter’s are mad at crossbow hunters, the non-baiters are mad at the baiters… goes on and on and on. There always seems to be conflict between groups of hunters with different opinions. 

Frankly, I believe this type of behavior is giving the sport we all love a black eye.  In a recent survey, over 22 million people reported that they hunted at least one day last year.  That is a truly vast amount of people, all with different personalities, tastes, and opinions.  There is no possible way to get that many hunters to agree on every issue.  However, just because we may disagree doesn’t mean that we cannot be agreeable.  Most discrepancies between hunters stem from one or both sides not being fully informed or fully understanding the others point of view.  Let’s use the widely debated issue of baiting as an example.


Ethical? Not ethical? That is up to the individual and the law.

Another recent survey showed that the majority of hunters who oppose baiting live in states that have never allowed baiting, while the majority of those in favor of baiting live in states that allow it.  So many of those who bash baiting have never tried it personally and may not have an entirely accurate opinion of what it is like.  “Baiter Haters” may think it is like shooting fish in a barrel and therefore deem the act as unethical.  Well, consider a test that was conducted a few years ago on a 600 acre farm in North Carolina.  Half the stands on the property were placed over bait (which is legal there), while the other half were placed along funnels, trails, and other traditional ambush locations.  After the season, it was noted that 45% of the deer harvested were taken over bait, while 55% were taken without the aid of bait.  While more deer were actually harvested without the use of bait it is still the hunter’s choice whether or not to use it.  In such a situation, I think the matter of ethics is a personal decision that each hunter must make for his or herself.  If a hunter feels like baiting would be unethical to him, then he doesn’t have to use it, but that same hunter should not then criticize another hunter who decides to use it when the law permits. 

The War of Weapons

The same attitude can be applied to any other issue we may face, such as a hunter’s choice of weapon.  I have listened to some astounding conversations between hunters about ones right to use a certain type of weapon.  Crossbows seem to be the topic lately that is guaranteed to get the steam rolling out of a few people’s ears.  Despite this, more and more states are allowing crossbows to be used during general archery season.  This has upset many bowhunters across the country.  I have to admit, I am really confused regarding all the fuss that is being made over this issue.  I really would like to know what planet an individual lives on that believes he should be able to tell another individual that using a certain weapon is wrong when the law says it is legal.  Personally, I don’t think I will ever hunt with a crossbow, they just don’t appeal to me.  However, if allowing a different weapon to be used will get a few more people out in the wood, enjoying our sport, then we should be in favor of that.  I don’t care if it’s a .300 mag, a crossbow, a compound bow, a spear, or a slingshot; as long as an individual can cleanly and humanely kill the game they pursue with that weapon and the law says its legal, I’m all for it. Variety is the spice of life may seem like a silly old expression, but it rings true for hunters too.  We all have different tastes.


Anti-hunting organizations are always looking for reasons to attack us.

I once asked the famous gun hunter Larry Weisuhn why he never bowhunts.  His reply was quick and simple—-“Because the single most glorious smell in the world is freshly burnt gunpowder that I have just fired at a deer.”  I can respect that. And while we cannot all expect other hunters to share our exact views on every issue, we do have a responsibility to respect each other and work together as a unified group of sportsman.

The War of Offense and Defense

If you have ever played sports you have probably heard that defense wins championships.  Well I beg to differ on that.  Let’s imagine that you and I were playing a basketball game against one another.  If your team dominates on defense the whole game; you out rebound my team, you block more shots, you steal the ball more…that’s great, but if my team scores 50 baskets and yours only scores 49, I still win.  That is the situation we as a hunting community are faced with today.  So many people that I talk to think the most important thing is to defend our right to hunt against the anti-hunters.  I feel this is the wrong approach.  Why do we need to defend ourselves as hunters?


United we stand. Divided we fall……same goes for hunting.

When someone takes a defensive stance that usually means they did something wrong. As hunters we aren’t doing anything wrong.  We are simply expressing our God given right to fend for ourselves and do a little grocery shopping out in the woods.  We should never apologize or feel bad about being hunters.  We have nothing to be defensive about. I will never defend my right to hunt to anyone.  Instead I will play offense. What do I mean by that?  Well, when we as a hunting community start bickering and fighting amongst ourselves, it hardly appears that we are unified to an outsider.  Rather, we are showing that we have been consumed by an internal war.  The result, like I said, is a big black eye on our great heritage of hunting.  When this happens, organizations like PETA and the ASPCA don’t have to do much to cast us in a bad light. We are doing it to ourselves! They can simply stand back and watch the embers burn us from the inside out. I’m sure they say “Look at these hunters! They can’t even agree amongst themselves!”  All we do is add fuel to their fire. I think it is our responsibility to promote the good in hunting and the outdoors.  We can do that by being ethical and responsible hunters and by standing next to all of our fellow sportsmen and women; even if our opinions differ from time to time. 

The Reality of War

Overall, hunter numbers are falling. So, those of us who remain in the sport must carry the torch and pass our hunting tradition on to the next generation. This is important if we want the hunting way of life to continue.  Moving forward, as a unified “offense”, will do more for our sport than any amount of bickering amongst ourselves ever will.  If we can accomplish this, the anti-hunters will have no ammunition to throw at us. Then, we will have succeeded and can continue to pursue our game unhindered by any government, organization, or especially…….each other.

Jordan Howell
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