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The Bigger Picture of Deer Hunting

Photo by Scott Carroll on Unsplash

Last updated on October 20, 2022

An animal wrecks chaos upon our forests. It breeds like crazy, eats up plants and crops, allows diseases to thrive, and even increases car collisions. What might this animal be? This is not a wild boar, nor a raccoon. It’s a deer. 

The Problem With Rampant Deer

Deer are problematic animals when overabundant, and this is the case in many parts of the United States. With no more natural predators in the area except humans, reliance falls upon us to keep the deer population at bay. Although many argue that hunting is immoral and not fair to the animals themselves, hunting deer, in actuality, is nearly a necessity in today’s society.

When hunting is mentioned within this article, it refers to hunting deer, not other animals. What is especially not included is hunting animals to extinction. Rather, the focus is the hunting of deer to preserve ecosystems.

With that in mind, around 6 million white-tailed deer are thought to be killed by hunters every year. This is quite a high number. Yet, it is dwarfed by the reality that after most hunting seasons, the deer population doubles. In 2022, after the last deer hunting season, 12 million fawns were born. Despite the importance of hunting to keep deer populations at a lower rate, hunters still struggle to keep up with birthing rates.

Additionally, humans often have to deal with the consequences of this population growth. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top animal-related claim in the United States is deer collisions. Additionally, PetKeen states 200 fatalities occur each year from collisions. Even if this does not seem like a lot, it’s devastating for the families involved. Another way deer directly harm humans is by eating the important crops people rely on.

The Benefits of Hunting

People typically think of the benefits of hunting as feeding families and restoring balance to the ecosystem. However – while these are both very true and important – the benefits go much deeper than this.

If done right, obtaining a hunting license also goes towards protecting the environment. Purchasing a hunting license is usually done through the Department of Natural Resources. This means that as of 2011, of each dollar spent, about 57 cents goes to Fisheries and Wildlife Management. Therefore, any money spent on gaining the right to hunt deer goes toward prolonging the protection of the environment. 

Hunters do not only pay to help maintain the environment through hunting licenses. There are also many acts and laws, such as the Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingell-Johnson Act which have goals to tax hunters. The money from that is used for wildlife conservation. When purchasing guns or ammunition, part of that money goes toward restoring the land and animals that one may intend on hunting. In fact, about a billion dollars each year is raised for this purpose. 

An Alternative to Hunting Deer

Still, hunting is not the only answer. It would be remiss not to mention wolf reintroduction efforts in Colorado. This plan intends to introduce the predators to specific areas with the hopes that they will hunt deer and restore balance to the ecosystems with a non-human predator.

Many people spread fears about wolves hunting livestock, saying that they are dangerous for humans and pets alike. However, evidence has proven that other attempts at wolf reintroduction did not lead to horrible impacts such as the ones that are assumed. For example, in Idaho in 1995, when wolves were reintroduced, they were only responsible for 113 livestock deaths each year. When considering the millions of sheep and cattle that farmers own, that number pales in comparison. 

Furthermore, evidence has suggested that using wolves allows for healthier deer and elk. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a deadly brain disease that affects the deer in Yellowstone National Park. After researchers looked into it, they found that wolves might slow the spread of the disease. They eat unhealthy deer and elk, preventing it from spreading as they cannot get CWD. Of course, this doesn’t mean they eradicate the disease completely. The presence of wolves works as a way to solve many potential problems when it comes to deer populations growing, though.

Worries that wolf reintroduction will cut down on hunting are also not proven. There are plenty of deer and elk that roam wild, enough to suggest that hunters and wolves can share their prey. 

Still, this is only a proposed action in Colorado, with no promises that it will be enacted there or elsewhere within the country. Until more solutions make their way to lawmakers, the best thing to do is to hunt deer. 

The Bigger Picture

At the end of the day, the impacts of deer overpopulation are a response to human involvement. The importance placed upon animal life is very crucial, however, when natural ecosystems are disrupted by humans, it is up to us to deal with the consequences.

Whether hunting for food, for sport, or for the environment, hunters all contribute to an attempt at restoring balance. Still, with new solutions on the horizon, there is more hope. Until then, it is important to see the overall bigger picture when it comes to hunting.

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