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Hunting In The Modern World
My year has five seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall and hunting season. When ducks are migrating and deer are rutting, I spend a lot of time and money in pursuit of game. Without fail, the non-hunters I know comment on how much easier it would be to buy meat. With the invention of industrial agriculture and the spread of massive, 24-hour grocery stores, food has never been more abundant or accessible. This begs an important question: with food so plentiful, has hunting become obsolete? The answer is simple. No. Absolutely not.
For the vast majority of our past, humans survived by hunting and gathering, but that way of life is almost gone. At present, almost everyone, including many farmers and ranchers, buy their food in grocery stores and restaurants.
Albeit efficient, our modern food distribution system doesn’t escape criticism.
Despite being cheap and convenient, fast foods and processed foods can just as easily be described by their artificial flavour and their unhealthy excess of fat, salt and sugar. Fast food is part of the reason North Americans face an epidemic of obesity.
An increasing number of North Americans are rejecting the use of chemicals and preservatives in the production of their food. For this reason, organics are becoming more popular and more profitable. The movement to eat locally-produced food is also gaining momentum. In short, people want to eat better.
One of those people is Tania Liboiron, from Ponteix, Sask. She recently began big game hunting. The veterinary technologist explained that fewer and fewer people are actively involved in the most basic human need – feeding oneself.
“I hunt mostly to be involved in gathering food. It’s something no one does anymore because we live in cities and we’re too busy. I like to know where my food comes from,” she explained. She continued by saying, “Wild meat comes from my region and it doesn’t contain preservatives. It’s organic meat.”
Liboiron confided that she feels daunted when she goes to the grocery store because she finds an overwhelming majority of the products contain unhealthy amounts of sodium, refined sugars and trans fats.
In our ancient past, humans hunted because they had to.
A few generations ago, hunters enjoyed spending time with their family or being in nature, while others hunted to feed themselves, to control animal populations or to travel to exotic destinations.
Today, the modern world creates a situation our ancestors couldn’t have related to – too much poor-quality food is too easily accessible and we are becoming overweight and unhealthy.
But proper nutrition isn’t the only reason that hunting must play a role in our modern world. Humans need to hunt because they’ve eliminated most large predators. While some areas in western Canada have seen an increase in the number of top predators, namely cougars and wolves, most big game populations are controlled by hunting.
Maintaining the balance of an ecosystem isn’t the only consideration. Overabundant wildlife populations, especially of deer and moose, can cause significant property damage and death as a result of motor vehicle collisions along motorways.
Pound for pound, wild meat can be more costly than domestic meat. Hunting demands a considerable investment in equipment and requires hours of physical strain without a guarantee of success. To attain his or her goal and to not waste time or money, the hunter must know his or her prey, its habits and its traits.
According to Joel Potie, a biology student at the University of Saskatchewan, hunting compliments his studies.
“When I go hunting, I learn to better understand the animals, how they think and how they live,” said the undergraduate, adding he has a deeper knowledge of the role predators, in this case human predators, play because of his first-hand experience.
Like many other hunters, Potie has developed a profound respect for his quarry, but also for the environment that gives it life. Hunters want to protect species and the ecosystems they rely on.
To be sure their lifestyle continues, hunters have become interested in the biggest problem facing wild animal populations: habitat loss. In time, climate change will cause significant changes, but so far its full effect has yet to be seen.
Habitat loss occurs when cities expand into uninhabited areas and when prairie, forest, jungle or wetlands are destroyed and converted into farmland or exploited for their commodities.
In other words, habitat loss has occurred because of the need to house and feed a human population that has skyrocketed since the Industrial Revolution.
To protect nature, hunters have created numerous organizations. Their premise is simple: they conserve habitat to ensure populations. A very important spin-off is that habitat protection also increases the survival rates of the other mammals, birds, reptiles and plants that form an entire ecosystem. Helping one species helps many. Together, wildlife federations and other notable organizations have saved millions of acres of wild lands from the bulldozer and the plough.
In exchange, members of conservation groups take the lives of a few individual animals, but never at the expense of the species and, in fact, to its advantage.
For non-hunters, it can be difficult to understand how hunters can love their prey and also seek to kill it. That’s the paradox of hunting and an interesting reflection on human nature.
We have seen that hunting allows us to eat healthier, manage game populations in the absence of large predators and develop an interest in conservation. The modern world needs hunting, but it also complicates it. One of the challenges facing hunting in our high-tech era is a decrease in the number of new hunters.
There are several reasons for low recruitment, but most stem from two sources: circumstance and economics.
Many people have told me they would like to try hunting, but aren’t sure they could kill an animal because it wasn’t part of their upbringing. Others have expressed interest, but explained they never had friends or family members who could take them hunting. Given that modern families are getting much smaller and that more and more of us make friends online, there are fewer people in our social circles who could show us how to hunt.
For decades in western Canada, our population has flowed from towns and villages to cities in pursuit of economic opportunities. Hunting isn’t as popular in urban areas, nor as accepted. Cities separate us from nature. It’s easier to hunt when you live close to where you hunt.
Even if a new sportsman or woman is recruited, it takes money to hunt. Cost can be a significant factor for young hunters. Most people start hunting in their teens or 20s – neither of which are periods in life known for personal wealth. A new hunter needs a rifle and the proper clothes. This alone will typically cost between $500 and $1,500, depending on the quality of the purchases. But keep in mind that there are used options available for firearms and even clothing.
The role of hunting has changed over the years. The traditional reasons to hunt are still valid. The modern world has created a desire to procure healthy food, as well as an interest in education and conservation. Hunting improves the hunter’s quality of life and also benefits the environment. The planet’s ecosystems are in peril. Now is the time to be a hunter and, by extension, a conservationist.
It’s obvious that hunting isn’t obsolete and that the reasons to hunt evolve over time. Does hunting play a role in the modern world? Yes. Absolutely.
The cost of a pound of ground beef varies between $4 and $6. Considering that the cost of a pound of wild meat includes hunting equipment (rifle, scope, ammunition, etc.) fuel, guiding fees and more, there is absolutely no comparison – wild meat is insanely expensive. But that isn’t the point.
Procuring your winter’s supply of wild meat is without question the most rewarding. There’s no camaraderie in buying ground beef. No one poses for a picture with a package of ground beef. No one tells supermarket stories. Hunting stories get told for years and while they might not get anymore accurate with each telling, they do get better with age. Plus, they make people laugh and are the result of an adventure, of an accomplishment.
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