Enthusiasts defend sport as enjoyable way to keep wild populations in check

As the snow settles in, a hunter packs his freezer full with sausages and steaks, just like a family returning from a weekly grocery shopping trip. However, instead of beef obtained from a slaughterhouse, the hunter’s has been processed from a deer he brought down in northern Alberta.

Calgarian Brian Kennedy, 29, has been hunting since his high school days and believes that this season was his best season yet. Kennedy has brought home a deer, a wolf and two coyotes, all of which are legal kills within the province of Alberta.

Brian Kennedy and his wolf from this fall hunting season. His wolf will go on display in his home as a wall rug.
Photo courtesy of Brian Kennedy
“Lots of people have questioned me on the legality of shooting the wolf and the coyotes,” Kennedy says. “However, anyone who spends much time in the bush or farmland would know these predators are over-populated right now. Wolves especially are having a big impact on game populations.”

Kennedy has encountered individuals who are bothered by the act of hunting but says, “If it’s legal, I’m OK with it. If you don’t like hunting, then don’t hunt, but don’t hate on people who hunt lawfully, especially if you enjoy chicken or steak from the grocery store. That chicken or cow was killed as well to eat, just the same as a deer.”

Graham Stinson has been hunting for 13 years and has never missed a season.

Stinson hunts whitetail deer and mule deer every year and tries his hand at other species, like antelope, antlerless moose and cow elk. Stinson also enters his name into draws for trophy deer tags. In the winter, he enjoys trying his hand at calling coyotes, a talent that requires strong vocal skills. Occasionally in the spring and early fall, he will spot and stalk hunt black bear, where he gets to track the bear through the bush, rather than using bait to bring it to him.

History Quick Fact

According to archaeology/anthropology professor, Roman Harrison, from Mount Royal University, active hunting can be traced back as far as approximately one million years ago based on evidence of scratch marks on prey bones from stone tools.

Humans, acted first as scavengers 2.5 million years ago when their populations expanded out into the Savannah grasslands, where fruit was impossible to find.

Once humans began hunting, it became a way of life where meat made up 80 percent of our diet.

He believes that people who compare hunting to slaughter “may not be considering the huge list of benefits that [legally] trimming a few animals out of the population does for a vast number of other persons, occupations, and the animals themselves.”

Some of these benefits, to Stinson, include overpopulation which “may result in inadequately nourished animals, increased risk of disease, and decreased dependence on foraging for their own food apart of humans.”

Also, “too large a population of deer is detriment to the livelihood of farmers and ranchers as the deer consume resources allocated to livestock.” Too many deer “in many areas of the province, will lead to an increased chance for animals to be struck in the roadways, leading to loss of life.”

To Stinson, hunting is his chance to get away and release built-up tension and stress. In the backwoods, he can escape the crowded streets of the city and “remain ‘disconnected’ until the trip is over.”

Daryl Payne made a trip to Africa this year. Meat that wasn’t consumed by him and his hunting group would go to the local villagers.
Photo courtesy of Daryl Payne
Daryl Payne, 38, enjoys all parts of hunting, including the taste of the meat that is free of chemicals and steroids.

However, the worst is when “people equate poaching to hunting,” Payne says. “[Poachers] are dirt bags,” he says. “People will say ‘hunters killed three grizzly bears on the side of the highway,’ but hunters don’t do that, the poachers do. The people that don’t know the difference lump everybody together, that’s frustrating.”

Payne has been approached many times and been told that what he does is wrong has been called a murderer.

“A lot of people who have a very strong opinion about hunting, know nothing about it,” he says. “They know they don’t want the cute little animal to get shot, but that’s all they know. They don’t know anything about conservation, population control, the diseases that can spread through if the population gets too high, any of that jazz. They are clueless about it, they don’t care. They want to hug some trees and chew on some granola and have a happy life.”

kfisher@cjournal.ca