Killing is a necessary part of hunting. Whether hunting animals for meat or harvesting flora for their edible parts, killing is a part of the act. But there are other reasons for killing when out among the leaves.
Varmints like this little prairie dog are destructive pests in many Plains States and portions of the Intermountain West.
Many hikers, campers, backpackers, and even photographers, bird watchers, and outdoor enthusiasts go armed while outdoors. The federal government recently acknowledged the right of the public to go armed when visiting our national park system and other federal lands. When out in the wilderness, far from civilization and the rapid assistance it provides, one travels at their own peril. Man is not the only predator on this planet, and bears, lions, wolves, and other dangerous animals are threats that must be planned for should an encounter turn deadly.
Hunting is a recreational sport while defense against wild critters is not. Yet, there are still more forms of killing, besides hunting, that are also recreational. Varmint control, a necessary evil in many parts of the nation, can be a challenging and rewarding pastime for outdoor enthusiasts.
While I don’t normally shoot, trap, or kill anything I don’t intend to eat, many other outdoor enthusiasts enjoy pursuing coyotes, prairie dogs, feral hogs, and other invasive species. Farmer Frank recently returned from a feral hog hunt in Oklahoma where wild pigs are a horribly destructive and invasive bunch that have been driving out native (and often threatened or endangered) species, in addition to destroying acres upon acres of crops.
And you know what? That’s OK. It may not be my cup of tea, but I recognize the importance of eliminating varmints.
Some of his readers however were not so understanding. Some asked what was done with the carcasses of the hogs that were killed. The fact is, wild pigs are difficult enough to find and kill when pursuing a single boar or sow for meat. When the goal is to put a significant dent in the population, one has to be able to move quickly and silently to set up where they’re at and then move on to where they are heading next. Recovering and processing the carcass during the hot summer nights cannot always be done in a safe and timely manner.
Frank did make a couple of statements that I will disagree with however. He commented that
the local counties trap and blood-test their feral hogs to make sure there is no risk of brucellosis or anthrax. I’m not sure about all of Texas, but I know they don’t where I was in Oklahoma.
If you want to put your family at risk of contracting brucellosis from eating infected pork from a feral hog, go ahead and be my guest, but don’t invite me for supper.
While Frank is correct, feral hogs have been known to be carriers of these bacteria, there is virtually no risk of infection from consuming untested meat when it is properly prepared. The biggest risk of contracting brucellosis and anthrax is during the cleaning, butchering, and preparation of the animal.
Brucellosis is primarily contracted through fluid transfer (contact with swine blood on an open cut or mucous membrane) or aerosol inhalation of contaminated flesh or fluids. By wearing protective gloves and following basic sanitary guidelines, the risk of infection is virtually nil.
But I’ve gotten off topic.
There is a critical difference between hunting game for meat, and hunting varmints in order to control the immense damage they cause, not just to human activity such as agriculture, but the often irreversible damage they leave in their wake when they drive out the native plants and animals. For one, the tactics used to hunt varmints differ greatly from the ethics of fair-chase hunters follow when pursuing deer, elk, antelope, and other tasty ungulates.
Often times, outdoorsmen heading out for varmint control will say that they are hunting their quarry. I’m not so keen on using that term for that purpose. Setting up 200 yards away from a prairie dog town and eliminating the pests as fast as you can draw a bead on them when you have no intention of eating the little rodents is not hunting. It’s killing, and that distinction should be made clear. But it’s killing that is necessary and should not denigrate those who are skilled in executing the task.