Friday, September 28, 2012

Nuse: No link between hunting and violence

Here's an article quoting Eric Nuse, former executive director of Orion and current Orion board member. The article was written in response to a reader who is opposed to hunting and equates teaching hunting to youth with an increase in violent crime.
From the Sunday Rutland Herald
Jensen Afield, for Sept. 23
By Dennis Jensen
The doe came out of the thicket behind the house and was feeding on the luscious tops in the flower garden, not 20 yards from the back door.
We had company that morning and I called one young woman over to the kitchen window.
“Take a look,” I told her. “Is she beautiful, or what?”
“Yeah, so beautiful you’d like to blow her brains out,” was her response.
I didn’t take the time to explain to my rude visitor that I can hold a wild animal in high esteem and still value it for the venison it could provide.
I didn’t go off on how she came from a very populated state where hunting is viewed as something of an aberration and that she, like so many other people these days, have lost touch with the natural world.
Instead, I just shook my head, knowing that there was no way I was going to change her suburban mind.
Even here, in rural Vermont, there are folks who hate the fact that, every fall, men, women and children of all colors and backgrounds take to the woods to hunt wild game.
The people who oppose hunting are, of course, entitled to their opinions, as misinformed as they may be, and they sometimes sound off on their views in letters to the editor.
But one recent letter got me thinking about how truly removed from reality some people are, these days.
It’s one thing to disagree with hunting, to take a stand against it. But it’s quite another to go so far as to suggest that maybe there is a correlation between taking young people into the woods to teach them about hunting and the growing incidents of violence and crime.
“And we wonder why people in this area are preying on each other more and more,” she wrote. “Maybe they learned the love of killing from their tender youth.”
Of course, she could not back up that bizarre theory because there is nothing out there to suggest that young people who are introduced to hunting go on to become violent criminals.
In fact, for one guy who should know, it is quite the opposite.
Eric Nuse, a former Vermont game warden, is a board member and former executive director of Orion, the hunter ethics organization out of Ithaca, N.Y.
Here is the basic Orion take on hunting, in a nutshell: It calls for safety first, obeying the law, the clean kill, an “if you kill it, you eat it” philosophy, fair chase and supporting conservation efforts.
Nuse said that studies have shown that hunting and violence simply do not go hand in hand.
“I know there has been research, through the use of brain scans, that the part of the brain that lights up when a person is involved in hunting activity is completely different from the part of the brain that is stimulated through those violent video games,” Nuse said.
“If you’re involved in hunting and you have a mentor that is teaching you the right way to do it, that increases your reverence for life because you understand the whole circle of life,” he said.
The bottom line is that death is part of the cycle of life, Nuse said.
“If you’re going to live, survive as a living organism you have to eat other things that are alive or were alive — plant or animal — so you understand where you are in the circle of life,” he said.
So where do these opinions linking violent behavior and introducing kids to hunting come from, Nuse was asked.
“It comes from ignorance,” he said. “These people see all killing as violent. But in the context of hunting it isn’t, especially in the context of how we hunt and why we hunt.”
Hunting is a whole lot more than taking an animal’s life, according to Nuse.
“They just don’t get it. They don’t understand that hunting is about the hunt and the final act of pulling the trigger is a goal of hunting but it’s just a very small part of hunting and, quite often, it doesn’t occur.”
The data surrounding Vermont deer hunting backs up what Nuse says. In 2010, hunters shot 6,663 bucks during the 16-day firearms deer season. More hunters take part in this season than any other.
While there is no way of knowing, for certain, how many people who hold a hunting license take part in the buck season, data from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Departments shows that 79,603 resident and non-resident licenses were sold in 2010.
It is well known that the vast majority of those holding hunting licenses do partake in the buck season and it is widely believed that well below 10 percent of those hunters are successful at tagging a buck each year.
Yet, every year, those deer hunters go back into the woods. If hunting was about killing, then there’s an awful lot of unsuccessful “killers” out there.
There must be something else going on.
Nuse said he believes that most of the people who oppose hunting have lost touch with the world of nature.
“It comes from people who are disconnected from nature,” he said. “You wouldn’t hear that kind of talk from some farm family. I suspect this is a person who never had a connection with nature, other than looking at it from a screen, the Bambi, Walt Disney view that one day the lions will lay down with the lambs.”
People who have never hunted often have a distorted view of what hunting is, Nuse said.
“It’s quite different than what they think. A lot of people think that when a hunter goes out he kills something,” he said. “But the reality is every hunter knows that is not true. A lot of people don’t understand about the preparation and the effort and how much satisfaction comes out of it without a kill at the end of the hunt. If somebody wants to call that fun, well and good. I call that deeply satisfying.”


  1. You are holding hunters in high esteem, but you are failing to mention all the road hunters, poachers, etc. While some hunters look at the animal with respect others really do fit the stereotype that many urban people have. People who write about hunting need to stop hiding the truth.

    As for young people turning violent due to hunting. No, but animal abusers certainly turn violent. Of course, you will have those who will pick up a gun and a license so they can legally shoot animals out of joy. Those hunters do exist, but hunting didn't make them the way they are.

    1. You are correct that there are bad apples that hunt. I spent a career trying to catch up with them and make them ex hunters. I did have some "joy" killers but they didn't make any attempt to do it with in the law.
      I think your final comments are right on. Thanks for caring.

    2. Keep in mind that the other end of the spectrum is true as well. There are people who could sit by a river or on a ledge all day long and just watch whatever unfolds in front of them. Some of those people hunt. It's not the other way around. As the same with the case of violence, being a hunter doesn't make you one of these people. That's why articles like these that expand on one person's view of hunting really are inaccurate for the whole.

    3. Re people "just sitting and watching whatever unfolds in front of them," I think the following is to the point:

      "The deer hunter habitually watches the next bend; the duck hunter watches the skyline; the bird hunter watches the dog; the non-hunter does not watch. When the deer hunter sits down he sits where he can see ahead, and with his back to something. The duck hunter sits where he can see overhead, and behind something. The non-hunter sits where he is comfortable."
      --Aldo Leopold, "The Deer Swath," in A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC.

    4. "There are good outdoors men who do not conform to these categories. There is the ornithologist who hunts by ear, and uses the eye only to follow up on what his ear has detected. There is the botanist who hunts by eye, but at much closer range; he is a marvel at finding plants, but seldom sees birds or mammals. There is the forester who sees only trees, and the insects and fungi that prey upon trees; he is oblivious to all else. And finally there is the sportsman who sees only game, and regards all else as of little interest or value.

      There is one illusive mode of hunting which I cannot associate exclusively with any of these groups: the search for scats, tracks, feathers, dens, roostings, rubbings, dustings, diggings, feedings, fightings, or preyings collectively known to woodsmen as ‘reading sign.’ This skill is rare, and too often seems to be inverse to book learning."

  2. "If hunting was about killing, then there’s an awful lot of unsuccessful “killers” out there."

    well duh, that's exactly right. Do you honestly think that only 10 percent come home without a kill out of choice?

    No, it's because they were unsuccessful at performing a kill.

    1. In Vermont it is more like 85% of deer hunters come home without making a kill. for most of them you are correct, they would have preferred to have gotten a deer. The fact nearly all continue to hunt deer, year after year, with or without getting a deer. Hardly a satisfying activity if your only or primary motivation is killing.

    2. I am from Ga & archery deer season has been going on for over 3 weeks now. Every weekend I have been hunting & haven't been able to take a shot yet. I have seen deer that have been out of range & I enjoyed watching them. If I don't get anything by the end of the season, around mid Jan, I will try again next year. & the year after. It isn't all about the kill. It has been nasty hot & the mosquitos have been awful. I don't care. Next Sat morning, before sunrise, I will be sitting in my stand again. It is the act of being in the woods with all of nature before me that makes it all worthwhile.

    3. Sorry but no. You are using what you want to be a fact to explain the behavior. The repeated attempts to kill doesn't mean there is some other benefit. All that can be said is that they try and try again and not bringing home a kill only means they were unsuccessful at performing a kill. It's not that by hunting they are becoming one with the universe and all that fuzzy feel good stuff. If the kill is such a small part of hunting, then why does such a vast number of hunters never set foot in the woods except during hunting season? And why again, do so many never even leave their trucks during hunting season?

    4. "Sorry, but no" Hmm, have you ever hunted? Then, quite literally, you don't know what you're talking about. Can you share your experience or can you only make blanket statements and judgements about an activity you never have experienced? Others here are discussing what THEY, as people, actually have experienced and felt. So to dismiss them out of hand means you are simply a Troll. Care to enlighten us with some real sharing that proves otherwise? Happy to be proved wrong. We, unlike you, are wiling to listen.

      And funny, I spend a considerable amount of my life in nature. So, I suspect, do others here. What is your personal experience in nature. Care to share?

    5. I don't hunt anymore, but I used to. I fish a bit. Actually I'm not dismissing them. Others here may discuss what THEY, as people, actually have experienced and felt. I don't dismiss that. However, those individuals can't make the assumption that the same applies to all hunters.

  3. People generally write about what they have experienced, so it's not a surprise that the more egregious practices might be overlooked by those that write about ethics. There may be an exception in those who write comments on blogs, who often write about what they know because they heard it, read it, or just think it without basis.

    I grew up hunting, and such slob hunters were a distant legend that I didn't believe. No doubt they existed, I had just not experienced them. if you had asked me what hunting was about, my views would have reflected that. I also had a father who was a homicide investigator. Death was common conversation, and I find that I am far more sensitive to graphic or gratuitous violence than my peers. Just as I understood the realities of eating meat, I also knew of the aftermath of human violence. The two were as far apart in my consciousness as things could be.

    Mr. Nuse has seen and researched this far more that my singular experience, and whatever experience participating in hunting Anonymous may have had. He has obviously seen huge amounts of people, often both the best but as game warden, the worst. The fact that he has the opinions he does says quite a bit about the average behavior.

    I try to avoid ascribing motivation to others. To do so reminds me of those people that project all kinds of perverted thoughts and motivations on gay people, but aren't gay and don't really know anyone who is. Once in a while their opinions might be true, and they say, Aha!, or "Duh" as if this proves something. There are slobs, the anti-social, and defectives in every walk of life, and some are hunters. It might be noted that the majority of poachers are turned in by hunters.

    So unless you hunt yourself, you probably don't know the feeling of a good day in the field, tuning into the comings and goings of animals, the cycles of the day, every shifting nuance of the wind. Though I might be considered a "successful" hunter in that I have been fortunate enough to keep my freezer stocked enough that I seldom buy meat, most of my days end watching a sunset and feeling lucky to have spent a day engaged as I have. That is the "something else" that Mr. Nuse describes. It is an experience far removed from the afflictions of modern society as can be. Everyone wants to be successful at their endeavors and hunting is no different. But the experience is instinctive and fulfilling in it's own right. That's what brings us back again and again.


    1. Nah, I've seen just about every slob hunter activity and dealt with enough slob hunters to know the dynamic. BTW, Vermont is continuously understaffed for Wardens. Not only do we continuously have open positions, but we also have a minimalistic force. In hunting seasons, the force deputizes additional wardens but we have about two wardens per county on a regular basis and not long ago that used to be one per county. There is so much slob behavior that happens which isn't even on a warden's radar because of such understaffing. The wardens just can't be everywhere at the same time or have enough presence to dissuade a would-be slob.
      So in the end, wardens are seeing the tip of the iceberg. We could easily use 2 fold the number of active wardens on a regular basis and 4 fold what we have in place during hunting seasons. In terms of this article, I don't buy the aura of tranquility put forth. It's a case of a few who want to paint over reality with a wide brush.

    2. Yes, as I mentioned. People talk about what they experience. People also see what they want to see. So not, "Nah". I see people throw cigarettes out of cars too. I don't know any smokers that do this.

      Question: Do you now, or have you ever hunted?


    3. I stand by what I already posted. Dislike it as much as I do, but that's the reality here. You make assumptions that all hunters get the "feeling of a good day in the field, tuning into the comings and goings of animals, the cycles of the day, every shifting nuance of the wind" which keeps them hunting year after year. I'm sure some do, but others are just shooters.

    4. Actually, neither I nor anyone else has said that. It's your dismissive tone I've had issue with. The reality is both. I know there are road hunters, because I see them from our property down near the access to the public land tat surrounds our place. Idiots that need to blow up 100 rounds of pistol ammo at 7:00am during deer season (can't substantiate that they are hunters, though). I am completely opposed to baiting, in particular for bears as it simply acclimates them to human-provided food. Bad idea. I might be noted that as a westerner, these things are illegal. Oh, so I'm hardly the "circle the wagons" guy.

      I'm also pretty mercenary. I hunt for food. So did my family for generations before me. Yes, I can be philosophical about how 20% of hunters get a deer each year in my state. However, in the 4 years since I started hunting again (since my teenage years), it would be valid to point out that it's easier to be philosophical when I've ended up with a deer and couple of pigs in the freezer every year.

      That being said, what I say is true. For me. And that is the only truth I know. I think it's also true for many others, particularly people who care to read a blog like this. After all, this isn't the "Drunk Asshole Road Hunter Blog". Hey, I've read a blog that recommends baiting pigs by pouring used motor oil on the ground, near a water hole. Are you kidding me?

      But to infer that no one has any values because some do not is misguided. Ever check out the percentage of heterosexual men that abuse their daughters? Makes the percentage of crappy hunters seem reasonable. But you don't find me saying that everyone does that. That doesn't mean I'm hiding from the reality, or everyone who talks of the sincere paternal love they feel for their kids is lying.

      Yeah, I know not everyone behaves according to my ideals. But I'd rather rally around our better nature and try to propagate a better standard of behavior than simply point out the shortcomings of the world.

      To circle back to the point of this post, I think more learn positive vales from hunting than negative.


  4. Neil,
    Thanks for your thoughts. The idea of walking in another persons moccasins is tried and true.

  5. "Actually, neither I nor anyone else has said that." The article does. And I didn't "infer that no one has any values because some do not". However, the article inferred that because some have values, all do. That's the point. It's a misguided conclusion. My view is sugar coating this is essentially ignoring the problem and that doesn't help anything.

  6. Anonymous,

    Can I call you Anony? I reread the article. I didn't find the inference that everyone always shares the same values.

    The basic point, that the desire to hunt isn't necessarily connected of violence in society, we might even agree on. I have sometimes taken you people in my extended family target shooting, so they can experience the reality of firearms, with the nearly religious dedication to safety and the seriousness of discharging a large caliber weapon compared to the gunplay in movies, games and media. A sort of deprogramming, if you will. I think hunting is even more sobering.

    The suggestion, that most people who hunt do so for more reasons than just killing and are pretty reverent, is something I accept not just because of the author's far greater experience than my own, but because my anecdotal experience dovetails with it. Polls have also shown that about 80% of people, when killing a large animal, either thank the animal or actually pray. A buddy of mine who's a guide backs this up, so much so he always gives folks a moment, one way or the other, to spend a bit with the animal away from the camaraderie or the high-fives. This might not be your experience, and that's valid, and I'm sorry.

    One can find the worst behavior, and truly you don't have to look for it. But the opposite is true too. My father, as I said, was a homicide investigator. He had about twice the rate of confession of his peers, and many co-workers hassled him about how he achieved that. "You wouldn't understand", he said. Finally, he relented. "I treat them like human beings. Few people want to kill someone. Lean on these guys, most of them are pretty hardened, and they won't break. But deep down, people want to get things off their chest. There's a reason people go to confession in churches. If you see them as a fellow human being, and allow them that dignity, they open up and confess." Most police probably look at these guys and see none of this.

    I don't think he, or I are naive. Nor I suspect is Mr. Nuse. I don't think this is sugar coating anything. Mr. Nuse has personally intervened with bad behavior more times than could be counted. I would not hesitate to turn in bad behavior or abuse of land or wildlife, but I've not had the opportunity.

    I look around and see many of my same motivations in my fellow hunters. Some with a Jesuit fervor and some with a nonchalance but i see many of the same motivations. In not all but most. I'm sorry your experience has been different.