Monday, June 05, 2023

The cruelty of nature

| July 29, 2021 12:00 AM

Hunting is conservation! That is the motto of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

It appears on the cover page of their bi-monthly journal, Bugle.

For those of you that have been reading my bi-weekly Flathead Outdoors column for the last 25 years, you know that I love the outdoors, especially the hunting and fishing aspects of outdoor recreation.

A few times each year I get reader mail, sometimes through Letters to the Editor and sometimes personal letters sent to my home or through the Daily Inter Lake office.

This column is in response to one such letter I recently received that called me nasty names and referred to me and other hunters as “slob hunters.”

It was clear to me that this fella, from Marion, dislikes all hunters, and probably anglers, too.

He views wildlife as sacred and says that we humans should never kill any of God’s wild critters.

Everything that exists on planet earth can generally be categorized as being an animal, a vegetable or a mineral (rocks).

Recent scientific studies indicate there are microscopic critters that have both plant and animal characteristics.

Plants have the advantage of being able to manufacture their own food by sending roots into Mother Earth to extract nutrients and moisture, and soak up sunlight to manufacture their own nourishment.

We animals don’t have that ability. We sustain human and animal life by eating other plants and animals.

Now this letter writer from Marion probably believes he sustains his life by not harming any wildlife. He is absolutely wrong!

I don’t know if he is just against eating wild meat or also against eating all meat such as pork, chicken and beef. Even strict vegetarians cause the death of many animals in order to survive.

Each spring I roto-till my backyard vegetable garden. I grow a variety of corn, tomatoes, peas, lettuce and other vegetables.

Each spring, after roto-tilling, I notice dozens of worms and nightcrawlers that have been cut in half by my tiller. Do those earthworms have any less of a right to live than the elk or deer I shoot and eat?

My vegetable garden kills wildlife. Now guess how many zillions of worms, gophers, ground nesting birds and other wild critters get killed during the plowing and harvesting of Montana’s millions of acres of wheat, barley and other human plant foods.

I think the biggest threat to mankind’s oldest way of surviving, hunting and fishing for food, is Hollywood.

Our TV screens are chuck full of cute animated wildlife critters that are really nasty wildlife species such as mice, rats and bugs that laugh, cry and hug each other just like humans.

In most cases, nothing could be further from the truth. I like the story of how bass reproduce. After forming a nest in the lake bottom, mom bass lays her eggs and pappa bass fertilizers them with his sperm.

He then guards the eggs from other fish and water critters that love to eat fish eggs. Now, that is where the Hollywood version of bass reproduction ends.

What they don’t show is that after the eggs hatch, papa bass turns around and eats his newly hatched kids!

So much for compassionate papa bass!

But, that’s how mother nature works. Life in the wild is tough and cruel! They kill to survive.

Several years ago, I read a story about a death of a bull elk in Yellowstone National Park.

Park policy is for natural management of wildlife. I later met this outdoor writer at a hunting convention and he confirmed the story. That writer lived near Yellowstone and makes frequent trips into the park. One winter he watched an old bull elk slowly die.

The bull lived in Yellowstone, so never was hunted or shot.

Each visit to the park showed the elk living in a smaller and smaller winter home range. Its ribs stood out. This elk appeared to be starving.

Being an old elk, its teeth were probably worn down to its gums. It probably could not chew the normal woody plant tips or dry grass which is its natural winter food.

There are no elk dentists in Yellowstone to provide replacement elk teeth.

One day the elk bedded near a park road, too weak to even stand. An armed park ranger drove that road every day and stopped to observe the dying and suffering elk. He then drove on.

Park policy was natural management of wildlife. This elk was dying a slow natural death. It was against park policy to shoot this elk, to end its suffering.

One day the elk was dead. Tracks and evidence in the snow indicated the helpless elk was discovered by a pack of coyotes who quickly attacked this helpless elk. It is likely the coyotes were eating this elk when it was still alive.

Not a pleasant way to die, but a natural way to die. A bullet would have been merciful.

Most natural deaths in the wild are usually painful and not quick like the near instant kill by a hunter’s bullet.

So, I, as a hunter, along with over 100,000 other Montana hunters, have no lasting regrets about killing wildlife so that my family can eat.

I don’t necessarily enjoy killing deer and elk, but killing is an essential part of hunting.

As the Bugle magazine says, hunting is conservation!

I’ll add that hunting is natural and usually provides a more quick and painless death than most natural deaths. I am a hunter and conservationist.

Death is the final chapter of life.

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