While various individuals and animal rights groups may portray hunting as animal cruelty, and still others believe that wild animals should be left to themselves and not killed for human gain, the truth is that hunting is an essential part of a healthy, balanced ecosystem. It is true that in an area unspoiled by humans, the prey and natural predators strike a balance for healthy living within a given habitat. However, such an unspoiled place is nearly extinct on the face of the earth, and humans cannot shirk the responsibility they took on when they began destroying natural habitat and animal predators.
If a predator is removed from an area, what must happen to restore the balance? Another predator must emerge. Without that replacement predator, prey animals will outgrow the resources of the habitat in which they live. Food will become scarce, and the rising population density offers a prime incubator for all of the parasites and bacteria that thrive on the life blood of the prey population. Eventually these animals will die off – slowly and painfully, starving and disease-ridden.
A common mistake humans make is to set themselves apart from nature, and to see nature as everything that is not wrought by humans. Whether we like it or not, we are a part of nature, and it is our duty to recognize what changes we make in an ecosystem and act accordingly to correct the balance. Predators of all kinds have either proven to be dangerous to the human population and summarily destroyed, or require huge habitats that can no longer be accommodated in the face of large-scale farming and urban sprawl. All of nature has the means to balance itself out, and we are the replacement predators in areas where the previous predator populations have been depleted.
Many enjoy deer hunting for the opportunity to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, as well as to provide healthy meat free of the excess fat, steroids, antibiotics, and other potentially harmful problems that plague domestic animals. These are generally also the people who can best appreciate how their hunting efforts ensure that such “great outdoors” continue to exist by keeping wild animal populations within the bounds of what the land can support.
An area where predators are lacking – human and otherwise – is easy to spot. Such a place may be overgrazed, may be filled with malnourished animals, and have more than its share of rotting corpses where animals succumbed to the lack of resources or had a deadly encounter with human technology. Roadkill, animals tangled in fences, and animals that have become accustomed to human garbage and proximity are all signs of an unbalanced habitat.
Hunting is not detrimental to the hunted animal populations. While a small number are injured or poached by irresponsible people or sheer accident, most are managed according to plans carefully set out by local game management to ensure maximum health of the overall population. Deer hunting ensures that herds are kept within sizes that can be supported by the resources available, and that older animals are removed from the population instead of remaining to deplete food sources long after they’ve outlived their productive life span. Routine culling keeps diseases from progressing to epidemic proportions, and helps keep immune-compromised animals from harboring diseases that can affect the rest of the herd.
Without responsible hunting practices, the face of what natural habitat remains would change entirely. Overpopulation would prove no less deadly than hunting, but the overall health of the population would decline, and the residual effects would prove detrimental to the entire local ecosystem. The only way to ensure that nature as we know it continues to exist is to behave responsibly within the role that we created by the gaps we left in the natural cycle, which includes controlling deer populations through regulated harvesting.