Tag Archives: deer

What do children learn when they’re taught to kill?

By Craig Shapiro

How do you teach a child to kill?

That’s what hunters do, right? They teach their sons and daughters to kill.

I don’t mean hiding in a tree stand or waiting idly in a blind until a deer, bear or duck comes into killing range. All that takes is a cold disregard for the life of another being.

What I mean is, how do you teach a child that it’s OK to terrorize animals and destroy their families? Is bloodlust ingrained, or do Dad and Mom have to nurture it?

I’ve been wondering about that ever since reading about the Youth Bear Hunting Day in Maine. Last month, children 16 and under armed themselves with rifles, bows and arrows, and crossbows and spent the day slaughtering the state’s iconic black bears.

If only this odious killing spree were an exception.

But Wisconsin is also putting on a two-day deer hunt next month, for children ages 10 to 15. The kids don’t need a certificate to point their weapons and fire as long as they’re “mentored” by an adult.

One writer in South Bend, Indiana, even lamented that some parents have shirked their responsibilities because they’ve stopped teaching their children to kill. But not to worry, he wrote: The sponsors of a recent pheasant kill “are stepping up to fill the void.”

He would have been heartened by a Chicago writer’s account of dove-hunting season’s opening day: The “coolest” thing he saw was a father leading his two young daughters onto the killing field.

What are we teaching our children? That massacring wildlife is some kind of noble tradition?

Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors may have had to hunt for food, but today, hunting is a senseless blood sport. Less than 5 percent of Americans hunt, and most of them aren’t killing to survive. They’re killing because they want another head or pair of antlers to hang on the wall.

Are we teaching our children that hunting is a “sport”? Last time I checked, a sport pitted evenly matched, willing opponents against each other on a level playing field.

Are we teaching them that many animals suffer prolonged and painful deaths when they’re blasted with a bullet or pierced with an arrow? One study found that some wounded deer suffered for more than 15 minutes and that 11 percent had to be shot two or more times before they died. A biologist estimated that more than 3 million wounded ducks go “unretrieved” every year.

A couple of the news stories that I read said that children will get to “harvest” a deer or bird. This language is as predictable as it is disingenuous. Hunters like to use the word “harvest” (“cull” is another favorite) to lull the public into forgetting that hunting is the same as slaughtering. Are our children learning to think of hunting as mere harvesting?

Hunters also use “harvest” to pretend that they’re keepers of the environment. But they aren’t targeting sick and injured animals and putting them out of their misery — they’re looking to “bag the biggest buck” and win bragging rights. What do children learn from that?

All that hunters do by killing is to create a spike in the animals’ food supply, which increases breeding among survivors and attracts newcomers. And they’re abetted by fish and game agencies, which design “wildlife management” programs to ensure that there will always be more animals to kill, not fewer.

You can’t tell me that putting a crossbow in the hands of a 10-year-old doesn’t desensitize that child.

A crossbow. In the hands of a 10-year-old.

What are we teaching our children?

Drivers, beware: Deer-car collisions increase during hunting season

By Paula Moore

November is the peak month for collisions between cars and deer, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Insurance groups estimate that about one in every 100 drivers will be involved in a deer-vehicle collision at some point in his or her life. A fatal crash late last month in Indiana illustrates how heartbreaking such encounters can be. Seven people—including four children—were killed after their minivan hit a deer and was subsequently struck by a semi-trailer.

While hunters invariably point to such tragedies as justification for killing even more deer, the blame for deer-vehicle collisions falls at least partly on their own shoulders.

Pennsylvania-based Erie Insurance, which has analyzed deer-vehicle collision data in the state for more than a decade, found that the opening day and opening Saturday of deer hunting season are “[t]wo of the most dangerous days to drive.” According to the Missouri Insurance Information Service, increased deer activity associated with hunting is a “major factor” in the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in the last three months of the year. With more people (hunters) in the woods, deer are spooked out of wooded areas—often out onto the road.

Hunting also increases deer populations—which increases the likelihood that deer-car collisions will occur. While several studies have suggested that sterilization programs may provide an effective, long-term solution to controlling deer populations, hunting just makes the problem worse. It’s been shown, for example, that in hunted populations, does are more likely to have twins rather than single fawns and are more likely to reproduce at a younger age. Immediately following a hunt, there’s less competition for food. The surviving deer are better nourished, which can lead to a higher reproductive rate and lower neonatal mortality.

The state agencies responsible for wildlife “management” know this, of course, but they’re primarily run by hunters, who hardly have the animals’ best interests in mind. So, instead of setting up sterilization programs, they destroy the deer’s homes by clear-cutting to increase the amount of vegetation for the deer to eat—further increasing their population. Such programs help to ensure that there are plenty of animals for hunters to kill (not to mention plenty of revenue from the sale of hunting licenses).

Simple, nonlethal methods can reduce the risk of deer-vehicle collisions. A team of scientists from the University of Alberta found that simply placing warning signs in hotspots where deer are known to cross roads can reduce collisions by 34 percent. Other communities are experimenting with roadside sensors that trigger lights and whistles as cars approach to scare deer away and with laser beams that sound alarms to alert motorists to the presence of deer.

Drivers should also slow down and watch the road carefully—especially during hunting season. Scan the side of the road for wildlife and use high-beam headlights at night when there is no oncoming traffic. Also be aware that deer tend to travel in groups, so if you see one deer, slow down and watch for more. In many deer-vehicle accidents, the driver slowed down for one deer, then sped up and hit another one.

Hunters like to say that killing deer is the only way to prevent traffic collisions with them, but it’s not. When hunting season turns deer territories into a war zone, it’s no wonder that the animals panic and run—often right out onto our roadways.


Paula Moore is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation.