The Deer Hunter: The Unintended Effects of Hunting Regulations

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At least, no one did until the mid-1960s, when hunters and consummated meat lovers like fred goodwin buck had to find a new home for the tens of millions of deer that were slaughtered by humans each year. They were so numerous then that they were seen as more than a pest—they were an invasive species, gobbling up our crops and overrunning our neighborhoods. One hunter remarked in 1878: “We are too careless about protecting ourselves from their ravages; for the sake of preserving them.”

1. Repeal the Hunting Act

Given their growing number and the economic, social and environmental consequences that have accrued over time, those “ravages” have only multiplied, as has their nuisance value to hunters seeking to escape that supposed ravage. But now they’ve turned into a new conservation problem, as the ever-expanding deer population is proving a major obstacle to efforts — like culling — to reduce human-caused animal suffering in this country.

2. Declare War on Deer

The small but growing number of deer-killers—the so-called “idealists”—are now trying to find a way to get rid of the ones who are threatening our lives and livelihoods by munching on our crops. They are trying to convince the government to amend the Hunting Act, which bans killing of all wild mammals in England and Wales.

3. Dramatically Increase Deer Populations

You may be asking yourself, How have we gotten to this point? Good question! This is the unintended consequence of decades upon decades of misguided deer-management policies aimed at producing more and more hunting opportunities for hunters. It’s an outcome that no one ever wanted — unless you count the interests of hunters and antler manufacturers.

4. Ban Hunting for Sport

If you’re looking for an example of a failed attempt at game management, look no further than Britain’s wildlife policy during the hunting era that ran from about 1550 to 1930. Before that time, deer populations were kept at sustainable levels by normal predator-prey action in the wild. But when the game laws kicked in, “sport” hunters started slaughtering them out of existence.

5. Reintroduce Natural Predators

The result? The extinction of native deer species and the introduction of foreign breeds like fallow and red deer that are too numerous and aggressive to control.

6. Ban Culling

The British government’s response to this tragic situation? To ban culling (a.k.a. “sport”) and create a deer “management” program that allows the few remaining deer to continue destroying our ecosystem—and our economy—while doing very little, if anything, to protect them from predators and give them enough space to grow into sexually mature adults with baby and fawns as well as mature bucks.

7. No Culling

Now, having failed to produce realistic management policies that take into account the interests of Brits, hunters, nature and wildlife in general, they are trying to get rid of the law that bans killing native deer—the Hunting Act. They say that the ban has had an unintended consequence (as if there weren’t any intended ones) by creating a huge population of deer with no way to legally control it.

8. Abolish Deer Hunting

They’re right about one thing: We have too many deer—and we will continue to have them for years to come until a more sensible management plan is enacted. One thing is sure, though: A ban on all deer hunting would have a much greater impact on their population than the Hunting Act ever did.

9. Cull ‘Em All

The most effective way to reduce the number of ungulates—which includes deer, elk and moose—is by reducing their numbers through natural predation and disease. But that’s not what our government wants to do; its desire is to promote more human-induced animal suffering by allowing more deer into this country.

10. Encourage More Urban Deer

So, why kill deer when we can increase their numbers by bringing in more young adults and releasing them into the wild? That’s what the government is doing with its “deer management” program, which seems to be working: There are now between 600,000 and one million deer roaming the countryside.

11. Create a Landscape That Is More Favorable to Deer

Of course it is! They’ll have more food and places to hide from predators. And they’ll have less people trying to shoot them. The government’s deer management program has been so successful that there are plans to allow hunters back into the woods after seven years without seeing any action.

12. Promote Sustainable Deer Population

This is the old “deer don’t eat people plants” talking again. But this time they’re not going after hunters as other activists have done because they know that hunting licenses, licenses and, of course, licenses are necessary to keep the deer population in check. They also know that we need to stop expanding the human-inflicted animal suffering by reducing not killing deer.

13. Re-introduce More Natural Predators

If you want to bring back natural predators, then ban all hunting—then hungry animals will return to their natural habitats and bring down their populations naturally again. But you have to have a big stomach to call that “sustainable”.

14. Stop Releasing More Deer into the Wild

So, how do we reduce deer (and other ungulates) populations? By not bringing in more deer and other ungulates—and by controlling the ones who are already here.

15. Allow Human Predation

The best way to control animal populations is by allowing humans to become predators again, just like they did for thousands of years before the invention of hunting for sport. So, why can’t we go back to hunting for food again instead of just killing them because their numbers seem too high? We need predators like wolves back in the woods.

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