Hunting is a controversial topic among birders, with both good and bad points. Getting the bad out of the way first – I find nothing funny about hunting for sport, for killing anything simply for the thrill of doing so. If it is something you enjoy, that’s certainly your choice, and I would always hope hunters followed safe, ethical, and humane practices (which many do). Personally, I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, so I have no problem with food-based hunting or eating other animals (humans evolved as omnivores and derive essential nutrition from meat). If a sport hunter enjoys his take as part of his diet, that is a better scenario, though you’ll never find me congratulating a hunter or celebrating a hunting trophy (though I do find taxidermy of birds to be an intriguing art).
All that said, hunting does serve useful purposes and can be helpful to many birds.
- Management of game birds – ducks, quail, doves, grouse, geese, etc. – requires strong observation of populations, which can indicate difficulties much more quickly, leading to more immediate conservation measures.
- Habitat preservation is essential to support hunting grounds, and those areas are open and available to many other birds and wildlife year-round, not just for hunted birds during hunting season. Some of the best birding can be done on game preserves and bird management areas intended for hunting.
- By its competitive nature, hunting culls many less pristine birds from wild flocks – the stronger, quicker, smarter birds survive to breed and enhance the overall population.
- If captive-bred birds are part of a hunting club’s management techniques, those released birds improve genetic diversity among wild birds when not all the captive-bred birds are successfully hunted. This further improves the existing wild population.
Many hunters are strong conservation advocates and meticulous about habitat preservation, ethical hunting practices, and protecting wildlife. Are there some hunters who are not? Of course, just as there are some birders who are less than scrupulous about protecting birds or preserving habitat. But there are always some birds who outsmart hunters, and don’t need protection at all…
Whether you hunt or not, whether you support the practice or not – and to do so or not is all part of Be Your Own Birder – always be respectful, and give mad props to the duck who gets away.