Nature is relentlessly fecund, demonstrated by the dramatic increase in the nation's White-tailed deer to an estimated 20 million today. At the same time, the sport of hunting is in a slow, steady decline, insufficient to cull the herd. Each year, 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions cause over a billion dollars in damage to vehicles and injury several hundred people. The deer don't make out too well, either. I suspect a well-placed bullet is preferable to death by windshield.
The decline in hunters also threatens the livelihood of many in areas dependent on the money hunters spend on their sport, an estimated $6.7 billion in 2006. Hunters also spent $700 million in various licenses and tags in 2006, money that often provides the lion's share of funding for state wildlife management programs.
Perhaps Sarah Palin will make hunting sexy again, but failing that, hunting is in need of a makeover if it is to remain a meaningful wildlife management tool and tourism lure. How could this be accomplished?
The first hurdle, I think, lies in our society's disconnect between the meat we eat and the source of it. While we encourage the killing of animals each time we buy chicken nuggets,many people find the actual process distasteful and would prefer never bloodying their own hands. Perhaps the personification of animals in cartoons and television is in part responsible.