Deer-hunting season renews traditions, debate

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

It’s not always fun. Sometimes it gets cold and way too quiet. But when Ryan DiBrito hears something after sitting in the woods for hours, he said his adrenaline starts to flow and makes it worth the wait.

It’s deer hunting season.

Last weekend welcomed hunters from all over Minnesota to the gun-hunting opener. The season for archery deer-hunting started mid-September.

DiBrito said he looks forward to the hunting trip he takes with his family and friends every November. Like many other students on campus, DiBrito escapes the city for the weekend to spend quality time outside with family and try his luck at “bagging” a deer.

“It’s not just about shooting something,” he said. “It’s about going on a trip with family and friends and making a weekend of it.”

Some students on campus morally oppose hunting, making it a controversial decision.

Mark Kayser, a graduate student studying education, has never hunted and said he is against human integration with animals, especially in hunting.

“Shooting an animal for recreation seems pointless,” Kayser said. “In natural selection, a predator takes the weakest animal. Humans do the opposite and take the biggest.”

Close to 500,000 Minnesotans participate in deer hunting each year, and 84 percent of those hunters also hunt other species, said Steve Merchant, Department of Natural Resources spokesman.

“It’s a longstanding tradition,” Merchant said. “It’s done in a scientifically sound manner.”

DiBrito said he understands some people don’t approve of hunting and believes it is an individual choice.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” DiBrito said. “I personally feel it’s OK to hunt, but I respect the opinions of those who don’t. Everyone should be respected for their opinion.”

Because the state’s deer population is growing, experts warn of the problems associated with not managing the herd.

“If we weren’t able to hunt deer, we would have a population growing unchecked,” Merchant said.

He said deer would die of disease and starvation, and the state would see dramatic increases in motor vehicle accidents with deer ñ possibly increasing the number of humans killed in those accidents.

Peter Jordan, a professor in the department of fisheries and wildlife, said the deer population has grown because of the dwindling number of wolves, which are natural predators of deer.

Jordan said he thinks hunting is a better way of keeping numbers down than through natural processes.

“In general it’s safe to say hunting is far less painful way to die than through natural causes,” he said.

Kayser disagreed.

“Humans have conflicts where we’re part of nature and want to control nature at the same time,” Kayser said. “We need to let the population rebalance on its own. Some say it’s cruel to let them starve, but its nature.”

The Student Organization for Animal Rights is absolutely opposed to hunting, said SOAR spokesman Joe Janzen.

“Stalking and killing wildlife for recreation is an unacceptable practice,” Janzen said. “In addition to the 200 million non-human animals massacred by hunters every year, humans die from hunters’ stray bullets as well. Violence in all of its forms should be stopped.”

Kayser, who has been a vegan for two years, named several alternative outdoor activities people could do with their families that do not involve guns, such as canoeing, hiking or camping.

“There is danger and misuse with firearms,” Kayser said. “Hunting allows guns to be used in ways that are inappropriate.”

Kayser suggested a new type of gun that looks like a rifle but when the trigger is pulled, it takes a picture of the animal in the cross hairs instead of shooting it.

“I have a great vision of people sitting around looking at pictures of the animals they saw instead of looking at the carcasses they brought home.”

Dan Stang, a fifth-year University student studying environmental horticulture, said shooting an animal is not always his main priority.

“It’s not just about the kill,” Stang said. “I could hunt for four to five hours and not get anything, and its fine. It’s just great to be out there.”

Stang started hunting with his uncles when he was 16. Though he has been deer hunting in the past, he prefers to hunt for pheasant if he can find time to hunt at all.

“Deer hunting just doesn’t excite me,” Stang said. “I like pheasant hunting because it’s a way to get away from everything else. I like being out in nature; it’s quiet.”

Stang said he and his brother trained their dogs to help them hunt.

“They’re like a partner out in the field,” Stang said. “It’s cool to watch them work.”

Jordan said if hunting were eliminated, it might cause social and economic problems for the state.

“Hunting is economically important to the state of Minnesota,” Merchant said. “It helps the northern part of the state especially by bringing in tourism money.”

Farmers also benefit from hunting deer, Merchant said. An increase in population can damage crops and property.

Potential hunters must take a hunter safety course and purchase a license from the DNR to be eligible. The DNR also enforces limits on the amount of game killed.

Revenue generated from the hunting licenses helps fund the DNR and its programs, which protect and restore the natural environment.

Jordan said hunting would help protect some forested areas, which might otherwise be eaten in the winter when food is scarce.

“They’re beautiful animals,” Jordan said. “But, they’re big and have impacts on the landscape and on people.”

Maggie Hessel-Mial covers the
environment and transportation and
welcomes comments at [email protected]