HUNTING. Early modern Europe was a settled agricultural and commercial society. As such, hunting played a secondary or negligible role in supplying the nutritional needs of all but a handful of Europeans. Yet hunting had a symbolic importance in European society out of proportion to its economic importance because it was closely linked to the culture of monarchy. In most of Europe, hunting was a privilege restricted to the nobility. In general, the noble monopoly of hunting derived from seignorial control over the forests in which hunting took place. In some lands, such as England, the king exercised exclusive seignorial jurisdiction over all forests; in other lands, such as France, seignorial jurisdiction over forests came with jurisdiction over the neighboring villages and so could be "owned" by anyone. Such control enabled kings and aristocrats to restrict hunting to a very narrow social stratum. Even some nobles were prevented from participating in the hunt.
Most of the social history of hunting revolves around the justifications for and enforcement of noble monopoly. Non-nobles sometimes chafed at being prevented from hunting for sport, but they were more frequently troubled by the fact that the noble monopoly on hunting for sport prohibited commoners from hunting for food or stopping wild animals from damaging their crops. Conflicts over hunting were, therefore, part of a larger negotiation over relations of power between nobles and peasants. The three main types of hunting—hunting vermin, hunting for food, and hunting for sport—touched on different aspects of those relations.
Hunting vermin, animals that posed a threat to crops or livestock, was the least contested area of hunting in the early modern era. Common people were allowed, even encouraged, to destroy vermin and they were eager to do so. The main kinds of vermin hunted in early modern Europe were stoats, otters, foxes, and wolves.
The treatment of wolves is most emblematic of early modern European attitudes toward vermin. Throughout Europe, rulers or their officials offered bounties for wolf hides or other evidence of the destruction of wolves. Criminals were sometimes permitted to pay off fines or debts by supplying wolf pelts. Wolves were to be killed whenever and by whatever means. They were feared not just for the threat they posed to livestock, but also (though with how much justification remains an open question) as a threat to humans. The policy of wolf eradication was very successful in some parts of Europe. Already by 1560, wolves were extinct in England. The last confirmed killing of a wolf in Scotland took place in 1691. Wolves were extinct in Ireland by 1770. On the other hand, wolves continued to survive on the Continent throughout the early modern era.
Initially, foxes were treated in the same manner as wolves. But in the eighteenth century, hunting foxes began to take on the character of sport hunting rather than vermin hunting. Until that time, the prime small game animal for "coursing" had been the hare. Aristocrats discovered that foxes made a very good target for coursing hounds. So, they began to foster the stability of fox populations by building fox shelters and even importing foxes from other regions; thus there was a continuing source of sporting pleasure. It was not until the nineteenth century that foxhunting lost its significance as a means of controlling vermin and became the main sporting pastime of the English aristocracy.
HUNTING FOR FOOD
Game animals played a larger and more diverse role in the diet in the early modern era than they would in later centuries. Wild boar and venison, sometimes killed by the king himself, were a regular feature of royal feasts. Since the royal table could be amply supplied with meats by domesticated animals, these dishes were more important symbolically than nutritionally. For example, Francis I (ruled 1515–1547) of France sent venison pasties (a type of meat pie) from a deer he had personally hunted as a gesture of good will to Henry VIII (ruled 1509–1547) of England. For commoners, there were few restrictions on catching marginally edible fare such as badgers or starlings, but they were usually barred from hunting prime edible game animals such as wild boar and deer. Some resorted to poaching to provide meat for their diet or to sell at market.
Poaching was illegal in early modern Europe, but it was not uncommon. Forest account books show numerous fines for illegal capture or killing of game. In rare cases, poaching was a capital offense, but in most of Europe, the most widespread punishment was a stiff fine. Some cases of poaching were clearly as much symbolic protest acts as efforts to get something to eat. In seventeenth-century England, it was not at all rare for gentry to poach on the lands of their neighbors. Most historians assume that forest officials were often bribed to look the other way. Perhaps the best-known effort to suppress poaching was the Black Act in England in 1724, which, among other things, made deer-stalking in royal forests a capital crime. The numbers of animals taken in the areas affected by the Black Act were small. It is impossible to say how frequently poachers were caught in early modern Europe and, by extension, how important game was for the livelihoods of villagers in the vicinity of forests.
HUNTING FOR SPORT
Hunting explicitly for sport had been a noble, and especially a royal, prerogative since ancient times. It was considered an important test of bravery and skill with arms that would carry over into battle. The early modern era continued practices that had been prevalent in the Middle Ages. Hunting adapted readily to gunpowder weapons, though crossbows and longbows, and even swords or knives, remained common weapons even into the seventeenth century. Though early modern royalty continued to keep falcons as they had in the Middle Ages, the most prominent form of sport hunting in the early modern era was coursing with hounds. The dog became the prized adjunct to the hunt. Hunting literature, such as George Gascoigne's The Noble Art of Venery and Hunting (1575), proliferated in the early modern era. Much of it was written for or dedicated to notable royal hunters. Tales of kings or noblemen finishing off an enraged animal that charged the hunters, endangering their lives, became a trope of royal propaganda.
The early modern era was suffused with a casual cruelty toward animals. Hunting for sport partook of some of that same casual cruelty. It was common to round up wild animals, sometimes in large numbers, and herd them to a place where the hunters could easily slaughter them. Contemporary depictions of the hunt often show the hunters standing behind a blind or shooting stand while drivers chased dozens of animals in front of their waiting guns.
Certain creatures were especially prized for their ability to create an exciting chase. The three animals most frequently prized for their coursing were red deer, fallow deer, and hares. For the latter, the sport was primarily to watch the chasing hounds in action. Hares were fast and nimble and so made for an exciting spectacle. The hunter did not shoot the animal, but instead allowed the dogs to tear the animal to pieces once it had been caught. Deer, on the other hand, could be flushed out using hounds, but the object was for the hunter to shoot them. Red deer stags were the most prized target because they combined a noble bearing with an exciting chase. Wild boar were less prized for the chase, but remained a fit target because they were dangerous when cornered.
The royal or noble hunt was, in part, a performance—a demonstration of mastery over nature as a justification for monarchical authority. Sometimes, the hunt would be a small affair, with the king or nobleman and a few intimates; other times it would be a large public occasion with hundreds of participants and spectators. The hunt encouraged ritual gestures that reinforced the sense that it was an expression of royal majesty. For example, when James I of England (ruled 1603–1625) successfully shot a red deer in an aristocratic hunting party, he would personally slit the throat of the dying animal to begin dressing it; he then would insist that all of the members of the shooting party smear the blood of the animal on their faces. Since the king shed the animal's blood, this gesture brought royal favor to the participants. Though hunting was primarily a masculine activity, women also participated as spectators and hunters. Elizabeth I of England (ruled 1558–1603), for example, hunted avidly. On one occasion her hunt consisted of repeatedly firing a crossbow into a paddock filled with deer, killing three or four of them. The slaughter was accompanied by tunes played by the queen's musicians and a singing nymph who placed the crossbow into her hands.
A literature of forest management arose alongside the literature on the aristocratic virtues of hunting. Royal gamekeepers made sure that royal forests were continuously stocked, just as demesne officials made sure that royal demesnes were planted and harvested. Indeed, sometimes deer had to be imported to maintain population levels. One hundred head were sent from Haughton Forest to Windsor Forest in 1711, for example. In densely populated parts of Europe, game reserves were walled or fenced off to keep game in and poachers out. Palaces served as hunting lodges for the king.
The burdens that fell on peasants who lived in or near forests were connected to forest management. Peasants were usually prohibited from owning hunting dogs of their own. Instead, some were required to board the king's or a nobleman's dogs and make them available whenever the owner wanted to hunt, with only part of the costs defrayed by the owner. Peasants might also be called on to perform corvée ('unpaid labor') during the hunt as beaters or carters of slaughtered animals. It was often galling for peasants forced to perform such services to watch as the hunters ran their horses through the fields, destroying the peasants' own crops. There are innumerable supplications seeking to modify the obligations to perform such duties and protect the crops during the hunt. The frequency of such supplications underscores how little they changed hunters' behavior.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, there was a small groundswell of antihunting sentiment, primarily amongst religious thinkers. Hunting for sport was considered wasteful, an indulgence in luxury. These criticisms did not merge with the criticisms by peasants of the damage caused to their own crops by the hunt, so there was never any sustained effort to change hunting practice during the era, just a small decline in the numbers of aristocrats who enjoyed the sport. Nevertheless, hunting retained its aristocratic character at the end of the eighteenth century and would only be opened to commoners with the French Revolution.
See also Aristocracy and Gentry ; Class, Status, and Order ; Enclosure ; Food and Drink ; Forests and Woodlands ; Games and Play ; Sports .
Berry, Edward. Shakespeare and the Hunt: A Cultural and Social Study. Cambridge, U.K., 2001.
Eckardt, Hans Wilhelm. Herrschaftliche Jagd, bäuerliche Not und bürgerliche Kritik. Göttingen, 1976.
Manning, Roger B. Hunters and Poachers: A Social and Cultural History of Unlawful Hunting in England, 1485–1640. Oxford and New York, 1993.
Salvadori, Philippe. La chasse sous l'ancien régime. Paris, 1996.
Schindler, Norbert. Wilderer im Zeitalter der französischen Revolution: Ein Kapitel alpiner Sozialgeschichte. Munich, 2001.
Thompson, E. P. Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act. New York, 1975.
From the moment their feet touched land, early seventeenth-century European immigrants to America hunted wild game out of necessity for their survival. However, the motives, means, and opportunities to engage in recreational hunting in America only emerged in the early nineteenth-century. Why this delay in the birth of an activity ardently pursued by millions of Americans?
Colonial Hunting and Its Economic and Social Meanings
European colonists stepped ashore in a wildlife wonderland, teeming with seemingly limitless numbers of edible creatures and no laws restricting access, unprecedented in the homelands they left behind. In contrast, the wildlife in their lands of origin existed solely for the sporting pleasures of the sociopolitical elites. Europe's feudal system denied the agricultural masses the right to weapons, hunting dogs, and other tools useful in bringing wild protein to the tables of peasants. As late as the nineteenth century, only .01 percent of Englishmen were legally eligible to hunt. Not until 1880 did the right to hunt even rabbits arrive at the doorsteps of English commoners (Herman, pp. 247–248).
America's European colonists eagerly added wild flora and fauna to their resource base and survived their precarious toehold on the North American continent because of those food sources. They hunted at first while establishing their farms, but reduced their dependence on hunting as soon as possible as a marker of achieving agricultural self-sufficiency. A colonist who continued to devote much time to hunting risked descending to the status of social pariah.
Some colonists opted to become commercial hunters, pursuing the lucrative trade in deerskins and other pelts and furs. Demand for such asset stripping seemed insatiable. For example, in the two decades before the American Revolution, the port of Savannah, Georgia, alone shipped 600,000 deer hides (Koller, p.18). The American farmer, however, achieved status by overcoming and controlling nature by making her agriculturally fruitful. Hunters lived off the land and did not aid in conquest of the wilderness. They rose to top ranks of social personages only when they used their hunting skills while answering the call to arms in defense of the nation.
The Development of Elite Hunting
The frontier riflemen who rallied to fight the British during the Revolution attained national heroic status after participating in celebrated battles, such as King's Mountain. Daniel Boone, while contributing only modest military service in the Revolution, demonstrated a heroic capacity to enter the wilderness on successful hunts and expand the nation's geographic knowledge as a spin-off of his wanderings. The national image of wilderness hunters began to turn the corner in the early nineteenth century, as exploration and natural history study became expressions of the quest for progress.
The Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase and document its natural history generated a national cast of heroic hunter-naturalists. James Audubon expanded the hunter-naturalist role, creating a fashion of natural history study by recreational hunters who justified their trophy rooms as displays of scientific knowledge. Hunting and taxidermy walked hand in hand, and private and public museums flourished, transforming recreational hunting into productive leisure. Because the nascent industrialism of the United States in the early nineteenth century deprived urban males of extensive contact with wilderness, the newly formed legitimacy of recreational hunting led them to seek respite from the toils of commerce by traveling to rural environs with guns, dogs, and fishing rods.
American recreational hunters gained a voice through the writings of Henry William Herbert (Frank Forester), who articulated the gentleman's sporting code of the English upper classes. For two decades his magazine articles and books fostered the infancy of outdoor journalism in America. Herbert conveyed the English elite's version of true sportsmanship: self-restraint in the hunting field, skilled use of arms to ensure humane kills, thorough knowledge of and respect for the game animals one attempted to harvest, and harvesting no more than could be put to immediate use.
The American recreational hunter constructed his self-image from an amalgam of English elite sporting values, along with the evolving image of the American hunter-hero as naturalist and self-reliant individualist who successfully entered the wilderness and mastered its animal resources. The best of two worlds resulted: reproducing the status-enhancing activities of the British elite and achieving personal renewal through submersion in the wilderness as a self-renewal experience.
By 1850, middle-class urban hunters began forming hunting clubs, staging dinners, and lobbying legislatures to establish and enforce game laws that controlled numbers harvested, open seasons, and methods of hunting. A form of class warfare emerged between middle-class recreational hunters and lower- and working-class subsistence and market hunters.
Market hunting became increasingly lucrative as westward-moving railroads provided rapid transport to eastern urban game markets. Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, the middle-class recreational hunters never relented in their campaign to save game for current and future generations of recreational hunters. Teddy Roosevelt stands out among those raising their voices in sporting journals and in legislative halls, warning of game species' declines because of unrestricted market hunting.
The turn of the century witnessed a triumph of recreational hunting interests when the federal Lacey Act passed, sounding the death knell of market hunting by ending the interstate shipment of wild game that was harvested in violation of state laws. During his presidency, Teddy Roosevelt continued to create game land refuges, first initiated with the founding of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.
The year 1900 also marked the trough of decline in game animal numbers in America, especially the whitetail deer. International treaties with Mexico and Canada in the twentieth century established critical protections for migrating waterfowl in the form of refuges for nesting and migration pathways. Wise wildlife-management practices throughout the twentieth century restored many American wildlife species to presettlement numbers. A little-contested claim insists that whitetail deer are more numerous in 2004 than when the Pilgrims stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock. In sum, America's political leaders saved recreational hunting for the common man as well as the well-heeled elite sportsman.
While recreational hunting flourished among the middle-class elite during the nineteenth century because of hunting's dual associations with the English social elites and American frontier hunter heroes, the twentieth century witnessed a dramatic surge of hunting's popularity among the rural and working classes. The burgeoning popularity resulted from significant price declines in sporting arms, automobile transportation, and highway construction that provided access to productive game lands. The urban industrial labor force in states such as Michigan negotiated labor contracts with flexible vacation times and other clauses that recognized the importance of hunting and fishing seasons to factory workers.
Perpetuation of Hunting Traditions in Rural and Small-Town America
Hunting traditions grow out of group experiences, which gratify group members and motivate them to intentionally replicate those experiences in the future. In the mid-nineteenth century, middle-class elite recreational hunters formed hunting clubs and bought or leased private hunting grounds for exclusive use of members, thus providing themselves access to desirable hunting environments. Most of those organizations no longer survive. On the other hand, rural and small-town America often exists in the midst of wildlife habitats found in farm-field edge rows and woodlots in which all interested community members are welcome to hunt.
Hunting seasons generally open after the harvest, when crop stubble and residues provide prime hunting for quail, pheasants, deer, and other game animals. Opening of the season for locally abundant species generates school closings as well as attenuated hours for some businesses. Some churches offer up prayers for divine protection of hunters in the forests and fields during the season. In deer-hunting areas, some towns erect "meat poles," where each day's harvest can be publicly displayed. Communities still stage "game dinners" as fund-raisers for local church and school projects.
The economic impact matters in communities where the hunting seasons lure hunting tourists to avail themselves of local guides, hotels, restaurants, and sporting goods stores. Small towns offering nearby access to deer, ducks, geese, pheasants, quail, elk, or other popular species are specially blessed financially. In short, hunting traditions flourish, whether for local consumption or external exploitation, in towns or rural areas with abundant hunting opportunities, past and present.
The Culture of the Vacation Hunting Trip
Courier and Ives' sporting prints of the mid-nineteenth century portrayed middle-class recreational hunters afield, in forests, on lakes and streams, harvesting nature's wild bounty under the watchful, approving eyes of their wilderness guides. Hunting and fishing in the nineteenth century became the most popular participatory outdoor sports; vacations from urban occupations provided the necessary venue. Nineteenth-century hunting "vacations," as described in William Faulkner's The Bear, involved a small army of friends, relatives, hired camp cooks, and other miscellaneous helpers invading a hunting area and inhabiting the camp for the duration. A weekend, a week, two weeks, a month could be dedicated to pursuing the yearly hunting experience.
In the twentieth century, factors such as industrial paid vacations and plants closed for maintenance, repairs, or inventory reduction contributed to America's creation of a vacation mentality. Industrial working-class males often split vacations between a week with the family at the lake during the summer and a week with the boys in the deer woods in the fall. While the numbers of women joining men in the hunting field slowly inch up, recreational hunting remains overwhelmingly an adult male interest.
The Mostly Male Rituals of the Hunting Season
Rituals of the hunt occur everywhere recreational hunting exists. European hunting rituals include carefully organized group hunts with ancient hunting horn signals choreographing the stages of the pursuit from open to close. Post-hunt rituals focus on proper respect shown slain game by means of artful display of the bag and group moments of silence while the hunting horn announces appreciation to St. Hubertus, patron saint of hunters.
American hunters have not reproduced those rituals left behind on long-ago European shores. American hunting rituals, most commonly found in the behaviors of those pursuing America's most important game animal, the whitetail deer, include such hunting folkways as preferences for trophies of larger and older male deer to earn hunter bragging rights. The mostly male hunting rituals are legendary, humorous at times, scandalous by repute, and contribute many of the fondest memories retained by their practitioners. One ritual is equality: sharing the hunt harvest with members of the groups on a roughly equal basis. Members of the hunting camp/community adopt equalitarian roles, leaving behind their civilian statuses. Tasks in a hunting camp are assigned by age and experience. If the members are roughly equal in age and experience, they distribute camp chores in random rotation, unless unusually able specialists negotiate access to tasks at which they clearly excel.
In group hunts, the group leader randomly rotates posts or stands so that all have chances at the more productive stands, as well as those offering lesser probabilities of success. Missed shots often provide occasions for hilarity in the form of shirttails being pruned or some other mild degradation ceremony. Young and first-time hunters who succeed in harvesting their quarry may receive congratulations in the form of blood from the downed animal being smeared on their faces during the cleaning stage. Every experienced hunter likely remembers his own moment of being "blooded."
Trophy displays of antlered heads of deer or bearskin rugs also qualify as a mostly male ritual, with trophy rooms often being relegated to basements, attics, or garage workshops. Among the more disreputable rituals are hunting camps devoid of razors and regular bathing, the promiscuous consumption of alcohol and tobacco products, and meals fit only for carnivores requiring the constant attendance of antacids. Men sitting about playing card games, overeating, and engaging in a generally politically incorrect atmosphere of conversation and conduct compose the image of hunting camps envisioned by those not present.
Opposition to Hunting
As early as the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods some voices insisted hunting for sport exacerbated the development of cruelty in men's characters. The cruelty theme motivated much of the subsequent opposition to recreational hunting, from the formation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in England (1824) to its American counterpart (1866). The tremendous popularity of recreational hunting in the nineteenth century overpowered these voices. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, the animal rights movement dramatically turned up the volume of protest against hunting for sport. Organizations such at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and CASH (Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting) insist such activities must be extinguished. Animals have rights, the anti-hunters proclaim, and interfering in the natural life courses of animals is immoral. Walt Disney's classic animated film Bambi illustrates the ease with which sport hunting can be put on the defensive.
Hunting opponents also argue that wildlife agencies serve as a tool for hunters to ensure them adequate wildlife targets. Therefore the agencies refuse to enact adequate measures to control wildlife populations without having to resort to hunting as a management tool. In fact, antihunting voices advance the counterintuitive argument that removing deer from a herd actually stimulates multiple births and net gains in herd numbers. Opponents also support more restrictive firearms controls, asserting that hunters manifest masculinity anxieties, that is, they claim that hunters use firearms to prove their capacities to dominate other beings with the use of deadly force. These strategies, as well as other public relations tactics, all add up to a vigorous culture war delineating apparently irreconcilable differences. Human population growth and real estate development unwittingly reduce habitat essential for wildlife. Game species such as deer and geese readily adapt to close contact with humans and compete for space. Hunters and hunting opponents clash about appropriate control measures.
Political and Cultural Power of the Hunting Lobby and Culture
Recreational hunting topped the list of most popular participatory outdoor pastimes in the nineteenth century. This popularity continued into the twentieth century, perhaps reaching its zenith in 1945 when 25 percent of all adult American males engaged in recreational hunting (Herman, p. 271). Recreational hunters strongly supported the 1937 enactment of the Pittman-Robertson Act, which collects excise taxes on new sales of hunting equipment. As of 2003, this law contributed roughly $155 million per year to wildlife management services. Those monies, plus $420 million per year from license sales, funded three-quarters of the budgets of most state wildlife agencies.
On the other hand, percentages and numbers of recreational hunters sagged in the last half of the twentieth century. In 2001, 13 to 14 million Americans sixteen years and older, roughly 6 percent of this age cohort, participated in recreational hunting. This total represents a dramatic decline from the roughly 19 million licensed hunters after World War II. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of all hunters declined by 7 percent. Such reductions, in both absolute numbers and percentages, may be due to challenges facing the carrying capacity of recreational hunting: population growth and loss of wildlife habitat. Perhaps a more powerful explanation for decreased participation in recreational hunting resides with the increasingly dominant urban lifestyles and world-views, which exist across a cultural divide from the rural and small town culture, which still nourish recreational hunting.
Opposition to hunting has energized the hunting community to successfully seek passage of "anti-hunter-harassment" laws in all fifty states. Thousands of chapters of wildlife species-specific organizations promote habitat protection, restoration, and acquisition for ducks, deer, quail, wild turkey, elk, and various game fishes. SCI (Safari Club International) promotes a positive image of recreational hunting with its "Sportsmen Against Hunger" program that recruits hunter donations of thousands of pounds of game meat to charitable organizations. Hunter safety programs required of new hunters claim to have steadily reduced hunting season accidents to record low levels. In sum, the hunting community recognizes its controversial public face and strives continuously to massage its image.
Will recreational hunting survive in the twenty-first century? Hunting opponents trumpet the message that their constituency is ever younger while hunters grow ever older. Hunters face an uphill battle to recruit the next generation of hunting enthusiasts. The culture war will continue.
Back Then: A Pictorial History of Americans Afield. Wautoma, Wis.: Willow Creek Press, 1989.
Herman, David Justin. Hunting and the American Imagination. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001.
Koller, Larry. The Treasury of Hunting. New York: Odyssey Press, 1965.
Lamar, May, and Rich Donnell. Hunting: The Southern Tradition. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1987.
McClane, A. J. McClane's Great Fishing and Hunting Lodges of North America. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.
Marks, Stuart A. Southern Hunting in Black and White: Nature, History, and Ritual in a Carolina Community. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Miller, John M. Deer Camp: Last Light in the Northeast Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992.
Posewitz, Jim. Inherit the Hunt: A Journey into the Heart of American Hunting. Helena, Mont.: Falcon Publishing, 1999.
Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
Reiger, John. American Sportsmen and the Origins of Conservation. New York: Winchester Press, 1975.
Samuel, David E. Know Hunting: Truths, Lies, and Myths. Cheat Lake, W.V.: Know Nothing Publications, 1999.
Sheehan, Laurence, Carol Sama Sheehan, and Kathryn George. The Sporting Life: A Passion for Hunting and Fishing. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 1992.
Swan, James A. In Defense of Hunting. San Francisco: Harper-Collins, 1995.
Waterman, Charles F. Hunting in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.
——. The Hunter's World. New York: Random House, 1976.
Wegner, Robert. Legendary Deer Camps. Iola, Wis.: Krause Publications, 2001.
Williams, Marjorie. The Bucks Camp Log: 1916–1928. Wautoma, Wis.: Willow Creek Press, 1974.
Hunting is the intentional act of tracking and killing wild animals for consumption or trophy. These animals are referred to as "game," quarry, or prey. Fishing is a type of hunting restricted to catching fish. As omnivores, humans require proteins and vitamins that are most easily provided by consuming meat. This is why hunting was a necessity for our human ancestors and preceded agriculture as a means of food procurement. Through the use of tools, Paleolithic humans hunted to ensure an adequate food supply and to obtain skins for use as clothing. Although agriculture became widely developed in the Neolithic period, game hunting remained prevalent and may have acquired cultural as well as biological significance.
Archaeological evidence for hunting is investigated today by examining patterns in the location of animal carcasses; the degree to which the skeleton is disassociated; cut or teeth marks on the bones; and the type, location, and wear of discarded hunting tools. These clues reveal aspects of the societal structure of prehistoric humans, such as gender roles, migratory habits, and nutrition. In ancient Greece, the sequence and style of killing and preparing the meat of an animal were highly ritualized under the laws and customs of polytheistic religion. Similar rituals were preserved through the Middle Ages, when boar and stag hunting became popular throughout Europe.
Game hunting today is still a strong pastime and a necessity of life for indigenous peoples living in remote areas. The decrease and disappearance of many large predators because of habitat loss and inbreeding has made hunting a necessity for controlling the population size of certain prolific species, such as deer and geese. However, overhunting and poaching , the illegal slaughter and sale of rare animals, can lead to further extinctions.
Humans rely on trained animals and specialized tools and weapons to hunt. Hunting with trained dogs is called coursing. Sporting breeds of dog have been bred for size, temperament, and intelligence, to aid the human hunter. For example, the harrier is always used in rabbit hunting, the fox hound in fox hunting, the pointer and retriever in wild foul hunting, and the Rhodesian ridgeback in lion hunting. In some cases, such as with the terrier, the dog is expected to seek out and attack the prey, whereas in others, such as the fox hound, the dog's task is to startle, or flush, the prey from its hiding spot. Retrievers, pointers, and setters may be called upon to retrieve the fallen carcass of a killed game bird without damaging it. Horses, likewise, may be highly trained in the maneuvers and tactics a hunter uses when in pursuit of prey, and are conditioned to withstand the noise and ruckus of the hunt. Falconry is a term describing the use of falcons, hawks, or eagles as trained hunters. Falconry originated several thousand years ago in China and has since been adopted by other cultures. Wild raptors are caught as chicks and trained to fly on command after being released from the falconer's wrist. They will attack and kill prey, and then abandon the corpse to the falconer. Although an uncommon practice, southern Asians have been training cheetahs for thousands of years to kill antelope, deer, and other fast-moving prey for humans.
Aside from animal-assisted hunting, there are many accessories and tools unique to the time of year, environment, and type of game that will be hunted. Camouflage clothing is necessary for concealment, and some hunters use species-typical calls or decoys to lure the game into their immediate vicinity. Firearms, crossbows, and the sling are often used on sport hunting excursions, whereas poisoned darts, arrows, and spears are common in hunting by African and South American natives. Traps are designed to ensnare, hobble, or injure prey. They can be made of a pair of metal jaws that snap shut when an animal's footstep depresses a switch or when bait is removed from a switch, a cage with a door that swings shut when the animal enters, or a pit that is thinly covered with debris so that animals fall through the debris to the bottom. Trapping is effective when covering large territories and for nocturnal prey. Unlike the use of weapons that leave holes in the coat, trapping preserves the integrity of the animal's hide because it affects primarily the lower limb. For this reason, the practice is popular with fur traders, who refer to it as fur harvesting. Whale hunting, or whaling, for blubber, meat, sperm, and bones and teeth, is an ancient practice common to many seaside civilizations. Harpoons are long barbed spears attached to ropes that are flung or shot at whales to injure and kill them. Australian aborigines rely on a unique hunting tool called the boomerang, which is thrown at game but returns to the hunter if it does not hit its mark.
Hunting is also characterized by the type of game being sought. Big game hunting includes large animals such as moose, caribou, bear, reindeer, wolf, tiger, leopard, elephant, and wild goat. It can be very dangerous because the hunted animal is capable of counterattacking the hunter, and because these excursions take hunting parties to remote wilderness where immediate medical attention is unavailable. However, big game are the preferred sport for trophy hunting. Small-game hunting, known as shooting in Great Britain, focuses on smaller animals such as wild fowl, hare, rabbit, woodchuck, raccoon, and squirrel. These animals are more often destined for food than for trophy.
Animal carcasses and skins, both mammals and birds, may be taken to a taxidermist, where they are formed into a three-dimensional, lifelike representation of the animal for permanent display. The skin of the animal is fitted around a hard framework, such as polyurethane, the eyes are replaced with large glass beads, and the ears and hairless regions are sculpted in clay, epoxy, or wax. Taxidermy originated in the 1800s, when hunters began bringing their skins to upholsterers, who would stitch them up with rags and cotton. This is why taxidermized animals are sometimes referred to as stuffed.
Because of the dangers of overhunting and thereby unwittingly bringing about the extinction of the quarry, all fifty of the United States and many other countries enforce laws restricting sport hunting to certain periods of the year. These hunting seasons cover different periods for different game, different hunting techniques, and different locales. They are determined based on the natural breeding and migration periods of the game, and on its relative abundance , a measure of the species' well-being based on population size. Hunters must register their firearms and report the number and kind of game they have killed. Hunting licenses must be purchased annually, to document and limit the number of lawful hunters, and the income from their sale is often allocated to animal conservation organizations. Further benefits from hunting include the prevention of diseases that can be spread from wild animals to humans or livestock, for example, the spread of rabies through raccoon populations and tuberculosis through wild bison. Several programs currently exist to increase hunting of overpopulated wild game, such as white-tailed deer, that are becoming a nuisance near cities. The surplus of meat resulting from the kills is inspected, packed, and donated to homeless shelter food pantries.
Hunting does have some benefits, but the risk of hunting to extinction is well-documented in human history. Beginning with the likely prehistoric slaughter of all mammoths, overexploitation has also eliminated large birds such as the moa and the dodo, smaller birds like the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet, large marsupials such as giant wombats and giant kangaroos, and marine mammals such as Steller's sea cow. Many animals are becoming locally extinct and universally endangered owing to a lack of regulations in certain areas of the world. Many others, such as the gray whale and the Indian elephant, are currently at a high rate of decline.
Even with the presence of adequate hunting regulations, poaching undermines the conservation effort. Poaching is the unlawful hunting of protected game either outside the allotted hunting season or against a hunting ban. It is strictly opposed by all sport hunting associations and should not be confused with lawful hunting. Unfortunately, because of the law of supply and demand, poaching becomes increasingly profitable as the number of game animals declines. This increases the risk of extinction at a time when animals most need to be protected. Tiger pelts, elephant and rhinoceros ivory, and sea turtle eggs are examples of luxury items that unnecessarily cause the endangerment of a species. Poaching is most easily counteracted by refusing to buy animal products without first researching the legality of the sale. The effects of hunting and poaching are becoming stronger with the decrease in animals' natural environments and the increased human demand for food and luxury products. Destitute peoples in developing countries may depend on poaching for money or on hunting protected animals for food. A global effort is needed to end extinctions caused by the overexploitation of game animals.
see also Extinction; Farming; Hunter-Gatherers.
Rebecca M. Steinberg
Dorsey, Chris, and Matthew B. Connolly. Wildfowler's Season: Modern Methods for a Classic Sport. New York: Lyons and Burford, 1995.
Isenberg, Andrew C. The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
MacKenzie, John M. The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation, and British Imperialism. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.
Swan, James A., The Sacred Art of Hunting: Myths, Legends, and the Modern Mythos. Minocqua, WI: Willow Creek Press, 1999.
Walker, Adrian. The Encylopedia of Falconry. Lanham, MD: Derrydale Press, 1999.
Social scientists report that humans have employed hunting as a subsistence strategy for at least 90 percent of Homo sapiens' history. The anthropologists Richard Lee and Richard Daly conceptualize hunting, the pursuit and killing of other animals, as one component of "foraging," a broader complex of subsistence activities that also includes the "gathering of wild plant foods, and fishing" (Lee and Daly 1999, p. 3). Hunting entails searching for and killing (or, on occasion, capturing and confining) a wild, unconfined animal. While humans hunt and kill animals primarily as a source of food, they also hunt in order to neutralize a threat (i.e., a tiger or leopard that preys on people), to remove a pest (i.e., rodents or birds that consume agricultural products), or to eliminate a competitor (i.e., predators that kill game animals).
As a human activity, hunting is magnified in its significance by a deceptively simple feature: the evasiveness or resistance exhibited routinely by prey. Because of the behavioral challenges that it presents, hunting has had far-reaching consequences for key aspects of human social, psychological, and cultural life. Since the mid-1960s, for example, anthropologists have argued that hunting may have been a powerful and fundamental force shaping the very nature of cooperation and sharing among early humans.
One such claim involves what the behavioral ecologist Bruce Winterhalder calls the "risk reduction hypothesis." The failure rate of hunters is notoriously high. Even among experienced, highly skilled subsistence hunters who pursue big game animals, any one hunt is much more likely to result in failure than in success. Studying the Hadza of Tanzania in 1993, the anthropologist Kristen Hawkes reported that when hunting big game, Hadza men failed to make a kill 97 of every 100 days that they hunted. When a large game animal is killed, it often represents a "windfall" in excess of what any one hunter and his or her immediate family can consume. These circumstances promote reciprocity and sharing among hunters. By sharing the meat provided by a successful kill, a hunter effectively "buys insurance" against failure in future hunts. When, in the future, he or she fails to kill prey, other successful hunters with whom meat has been shared previously will reciprocate and provide meat to the unsuccessful hunter. The science writer Matt Ridley argues that the cooperation and reciprocity associated with hunting may help constitute the basis of systems of moral and ethical culture. In short, hunting is an activity that promotes cooperation and sharing because it entails the pursuit of a highly valued resource, access to which is unpredictable and risky.
Anthropologists report that while both men and women hunt, in the vast majority of human societies this activity is predominantly male. Yet, it is not self-evident why males are more likely to hunt than females. Scholarly interpretations of the 1990s link hunting to sexual activity and rewards. While the matter is debated among social scientists, some researchers argue that males are motivated to hunt not only because of the food they acquire but because of the social esteem and increased sexual opportunities enjoyed by successful hunters.
The extrinsic rewards of a successful hunt may provide clues about why hunting is intrinsically exciting and satisfying to many people, especially males. To the extent that a behavior confers significant survival and reproductive advantages, evolutionary psychologists like Leda Cosmides and John Tooby suggest that humans are likely to evolve specialized psychological mechanisms that promote such behavior. Accordingly, if hunting yields highly valued protein in the form of meat, promotes stable patterns of cooperation and exchange, and provides males with a currency that they can exchange for sex, it is reasonable to surmise that human males may have evolved psychological attributes that make hunting highly intrinsically satisfying and rewarding to them, whatever the accompanying risks. While this line of reasoning appears promising and compelling to evolutionary minded social and behavioral scientists, it may be too early to conclude that humans are psychologically equipped with specialized mental mechanisms that are the product of humans' Pleistocene history as hunters.
Despite the demise of the hunter-gatherer era about 12,000 years ago, hunting has maintained great significance in many human cultures. In A View To a Death in the Morning (1993), Matt Cartmill traces the symbolism and imagery of the hunt from the hunting-gathering era, through the agrarian era, and into modern, industrial times. Cartmill sees the symbolism of the hunt as rich with information about how human beings understand and assess their place in nature. In the Greco-Roman world, hunting was elevated to cosmological significance in the form of deities such as Apollo and Artemis/Diana. In later European art, literature, and philosophy, hunting themes became freighted with complex meanings about class relations and social justice. In contemporary industrial societies such as the United States, media products such as the animated film Bambi are said to express a view of nature in general and animals in particular as good, and humanity as evil, or at least "dubious." Thus, writers like Cartmill see the human significance of hunting in the post–hunter-gatherer era as primarily semiotic, as pertaining to the symbolization of humanity and its relation to nature, and to itself.
In contemporary Western societies like the United States and Great Britain, it is conflict over the moral meanings attending hunting that has made it the focal point of intense and protracted political debate. Members of animal rights organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Friends of Animals vilify hunting. They also denounce hunters whom they see as arrogant and insensitive for engaging in an activity that is described as "recreational" or "sporting," and necessitates the death of a "sentient," nonhuman animal. Yet many hunters themselves impose entirely different meanings on the hunt, and some, such as the naturalist Paul Shepard, even assign it spiritual significance, construing it as an activity that expresses a deep and profound reverence toward nature and living things. It is unlikely that these divergent views will be reconciled in the near future. If humans are, in fact, possessed of an evolved psychology that derives from a hunting-gathering past, it has yet to be determined if this evolved psychology and the contours of modernity are somehow reconcilable or, rather, are fundamentally incommensurable.
Finally, hunters and recreational shooters in modern societies like the United States have played a significant role in wildlife conservation. As members of various hunting and shooting organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the National Rifle Association, hunting enthusiasts have generated billions of dollars that have supported various types of game management programs, habitat protection and restoration, and conservation education. Some of this money takes the form of direct contributions to such programs, and other monies are generated indirectly by taxes on hunting equipment purchases and various license, tag, permit, and stamp fees. One of the oldest and most important among such hunting-based revenue sources is the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act), and it has distributed more than $3.8 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies since it became law. Thus, somewhat ironically, modern hunters contribute significantly to the survival of the very species whose individual members they hunt and kill.
See also: Death System
Cartmill, Matt. A View To a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.
Cosmides, Leda, and John Tooby. "The Psychological Foundations of Culture." In Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby eds., The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Endicott, Karen L. "Gender Relations in Hunter-Gatherer Societies." In Richard B. Lee and Richard Daly eds., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Hawkes, Kristen. "Why Hunter-Gatherers Work: An Ancient Version of the Problem of Public Goods." Current Anthropology 34 (1993):341–351.
Hawkes, Kristen. "Why Do Men Hunt? Benefits for Risky Choices." In Elizabeth Cashdan ed., Risk and Uncertainty in Tribal and Peasant Economies. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.
Hill, Kim, and Hillard Kaplan. "On Why Male Foragers Hunt and Share Food." Current Anthropology 34 (1993):701–706.
Lee, Richard B., and Richard Daly, eds. "Foragers and Others." In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Ridley, Matt. The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Viking, 1996.
Shepard, Paul. The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973.
Winterhalder, Bruce. "Diet Choice, Risk, and Food Sharing in a Stochastic Environment." Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 5 (1986):369–392.
RICHARD S. MACHALEK
HUNTING (Heb. צוד, "hunt"; צַיִד, "hunting, game"; צַיָּד, "hunter"; מְצוֹדָה ,מָצוֹד, "hunting implement, net").
In the earliest periods of human history, hunting was an essential means of procuring food, clothing, and tools. In biblical times hunting continued on a smaller scale. Lev. 17:13 takes for granted the hunting of birds and beasts permitted for Israelite consumption (see below). For aristocrats and royalty who did not lack for food, hunting was a sport, as is attested in works of art from Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Egypt (cf. Pritchard, Pictures, 56–60). There are numerous portrayals of Assyrian kings hunting the lion as a means of expressing their manly prowess and demonstrating their right to the title "mighty man." Several Ugaritic texts portray the goddess Anat as a hunter. In the Ugaritic myth of Aqhat, Anat has Aqhat murdered in order to obtain the hunting bow made for him by the craftsman god Kothar-wa-Hasis.
Bows, spears, traps, lassoes, nets, and deadfalls were usual hunting weapons. Shepherds carried clubs and slings to protect their flocks (i Sam. 17:34–37, 40). The Egyptian "Tale of Sinuhe," from the 20th century b.c.e., mentions hunting with hounds (Pritchard, Texts, 20).
Hunting on horseback was well known in the Near East and served as an artistic theme. The earliest depictions are of the royal hunt in Assyrian reliefs whence it spread to Iran. There are no certain references in the Bible but Job 39:18 has been suggested.
Two bird traps are frequently mentioned in the Bible: מוֹקֵשׁ(mokesh) and פַּח (paḥ). Both terms are often used side by side (Josh. 23:13; Isa. 8:14, et al.). Mokesh is derived from the root יקש; it is also a fowling term (Ps. 124:7). The Syriac form (negash) is used of "clapping of hands and knocking of the teeth." Mokesh is probably a trapping device similar to an Egyptian bird trap, known from graphic representations (see Gerleman, in bibl.), composed of two frames covered with a net. The frames close together and capture the prey when the fowler pulls a cord at the right moment (cf. Jer. 5:26). The etymology of paḥ is obscure. This term is used with the verb יקש, and it seems to be an automatic device (Amos. 3:5; cf. Ps. 69:23; Hos. 9:8).
As for big game, pictures show that in Egypt and Mesopotamia a method of hunting similar to the battue (driving of game by hounds or beaters to closed places, pits, or traps, set in advance) was common. Expressions and comparisons frequent in the Bible attest the fact that this method was known in Israel as well (Jer. 16:16; Ezek. 19:8; cf. Ps. 140:6; Isa. 24:17–18). Mention is often made, especially in metaphorical expressions, of traps consisting of camouflaged pits (shuḥah, shaḥat, and bor, e.g., Ps. 7:16; 35:7; Prov. 22:14; 26:77).
Among game animals listed in the Bible, the daman, the hare, and the wild pig are unclean, i.e., may not be eaten (Lev. 11:5–6), while the deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, and mountain sheep are clean, i.e., may be eaten (Deut. 14:4–5). Leviticus 17:13 provides that "if any Israelite or any stranger who resides among them hunts down an animal or a bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth." If he does not comply with this ruling and eats from this game, he incurs the penalty of *karet (17:14b).
[Laurentino José Alfonso /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
The rabbis looked askance at hunting as a sport and strongly disapproved of it. Their objection to hunting on moral grounds is all the more significant in that the only legal prohibition is on hunting on the Sabbath (Shab. 13:2; tb, Shab. 106b, 107a; cf. Isserles oh 316:2) and Festivals (Beẓ. 3:1, 2). Without exception, all the references in the Mishnah to the ẓeid of animals, birds, and fish (e.g., Beẓ. 3:2, 3; Shev. 7:4) refer not to hunting for sport but to trapping with nets for the utilitarian purposes of food, as is clear from Beẓah 3:2 and Shabbat 1:6; or for commercial purposes (Shev. 7:4); or for the destruction of animal pests (mk 1:4; Eduy. 2:5); or for domestication (Shab. 13:8). Even a reference to catching a lion on the Sabbath states that the huntsman is not culpable "unless he entices it into a cage" (Shab. 107a).
The only reference to hunting during the period of the Second Temple is to Herod, who was greatly addicted to it (Jos., Wars, 1:429; Ant., 15:244) and followed the chase on horseback, spearing the animals (Ant., 16:315). The two famous hunters in the Bible, Nimrod and Esau, were regarded in a derogatory light, as "rebels against God" and as the very antithesis of the spirit of Judaism respectively. In one passage the Talmud asks ironically, "Was Moses then a hunter?" (Ḥul. 60b) and Simeon b. Pazzi interpreted the first verse of Psalms, "Happy is the man that hath not… stood in the way of sinners" to apply to those who do not attend gladiatorial contests between wild beasts, or, as Rashi interprets it, "Hunting with dogs for sport and entertainment." Rashi, of course, reflects the hunting of his days and all references to it in medieval Jewish literature are condemnatory. R. Meir of Rothenberg (Resp. 27) points out that according to Rashi (Shab. 51b) the statement of Mishnah Shabbat 5:1 permitting "chain-wearing animals to go out with their chains or be led by their chains" on the Sabbath refers to hunting dogs, which would appear to permit hunting (cf. also Yad, Hilkhot Shabbat 10:22), and he adds, "But I, the author, declare that whosoever hunts animals with dogs, as do the gentiles, will not be vouchsafed to partake of the feast of the *leviathan [in the world to come]." The passage is supplemented by Isaac of Vienna (Or Zaru'a, ii 17 p. 37b) by a quotation from Leviticus Rabbah 13:3 "*Behemoth and the Leviathan are the kenigin ['hunt' so the Or Zaru'a; the printed text and Meir of Rothenberg read kinyanin, 'the possessions'] of the righteous, and he who does not witness the kenigin of the idolators in this world will be vouchsafed to see it in the world to come" (cf. bb 75a).
There is a story of the Jews in Colchester in England participating in the hunt of a doe, but it was a spontaneous participation when the doe, startled by the dogs of the knights, ran into the city (Jacobs, Jewish Ideals, p. 226), and one or two other instances are quoted (see Abrahams, Jewish Life). In a lengthy and interesting responsum S. Morpurgo (1681–1740) (Shemesh Ẓedakah no. 57) forbade hunting with weapons, both as a profession and for sport. With regard to the latter he states emphatically that those who do so "have taken hold of the occupation of Esau the wicked, and are guilty of cruelty in putting to death God's creatures for no reason. It is a doubled and redoubled duty upon man to engage in matters which make for civilization, and not in the destruction of creation for sport and entertainment" (cf. Darkhei Teshuvah to yd 117, sub-section 44). He even prohibits hunting with firearms for trade since, as an animal so killed is forbidden for food, it constitutes trading in forbidden things.
Isaac Lampronti (Paḥad Yiẓḥak, S.V. ẓeidah) has a responsa on the subject of the permissibility of hunting "animals or birds with weapons for the sole purpose of sport and entertainment, thus rendering the dead animal nevelah." He forbids it completely as prohibited wanton destruction, though the killing of animals other than for food, i.e., to use their blood or hides, is permitted, and he applies to it the verse, "As a madman who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death… and sayeth 'Am I not a sport'" (Prov. 26:18). It is clear from Maimonides (Yad, Melakhim 6:10) that "He who hunts birds transgresses the law: 'thou shall not destroy'" and he concludes "Moreover, since the gentiles and idolators are accustomed to indulge in hunting animals and birds with weapons for mere sport, the prohibition of 'ye shall not walk in their statutes' [Lev. 18:3] applies. Thus a person who indulges in this sport is unworthy of the name of Jew." A query was addressed to R. Ezekiel *Landau by a man who had acquired a large estate which included forests and fields as to whether he could indulge in hunting with firearms. In his reply, Landau pointed out that from the strictly legal point of view there was no prohibition, but "the only hunters we find are Nimrod and Esau, and this is not the way of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"; unless one is forced to do it for one's livelihood "it is an unworthy practice, i.e., it partakes of cruelty, it is strictly forbidden" (yd Second Series 10). For further details of the rabbinic attitude see Darkhei Teshuvah to yd 28:6 (131). The German Jewish statesman Walter Rathenau is reported to have said "When a Jew says that he is going hunting to amuse himself, he lies" (Albert Einstein, The World as I See It (1935), 95).
[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]
bible: F. von Oppenheim, Der Tell Halaf (1931), 133–8; G. Gerleman, in: Bulletin de la Société Royale des Lettres de Lund (1945–46), 79–90. post-biblical views: I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (19322), 399–40; Paḥad Yiẓḥak, S.V. ẓeidah. add. bibliography: P. Day, in: ddd, 39–40; B. Marshak and V. Raspopova, in: Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S. 4 (1990), 77.
The regulation of hunting is a matter reserved to the states as part of their police power under the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Totemoff v. Alaska, 905 P.2d 954 [Alaska 1995]). Congress maintains statutes that regulate hunting on federal land. States may further regulate the federal lands located within their boundaries so long as their laws do not conflict with federal laws.
South Dakota and Georgia illustrate the sort of hunting laws typically maintained by a state. In South Dakota hunting is regulated by Title 41 of the South Dakota Codified Laws Annotated, Section 41-1-1 et seq. Under Title 41 hunters must obtain from the game, fish, and parks commission a license for the privilege of hunting in South Dakota. Other states maintain similar commissions or boards to implement licensing procedures and policies.
Licensing parameters vary from state to state. Most states have minimum age requirements. In South Dakota, for example, no person under the age of 12 may obtain a license, but an 11-year-old may obtain a license to hunt between September 1 and December 31 if he or she will turn 12 in that period. A child under the age of 16 may obtain a basic game and fish license without cost, but only if he or she has completed a firearms safety course. A parent of the child must apply for the license, and the child may hunt only with a parent, guardian, or responsible adult (§ 41-6-13).
In Georgia any person over the age of 12 may hunt on his or her own land. If a person between the ages of 12 and 15 seeks to hunt, he or she must complete a hunter education course, and then may hunt only with a parent or guardian. This is true even for children between the ages of 12 and 15 who are hunting on the land of their parents or guardians. A person between the ages of 16 and 25 must also complete a hunter education course before obtaining a hunting license.
States may make licensing exceptions for certain persons. In Georgia, for example, persons over the age of 65 may receive a hunting license without paying a fee. Furthermore, persons who are permanently and totally disabled may obtain a hunting or fishing license for free (Ga. Code Ann. § 27-2-4 ).
In some states an additional license must be obtained to hunt certain animals whose populations are of concern to the state. In South Dakota these animals are small game, big game, fur-bearing animals, and migratory waterfowl. An additional license is required for these animals so that the commission can keep track of the number of persons hunting them and conserve their populations.
To control animal populations, state licensing commissions also allow the hunting of certain animals only at certain times of the year. These time periods are called open seasons, and they are set each year by the state regulatory commission. Open seasons limitations sometimes come with special exceptions. In South Dakota, for example, residents do not need a license to hunt game birds on their own land during an open season.
Most states place separate restrictions on resident versus nonresident licensing and hunting for certain animals. In South Dakota, for example, nonresidents may hunt only if they have obtained a special nonresident license. A nonresident may hunt small and big game, waterfowl, and wild turkey. A nonresident must obtain a nonresident predator license to hunt predators, but if the nonresident has a nonresi-dent small-game, big-game, waterfowl, or wild turkey license, the nonresident may hunt predators in the animal group authorized by that license without a separate nonresident predator license (S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 41-6-30). Predators include jackrabbits, prairie dogs, gophers, ground squirrels, coyotes, red foxes, gray foxes, skunks, crows, and porcupines.
States may place additional restrictions on the hunting of certain animals. In Georgia, for example, feral hogs may be hunted only in certain situations. For instance, a hunter may not shoot a feral hog during deer season unless the hunter and all persons accompanying the hunter are each wearing a total of at least five hundred square inches of daylight florescent orange material as an outer garment above the waistline. In
South Dakota fur-bearing animals are completely off-limits to nonresidents. No person may apply for a license to take protected fur-bearing animals unless he or she has lived in the state for 90 days prior to the application date (§ 41-6-24).
State hunting statutes also specify standards for firearm power. In South Dakota, for example, no one may hunt big game with a muzzle loading rifle that discharges a projectile less than forty-four hundredths of an inch in diameter. No one may hunt big game with buckshot, or with a single ball or rifled slug weighing less than one-half ounce. No self-loading or autoloading firearm that holds more than six cartridges may be used to hunt big game, and no fully automatic weapons may be used to hunt big or small game (§ 41-8-10, -13).
States may enact a variety of other restrictions on hunting. In Georgia, at night, no person may hunt any game bird or game animal except for raccoon, opossums, foxes, and bobcats. Those animals may be hunted at night, but only with a lantern or a light that does not exceed six volts (Ga. Code Ann. § 27-3-24). In South Dakota no dogs may be used in the hunting of big game, no person may use salt to entice big game, and no person may use artificial light in hunting (S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 41-8-15, -16). However, an animal damage control officer may use an artificial light to take a nuisance animal from land, with the landowner's written permission (§ 41-8-17).
Most states consider hunting a right of residents and a valuable promotional tool for tourism. Many states even have hunter harassment statutes, which punish persons for intentionally distracting hunters. Under such statutes a person may be arrested and prosecuted for attempting to discourage hunters or drive away game.
Cottriel, Darren K. 1996. "The Right to Hunt in the Twenty-First Century: Can the Public Trust Doctrine Save an American Tradition?" Pacific Law Journal 27 (spring): 1235–87.
"Fargo Face Off: Governors Battle over Hunting." September 3, 2003. ESPN.com: Outdoors. Available online at <espn.go.com/outdoors/conservation/news/2003/0903/1608662.html> (accessed September 25, 2003).
"Ruling Sought on Indian Hunting, Fishing Rules." September 17, 2003. CNN.com: U.S. News. Available online at <www.cnn.com/2003/US/Midwest/09/17/tribes.hunting> (accessed September 25, 2003).
Ugalde, Aileen M. 1991. "The Right to Arm Bears: Activists' Protests against Hunting." University of Miami Law Review 45.
Europe. On the surface hunting might seem to have been a natural sport for almost everybody in pre-industrial Europe, but such was not the case. City dwellers did not have much opportunity for hunting. In England the woods were progressively reserved for the nobility and the gentry. Ordinary people were prohibited from taking the birds, deer, and rabbits from these reserves, and while some poached, others never even tried their hands. Guns were also much less accurate and much more difficult and time-consuming to operate. The rifled bore, which gives the rifle its name, was used in the eighteenth century, but even by 1800 there were still smoothbore muskets sitting on people’s mantles. John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, loved bird hunting as a young man but eventually gave it up for a series of reasons which suggest why ordinary Englishmen were not hunters: it was against the law as well as too expensive, strenuous, dangerous, and just plain difficult. Winthrop noted, “I have ever binne crossed in usinge it, for when I have gone about it not without some woundes of conscience, and have taken much paynes and hazarded my healthe, I have gotten sometimes a verye little but most commonly nothinge at all towards my cost and laboure.” Africans and Native Americans probably did better. Hunting was an integral part of male work in their cultures, and they were trained to use spears or bows and arrows from a young age.
New World. Even as game was denied to most of those living in Europe, promotional literature for the colonies noted the immense herds and flocks of animals suitable for hunting. Initially colonists bought wild game from the Native Americans rather than kill it themselves. In time, however, some colonists became good marksmen. Various colonies offered bounties on “vermin”—crows, foxes, squirrels, and wolves—animals which destroyed crops or killed domesticated animals. New England farmers hunted with one or two other men. In the South hunting parties were organized which sometimes utilized Native Americans. Men hunted on foot and on horseback, with dogs or without. In South Carolina men hunted alligators from boats. By the eighteenth century there was leisure time for hunting, but except perhaps on the frontier most colonists never relied upon their own skill to put meat on their tables. On the other hand, while settlement pushed out larger animals such as deer, birds and especially pigeons were plentiful, even in the cities. As late as 1720 Philadelphia passed laws against shooting pigeons, doves, partridges, or other birds in the streets and orchards within the city limits. Ducks and other fowl were still available in the marshes close to all port cities.
TRUE TO THE MARK
Caesar Rodeney of Delaware kept a diary in which he recorded his everyday activities. Among these were recreational marksmanship:
1727. December 23. We went to Shooting for 7 yds of Drugt. [Drugget, a kind of cloth] which I had Set up to be Shot for it wass woun by John Willson.
1728. January 13. after brakt [breakfast] Met Nowell at the Gum trees In order to Shote for five Pounds Which he wan[.] My Parte wass 20 Shilling [one pound.]
January 20.1 Set up a hat to be Shot for Bro Danil Woun it[.] We Shot In ye Woods.
February 3.1 went to John Willsons to a Shooting Match for a fidel: John Hart & I Woun it between us[.] I gave him my Part for Paying my Shot—
February 9. Shot 2 or 3 Guns at Marks[.]
Source: “‘Fare Weather and Good Helth’: The Journal of Caesar Rodeney. 1727–1729,” edited by Harold B. Hancock, Delaware History,10 (1962): 33–70.
Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Boston: Little, Brown, 1958);
Nancy L. Struna, People of Prowess: Sport, Leisure, and Labor in Early Anglo-America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996);
John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time, volume 1 (Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1845).
hunting, act of seeking, following, and killing wild animals for consumption or display. It differs from fishing in that it involves only land animals. Hunting was a necessary activity of early humans. Through the Paleolithic period it was their chief means of obtaining food and clothing. In the Neolithic period, when agriculture developed, killing game was still important. Hunting was popular among the ancients and became a sport in medieval Europe, where it was reserved, as far as possible, for the privileged classes by game laws. Falconry and foxhunting became increasingly popular in England in the Middle Ages, and the use of hunting dogs—hounds, setters, pointers, spaniels, and the like—became widespread in this period. Hunting can be divided into three branches, each of which is defined by the type of instrument used by the hunter. Hunting with weapons (now primarily firearms, formerly bow and arrow, boomerang, spear, or sling) is probably the most popular, especially in the United States. Trapping and snaring with deceptive implements is popular in northern areas. In coursing (with dogs) and falconry (with hawks) hunters enlist the aid of trained animals. Coursing is especially popular in Britain and Western Europe. Types of hunting are also distinguished by the size of the animal being sought. Big-game hunting is the most glamorous and often the most dangerous. It became a popular sport among Western colonialists in Africa and India during the 19th cent., and even today the big-game safari survives. Big-game animals include, or have included, the moose, caribou, bear, and elk of North America; the reindeer, elk, and wolf of Europe; the tiger, leopard, elephant, and wild goat of Asia; and the antelope, gazelle, zebra, leopard, lion, giraffe, rhinoceros, and elephant of Africa. Small-game hunting, known as "shooting" in Great Britain, focuses on birds such as the quail, partridge, grouse, pheasant, and goose, as well as on such animals as the hare, rabbit, woodchuck, raccoon, and squirrel. Extensive hunting, both commercial and recreational, has made many species of game animals extinct (the passenger pigeon) or nearly extinct (the American bison). Game laws and wildlife refuges in the United States have been designed to save game animals and birds from extinction. Many African nations have also instituted such measures, but illegal poaching for furs, skins, ivory, internal organs, and the like remains a problem both there and in other areas of the world.
- Agraeus epithet of Apollo, meaning “hunter.” [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 26]
- Agrotera epithet of Artemis, meaning “huntress.” [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 32]
- Artemis (Rom. Diana ) moon goddess; virgin huntress. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 36]
- Atalanta famous huntress; slew the Centaurs. [Gk. Myth.: Leach, 87]
- Britomartis Cretan nymph; goddess of hunters and fishermen. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 43]
- Calydonian boar hunt famed hunt of Greek legend. [Class. Myth: Metamorphoses ]
- Green Hills of Africa portrays big game-hunting coupled with literary digressions. [Am. Lit.: Green Hills of Africa ]
- Hubert, St. patron saint; encountered stag with cross in horns. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewster, 473–474]
- Jorrocks irrepressible pseudo-aristocratic cockney huntsman. [Br. Lit.: Jorrock’s Jaunts and Jollies ]
- NRA (National Rifle Association of America) organization that encourages sharpshooting and use of firearms for hunting. [Am. Pop. Culture: NCE, 1895]
- Nimrod Biblical hunter of great prowess. [O.T.: Genesis 10:9; Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost ]
- Orion hunter who pursued the Pleiades. [Classical Myth.: Zimmerman 184–185]
- Sagittarius the Archer of the Zodiac; used occasionally to symbolize hunting. [Astrology: Payton, 594]
- Stymphalian birds venomous Arcadian flock shot by Hercules; sixth Labor. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: Hall, 149]
- “tally ho” traditional rallying cry in English fox hunts. [Pop. Cult.: Misc.]
The Sport of Kings. A king who was a successful hunter proved that the gods favored him and that his power was therefore legitimate. The earliest known artworks depicting royal hunts date from the Late Uruk period (circa 3300 - circa 3000 b.c.e.). On the so-called Lion Hunt Stele, a large relief-carved boulder, a king is shown slaying lions with a spear and a bow and arrows. On a cylinder seal from the same period, a king hunts bulls with a bow and arrows.
Assyrian Royal Hunts. The Assyrian kings were renowned for hunting lions, elephants, ostriches, wild bulls, and other beasts, particularly large, aggressive species. Tiglath-pileser I (circa 1114 - circa 1076 b.c.e.) claimed that he killed 4 wild bulls, 10 elephants, and 920 lions. A relief at the palace of Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 b.c.e.) depicts him hunting lions and bulls from a chariot. The Assyrian royal hunt often took place in royal game parks.
Ashurbanipal’s Hunt. The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-circa 627 b.c.e.) held carefully staged lion hunts. From a booth above a wooden cage, a servant raised a door and released a lion, which was first attacked by dogs and beaters. The beaters’ job was to drive the lion toward the king, who killed it from his chariot using a spear or a bow and arrows. Sometimes, as on his official seal, Ashurbanipal is shown on foot, killing the lion by holding his mane and thrusting a sword into his prey. (The depiction of the king using a sword to slay a rampant lion was a common motif on Neo-Assyrian royal stamp seals.) When Ashurbanipal’s hunt was over, he poured a libation over the dead lions to atone for killing them and appease their angry spirits. He also recited a speech attributing the success of the hunt to his patron goddess. The popularity of this sport is apparent from information preserved on tablets and from the many life-like hunting scenes carved on Assyrian palace walls.
Suzanne Herbordt, Neuassyrische Glyptik des 8.–7. Jh. v. Chr., State Archives of Assyria Studies, volume 1 (Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1992).
Michael Roaf, Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East (New York: Facts on File, 1966).
H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon: A Sketch of the Ancient Civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, revised and updated edition (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1988).