I recently posted a little diddy on my opening morning hunt. The article elicited a comment that’s quite common among my friends, especially those of the non-hunting variety. “I’m by no means ‘anti-hunting,'” the TTAG commentator opined, “but killing something as it sits down to eat the breakfast you set out for it is not ‘hunting.'” Before discussing the ethics and morals of using corn for bait, it might be worthwhile to set the stage for why I hunt.
Mostly, it’s for meat. I eat what I kill and long ago stopped killing animals for sport. In the case of feral hogs caught in traps where mass killing is the order of the day, I do my best to ensure that the meat finds a home with those less fortunate. Hunters for the Hungry is a fantastic cause if you find yourself in a similar situation.
I eat what I kill because I don’t like getting my protein from the agricultural industrial complex. One day, I’d really like to get away from it. But the truth of the matter is that I buy my meat in cellophane-wrapped packages. My backyard (and my dog) are not conducive to raising livestock. So if I want meat that I’ve looked in the eyes, hunting is the only way to get it done.
Bracketing that situation: I live two-and-a-half hours from the place I hunt. Weekday “after work” hunting is not an option. There are eleven weekends this hunting season counting our special late season for culls and does. Even with the long season here in Texas, I’m lucky if I can pull off three hunting weekends.
Bottom line: I’ve got six hunting days a year. So, like any rational human with a working brain and opposable thumbs, I look to increase my odds of seeing deer at the place I’ll be during the times I’ll be there.
Deer are really hard to kill in the wild. It’s their world after all. First, they can smell you. Second, they can see you. Third, they can hear you. And fourth, they’re on the move.
If you have the time to stalk game trails and figure out where they’ll be naturally and when, I have all the respect in the world for you, tinted with a shade of green. I wish I had that kind of time. Should I desire to go seek them out, on foot, rifle in hand with my L.L. Bean Red Flannel Hunting Cap on, I can guarantee that they’ll smell, see, and hear me long before I spot them.
That’s not to say that I haven’t done it. Over the years, I’ve managed to break away from work and home duties to hunt on foot. Once the first two deer are in the freezer like they’ve been this year, I stop hunting corn feeders and go wild. Because I then have the luxury of not succeeding.
Most importantly, ethical hunting is important to me. I don’t like my animals to suffer one single bit. I’ve passed up hundreds of shots over the years precisely because I didn’t have 100 percent confidence in my ability to humanely end the animal’s life.
On foot, the number of variables open up greatly. Things like distance, wind, positioning of human and rifle and the movement of the animal complicate things. Seated at the base of a tree, seventy-five yards downwind of a corn feeder, I’ve eliminated several of those variables and have much more control of the shot. That means I’ve greatly increased my chances of a one-shot humane kill.
Meat in the freezer. Minimal suffering. All these things are good.
You can either like shooting deer as they feed on bait or hate it. I don’t begrudge the latter view if you do. Hunting over bait (where legal) is a thoroughly valid and useful strategy for hunters like me who want to offset their grocery intake with free range, ethically harvested venison. Give it some thought.