Is Hunting An Inconsequential Way To Satisfy The Instinct To Kill?

My uncle has been a hunter my whole life. Now his son, my cousin, is the main hunter of the family. When he hangs out with his friends, they spend the time hunting. It is his hobby, his interest, and his pastime. We don’t see them much but when I was younger I was scared of their basement and to be honest it’s still freaky to me. They have deer heads, which they personally killed, mounted on the wall with a “deer in the headlights” expression eternally imprinted on their face.

Many hunters use their meat for dinner, such as my close relatives. This is one of their justifications for the murder of innocent creatures. Another is “population control”. As if they pull that trigger with the animal’s well-being in mind. Right. Population control is a serious issue but we are fighting a beast that we created. For example, in Virginia’s Department of game and Inland Fisheries’ mission statement, their mission is to “maintain optimum populations of species” and “provide opportunity” to hunt. In the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ mission statement, their mission is to “provide outdoor recreation opportunities”. In other words that aren’t “providing opportunities”, departments and agencies throughout the U.S. are responsible for the abundance of certain species. We manage animal population to ensure we get to continue this tradition.

Hunting has always been a human sport. It was necessary for survival. In history, a person’s usefulness and bravery as a soldier was determined by their ability to hunt and how well they could throw a spear. Then by how well they could use a bow. Then how well they could shoot a gun. During the time of pre-civilization, the men would hunt and fight. The fathers taught their sons who became fathers themselves and taught their sons. It’s no wonder a census taken by National Geographic in 2011 shows 89 percent of hunters to be men. That’s how it has always been.

Hunting got passed down since the beginning of time so maybe the reason hunters refuse to admit it is wrong is because hunting is an instinct. Evelyn B. Pluhar is a professor of philosophy at Penn State University. In her paper titled “The Joy Of Killing”, she explores the idea that “the pleasure felt in completing the predatory act is a vestige of our primitive origins.” The instinct to kill began during paleolithic times when humans had to enjoy killing to ensure its continuation. If they didn’t enjoy it, they wouldn’t have hunted as effectively and there wouldn’t have been enough food.

As a specie we are carnivores. It is said carnivore animals have a natural instinct to hunt. My pet cat Eugene goes outside every day and hunts for bunnies or mice. I got mad at him but I was told “you can’t shame him for following his natural instincts”. Even indoor cats take part in this practice. Buy a cat and you can say goodbye to your mouse issue. So carnivores have a natural instinct to hunt. However, if you say we hunt by instinct and we enjoy hunting by instinct, then we have a bit of a problem. How is the instinct to kill limited to only animals? It may seem absurd but hunting people is quite similar to hunting animals. A serial killer is defined as someone who commits murder three or more times often for psychological gratification with time in between each kill. Hunters definitely match this description. They most often kill three or more animals and usually enjoy doing so. Some are more cruel than others in how they kill. Hunters like my relatives could be considered benign. They sit in their stands, shoot the animals and bring them home. Other hunters chase the animals or trap them making their last moments full of fear and pain. Whatever way you kill you are still killing.

Serial killers follow certain patterns. Many of which you can find hunters doing as well. First off, they often view their victims as objects or don’t feel emotion for them. Hunters usually don’t feel empathy for the animals they hunt. They, instead, view them as a challenge or target. The animal’s dead, blood-covered body doesn’t effect the common hunter. The blood is literally on their hands and they don’t mind. It’s just part of the game. Instead of cradling the dead body to mourn, they hoist them up and smile. Scattered all across a hunter’s social media are photos of them posing by limp, lifeless animals with proud grins on their faces and guns in their hands.

Serial killers also commonly enjoy stalking their victims and planning the kill more than the actual kill. They love the “thrill of the hunt”. Popular bowhunter and bow manufacturer Fred Bear said, “If you consider an unsuccessful hunt to be a waste of time, then the true meaning of the chase eludes you all together.” Waiting for the animals and stalking them is what they often enjoy the most. Musician and big game hunter Ted Nugent also said to relieve stress, you should just grab a bow and arrow and go sit in a tree. For some hunters waiting to find the animal they will kill is therapeutic.

My final connection is the souvenirs. Many serial killers take something from their victim or from the crime scene to remind them of their kill. Trophy hunters are the most guilty of this but regular hunters are often found with souvenirs as well. Deer heads are mounted on walls. Antlers decorate a shelf or desk. Teeth are put in cases or on necklaces. In history, wars have also resulted in souvenirs such as the enemy’s head, ears, scalp, etc.

It’s not like all hunters would immediately turn to killing people if the animals disappeared but they do indeed follow the same tendencies as serial killers. Serial killers are finding the same joy, just in way with many more consequences than hunting. A deer head on a wall, frozen in time, staring at you is acceptable. A lock of hair or picture of a human you killed is not. Most of the current society has completely suppressed the urge to kill but some enjoy the loophole that is hunting.

Works cited

“About the DNR.” About the DNR: Minnesota DNR. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.


Barwick, Emily. “Deer Hunting: Overpopulation Solution or Cause?” Bite Size Vegan. N.p., 21 June 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.


“List of Virginia State Agencies.” List of Virginia State Agencies. Virginia Performs, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.


“National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (FHWAR), 2011.” ICPSR Data Holdings (n.d.): n. pag. Web.


Pluhar, Evelyn B. “The Joy of Killing.” Pennsylvania State University, Fayette Campus, n.d. Web.


Sidis, W. J. “The Tribes and the States, Native American History.” The Tribes and the States, Native American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.