Where do you draw the line?
I once sat in a tree with a Mossberg lever-action 30-30 Winchester and Hornady GMX bullet and shot a bear as it foraged around a barrel filled with junk food. Another time I boated the shores of Vancouver Island and shot a bear with a Borden Timberline 7mm Remington Magnum and Barnes TTSX bullet aimed by a high-powered Swarovski scope as it fed in a meadow of sedges. Was I wrong in the first incident, the second, both or none?
Black bear hunting is many things. One is “enjoyable.” Another is “controversial.” Some believe bears are sacred and should never be killed, thus the controversy. But then much of life is controversial. We debate what people wear. What they eat, smoke, say. Even what they think. To think that some people think they can control what others think seems unthinkable, but religious fanatics have been trying it for centuries.
The unthinkable, to some, is that anyone would/could/should kill a bear for any reason. Yet wolves kill bears. So do cougars, bacteria, viruses, fires, floods and even other bears. Apparently Mother Nature doesn’t think bears are sacred. Yet when humans kill bears it’s supposed to be a crime against nature. The same folks who think this, I’m guessing, also believe animals have the same rights as humans. Stated another way, as one famous anti-hunter did, “a pig is a rat is a boy.” None is better or more valuable than another. All are equal.
So, if we’re all equal in nature and she condones bear hunting, shouldn’t that end the controversy?
But the manner in which one hunts bear; might that be unethical? Take baiting, for instance. Shooting a bear that has been lured by the growling insistence of its appetite isn’t sporting, let alone fair. But, here again, Nature provides precedents. Herons are known to place bits of floating vegetation on the water to lure bait fish within striking distance. The homely angler fish wriggles above his maw an extension of a fin that looks like a worm. When other fish swim up to eat it, they are eaten instead. Leopards wait beside fruit trees where monkeys come to forage. Are all these creatures unconscionable, cheating baiters?
In contrast, stalking is thought to be more noble, more challenging and thus more fair. You are on the ground, overcoming gravity, distance, fickle breezes, dense foliage and the sharp hearing of your quarry. To succeed you must be strong, alert, perceptive, stealthy — in short, a woodsman, a true and ethical hunter.
But what about that rifle? Isn’t that an unnatural advantage? And the binocular, scope and boat? Where do you draw the line? Open sights? Flintlock? Bow and arrow? Spear? Bare hands?
Could it be possible that each of us must draw these ethical lines for ourselves? Without condemning others? Nature have proven time and again she doesn’t care one whit how we hunt bears or whether we hunt them at all. But what do you believe? Is it right/fair to hunt over bait, behind hounds, from a boat, with a scoped rifle, or at all?