Sustainability of Modern Hunting


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Growing up in Montana, I am familiar with people hunting recreationally.  My classmates in high school, my coaches, my neighbors, and my dad all hunt for sport and meat.  Although I have never shot an animal myself, I have many memories going along for a hunt with my father when I was younger.  After our class discussion about “organic”, “natural”, or “artisan” food last week, it got me questioning which foods are legitimately free of pesticides and free of genetic modification.  There are certainly farms that produce this type of authentically natural food, but wild game almost guarantees that the meat will be pesticide free and genetically unmodified.  Although wild game comes from nature, is the practice of modern hunting sustainable and practical in modern times?

The American people generally accept hunting wild game, and the approval ratings of hunting have increased in the past few years. Current statistics show that 79% of Americans are in favor of recreational hunting, a number that has gone up 5% since 2011. Yet for how many Americans approve of hunting, only 5% of Americans go hunting every year. With a small percentage of people actively hunting, coupled with strong management from the Fish and Game, wild game populations are typically at a healthy population.

Prior to federal regulation being used to protect wildlife populations, many ecosystems were being overexploited for their resources. It was a classic tragedy of the commons situation, where the ecosystem’s resources seemed endless, when the stark reality is that it was quite the opposite. The fish and game now regulates these fragile ecosystems with a tag system, allowing for the more common game to be hunted more, while the more rare game may be hunted less frequently—or not at all.

The current status of modern hunting in the United States is sustainable. For people looking to acquire meat the way in which our ancestors did, as well as know that the meat will be free of pesticides and other chemicals, hunting provides an alternative to the grocery store. Although hunting is currently sustainable, if more people chose to start hunting we would again face the tragedy of the commons. With the restrictions currently put in place by the Fish and Game it would be difficult for many more people to start hunting. Of course this depends where you live, for example, I was very fortunate to grow in Montana where there are many open spaces where people are able to hunt. In more urban areas there are greater restrictions towards hunting, making it more difficult to acquire a tag for wild game.

Overall, hunting is a sustainable practice to get meat that has been untouched by industry. Obviously the meat was raised in an environmentally friendly manor, as it was raised in the natural world. Hunting also promotes conservation of natural and wild lands. Yet if every was to hunt, the practice would no longer be considered sustainable. Continued progress to manage wildlife effectively is key in keeping the biodiversity of these ecosystems healthy and retaining our ability to hunt.

Here is a video which looks into one man’s ethical reasons behind why he hunts:

<p><a href=”″>Who We Are</a> from <a href=””>Sicmanta</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Is Hunting Sustainable?



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6 responses to “Sustainability of Modern Hunting

  1. amyquandt

    I lived in Montana for a few years and had lots of friends who hunted! Could you explain in more details what the Fish and Wildlife department does to make sure that hunting is sustainable?


    • adampeterman

      The Fish and Wildlife department uses information gathered by wildlife biologists to help determine which animals can be hunted, where and how many are hunted every year. For small game such as birds and rodents, you can purchase a “Small Game License” that allows you to hunt these types of animals for an entire year. There are some restrictions depending on the season, which is regulated by the Fish and Wildlife department. For big game, such as bears, wolves, deer, elk, etc, there is a tag system to preserve their populations. These larger animals have a lower reproductive rate compared to smaller game, therefore more strict regulation must be enforced. Wildlife biologists evaluate how many of each species of animal can be sustainably hunted, and the Fish and Wildlife Department produces an appropriate number of tags depending on this information. The number of tags produced annually factors in that hunters will have a 10-20% success rate of filling the tag/killing an animal.


  2. alecjordan7721

    Growing up in Missouri, I can say that our lifestyle was similar to yours in that almost everyone I knew has been or hunts frequently, even though I too I have never shot an animal. Hunting is not just an American tradition, it is a way of life for some people and I believe it will always be apart of our culture and society. With that being said, I agree with you that it is up to the Fish and Wildlife department as well as non-governmental organizations such as Ducks Unlimited to protect and conserve the environment and wildlife. Even though they do a great deal in protecting the environments and ensuring healthy populations of animals, I think they can take it a step farther not in just conservation but education. I think we need to keep tight regulations on hunting to ensure that it does not become a tragedy of the commons as well as educate the public on this matter even more. Do you think there could be a more effective way with protecting and conserving a specific animal in Montana or Colorado in connection with hunting?


    • adampeterman

      As far as I have learned, overhunting is not a tragedy of the commons situation in Montana or Colorado. It is in the best interest of most hunters to keep the populations of game healthy and preserve them for future generations. I think the current regulations being enforced for hunting are working well and keeping the practice sustainable. If there was a large increase in the number of people who hunt, regulations would need to become more strict to prevent populations from decreasing, but the current systems in place prevent this. Even if more people wanted to hunt this year, only a certain number of tags are produced, and this number is static.


  3. I think your blog post is really interesting, because as you said, hunting when done correctly, is sustainable. However, I’d like to get your opinion on a few things. I’ve never gone myself, but I know that for a lot of people, it’s a source of pride to bag an elk or deer with the biggest rack of antlers, etc. The problem I’ve read about with this is that by doing so, hunters are effectively selecting for smaller, less viable animals (they take the big ones out of the gene population). Do you think there should be limitations to the size of game that is hunted? Also, in the case of hunting predator species such as mountain lions, black bears, and wolves. How do you feel about this practice? Historically, these animals have lower fecundity and smaller populations, but culling these species has been a widely practiced means of control. I know that they are not generally hunted for food, per say, but how do you feel about the sustainability of hunting these populations when their numbers are usually not even an issue? Anyway, I like your post because it made me think of food in a new way (non-pesticide laden food, etc.). Good job!


    • adampeterman

      As long as the wildlife biologists who work with the Fish and Wildlife Department are doing their job properly, and monitoring the specific populations of game in each region, overhunting should not be a problem. Trophy hunting makes up a small percentage of overall hunters, and therefore should not make a significant impact in changing the demographic of the herd. However, if what you mention did become a problem, perhaps hunting large game would have to regulate size. This has been done with fishing to limit the length of the fish caught.
      I believe that the hunting of predators is okay, as long as an appropriate number of tags is released yearly. Hunting for predators is not as popular as hunting for prey animals. The limitations on predators for hunting are very strict.


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