Cambronne, Al. Deerland: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness. Gilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2013.
I have never been an avid hunter, let alone a deer hunter. But my work with one of the country’s premiere deer biologists, Dr. Scott E. Hygnstrom, has engaged me with this deer hunting community. As I work with deer biologists, researchers, most of whom are also experienced deer hunters, I have been repeatedly surprised at how eyes brighten and grins broaden whenever the subject turns to deer hunting. My bewilderment also extends to the protests of animal activists who decry deer hunters as “Bambi killers”.
What is it about deer that make some people wish to eat it and others wish to simply protect from all and any harm? If you have similar questions or just an interest in the social and human aspects of wildlife management, then Deerland is for you.
Cambronne surveys the complex relationship between humans and deer in a manner that is both factual and interesting. He divided his book into two parts. Part 1 “Love and Obsession” explores the positive side of this charismatic megafauna known as deer. Cambronne explains the life history of deer and details how deer are big business in the U.S. In fact, the business of deer is so big it’s called the Deer Industrial Complex. Cambonne also investigates the emotional side of the human-deer relationship such as the popularity of feeding deer and the allure of big racks of antlers otherwise known as horn porn.
Part 2, “Consequences” analyzes the negative aspects of abundant deer populations. In separate chapters, Cambronne discusses the effect that deer have on environmental balance, deer collisions, disease transmission, and the options available for managing deer. Throughout, Cambronne maintains a decidedly neutral position. He doesn’t say we should shoot more deer or to increase deer populations. His goal is for Americans to think more deeply and profoundly about deer and their role in the environment. Ultimately, we have to decide what kind of nature we want.
Animal rights activists will object that the book insufficiently explained or defended their point of view. True, Cambronne does not spend a great deal of time on the subject of animal rights. But I don’t think this objection is any more worthy of consideration than a medical journal not evaluating the medical theories of the religion known as Christian Science.
Deer are here and our management of them is not optional. But the choice of what kind of management we will adopt is and Deerland helps inform us about the consequences of whatever decision we ultimately make.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest books are the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition and The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats. He can be contacted at wildlifecontrolconsultant at gmail dot com.
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Carpenter, David. 2010. A Hunter’s Confession. Vancouver, B.C.: D. and M. Publishers Inc.
A Hunter’s Confession is a memoir and an essay on the morality and meaning of hunting. Carpenter brings his superb prose and extensive hunting experience together in a book that openly discusses the moral dilemmas of a hunter. No matter where you are on the position of animal-rights and the role of the consumptive use of wildlife, readers will find much to ponder.
Carpenter explains how his attitude toward hunting has changed as he’s gotten older. He thoughtfully explains how he transitioned from being a body-count hunter (one who hunted to fill the bag-limit) to one who entered wild places to experience a more spiritual interaction with nature. He decries what he sees as the overemphasis on trophy and high animal counts in much hunting literature and hunting lore. He is concerned with the protection of open space and wildlands and wonders whether hunting is playing a role in the degradation and lack of respect for nature. Yet, Carpenter does not adopt a simplistic condemnation of hunting. He knows that hunting has been a force of good for protecting wildlife and open spaces. He also sees immense value from the hunting practices and philosophy of the Native Americans. In this regard, the author is somewhat conflicted, and honestly so, about hunting and its role both for the hunter and the broader society.
I commend the author for his emotional transparency and taking on the difficult questions such as bloodlust, and environmental degradation. Too often the socio-relational and moral elements of hunting are not considered in a thoughtful way. I just wish the author provided an answer to the dilemmas and problems he reveals.
On the negative side, Carpenter fails to provide proper distinctions. He neglected to distinguish between regulated hunting and poaching when he spoke of the impact hunting has had on wildlife populations. Additionally, he falls victim to the old canard that dominionism is somehow opposed to the respect for nature view and has caused the domination of the environment. His simplistic and inaccurate understanding of Christian teaching on humanity’s role as manager of the environment is unfortunate but a common one among non-Christians.
Nevertheless, his question, “Why do you hunt?” should be answered by all hunters (trappers) and those who use wildlife in a consumptive manner. Likewise, his point is well made when he asks, “Are you hunting to fill a void in your life or are you hunting to connect to nature in a deeper way than just simply observing?” I find these questions poignant. It is because Carpenter asks these questions in such a powerful way that I recommend this book for those interested in exploring these questions. I would simply suggest that these questions should be asked to non-hunters as well as all activities in nature are subject to the selfishness and egoism rampant in the human heart.
The book is available at Amazon.com for 14.00. A number of used copies are available also for less than 3.00.
About the Author
Stephen M Vantassel http://wildlifecontrolconsultant.com specializes in wildlife damage management and has a particular interest in environmental ethics.