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The Kill

No matter how it's stated, the end result of the hunt is always the same.

As a writer and editor, I constantly wrestle with the word "kill." Some writers simply cannot write that word.

They bag, harvest, down, collect, or take animals, but they don't kill them. Influenced by today's supersensitive world, they downplay the very truth and essence of hunting. They seem afraid to say they're proud of killing an animal, and they exorcise kill from their work. It's not PC.

What do you think? Should we use the word kill in hunting magazines? In Bowhunter? Or should we replace it with bag, harvest, or other euphemisms to be more politically correct? Here are some of my thoughts on this subject that guide me as a bowhunter, writer, and editor.


The most fundamental question might be: Is killing animals morally wrong? Obviously that depends on your personal philosophy and theology, but from my Christian point of view, it is not. Some years ago, in a column called "Animal Rights?", I pointed out that the Bible contains hundreds of references to the killing of animals for food and sacrifice, but it never questions the morality of it. From that I conclude that anyone with a Christian worldview has no need to apologize, at least on moral grounds, for using the word kill.

One morning, on our way to put out bear baits, my friend Wayne Crownover, a Christian pastor, and I were discussing this issue. "Part of the hunt is the kill," Wayne said. "How do you know if you're a good hunter if you never kill anything?"

Even more fundamentally, I would add, Are you even a hunter if you never intend to kill anything? You can observe animals and check them off on a list, photograph them, or sit on stand and watch the clouds drift by, all of which are good things to do. But they are not hunting. Hunting has many challenging, fulfilling, and satisfying aspects, but without a kill -- or at least the intent of killing something -- it's not hunting. Ultimately, the kill defines hunting, so why apologize for it?

And why apologize for something so practical? The killing of animals is the very basis for life itself -- putting food on the table. Could there be a more honorable goal than that? As Wayne said, "The Lord told man to subdue the earth, to be a provider. When I put steaks on the table, I feel a sense of pride." Such pragmatism needs no apology.

"Well," detractors might say, "a lot of people eat meat, but they don't kill animals to do it." Yes, that's true, but in buying meat from stores, they essentially hire other people to do their killing for them. That's fine, and I don't criticize anyone for that; hunting is not for everyone. At the same time, why should nonhunters disparage hunters. At least hunters take personal responsibility for their actions. Personally killing an animal for food is the ultimate in honesty. Why apologize for being man or woman enough to face reality?

Taking responsibility for an animal's death does not imply a callous attitude. Here at Bowhunter, we receive hundreds of stories every year, and in a high percentage the writers express sorrow over taking the lives of animals. I suppose some hunters enjoy killing, but they are the exception. Most feel sadness and regret, followed by pride in accomplishment and gratitude for the opportunity. These emotions require no apology.

This is not to say that all is perfect in the hunting world. Some careless participants go into the field with unreliable gear, dull broadheads, and poor shooting skills. They don't care. They have no regard for the animals they hunt, or for the future of hunting. They just want to fling arrows and shoot stuff. They love to describe how they drew blood, or how they stuck, whacked, or tipped over deer. They put little effort into following blood trails, and they waste meat through sloppy game care.

Even their field photos reflect disregard. At Bowhunter, we review thousands of photos each year, and the worst, in my opinion, are photos of deer thrown into the backs of pickups in pools of blood, tongues hanging out, eyes sunken and dull. The deer look like so much offal headed for the dump. Don't those hunters care about the animals they've shot? Their photographs debase animals rather than honor them, and these individuals seem to kill for the sake of killing. In relation to them, maybe we should be ashamed to use the word kill.

But they are the minority. The fact is, hunters kill animals, and if they do so with the right motives and with respect, they have no reason to apologize. That's why at Bowhunter we're not afraid to use the word kill. While we always strive to present bowhunting in a positive light and to honor the animals we hunt, we always insist on honesty, too. So we won't deny the truth or cover it up with euphemisms. Hunters do kill animals, and we thank God for the privilege.

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