A Deer Hunter’s Psyche – What Makes Them Tick

hunters psyche


The annual Missouri archery season is less than 45 days away, and the rifle season is only two months after that. Tens of thousands of Missouri deer hunters will be taking to the woods. The attacks from anti-hunters against law abiding hunters will begin as well. As deer hunters, we are misunderstood in today’s world. The question is, what really makes us tick?

Around 98 percent of Americans eat meat. People have been meat eaters since the dawn of time. Also, even in modern times, about 80 percent of Americans approve of ethical and legal hunting. So why do we hear so much from so few claiming that hunters’ psyches are those of demented, sadistic killers? Anti-hunters often oppose hunting because they say it is cruel to animals, therefore, hunters must be mentally disturbed. The truth of the matter is that sadists would not want to kill an animal quickly and ethical, hunters do. Sadists want things to suffer.

Anyone who says that hunters are mentally ill is talking psychology. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but few are psychologists. Very few published articles that claim hunters are sadistic, or psychopathic, are written by behavioral scientists who study humans. Also, not many hunters are mentally ill. Most are screened out of the mix via background checks prior to purchasing a gun. Others are sorted out by hunter education instructors. Most states now require you to pass a hunter education course before buying a hunting license. Those who are deemed unstable do not receive hunter certification training.

Most psychologists of the 20th century agreed that hunting is motivated by a natural instinct, and that participation in hunting is beneficial to mental health. In his studies of human aggression, psychologist Erich Fromm said: “When hunting, the hunter returns to their natural state, one with the animals and nature, and is relieved of the burden of their existential split. To be part of nature and transcend it by virtue of their consciousness. In stalking an animal, he and the animal become equal, even though man eventually shows his superiority by use of weapons.”

deer camp

Others, including Dr. Steven Kellers, of Yale, and Amherst College professor Jan Dizard found the reasons people hunt are to experience nature as a participant. To feel an intimate, serious connection to a place. To take responsibility for one’s food, and to acknowledge kinship with wildlife. One of the few studies that portrays hunters in a negative light, published in the 2003 Journal of Visual Studies, claimed that photos of hunters with trophies in hunting magazines indicated that, “instead of respect and for love nature and wildlife, we found extreme objectification and marginalization of animal bodies.” That so called research, is only about the authors subjective personal opinions of art. Anyone else who had done the same study would have concluded that the hunters were simply proud and wanted to show off their harvests.

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It’s an established fact in the United States that when hunting license sales go up, violent crime goes down. Another study out of Emory University established that denial of the hunting instinct can lead to psychopathology. The research team stated: “Our instincts to hunt have gone away in ‘civilized’ society, where the thrill of the chase and the kill are no longer part of our experience. There are no clear avenues of expression except, perhaps to our peril, in the streets and subways of today’s urban jungles.” Dr. Hal Herzog, of Western Carolina University reported in 2014 that 84 percent of vegetarians and 70 percent of vegans return to eating at least some meat. Thirty-five percent of vegetarians said they did so because of declining health reasons.

Of course, as hunters we have always recognized that we have incisors for a reason. A German study found that vegetarians displayed elevated prevalence rates for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and somatoform disorders. A similar study in Australia found vegetarians were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety. Hunters have long been in the forefront of protecting wildlife and providing funding for the protection and propagation of such. Billions have been spent on fish and wildlife habitat, research, and education. Non-hunters and anti-hunters alike have benefited from these appropriations through the purchasing of wild lands and refuges which everyone is allowed to enjoy.

Hopefully, before this article goes to print, President Trump will have signed into law the greatest piece of conservation legislation in the history of mankind. The Great American Outdoors Act will provide funding for the increased expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities including hunting, fishing, boating, camping, hiking, and more. The bill includes permanent funding for the tremendously successful Land and Water Conservation Fund to the tune of $900 million per year. The LWCA has completed projects in every county in the U.S.

The GAOA is expected to provide $12.5 billion dollars over the next five years. Hunters played a tremendous role in the establishment of the GAOA, clearly demonstrating their continued love and support for wildlife, wild places, and access to both for all citizens. The next time you are approached by anti-hunters, quote these facts, and ask them what they are doing to reduce the horrible condition of humanity in our urban jungles. Our very participation in deer hunting makes us tick, makes us better people, and certainly makes our world a better place for everyone.

Why Hunting Does Makes Sense

About Bill Cooper 6 Articles
Bill Cooper has published over 1,500 articles and hosted TV and radio shows over a half century as an outdoor communicator. Recognized on the floor of the Missouri House of Repesentatives in 2016 for his career of promoting the outdoors, Bill has stood the test of time through his unwavering love of the outdoors.  Bill is also a member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame and still going strong. We welcome his experiences and outdoor communicator skills to Rambling Angler Outdoors and look forward to all the remarkable stories and adventures ahead. 

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