Hunting is the practice of pursuing animals for food, recreation, or trade. In modern use, the term refers to regulated and legal hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of animals contrary to law. Hunted animals are referred to as game animals, and are usually large or small mammals, migratory gamebirds, or non-migratory gamebirds.
Hunting can also involve the elimination of vermin as a means of pest control. Hunting advocates claim that hunting can be a necessary component of modern wildlife management, for example to help maintain a population of healthy animals within an environment's ecological carrying capacity when natural checks such as predators are absent. In the United States, wildlife managers are frequently part of hunting regulatory and licensing bodies, where they help to set rules on the number, manner and conditions in which game may be hunted.
The pursuit, capture and release, or capture for food of fish is called fishing, which is not commonly categorized as a kind of hunting. Trapping is also usually considered a separate activity. Neither is it considered hunting to pursue animals without intent to kill them, as in wildlife photography or birdwatching. The practice of hunting for plants or mushrooms is a colloquial term for gathering.
Hunting has an extremely long history and may well pre-date the rise of species Homo sapiens. While our earliest Hominid ancestors were probably frugivore or omnivore, there is evidence that early Homo, and possibly already Australopithecine species have used larger animals for subsistence, and that hunting may have been one of the multiple environmental factors leading to replacement of holocene megafauna by smaller herbivores.
Of the closest surviving relatives of the human species, Pan, the Common Chimpanzee has an omnivorous diet including troop hunting behavior based on beta males led by an alpha male, while Bonobos, on the other hand have a mostly frugivorous diet.
While it is undisputed that early humans were hunters, the importance of this fact for the final steps in the emergence of the Homo genus out of earlier Australopithecines, with its bipedalism and production of stone tools (from about 2.5 million years ago), and eventually also control of fire (from about 1.5 million years ago), are emphasized in the "hunting hypothesis", and de-emphasized in scenarios that stress the omnivore status of humans as their recipe for success, and social interaction, including mating behaviour as essential in the emergence of behavioral modernity. With the establishment of language, culture and religion, hunting became a theme of stories and myths, besides rituals such as dance and animal sacrifice. Hunting was a crucial component of hunter-gatherer societies before the domestication of livestock and the dawn of agriculture, beginning about 11,000 years ago. By the Mesolithic, hunting strategies had diversified with the developent of the bow (by 18,000 years ago) and the domestication of the dog (about 15,000 years ago).
There is fossil evidence for spear use in Asian hunting dating from approximately 16,200 years ago. The North American megafauna extinction was coincidental with the Younger Dryas impact event, making hunting a less critical factor in prehistoric species loss than had been previously thought. Many species of animals have been hunted and caribou/wild reindeer "may well be the species of single greatest importance in the entire anthropological literature on hunting" (see also Reindeer Age).
Hunter-gathering lifestyles remained prevalent in the New World and Sub-Saharan Africa (with the notable exception of Aztec and Incan agriculture) until the European Age of Discovery, and they persist in some tribal societies, albeit in rapid decline. Peoples that preserved paleolithic hunting-gathering until the recent past include some indigenous peoples of the Amazonas (Aché), some Central and Southern African Bushmen (Hadza people, Khoisan), some peoples of New Guinea (Fayu), the Mlabri of Thailand and Laos, the Vedda people of Sri Lanka and a handful of uncontacted peoples.
Even as animal domestication became relatively widespread, hunting was usually a significant contributor to the human food supply, even after the development of agriculture. The supplementary meat and materials from hunting included protein, bone for implements, sinew for cordage, fur, feathers, rawhide and leather used in clothing. The earliest hunting tools would have included rocks, spears, the atlatl, bow and arrows.
On ancient reliefs, especially from Mesopotamia, kings are often depicted as hunters of big game such as lions, especially from a war chariot. The cultural and psychological importance of hunting in ancient societies is represented by deities such as the horned god Cernunnos, or lunar goddesses of classical antiquity, Greek Artemis or Roman Diana. Taboos are often related to hunting, and mythological association of prey species with a divinity could be reflected in hunting restrictions such as a 'reserve' surrounding a temple, Euripides' tale of Artemis and Acteon, for example, may be seen as a caution against disrespect of prey or impudent boasting.
Hunting is still vital in marginal climates, especially those unsuited for pastoral uses or agriculture. Inuit peoples in the Arctic trap and hunt animals for clothing. From the skins of sea mammals, they may make kayaks, clothing, and footwear.
With domestication of the dog, birds of prey and the ferret, various forms of animal-aided hunting developed including venery (scent hound hunting, such as fox hunting), coursing (sight hound hunting), falconry and ferreting. These are all associated with medieval hunting; in time various dog breeds were selected for very precise tasks during the hunt, reflected in such names as pointer and setter.
Even as agriculture and animal husbandry became more prevalent, hunting often remained as a part of human culture where the environment and social conditions allowed. Hunting may be used to kill animals which prey upon domestic animals or to attempt to extirpate animals seen by humans as competition for resources such as water or forage.
As hunting moved from a subsistence activity to a social one, two trends emerged. One was that of the specialist hunter with special training and equipment. The other was the emergence of hunting as a sport for those of an upper social class. The meaning of the word "game" in middle English evolved to include an animal which is hunted.
As game became more of a luxury than a necessity, the stylized pursuit of it also became a luxury. Dangerous hunting, as for lions or wild boars, usually on horseback (or from a chariot) had a function similar to tournaments and manly sports. Hunting was considered to be an honourable, somewhat competitive pastime to help the aristocracy practice skills of war in times of peace.
In most parts of medieval Europe, the upper class obtained the sole rights to hunt in certain areas of a feudal territory. Game in these areas was certainly used as a source of food and furs, often provided via professional huntsmen; but it was also expected to provide a form of recreation for the aristocracy. The importance of this proprietary view of game can be seen in the Robin Hood legends, in which one of the primary charges against the outlaws is that they "hunt the King's deer".
Hunting played an important role in the culture of the antebellum South. In most southern states, members of the slaveowning elite attempted to mimic the English aristocracy by imposing a variety of hunting laws and, in a few cases, by creating private game reserves. In general, these efforts failed due to the determined efforts of slaves and poor whites to hunt. Consequently, beginning in the early 19th century, members of the elite began importing the idea of "sport" from England. This allowed them to construct a cultural difference between their approach to hunting, which focused on pursuit and the thrill of the chase, and the hunting methods used by poor whites and slaves, which focused on the acquisition of skins, hides, and fresh meat.
Although various animals have been used to aid the hunter, none has been as important as the dog. The domestication of the dog has led to a symbiotic relationship in which the dog has lost its evolutionary independence to man in exchange for support.
Although recreational hunters may choose to be selective hunters, many people hunt to enjoy the outdoors. Others enjoy game as an alternative to store bought meat.
Some recreational hunters contributed to the modern environmental conservation movement. Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Teddy Roosevelt, who spent some of their outdoor recreation time hunting, became the founding fathers of the modern Conservation movement.
Often a hunting ground, or the hunt for one or more species, was reserved or prohibited in the context of a temple cult.
The first Precept of Buddhism is the respect for all sentient life. The general approach by all Buddhists is to avoid killing any living creatures.The Buddha explained the issue by saying "all fear death; comparing others with oneself, one should neither kill nor cause to kill".
Ferraris (s.v. "Clericus", art. 6) gives it as the general sense of canonists that hunting is allowed to clerics if it be indulged in rarely and for sufficient cause, as necessity, utility or "honest" recreation, and with that moderation which is becoming to the ecclesiastical state. Ziegler, however (De episc., l. IV, c. xix), thinks that the interpretation of the canonists is not in accordance with the letter or spirit of the laws of the Church.
Nevertheless, although a distinction between lawful and unlawful hunting is undoubtedly permissible, it is certain that a bishop can absolutely prohibit all hunting to the clerics of his diocese, as was done by synods at Milan, Avignon, Liège, Cologne and elsewhere. Benedict XIV (De synodo diœces., l. II, c. x) declared that such synodal decrees are not too severe, as an absolute prohibition of hunting is more conformable to the ecclesiastical law. In practice, therefore, the synodal statutes of various localities must be consulted to discover whether they allow quiet hunting or prohibit it altogether.
It is important to note that the Bible places no such restrictions on any Christian; however, the animal must be properly drained of blood before consuming it. Hence Protestant clerics, Catholic lay parishioners, and Protestants have no religious restrictions on hunting. This is in accord with what is found in the Bible book of Acts 15:28-29 and 1 Timothy 4:4.
Jewish hunting law, based on the Torah, is similar, permitting hunting of non-preying animals that are additionally considered Kosher for food, although hunting preying animals for food is strictly prohibited under Rabbinic law. Hence birds of prey are specifically prohibited and non-Kosher.
Indian social norms are generally antagonistic to hunting, while a few sects like the Bishnoi lay special emphasis on the conservation of particular species like the antelope. India's Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 bans the killing of all wild animals. However, the Chief Wildlife Warden may, if he is satisfied that any wild animal from a specified list has become dangerous to human life or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery, permit any person to hunt such animal. In such a case, the body of any wild animal killed or wounded becomes government property.
Safari as a distinctive way of hunting was popularized by US author Ernest Hemingway and president Theodore Roosevelt. A safari may consist of several days or even weeks-long journey and camping in the bush or jungle, while pursuing big game. Nowadays, it's often used to describe tours through African national parks to watch or hunt wildlife.
Hunters are usually tourists, accompanied by (licensed and highly regulated) professional hunter ("PH"), local guides, skinners and porters in more difficult terrains. A special safari type is the solo-safari where all the license acquiring, stalking, preparation and outfitting is done by the hunter himself.
Photo-safaris were popular even before the advent of ecotourism. The synonym bloodless hunt for hunting with the use of film and a still photo camera was first used by the Polish photographer Włodzimierz Puchalski.
Fox hunting is the type of hunting most closely associated with the United Kingdom. Originally a form of vermin control to protect livestock, it became a popular social activity for newly wealthy upper classes in Victorian times, and a traditional rural activity for riders and foot followers alike. The complicated rituals of the fox hunt are addressed in the article fox hunting.
Similar to fox hunting in many ways is the chasing of hare with hounds. Sight hounds such as greyhounds may be used to run down hare in coursing with scent hounds, such as beagling or the hunting of hares on foot with beagles. Other sorts of foxhounds may also be used for hunting deer or mink.
These forms of hunting have been controversial in the UK. Animal welfare supporters believe that hunting causes unnecessary suffering to foxes, horses and hounds. Proponents argue that it is culturally and perhaps economically important. Using dogs to chase wild mammals was made illegal in February 2005 by the Hunting Act 2004. The issues involved are addressed in the article fox hunting legislation.
North American hunting predates the United States by thousands of years, and was an important part of many pre-Columbian Native American cultures. Native Americans retain some hunting rights and are exempt from some laws as part of Indian treaties and otherwise under federal law—examples include eagle feather laws and exemptions in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This is considered particularly important in Alaska Native communities.
Regulations vary widely from state to state, and govern the areas, time periods, techniques and methods by which specific game animals may be hunted. Some states make a distinction between protected species and unprotected species (often vermin or varmints) for which there are no hunting regulations. Hunters of protected species require a hunting license in all states, for which completion of a hunting safety course is sometimes a prerequisite.
Typically game animals are divided into several categories for regulatory purposes. Typical categories, along with example species, are as follows:
Hunting big game typically requires a "tag" for each animal harvested. Tags must be purchased in addition to the hunting license, and the number of tags issued to an individual is typically limited. In cases where there are more prospective hunters than the quota for that species, tags are usually assigned by lottery. Tags may be further restricted to a specific area or "wildlife management unit." Hunting migratory waterfowl requires a "duck stamp" from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Harvest of animals other than big game is typically restricted by a "bag limit" and a "possession limit." A bag limit is a maximum number of a specific animal species that an individual can harvest in a single day. A possession limit is a maximum number of a specific animal species that can be in an individual's possession at any time.
Guns usage in hunting is also typically regulated by game category, area within the state, and time period. Regulations for big game hunting often specify a minimum caliber or muzzle energy for firearms. The use of rifles is often banned for safety reasons in areas with high population density or limited topographic relief. Regulations may also limit or ban the use of lead in ammunition because of environmental concerns. Specific seasons for bow hunting or muzzle-loading black powder guns are often established to limit competition with hunters using more effective weapons. Hunting in the United States is not associated with any particular class or culture. In fact, 78% of Americans support legal hunting, but relatively few Americans actually hunt. At the beginning of the 21st century, 6% of Americans hunted. Southerners in states along the eastern seaboard hunted at a rate slightly below the national average (5%), and while hunting was more common in other parts of the South (9%), these rates did not surpass those of the Plains states, where 12% of Midwesterners hunted. Hunting in other areas of the country fell below the national average. Overall in the 1996–2006 period, the number of hunters over the age of 16 declined by 10%, a drop attributable to a number of factors including habitat loss and changes in recreation habits.
Regulation of hunting within the United States dates from the 19th century. Some modern hunters see themselves as conservationists and sportsmen in the mode of Theodore Roosevelt and the Boone and Crockett Club. Local hunting clubs and national organizations provide hunter education and help protect the future of the sport by buying land for future hunting use. Some groups represent a specific hunting interest, such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever or Delta Waterfowl. Many hunting groups also participate in lobbying the federal government and state government.
Each year, nearly $200 million in hunters' federal excise taxes are distributed to state agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes. Since 1934 the sale of Federal Duck Stamps, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunters over 16 years old, has raised over $700 million to help purchase more than 5.2 million acres (8,100 sq mi/20,000 km²) of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System lands that support waterfowl and many other wildlife species, and are often open to hunting. States also collect monies from hunting licenses to assist with management of game animals, as designated by law. A key task of Federal and state park rangers and game wardens is to enforce laws and regulations related to hunting, including species protection, hunting seasons, and hunting bans.
Varmint hunting is an American phrase for the selective killing of non-game animals seen as pests. While not always an efficient form of pest control, varmint hunting achieves selective control of pests while providing recreation and is much less regulated. Varmint species are often responsible for detrimental effects on crops, livestock, landscaping, infrastructure, and pets. Some animals (such as wild rabbits or squirrels) may be utilized for fur or meat, but often no use is made of the carcass. Which species are "varmints" depends on the circumstance and area. Common varmints may include various rodents, coyotes, crows, foxes, feral cats, and feral hogs. Some animals once considered varmints are now protected, such as wolves. In the US state of Louisiana, a non-native rodent known as a nutria have become so destructive to the local ecosystem that the state has initiated a bounty program to help control the population.
Management agencies sometimes rely on hunting to control specific animal populations, as has been the case with deer in North America. These hunts may sometimes be carried out by professional shooters although others may include amateur hunters.
A large part of managing populations involves managing the number and, sometimes, the size or age of animals harvested so as to ensure the sustainability of the population. Tools which are frequently used to control harvest are bag limits and season closures, although gear restrictions such as archery-only seasons are becoming increasingly popular in an effort to reduce hunter success rates.
Violations of hunting laws and regulations are normally punishable by law and, collectively, such violations are known as poaching.
Historical, subsistence and sport hunting techniques can differ radically, with modern hunting regulations often addressing issues of where, when and how hunts are conducted. Techniques may vary depending on government regulations, a hunter's personal ethics, local custom, firearms and the animal being hunted. Often a hunter will use a combination of more than one technique, and some are used primarily in poaching and wildlife management, explicitly forbidden to sport hunters.
Trophy hunting is the selective seeking of wild game. It may also include the controversial hunting of captive or semi-captive animals expressly bred and raised under controlled or semi-controlled conditions so as to attain trophy characteristics (canned hunts).
There is also debate about the extent to which trophy hunting benefits the local economy. Hunters argue that fees paid contribute to the local economy and provide value to animals that would otherwise be seen as competition for grazing, livestock, and crops. This analysis is disputed by opponents of trophy hunting. Some argue that the animals are worth more to the community for ecotourism, than hunting.
A variety of industries benefit from hunting and support hunting on economic grounds. In Tanzania, it is estimated that a safari hunter spends 50-100 times that of the average eco-tourist. The average photo tourist may demand luxury accommodations. In contrast, the average safari hunter stays in tented camps. Safari hunters are also more likely to use remote areas, uninviting to the average eco-tourist. They argue that these hunters allow for anti-poaching activities and revenue for local communities.
In the United Kingdom, the game hunting of birds as an industry is said to be extremely important to the rural economy: The Cobham Report of 1997 suggested it to be worth around £700 million, and hunting and shooting lobby groups now claim it to be worth over a billion.
Hunting also has a significant financial impact in the United States, with many companies specializing in hunting equipment or specialty tourism. Today's hunters come from a broad range of economic, social, and cultural backgrounds. In 2001, over 13 million hunters averaged eighteen days hunting and spent over $20.5 billion on their sport. The Outdoor Channel and OLN are cable television channels airing programs such as Hunter's Handbook TV which teach hunting safety and showcase new hunting destinations or products such as recreational vehicles, specialty clothing or firearms. In the U.S., proceeds from hunting licenses contribute to state game management programs including preservation of wildlife habitat.
In addition to positive portrayals of hunting and hunters on television shows aimed at hunters, hunting is also frequently portrayed in movies and popular culture as part of a broader social commentary, such as in the Michael Cimino film, The Deer Hunter, where it takes on psychological symbolism as a prelude to war.
Some of the most widespread depictions of hunting have been through animation, particularly in feature-length movies such as the 1942 film Bambi and shorter Looney Tunes cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Such anthropomorphism of prey animals or "varmints" is frequently used as social satire, with the audience intended to sympathize with the hunted animal and the socially powerful hunter portrayed as incompetent or a macho buffoon. At the other end of the spectrum Ted Nugent portrays the hunter as a rock and roll iconoclast.
Hunting may also be depicted in a matter-of-fact way, as in the 1990 film Dances with Wolves or the 1970 Little Big Man which contrast modern hunters with a romantic noble savage. Filmed depictions of hunting by aboriginal cultures like American Indians tend to be more sympathetic. Hunting is portrayed as necessary subsistence, as is the case in many Inuit and Alaskan Bush communities today. Varmint hunting of prairie dogs is depicted in John Ross' novel Unintended Consequences. A favorable depiction of hunting is found in L. Neil Smith's science fiction novel Pallas. Hunting is central to many works by Ernest Hemingway and even used as an extended metaphor in the new age self-help fiction of Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan.