SAMUEL: Hunting is no spectator sport, as it should be


The majority of United States citizens live in big cities. Hard for us to relate to that, living in relatively rural West Virginia, but it’s true.

 In all that paved America, with stores, malls, condos, airports, etc., you really don’t see, nor are exposed to, much wildlife.

 You definitely are not exposed to hunting.

Growing up in rural America, you are exposed to hunting. In fact, you probably hunted or had family members who hunted. You eat wild game, and you understand that hunting is sustainable.

 Wildlife replaces itself. Hunting money pays for wildlife management. Over many years of hunting you realize there are many positive values to hunting.

In large cities, none of those things are evident to most people. That’s just the way it is. Hunters need to understand that much of the world does not see hunting the way they do.

 True, the large majority of Americans support hunting as a tool for wildlife management. But about 10% do not.

 Hunters also need to understand that social media changes everything. Lots of hunters have no interest and don’t follow social media. Thus, they don’t realize the impact it has on hunting and the perspective some non hunters have on hunting.

Consider what happened when a lion was killed in Zimbabwe five years ago.

 Cecil was a collared lion that was part of a research project. An American hunter killed him. That hunter broke no laws. The lion was not killed in a park. He was not attracted from the park by bait.

 The myths about this incident are many, but social media went crazy and in the end various regulations were implemented that have hurt lion populations in Africa. That was all about social media.

Now to the intent of my column. Hunting is not a spectator sport.

 You just spent two weeks watching spectator sports with the Olympics. They were great. Yes, shooting was part of those Olympics. Archery and trap and skeet are huge world-wide Olympic sports.

 I was glued to the TV watching the Americans shoot recurve bows 77 yards at a center of a target that was smaller than a grapefruit. And hitting it most of the time. Amazing.

But what if what we witnessed with those archers was a live deer target? How would non-hunters have reacted? And what if the skeet gun shooters were actually shooting at flying birds?

 How would non-hunters have reacted? In the real hunting world, these things happen all the time. Hunters took 107,000 deer in West Virginia in 2020, and only hunters witnessed those kills.

The truth is that killing animals is not a spectator sport. Whether it’s killing cattle for food, killing chickens for food, or harvesting deer via legal hunting, it is not something that people want to watch.

True, there are several channels that have hunting shows on them and they show the kills. Non-hunters don’t watch those channels, but some hunters do. Why?

 Not for the glory of the kill. Not to see shot deer tumble to the ground. For most viewers it’s about seeing new places where some go to hunt. It’s about adventures that some hunters will never be able to do, for one reason or another.

 Most shows do not show the totality of the hunt. By “total” I refer to the entire hunting process, including the gutting and butchering of the game.

 Many non-hunters want no part of seeing that. And by the time you run ads, there is only about ten minutes of the actual hunt.

I will add that in recent years there are a number of shows that focus on cooking wild game and recipes for wild game. In the past two years, the number of such shows have spiraled upward. Apparently advertisers now realize that lots of hunters (and maybe some non-hunters) watch those shows. I watch them and enjoy them more than shows that feature actual hunts.

Regardless, other than hunting shows that hunters watch, hunting and other activities that kill animals just isn’t something people want to watch.

Dr. Samuel is a retired wildlife professor from West Virginia University. His outdoor columns have appeared, and continue to appear, in Bowhunter magazine and the Whitetail Journal. If you have questions or comments on wildlife and conservation issues, email him at