Although touted as evil by many animal rights groups, the hunting of specific species of deer within specific limits is a necessary part of maintaining a healthy balance within their environment. Lack of hunting can lead to disasters for both the humans and animals.
As an animal rights activist, I do not like to see the death of wild creatures at the hands of humans, especially when it is just for the sport of it. If, however, animals are hunted responsibly and the resulting products consumed effectively, then the moral and ethical difficulties inherent in the killing of wild things become less disturbing. Without regulated hunting, wild deer populations–especially those of white-tailed dear, one of the most common in North America–would reach such levels as would be unsustainable. Therefore, in order to keep them under control, hunting is a necessary, if unfortunate, practice. Without it, humans, deer, and the environment would suffer enormously.
The explosion of deer populations have, in the past, proven to be an expensive and damaging force in local farm communities. Although simply a nuisance to those who farm only as a hobby, deer can be very destructive of crops, resulting in large amounts of monetary damage for more large-scale farmers. Crops as diverse as corn, green beans, and tomatoes can fall prey to deer’s voracious appetites. Even fruit trees can be damaged by large herds of deer, as they often consume tree bark, frequently killing the trees in question (or at the very least substantially decreasing their productivity.) This damage often costs farmers an enormous amount of money not only in lost crops, but also in money spent on preventative measures. In some cases deer can also prove to be competitors with livestock for food resources.
Population explosions are also damaging to deer and the environment in which they live, for no environment can sustain populations too large for the resources it contains. Therefore, when deer populations are allowed to grow unchecked, they quickly exhaust the resources available. When Winter arrives, these large deer populations often find themselves devoid of food, resulting in the death of many members of the herd from starvation and disease. Even more significantly, the exhaustion of the natural resources also negatively impacts other aspects of the environment, including plant growth and other wildlife (who could also face starvation.) Thus, a population explosion could potentially destroy a forest environment within a very short period of time.
Therefore, terrible as it may seem to many (including myself,) controlled hunting must remain a staple part of population control. Evidence has proven that sterilization has limited effectiveness, and as of yet there are few other options for controlling deer populations with any degree of success. However, it is important that hunting measures be strictly regulated and enforced, as overhunting deer can have just as many negative results (if not more,) on the environment and upon human populations (some of which often rely on deer as a source of food.) Only with proper regulation can hunting be deemed acceptable.
While it is an unfortunate and sometimes brutal practice, hunting is a necessary element of maintaining a proper environmental balance. Those who stress humankind’s reasonability to the environment must realize that doing so sometimes requires culling deer herds of those members who are weak, as well as any surplus; both practices help to ensure the continued health of the herd as a whole. However, those who stress the importance of hunting must also realize that constantly vigilance is required to avoid overhunting; therefore, laws regarding acceptable time periods must be strictly followed. The key word is responsibility. Only when everyone, from the rural hunter to the government bureaucrat, understands the importance of that can any hope of environmental balance be achieved.