Are Hunters Psychopaths?

Hey hunters, here’s a question for you: On a scale of 0-3, how strongly do you agree with this statement “Seeing an animal injured or in pain doesn’t bother me in the slightest.” If your answer was 3, do society a favor and get yourself fitted for a straightjacket and a Hannibal Lector hockey mask, because that was one of the top questions from the “How-to-tell-if-you-are-a-psychopath” quiz.

On a similar note, I just came across a September 3rd 2009 article by George Wuerthner with the no-brainer question for a title: “Are Hunters Stupid?” The article’s subheading, “The Unintended Consequences of Wolf Hunting,” was more in keeping with his point, since Wuerthner is a hunter and former hunting guide who probably doesn’t really consider himself stupid.

He starts his article out by telling about Daryl, a co-worker of his at the Bureau of Land Management in Boise, Idaho. At a party, Daryl was trying to put the moves on a couple of women, asking them if they wanted to go gopher shooting with him…  “’Gopher shooting?’ they asked incredulously. ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘gopher hunting—you know blowing away gophers.’ They looked stunned and remained silent. So Daryl tried to recover and said, ‘The fun part is seeing the red mist rise in the air when you hit one. It’s an incredible rush,’ he said with obvious enthusiasm. Those women just looked at each other like they couldn’t believe what they were hearing.  He might as well ask them if they wanted to go to the park and molest children. The women fled. Daryl was left baffled and standing alone. He just couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go blow away gophers, especially when he offered to bring a spare rifle so they could join in the fun…”

Since I don’t personally know this guy Daryl, I can’t say for sure if he’d qualify as stupid, by today’s standards, but I can tell you one thing—he’s definitely a psychopath. A lack of empathy is a sign of psychopathy and Daryl clearly had no empathy for either the gophers he enjoys “blowing away,” or for the women he thought would be impressed by his offer. Other symptoms of psychopathy, according to the “Psychopathy Checklist” spelled out by Robert Hare, PhD, include a lack of remorse or guilt—neither of which hunters seem to be capable of when it comes to their animal victims.

Anyone who thinks, “The fun part [of gopher hunting] is seeing the red mist rise in the air when you hit one. It’s an incredible rush,” would surely score high on any psychopathy quiz. But the point of Wuerthner’s article (which, to be fair, does include some good lines in defense of wolves) is that wolf hunters who cluelessly boast about their exploits in public are a lot like his friend Daryl in terms of hunter PR. If he might hesitate to admit that all hunters are psychopaths, Wuerthner would have to agree the diagnosis when it comes to trophy wolf hunters.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved