That “Good Clean” Shot?

One September afternoon while I was hiking back down a trail I had been maintaining for the U.S. Forest Service, I ran into my former high school P.E. teacher and track coach, whom I hadn’t seen in years. He asked me, somewhat frantically, if I’d sighted a wounded deer in the area. He said he’d shot and hit a buck with his black powder rifle and (of course) didn’t have time to re-charge his muzzle-loader before the deer got away. 

One of the rationalizations hunters have for the “humaneness” of their legalized-cruelty-to-animals is that they always kill their quarry on the first shot. Funny, how they all say that when I’ve seen plenty of wounded deer over the years. Clearly, someone’s not ‘fessing up. Maybe it’s not as easy to kill an animal on the first shot as they’d like to have people believe… 

This rationale is similar to the logic used by Peggy Good, one of Ted Bundy’s many defense lawyers, during the sentencing phase of his trial in Florida, after he was found guilty of first degree murder in the clubbing deaths of two University of Tallahassee co-eds and the critical wounding of three others. 

She hoped to spare him the death penalty with the reasoning that, “One of the factors of the definition (of heinous crimes worthy of capital punishment) is whether the victim suffered, whether there was torture to the victims. I believe you recall the testimony of Dr. Wood where he states explicitly that both these women were rendered unconscious by a blow to the head…They didn’t even know what was happening to them. It was not heinous, atrocious, or cruel because of the fact that they were not aware of impending death, they did not suffer, and there was no element of torture involved whatsoever as to the victims who died.” (She didn’t happen to mention the other three victims who lived, only to suffer physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives from their injuries.) 

Good’s argument didn’t wash for the jury who had just sat through five weeks of testimony on the cruelties Bundy had inflicted. They sentenced Ted Bundy to death by electric chair. 

Whether or not hunters actually kill their prey with one “clean” shot, they are robbing an animal of its precious life. 

Do they deserve the same sentence Bundy got for his crimes? Well, the jury’s still out on that… 

The day after my chance meeting with my former coach, I saw him again in town. He was pleased to tell me he’d gone back in the morning, followed the blood trail and dispatched the wounded deer with a second shot. The “good” news was, at least that deer only had to suffer 12 hours or so for someone’s unnecessary pastime.

Wildlfe Photography by Jim Robertson

18 thoughts on “That “Good Clean” Shot?

  1. I think that, in everything, intent is important.

    There are hunters who do everything they can to make that “one shot only” kill. They make certain that the rifle they have is extremely accurate and they spend a lot of time and bullets on practicing their own accuracy.

    I have met far too many who don’t even practice shooting, grab their rifle, buy a box of bullets and, god help us all, some beer, and take off to the woods. Their intention is definitely suspect.

    Nothing will be perfect all the time (if you can use such a word in this context); accuracy depends on many variables.

    Any time a human is murdered, the intent is always (or should always) be taken into consideration. This is why it is broken down into degrees: manslaughter, first and second degree murder.

    The jury, judge and the person who made it so, planned and executed the murder of Bundy, a pathetic man whose sad, sick life was molded by several factors. Some think that the electric chair is humane but there have been many instances where it did not work correctly in spite of their “best intentions”.

    Animals in slaughter houses repeatedly are not dead by the one shot nail gun or as in the case of chickens, had their throats slit, when they are then strung up, alive and conscious by a leg or dumped into scalding water. This happens all the time, yet few of the 99% who eat animal products, question the slaughterers’ motives.

    Agreed, hunting is not a sport. Even when when done for reasons of absolute necessity, in areas where vegetation has an extremely short growing period, it should be done as humanely as possible. That indeed includes the slaughterer who is as certain as he/she can be, that they will dispatch the animal with a good clean shot.

    • I’m glad you pointed out that factory farmed animals sent to slaughterhouses are not killed humanely, in case anyone reading this blog are part of the 97% who are unaware of that, or don’t care.

      I don’t think anyone can still question what Ted Bundy’s intent was. I, personally, am not sorry he’s not still around, only to escape and kill again (like he did twice before…)

  2. We have to remember that intent and “respect” mean NOTHING to our animal victims — these ideas are only important to other human beings. The victim has no knowledge, not does he / she care what the individual perpetrating the violence is thinking — the victim only knows the fear and pain that’s been inflicted. We need to quit pretending that somehow our “ethics” or “honorable intentions” mean anything to hunting victims — they don’t. A poacher and an “ethical hunter” inflict identical suffering. Someone who never practices and someone who practices daily but accidentally has a bad day cause identical suffering. And I agree strongly with the main point of the article — life itself is of the utmost value, and no matter how “humanely” it is taken, the act of taking it is intrinsically cruel.

      • Thanks, I did read it, and this is something about which I’ve felt very strongly for many years. I felt compelled to bring it up again here due to the prior comment. I so often hear people speak with reverence for the way, e.g., Native Americans hunt — that they appreciate the animal they’ve killed, say a prayer for its spirit, use it all, etc. This may not be a PC thing to say, but even in this case, this is all completely meaningless to the victim, who still wants only to escape pain and death, and has no interest in feeding his / her killer. To suggest otherwise would be ridiculously anthropomorphic (and I don’t even think most humans would offer to die to feed someone else). Now I will say that, with true aboriginal peoples, hunting can be necessary for survival, and therefore I do not condemn a true NEED to hunt to survive, but this does NOT mean it is not cruel. Nature is very cruel (animals killed by all natural predators suffer, as well), but knowing what we know about suffering, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard than those (human and non-human) who are truly hunting strictly for the sake of survival. I would have to think that VERY few people in this country can make that claim in this day and age, and tradition does not change this. The question is whether you need to kill NOW to survive — not whether your ancestors did. If you do not need to, it becomes sport hunting, pure and simple. So how does this tie into ethics? Regardless of need, the animal suffers the same way — it then becomes a question of justification — and ethically, justification can only occur if survival depends upon it (IMHO, of course).

      • Well, your humnble opinion mirrors mine–I agree with everything you wrote in your comment here and I applaud you for not being so PC as to cloud your reasoning. As you said: “The question is whether you need to kill NOW to survive — not whether your ancestors did. If you do not need to, it becomes sport hunting, pure and simple…VERY few people in this country can make that claim in this day and age,and tradition does not change this.,,”

      • Sorry ’bout that. I thought I had “liked” your page, but was in fact only seeing SOME of your posts through reposts by other sources. All fixed now. 🙂

  3. Im glad i popped in to read this post. I LOVED it! Youre right it does mirror what i was saying! Great minds think alike, now if only i could just write as wonderfully as you lol. Hunters are nothing more than cowards with guns! You want to impress me? Catch (not kill) a bear or any wild animal with your bare hands! Now that is a sport lol As far as kill shots go i agree they hardly ever kill them with one shot and theyre left to suffer, hell sometimes hunters even shoot each other now hows that for a sport

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