What Really Motivates a Hunter?

Whenever an anti asks a hunter why they like to kill animals the answer (unless the hunter is exceptionally evil or unrepentant) is some variation of, “I don’t actually enjoy killing, I do it for the meat”…or, “to control their population”… or some other variation of those validations they think will sound plausible or palatable.

But the truth is not nearly so toothsome—they do it because they get off on taking and possessing another’s life.

You don’t have to lurk in those dark, seedy hunter chat rooms, Facebook pages or message boards to learn how hunters really think or how they view the animals they lust after. One need only pick up a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife game regulations handout, available at any sporting goods store or rural mini market, and read the following featured article by a WDFW Wildlife Program Assistant Director:

Sportsmanship Evolves through Five Stages of Hunting

by Nate Pamplin

In hunter education, we talk about the five phases that hunters commonly pass through and how our definition of success in the field evolves over time. I think that discussion is valuable, because it provides an important perspective on our approach to the sport.

In the first stage of the five-step progression, most new hunters are primarily focused on bagging their first game animal. My first big game animal was a small ‘forked-horn’ sitka black-tailed buck on Kodiak Island, Alaska–and I couldn’t have been more proud.  

In phase two, the goal shifts to filling bag limits. The definition of a good day for a hunter in this phase would be taking all four forest grouse allowed, not just two.

The third stage is what is called the “trophy phase,” where success is derived by harvesting an animal with a large rack or trophy score. A hunter in this phase may pass immature animals waiting for the opportunity to harvest a trophy for the wall.

A fourth phase is limited-weapon phase, when hunters who have had success with modern firearms put down their rifle to pursue game through traditional implements that present more of a challenge.

Finally, we arrive at the fifth stage–the sportsman phase. Here, hunters find satisfaction in all aspects of hunting, whether sighting-in their rifle with their friends, waiting on a stand for a buck to pass by, or recounting hunting stories with family and friends over a bowl of venison stew.

An important aspect of the sportsman phase—and I’d advocate for every phase—Is sharing the rich tradition of hunting with others.

I ask you to consider your role in promoting the hunting heritage in Washington. Have you introduced hunting to a colleague from work who may have never been hunting before? Have you invited your niece to the shooting range? Do you have time to volunteer with a local hunter-education team? Did you mail a thank-you note to the landowner who afforded you access to their

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

ranch last fall?

Hunters don’t have to move through every stage of the sport before entering the sportsman phase. All of us share a passion for Washington’s hunting heritage, and it’s important we all do our part to keep this tradition alive during the coming season.


It’s uncanny how much the statement above mirrors this quote by another trophy taking expert on the subject—the prolific serial killer, Ted Bundy, who told the authors of The Only Living Witness, from his cell on death row:

“At each stage of the process the individual’s feelings would be different. And when he’s 15 it’d be a much more mystical, exciting, experience…than when he’s 50. And when—even within that given hunting expedition—the feeling of sighting the animal would be different than shooting it or showing it to your buddy. Or putting it in the trunk and taking it home and butchering it and having it for dinner…And that’s the way some guys may approach killing their fellow human beings.”

36 thoughts on “What Really Motivates a Hunter?

  1. Jim,
    Have you seen the movie The Road with Vitggo Mortenson? I watched it the other night via Netflix Streaming and I found the movie very disturbing. It sort of reminded me of another post-apocalyptic movie: Legend, except in The Road, there are no zombies. What I found most disturbing about the movie was the way in which some individuals turned to cannibalism to survive. FYI: there were no animals to hunt because they didn’t survive the fallout. Some people took their own lives rather than eat another human and/or starve to death. My guess is that is the route I would take. I don’t want to spoil it for you, if you haven’t seen it, but there is one scene in particular that made me think only a pack of soulless humans (f.k.a. hunters) would hunt down, kill and eat another human. I cannot see us animals lovers resorting to this sort of thing — I just can’t, it’s not in us.

    I cannot imagine wanting to survive this post-apocalyptic world. I wouldn’t want to. Everyday is a game of survival against the most feared predator on earth: Man.

    I once worked for a psychologist who said when you take away man’s creature comforts, his true nature emerges.

    Bottom line: hunters frighten me. If they can so easily take the life of a animal, what is to stop them from taking the life of a human? IMHO: nothing!

    • Their religion, or perhaps, the law? Most hunters don’t want to face execution or life imprisonment. But in an apocalyptic scenario like the one depicted in that movie (which I saw; the final scene with the shipwreck was filmed on a beach near here) a lot of humans would revert to their primitive ways and go back to cannibalism. The question is, who would want to live in that kind of world.

  2. Good post. Years ago I used to have some perverse interest in serial killers and I noticed that they’d ‘hunt’ in much the same way as the “sportsman” do and that the escalation was quite similar. It was a chilling realization then as it still is.
    As far as the feature article…I read it as a recruitment flyer. There seems to be an awful lot of “get your kids into hunting” pleas lately. It seems that more and more people today are giving up the “tradition” and ignoring the “heritage”. I’m more than okay with that but obviously some folks are running a little scared about the future of something that should have remained in the past.

  3. I think it’s telling that the first paragraph of the article includes the phrase ..”our approach to the sport.” The idea of killing as sport seems enigmatic (I win, you die; you win, wait, you can’t really win ‘cuz there’s another hunter around the corner) and disgusting.

  4. Hi Jim, I read your post from Nate Pamplin with interest. It is disturbing to me to know that he is one of the individuals from WSFW who is involved with our wolf recovery efforts. I am equally disturbed by the fact that apparently ALL of the WSFW commissioners are hunters. This is SO wrong and does not represent the wishes of the majority of our state’s population in regard to environmental issues. What can we do?

    • Hi Terra, I have to wonder if someone like him wants to recover wolves just “for the opportunity to harvest a trophy for the wall.” We need to be involved in wildlife issues, locally and federally, whenever possible, and continually remind the wildlife policy-makers that we are the majority and we care about seeing our wildlife–alive. And we don’t want hunters for wildlife commissioners anymore! It’s like having pedophiles in charge of the YMCA.

  5. Saw a program the other night on Fish and Game trying to catch poachers. But I learned that the agents were also hunters. I hear now gun shots a block away on BLM-dove season. My stupid in-law relatives are out skulking in the woods of Arkansas-but my in-law retards have religion so they might not be cannalbilistic post apocolyptic. If I were ever in this world with these humans running the show I would take myself to Death Valley and make a bed on the salt pan in the middle of July-200 degrees F would send me off.

  6. I never ever for a moment thought of killing and eating a human. But I have no doubt people would do that just to stay alive-even in a hellish world.

  7. Hunting is a sport in the same way that war, genocide, lynching are “sports.” What kind of person would have anything to do with someone whose idea of entertainment & enjoyment is to terrorize and murder another being? It makes my skin crawl and my hackles rise. If the victim is human, we call the perpetrator a serial killer. If the victim is non-human, we call the perpetrator a sportsman? Give me a damn break.

    And I suspect that virtually all fish & game/fish & wildlife agencies are uniformly stacked with killers. They are not meant to represent the rest of us. We have no voice or agency looking out for OUR interests. I was recently looking at one of the F&G websites — I think it was Idaho — and one of the web pages stated that agency personnel are encouraged to engage in hunting on the job so they can better serve their customers with accurate information! We are all hostages to this vile, filthy system.

  8. In Mongolia, during the times of Ghengis Khan, children would be taught to kill animals for fun so when they grew up they could kill people without any remorse.

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  10. Then there is the part about “pursue game through traditional implements”. This must be the part where they use compound bows to kill game, use a four wheeler to drag it back to the truck, and return to the 40ft Winnabago camp that is fully equipped with a generator, lights, outdoor propane heaters, GPS units, microwave ovens, and on and on and on…….

    • Compound bows are modern weapons, but I wouldn’t want to see people use the old fashioned recurve bows that I used to shoot at targets–they’re even more inaccurate. In addition to what you listed above, they drive their vehicles back to a comphy house, shop at modern stores, use electricity and prolong their lives with untraditional big pharma and modern medical attention, and on and on…

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  12. I do believe history and up to this very day has been and always was an illusion. We have not become civilized, we still behave as we have always done. We just think we have changed and that this type of behavior is something that once was. With population growth there are just so many more of these hunters not just in America but globally who are killing and destroying faster than the animals can breed. It feels as if we have entered a second phase of the Dark Ages and I wonder if we will ever be able to pull ourselves out of this continuous spiraling downward path of self destruction.

    There is a saying, “Mother Nature does not tolerate excess”. No matter how many species we wipe out, in the end new ones will take their place and unless we are not careful, we shall not be one of them.

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  14. I am actually totally for the public ownership of guns for protection primarily for the protection of one’s person, be that from predatory humans or animals. I fail to understand the hunter’s thrill in killing animals. I only justify hunting if he is into hunting a very abundant animal like a deer and kills it instantly and for the meat. I am against bow hunting because it is usually not an instant kill. I have hated Trophy hunters since I first knew about them as a kid and now consider them to be sick, demented creatures that are really cowards because the only thing that keeps them from killing humans is fear of the law.

  15. The content of the article is reflective. As a very young woman I worked in animal research during the Vietnam era to mass screen to identify drugs to replace the current malaria drugs because mosquitoes became resistant. I worked for the Illiniois Institute of Technology Research Institute in Chicago. I still have vivid nightmares of what I did to mice and baby chicks. I don’t eat meat, mostly don’t kill other animals (except for flies, varroa mites, yellow jackets, black widows and let my husband kill rattle snakes), have lots of rescued dogs and cats, no kids. What I learned from the experience of killing is that I am absolutely able to kill and I would do so without conscience if I was forced to kill any animal including a human. The journalist wrote with stunning accuracy.

    • Thank you for gthe insight and inide info. I wrote that piece, (except the matching quotes from Ted Bundy and from the game department). There’s no reason to go out of your way to kill rattlesnakes; thank you for rescuing dogs and cats and for not having kids.

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