Why Everyone Should Embrace Elephant Hunting

Many people, including hunters, don't like the idea of elephant hunting. But they should not insist others agree with them so long as the activity is legal and does not harm the resource.

An NRA member and American Hunter magazine reader called me the other day to complain about the elephant hunt I described in the March print edition. I won’t name her; I didn’t inform her that our conversation could end up as fodder to make a point, and so I don’t think it’s fair to identify her here. However, I should point out she is from Colorado and has, besides numerous other heads of big game, killed 30 elk in her 73 years. She describes herself as a biologist, ecologist, conservationist and preservationist.

Now, that’s a lot of “ists,” but regardless, the overriding fact is this woman is a died-in-the-wool hunter with a resume to prove it. Yet she didn’t like the idea of elephant hunting at all. “We’ve got anti-hunters climbing all over us,” she said. Why would I want to kill an elephant? What did such a creature ever do to me? Why would I run such a story? What happened to the meat?

I wasn’t surprised by her reaction. I’ve heard similar refrains, even from hunters. To answer her, I asked some questions of my own.

“Do you know how many elk there are in North America?” I asked. The caller admitted she did not. “There are about a million elk,” I said. “That’s about all our continent can hold,” I added, “because increasing development eats up habitat needed by elk.”

Next I asked, “Do you know how many elephants there are in Africa? According to some estimates, there might be as many as a million of them. Figures differ; some estimates are as low as 700,000. Regardless, increasing development presents a problem for so many animals.

“About 30,000 elephants a year are poached,” I continued. “Only about 3,000 a year are taken by licensed hunters." And those license fees go toward conservation. "Yet folks everywhere—even hunters—hear about the devastation wreaked on elephants at the hands of humans and blame hunters. Hunting’s not the problem for elephants. Human encroachment on their habitat and poaching—they’re problems.”

The caller admitted she learned a thing or two from my response, which was exactly what I sought.

The thing is, every hunter has a threshold he or she will not cross, and that’s fine. Running deer with dogs is a traditional hunting method across the American South. I’ve never done it, and I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy it. But I ought to try it before I condemn it. Likewise, if you don’t like the idea of hunting bears with dogs or over bait, don’t do it. If you don’t like shooting doves because they never did anything to you, then don’t do it. If you don’t like the idea of hunting an elephant then don’t do it. But don’t tell me I should not do it.

I killed an own/use elephant bull in Namibia. It was owned and used by the people of the village in the conservancy where I hunted. Within 24 hours, it was reduced to a grease spot—every scrap of it cut up, butchered and carried off for use by indigenous folks. The tusks went to a Namibian government warehouse. I got nothing but an experience (a helluva one, I might add), and some photos. And I fed a village.

Hunters not only pull triggers but are the stewards of wildlife and wild places. I wouldn’t have it any other way, particularly as it concerns the North American model of conservation. Problems ensue when we insist others adhere to our sensibilities. We should not define the species we hunt and the adventure we curry as above-board but look down upon others who choose to do something we will not. Until somebody explains to me why we should go to Africa and tell them how to manage their resources, I’ll hunt elephants.

As for anti-hunters, here’s a news flash: The very existence of American Hunter is offensive to them. Everything we publish makes them cringe. It should not make hunters cringe, regardless of topic.

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17 Responses to Why Everyone Should Embrace Elephant Hunting

Sheldon McNeely wrote:
August 29, 2014

Did you know that both African and Asian elephants have a pregnancy that approaches two years—22 months, to be exact and you are so proud to shoot one dead in a single day?

Dana Penaherrera wrote:
June 14, 2014

If I read this correctly - you are bragging about killing an elephant with a high powered rifle and feeding an entire village. Is that correct? You are giving yourself some backpats about your generous nature. Now you would deserve some true back pats if you had taken that money bought farm equipment and seeds. Brought in some decent birth control (humans are the animals that need population control not elephants) and education. What is that saying about giving a man a fish vs teaching him how to fish? That sir would be an accomplishment to brag about- because you rode around in a vehicle and killed defenseless endangered animal is not an accomplishment to brag about- you turn people against hunters. I understand that some hunting is needed due to the lack of predators- another man made problem- but it should only be done as a last resort. Mammals are sentient beings- all- we are not better than an elephant or a dog- would a member of your family be killed as a sport by a hunter you would cry foul. They do not have a language understand by humans- they deserve better- your argument is one-sided and ego thrill driven.

AK75 wrote:
June 12, 2014

I wonder how elephants and other animals survived now without human 'conservation'. LOL.

shootbrownelk wrote:
March 19, 2014

Shooting an Elephant isn't for me, I wouldn't hunt them even if I could afford to. But that doesn't mean that I don't think their populations shouldn't be controlled by hunting, they should. Just not my cup of tea.

jr robbins wrote:
March 18, 2014

Good, solid, fact-based arguments, Scott. I would add the woman who called has inadvertently done just what the antis want--divide us. Whether she agrees with hunting one specific species or not, condemning another hunter plays right into the antis' hands....She needs to realize the antis would take elk hunting from her as fast as she would take elephant hunting from you....

Dr J wrote:
March 14, 2014

Tim Ferrall said it well. I have followed elephants and their numbers in Africa for over 45 years. Anyone who doubts what sport hunting has done for elephant numbers need only look at the countries that have sport hunting: most have huntable numbers and many have excess numbers for the country's carrying capacity. Those countries that have no sport hunting have few or no elephants. Non-hunters are quick to say 'donate money to save them'. How much money do non and anti hunters donate each year? I have been to Africa twice-once on a mission trip (Sudan-no hunting, so no wildlife to speak of), and once hunting (Zimbabwe-tightly controlled hunting-lots of wildlife). In Africa there is a saying: 'If it pays, it stays'. I never saw a scrap of any animal not utilized.

Elkhunter wrote:
March 14, 2014

Good concise article. I will not hunt any fellow predator (coyotes, mountain lions, etc.) but have no issue with those that do. Just have no desire along those lines. As a lifelong Arizonan, I remember when the desert bighorns were all but non-existent. Through a program largely funded by raffling off a handful of tags to hunters we now see bighorns in areas where, in the past, no population existed. Without the involvement of the hunting community I am sure I would have spent my entire life and never seen a desert bighorn in the wild.

Tim Ferrall wrote:
March 14, 2014

To those previous posters who object to elephant hunting, I would say that you are not qualified to profess an opinion on anything in Africa unless you have been there. It is trite to say that Africa is a totally different world, but true nonetheless. Sustainable wildlife management, with regulated safari hunting as the cornerstone, is the ONLY barrier standing between Africa's wildlife and extinction.

Chris wrote:
March 14, 2014

One of my hunting buddies will not hunt ducks because he thinks they are too cute. He has no problem with me hunting them, however. I do not hunt coyotes for personal reasons, but I am happy when my buddy gets one. I do not think I would ever hunt an elephant (probably would never have the opportunity), but I have no problem with anyone hunting them, as long as it was done legally and ethically. As hunters, we need to stick together, rather than bashing each other. We have enough issues with the anti-hunters and having us pitted against each other only makes their quest easier. Thank you for a well-written article.

Earl Angus wrote:
March 14, 2014

I agree with the writer. I see where the Elephant cause much damage to crops and even kill people with one step. The animals that are taken are large rouge males that are causing trouble . Nothing goes to waste and the villagers are feed for weeks and saved lives and crops .As long as they are hunted legally there will always be Elephants but when so called conservationist or emotionalists take over they will soon disappear for lack of management. The poachers will win. Also the money they pay for the hunt helps a poor country and provide a few needed jobs.

J. Scott Olmsted wrote:
March 12, 2014

Folks, let me clarify a few things. The lady who called was not shrill. She vehemently disagreed with my hunt, and so I thought our conversation was a good opportunity to explain some nebulous issues hunters often take for granted, mainly because we often are not tasked with articulating them. By the end of our phone call I think we both understood each other. She still disagreed with my choice to hunt and kill an elephant, but she understood far more about the plight of such magnificent animals than she did at the beginning of our conversation. Elephants will not go extinct because of managed hunting. But they will go extinct if we try to protect them to death. Hunting cannot be replaced by other practices. Photo safaris do not begin to draw the kind of money created by hunting safaris. Photo safaris also don’t address the issue of habitat carrying capacities; they do nothing to control animal populations on a landscape increasingly crowded by humans. Donate or raise money for elephants? How are we doing on that front? HSUS, HIS, IFAW and Born Free USA collectively raised $151 million in their most recent fiscal years yet spent only about 1 cent of every dollar raised in Africa. As I outlined in another article about the African lion (“The Lion Rules Headlines”; see our home page), the millions spent by hunters dwarf the funds environmentalists spend in Africa. Since 2007 alone, the Safari Club International Foundation has spent more than $1.1 million in Africa on programs such as lion population surveys and anti-poaching efforts, to name but two efforts. Overall, it is estimated that hunting generates $200 million in spending annually across Africa. How much do environmentalists generate annually in spending for African economies?

Salina wrote:
March 11, 2014

To Nels, I believe the author stated if you don't agree then don't do it.

Anon ymous wrote:
March 11, 2014

When elephants are extinct you will be to blame because of your awesome advice. Killing an elephant shouldn't give you the rush of your life.. Elephants are a keystone species and without them, we will see such a negative impact on the environment and the species they influence (plant and animal). You wouldn't be writing this article if elephants weren't in danger and you weren't a threat to their existence. Just because a village devours a dead animal tells you nothing! People are vultures! Ignorant people like you are why we have to focus on conserving what we have left.

Gregg wrote:
March 11, 2014

I personally don't now nor ever felt comfortable killing any animals. Elephants are family oriented and to imagine killing a family member is beyond my ability. My question is why? Why do you or would u want to kill something that is not harming you or threatening your life? Your point about the license fee helping the management of the elephants....why not just donate or raise money for elephants. I own guns for self protection, if the economy collapesed and i had to feed my family...well then i can justify survival...just never could get into hunting for sport. Just my opinion...im sure many will argue and disagree with me.

Carl McDaniel wrote:
March 11, 2014

I think that time will prove the banning of elephant hunting to be detrimental to elephants in general. Someone must care about and pay for the management of their populations and enforce ivory hunting/poaching laws. If hunters do not pay for this, then who?

Doug wrote:
March 10, 2014

To Nels: Change 'Lifer' to 'Liar' -You just blatantly misquoted the author. That quote is no where in the article. You essentially lied to try to make some point. You might try to actually make a valid point to make your argument instead of hurling lies and insults about 'ego'. This is an excellent article that underlines the point as to how anti-hunters try to use our differences against us. Will show it to my wife who often has the same question.

Nels wrote:
March 07, 2014

'But mostly, you should support it because I did it and I say you should.' The egos of Olmstead and Towsley are the negatives of American Hunter. It shows plainly through their writing. We'd like more John Zent and Dave Campbell, please. Signed, a Lifer.