NOVEMBER 24, 2009 4:48PM

What We’ve Become: "Derby Hunt" and the thrill of the kill

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The "Derby Hunt" ad featuring a coyote on the prowl

I recently posted a semi-gag post called “What We’ve Become”, which consisted merely of a two-line caption, and a photo, with the idea that the pictured act was so ridiculous that it seemingly indicated a degree of degeneration in our mental faculties as a species.  Of course, it did not necessarily indicate that, but it might.  Regardless, the photo depicted one of those actions in which most of us find a degree of humor, like on Jay Leno’s “Jay-Walking” segments.  We all do or say stupid things that others find funny.  Sometimes our own stupidity can make us laugh.  

Unfortunately, sometimes our stupidity is not funny at all.  One demonstration of such stupidity is an event called “The Annual Predator Derby” sponsored by the organization, "The Idaho Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife", in which the goal is to kill as many “predators” as possible in the allotted amount of time.  As stated on their Web site, Proceeds go to help with The Idaho Sportsmen’s Wolf Litigation Fund.”  That’s an intriguing thought; kill as many predators as possible to raise funds to litigate against those who would oppose such acts; oh, the irony.  A friend* of mine had an interesting suggestion; perhaps hunters, or as they prefer to be called, “sportsmen”, should be included in the list of credited prey for this hunt.  As he points out, “they are everywhere; Wal-Mart, grocery stores, gas stations.  No shortage of them.”  As my friend also points out, it “seems odd that hunters are so comfortable with the generic label of "sportsman” – implying that it's really just for sport.” 

I’m not opposed to hunting in principle; humans are predators, too.  However, hunting can be done ethically, and unethically; humans are the only species that hunts unethically, killing simply to kill, killing for “sport”.  As that is true, this hunt is reminiscent of the mindset that led to obliteration of buffalo herds long ago, as well as to the obliteration of other cultures that has occurred throughout history, all of which indicates a morally degenerative affect in our species.  A survival instinct has become a drive toward senseless violence against others; others of our own species, as well as other species. 

I wonder what might have led to such a perversion of that instinct.  In very simple terms one might point to the remaining presence of “thrill of the hunt”, which was/is most likely one of the drives behind the predatory instinct, but which gets very little chance for expression in society due to sublimation (suppression of libidinal drives that conflict with the conventions of civilized behavior).  But even accepting that the thrill of the hunt is still present, the thrill of the kill is something different, something aberrant. 

We all experience the thrill of the hunt through one or another of its various cultural manifestations, but we do not all experience the thrill of the kill; many people are physically sickened by it.  There is no evidence that the thrill of the kill is a cultural phenomenon, because it transcends cultures and is not universal within cultures.  Being thrilled by the kill is, more likely, an individual biological predisposition, which may or may not be nurtured or enhanced by cultural experiences. 

The thrill of the kill is a thrill of violence, which manifests in many different forms, such as psychological, verbal, etc; thrill of the kill is thrill of physical violence.  Even in cases of self-defence, many people have killed another creature, human or otherwise, and then felt remorseful, even physically ill afterwards, as a result of their own capacity for violence.  It seems there are two primary types of people where this is concerned; those with the predisposition for the thrill of violence, and those without. 

The U.S.A. is a violent nation; it always has been.  Its history, which is relatively short in relation to other industrialized nations, is replete with violence.  The concepts of religion, land ownership and capitalism have always been negative influences in that violence.  In this new century, the violence of capitalism is coming to fruition.  Evidence of this is overwhelmingly present across virtually the entire planet.  It is violence at a distance.  People know it is happening but do not care enough to stop it because they are disconnected from it. 

The senseless killing of animals is another example of this.  I attended a public hearing of the Idaho State Game and Fish commission in which all members were present, here in my hometown on the night of November 18, 2009.  The dominant topic was the recent delisting of wolves in the northern Rockies, and the immediate hunting of them in Idaho.  There is a lot of animosity directed at wolves by a particular demographic in Idaho, a majority of whom are “hunters”, “outfitters”, or “ranchers”.  There are also many advocates for continuing the protection and restoration of wolves within the ecosystem.  There were advocates speaking from both sides of the debate during the meeting. 

One speaker reiterated the commonly held falsehood that wolves were not here before being introduced through the recovery program; 


What is the historical range of the gray wolf in the contiguous United States?

Before the arrival of European settlers, wolves ranged widely across the continent, from coast to coast and from Canada into Mexico. Two species were found in North America: the gray wolf lived throughout most of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and the red wolf lived only in the southeastern United States. 

What is the status of wolf recovery for the Eastern gray wolf, the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf, and the Mexican gray wolf?

Naturally-occurring, wild gray wolf populations are found currently in the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and also in northwestern Montana and Northern Idaho. Reintroduced experimental populations occur in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona. 

The Service has reintroduced wolves into areas with the greatest potential to sustain wild wolves. The overall goal of Service recovery programs is to recover gray wolves to the extent that they are no longer threatened with extinction in the lower 48 States. Because of high human population densities in many states, particularly in the East, some states that historically supported wolf populations are no longer suitable for wolf recovery. 


As I have said previously, sometimes our stupidity is not funny at all.  Aside from the ill-informed dolt who delivered that particular misinformation about the natural presence of wolves in the area, there were those who presented concepts based on financial issues such as outfitters taking out tour or hunting groups and not finding any deer, or elk, with the apparent implication being that the only possible reason for that is the increased presence of wolves in the area.  For these anti-wolf speakers, increased human population, damaged habitat, and an unbalanced ecosystem, among any number of other variables, not only could not be contributory problems, but those elements were not even perceived.  In fact, they displayed a thorough ignorance regarding wolf behaviour. 

For instance, one important point that is often overlooked is the fact that, under normal circumstances, wolves prey primarily on the aged, the diseased, and the very young; animals that are vulnerable and disadvantaged and only in unusual circumstances do they kill in excess. Humans hunt the stronger, more viable herd members, thus removing those animals’ genes from the gene pool, thereby weakening the gene pool and the overall viability of the herds and, as this “Derby Hunt” indicates, humans hunt in excess under normal circumstances.  Wolves have even been known to practice a kind of fallow-field farming by not killing deer in certain parts of their territories for four or five years, letting the prey population recover there.  The mentality of these anti-wolf advocates, characterized by their inability to connect the dots, their complete lack of logical conclusions, their simple-/single-minded interpretation of reality that prevents them from seeing how one thing leads to another far beyond their own self-interested perspective, was truly a wonder to witness.  Sometimes our stupidity is not funny at all. 


As my wife and I were leaving the resort hotel in which this public hearing occurred, we encountered, by chance, one of our state representatives, who was in attendance, in the parking garage elevator where I initiated a conversation with him by asking, “Well, did you learn anything useful tonight?”  As he was attempting to answer, our elevator arrived at the level where our car was parked, and also by chance, his car was parked on the same level, so our conversation continued in the parking garage as my wife and I continued to ask him questions. 

At one point, my wife asked him about “The Annual Predator Derby”, to which he replied almost before she was finished speaking, “Oh, I don’t believe that.  I don’t think hunters would engage in something that …”, he paused, so I interjected, “That stupid?”  He did not concur, but did not disagree, either, before continuing, “They’re concerned with maintaining the wildlife because they know if they don’t, there won’t be anything to hunt.”  (It is pertinent to point out, also, that this is the fifth such hunt, not the first.)  The conversation continued for a while, but the point that this encounter makes is that many people simply don’t believe that things like this “Derby Hunt” occur; they disbelieve for no other reason than the fact that they don’t think other members of our species are truly this stupid. 

“The Annual Predator Derby” is supported by predators who wish to eliminate competition from other predators who hunt the same prey; deer, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, etc.  The difference between the two predators is that one hunts to survive; the other hunts purely for the thrill of the kill.  One hunt contributes to a natural balance, while one does not and, instead, it creates an imbalance.  



Ultimately, the thrill of the kill finds societal support that is primarily based in capitalistic monetary concepts and ignorance, which have nothing to do with survival or life within the natural process by which an ecosystem functions and remains stable.  

This mindset mirrors the American/corporate/capitalistic approach towards the world at large.  Violence in various forms is part of nature, part of the world in which we live; there are violent events that are parts of a natural balance and there is violence that destroys that natural balance.  The thrill of the kill is a uniquely human atrocity.  Sometimes our stupidity is not funny at all, and sometimes it is just too extreme to be believed.


For a little different perspective:

Prey and Predator 


*Thanks, John, for your contributions.

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Is the thrill of the kill a societal value?
Update: my wife and I just received an email from our state representative stating he would read the information we sent and address the matter with the Idaho State Game and Fish commission.

He stated this Derby Hunt is not something of which he approves.
Well here's the deal Rick. While I personally only kill what I am willing to eat. (with the exception of insurgents, of course) I have always loved hunting.
Now the case with coyotes is rather difficult. An overpopulation results in the DNR opening up a season in order to thin the herd. Several factors can go into such a decision, but ultimatly their aim is a science based management for the betterment of all species living in a given management zone.
With wolves I am well aware that they were hunted to near extinction and feel it unneccisary and pointless to open up hunts for them *unless of course* the population in a given region is so overwhelming as to significantly reduce or threaten another species to the point of extincition.
Perhaps the same rules should apply to coyotes.
Now your asertation that hunters should be hunted is rather a barbaric response, and not entirely appreciated.
Not all of us view hunting as a sport. I view it as an important traditon combined with a survival skill that, while outmoded in our present society, still holds value for not only for the homeless who are fed every year by venison feeds, but for the familes for whom the venison and small game is a healthy and vital part of their yearly intake of meat.
As for the 'thrill of the kill' I can't say I've ever had it. I've always enjoyed hunting, but never reveled in taking a life. Ever since my first duck, I've felt regret at the death. I also know that death is a natural part of life, and honor the animals I kill by using them to feed my family.
Now if you're a vegan, I apologise for any offense in what I'm about to say, as vegans are good folk with good hearts.
If you eat meat, however, I offer up that hunting is killing with honesty.
If you buy meat from the supermarket, you're little more than someone who hires others to do your killing for you, though I'm fairly certain you're not against hunting in general, as you stated above.
As far as the thrill of the kill a societal value? No. It's a warping of the survival instinct drive to an extreme. Any such warping of the survival instinct drive to the extreme isn't a value, it's a disfunction.
Lastly I would like to add that all of us have it in us to kill, for in the end we are no different than the wolves.
Those who are warped to the extreme with the 'overkill' bit, are members that we simply don't have the guts societialy to exile from the pack.
So, Andy, are you interested in signing up for a "Derby Hunt" in which you kill as many "predators" as possible to score points?
Hi Rick,
You ask Is the thrill of the kill a societal value?

The world's biggest animal sacrifice began in Nepal today with the killing of the first of more than 250,000 animals as part of a Hindu festival in the village of Bariyapur, near the border with India.

The event, which happens every five years, began with the decapitation of thousands of buffalo, killed in honour of Gadhimai, a Hindu goddess of power.

With up to a million worshippers on the roads near the festival grounds, this year's fair seems more popular than ever, despite vocal protests from animals rights groups who have called for it to be banned. "It is the traditional way, " explained 45-year old Manoj Shah, a Nepali driver who has been attending the event since he was six, "If we want anything, and we come here with an offering to the goddess, within five years all our dreams will be fulfilled." .

Crowds thronged the roads and camped out in the open, wrapped in blankets against the cool mist. The festivities included a ferris wheel, fortune-telling robots and stalls broadcasting music and offering tea and sugary snacks.

As dawn broke, the fair officially opened with the sacrifice of two rats, two pigeons, a pig, a lamb and a rooster in the main temple, to cheers of "Long live Gadhimai" from spectators pushing against each other for a better view.

In the main event, 250 appointed residents with traditional kukri knives began their task of decapitating more than 10,000 buffalo in a dusty enclosure guarded by high walls and armed police.

Frightened calves galloped around in vain as the men, wearing red bandanas and armbands, pursued them and chopped off their heads. Banned from entering the animal pen, hundreds of visitors scrambled up the three-metre walls to catch a glimpse of the carnage.

The dead beasts will be sold to companies who will profit from the sale of the meat, bones and hide. Organisers will funnel the proceeds into development of the area, including the temple upkeep.

On the eve of the event, protesters made a final plea to organisers by cracking open coconuts in a nearby temple as a symbolic sacrifice. "It is cruel and inhumane. We've always been a superstitious country, but I don't think sacrifice has to be part of the Hindu religion," said the protest organiser, Pramada Shah.

The campaign has the support of the French actor Brigitte Bardot, who has petitioned the Nepalese prime minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, about the issue. But the government, which donated £36,500 to the event, has shown no sign of discontinuing the centuries-old tradition. An attempt by the previous government to cut the budget for animal sacrifice provoked street protests.

Chandan Dev Chaudhary, a Hindu priest, said he was pleased with the festival's high turnout and insisted tradition had to be kept. "The goddess needs blood," he said. "Then that person can make his wishes come true......

Certainly not, Rick. As I stated before I only kill what I eat (with the one exception) and coyote meat is not on my menu. While they are predators, they are also scavengers and scavenger meat is ususally not very appetizing.
Despite that, I have been known to eat crow on occasion, however ;)
Mal Noble,

You have presented something I had not anticipated in response to this post; a religious component. I probably should have expected it in response to that question, though.

Anyone familiar with me, at all, knows my sentiments regarding religion in general. I view religion in its various manifestations as one of the greatest hoaxes, as well as one of the greatest curses, ever perpetrated on humanity. The story to which your comment refers does, in my view, add credence to my perspective, which I will assume for the moment is why you referenced it; comparative ignorance – religion and senseless killing.

Interestingly, some of the speakers at the public hearing I attended made reference to “tradition”, as does the article your reference.


I'm glad you stopped back by. My first impression after reading your initial comment was that, either you had not read my entire post, or you had not read it carefully enough. As I stated in the post, I'm not opposed to hunting in principle, nor am I opposed to hunters in general.

What I am opposed to is the complete lack of respect shown in something as flippant as a "Derby Hunt". And I think you get that point. Beyond that, one of the main inspirations for bothering to write this post was the public hearing to which I referred; so many of the speakers there exhibited absolute disregard for life, as if it is nothing more than a commodity.

BTW, I do eat meat, and we have all eaten a little crow from time to time, and the comment about including hunters as the prey was, I had hoped, obviously sarcasm.
Rick, I just reread the post and the comment thread and I just realized I 'plonked' your post...which is opposite of a 'plink' which I ususally do. Anyhoo, the flippant attitude of the derby hunt is indeed a bit disturbing, but what really gets me pissed is the 'point system' for antlers.
To me it's always been about survival, meat and tradition. This point crap is stupid and 'games out' the entire experience.
As far as sarcasm goes, I've been known to employ that on occasion myself. I'm eating crow over being so damn serious all of a sudden. It's way out of character for me.
(shakes off)
I'll be back to my old self soon, just too much madness going on lately I guess.
Big hugs and well written.
[SNIP] Anyone familiar with me, at all, knows my sentiments regarding religion in general. I view religion in its various manifestations as one of the greatest hoaxes, as well as one of the greatest curses, ever perpetrated on humanity

This is one of the reasons you are on my favourites, plus you are a talented writer
Ditto on what Mal said.
I think the thrill of a kill is a value for a society that is at risk of being killed by its competition in nature. For a long time, that was true of us, and it was necessary to have that in order to stay exercised, strong, and motivated for species survival. In an era where we are the dominant species and we are amply magnified in our individual power by tools that allow us to overcome all animals, it's ridiculous excess and risks the same kind of practical problem that we decry when we fuss over someone introducing an alien weed or beetle into the US without introducing its respective predators, so it grows out of control. Having no predators, it's our responsibility to find out own balance in nature or be killed off by overconsumption. We seem to be electing the latter path. It's a pity because our chief competitive skill was our brain, and yet we as a society seem to refuse to use that brainpower collectively to reach the obviously correct conclusions. Instead, we indulge the small-minded view that the world is infinite in resource because we as individuals cannot see beyond the next hill. Strange that the Internet and global television has not put a dent in that. We're still blind, even with all that vision.
Mal, Andy,



Over-consumption and the illusion that resources are infinite are both problems that any thinking person can recognize as serious at this point. Many don’t recognize them as such.

There’s another issue here, too; the special form of violence bred by capitalism, especially corporatism: profit above all else. Your posts about credit card usury are great examples of this form of violence. This “Derby Hunt” is another.
What do real hunters do? Those who kill only to eat? They thank the deer for sacrificing his life; they return the bones of the fish to the stream; they understand that killing is not a sport. On the other hand, we are all guilty in our modern society of benefiting from the killing of animals without having to get our own hands dirty.

And thus it is with our leaders, who send men off to fight in senseless wars while keeping their own hands clean. Would that they had even the hint of conscience exhibited by Lady Macbeth -- out, out damned spot!!

As for the travesty of the Hindu ritual mentioned by Mal, it is typical of religions to worship bloodthirsty gods. Jews made a business out of sacrifice -- which is why Jesus drove the money-changers from the temple. But Christians can't escape this condemnation either, sine their faith is founded on human sacrifice, and every Easter they engage in their fetishist frenzy over blood-letting.
Tom, BBE, Thanks. I have found myself somewhat disappointed to learn how this kind of act is still viewed favorably by so many among us.
I'm not a hunter myself, but have no argument with hunters who eat what they kill, and who understand that restrictions on human hunters like limits, licenses and legal seasons are necessary to ensure the continuation of their sport

human hunters who justify killing predators as a way to preserve prey populations are ignorant, as well as bloodthirsty and cruel

wild predators will never drive a prey species to extinction, since
their own survival depends on the continuing availability of their prey, as you point out, predators maintain the health of prey species by culling the weak and diseased

predator derby is an abomination
Here’s a quote from something I wrote a while back that is germane to what you are saying here, Rick. I’ve included a link to the full piece if you are interested.

As far as I am concerned, the honorific hunter is a noble one. Hunters were, after all, the people who initially led our species down out of the trees; the providers/protectors who enabled us to move on to our present stage of evolution. The appellation properly and proudly applies to Stone Age beings going after very dangerous prey with rudimentary armament—relying primarily on superior intelligence and tactics to make safe kills.

The tradition carries down with honor to the to the pygmies of Africa who hunted elephant for food with spears; native Americans who risked life and limb amid herds of bison using bows and arrows; and to Eskimo men who dared battle whales from kayaks using hand-thrown harpoons.

But a guy who sits in a blind in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting deer to walk by so he can shoot it with a shotgun has precious little in common with those brave souls. To appropriate for themselves the title "hunter" and to call the act of shooting the fearsome American White-tail from ambush "hunting" is laughable—to refer to themselves as "sportsmen," an instance of unmitigated gall.
FYI, I have not read any comments as I am running out the door.

Thanks for the thoughtful, well written posts. My feelings about hunting have evolved over the years; I used to be entirely turned off by the enterprise, both intellectually and aesthetically. While the latter remains the same--ie, I could never engage in hunting myself and find myself sickened by any death, frankly, including my recent witnessing of a cat getting hit by a car--I'm a bit more circumspect about hunting intellectually. I think I'm influenced by the hunters themselves--ie, the ones I know personally. As a group, they strike me as more interested in wildlife, nature, and philosophy (about life, death, morality, etc.) than the general population. And I can't help but think--as I compare them to the supposedly "good killing" of animals for food--that hunting in the wild is worlds better than farm-raising pigs, chickens, and cows for slaughter. Although agribusiness owners certainly don't have a "thrill to kill," they border on ethically bankrupt in my book for their treatment of animals. And that is so much more widespread than hunters who take out wolves and deer.

Nevertheless, I appreciate your presentation here, and agree with you that it's ironic as hell that they're hunting to raise funds to defend their hunting. I don't honestly get it, myself. But then again, I never got my Dad's fascination with trains.
Not sure why I made "posts" plural!
I really liked your post. I have never hunted but i have shot guns with my father since I was a kid for target practice and I don't eat meat, but i do eat poultry and fish. Now, I am guilty of getting poultry from a grocery store where I'm sure they get it from someone who treats their animals very badly, but i would prefer to hunt myself. If I ever were to hunt, it would be only to eat or for any other use for survival such as fur, bones and teeth since I don't like the thought of anyone, even animals losing their lives. I deal pretty well with death, but I still couldn't kill for sport. I even tried fishing for sport, but i almost killed a fish because i couldn't get the hook out of it's mouth and I felt terrible, so I stopped fishing. It's a great survival skill to know though.
For a long time, i have wanted to go on survival expeditions for months at a time. Of course, if I did, I would eat meat to survive (I don't eat meat only because of my girlfriend, who hasn't eaten it in almost ten years, and that's just to be respectful) and I would learn to hunt. But, I don't like the thought of killing an unsuspecting animal from a distance while it's feeding or something of that nature. In fact, I would be more willing to take down my prey with a knife or spear like Mr. Frank said. I have total respect for God's Earth and his animals. If I were to use a gun, I would take a pistol and get close to my prey so that it would have to take more skill than blasting it from a hundred feet away where it doesn't have a clue that you are even there.
Think about it like this: would you rather get shot by a sniper from a high building or have a hand to hand combat with your attacker, so that you might have a better chance of survival?
I have dreams that I am hunting something or someone (not sure) and the thrill is amazing. In fact, that's how I came across this page. I was looking up what these dreams could symbolize. But, I'm also interested in nature, so I opened this page when i saw it. In these dreams, I never find anyone and kill them. It seems like when I get close, something distracts me and the hunt is over. I definitely wouldn't get a thrill from the kill, but the hunt is exciting if you make it challenging.
Thanks for the post and great comments. I read all of it.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I found this Derby Hunt to be so incredibly ignorant that I thought it would be worth writing about it. Apparently, most people don’t agree, as this post has garnered so little interest. This apathy is something that I think is eating away our societal values on a larger scale.


From your same essay, which you cite here, you wrote:

“Psychologists tell us that hunters often have personal deficiencies for which they are trying subconsciously to compensate with their "hunting." But their need for compensation aside, they should have the decency not to bore the rest of us with their delusions that this activity makes them some sort of he-men. In fact, it shows them to be cold-blooded, calculating killers and nothing more. And out of respect for the honorable hunters who have gone before, they should really use some other term to describe their activity.”

This would fit with the general impression I had of those at the public hearing I attended, who were expressing anti-wolf sentiments. These people prefer to create an imbalance in the ecosystem in order to maintain the availability of prey, which they truthfully do not need. And they are willing to destroy an entire species in the process. This was, I think, part of the inspiration behind my friend’s jest about putting “hunters” on the list of predators for the Derby Hunt.

As usual, I’m glad you hear from you. I am compelled to point out that my post is not an anti-hunting post, as that seems to be the track you’ve taken in your response.

You write, “As a group, they strike me as more interested in wildlife, nature, and philosophy (about life, death, morality, etc.) than the general population.”

While this may be true of the “hunters” you know personally, it is not so with the vast majority of hunters. I knew hunters in Oregon when I lived there who hunted exclusively with bow and arrow, and their views were similar to what you describe among your personal hunter acquaintances. Let me say, though, that those bow hunters were a tiny minority and they did not respect the majority of “regular” hunters who came through our little mountain town.

Your reference to “agribusiness” seems out of place in response to the specifics of my post, at least in the manner in which you have used it to somehow defend hunters.

You write, “Although agribusiness owners certainly don't have a "thrill to kill," they border on ethically bankrupt in my book for their treatment of animals. And that is so much more widespread than hunters who take out wolves and deer.”

I see no difference between the agribusiness worldview and the Derby Hunt worldview. In both cases, the focus is on nothing other than making money on senseless killing. Also, in both cases, it is the fact that society at large accepts these practices in allegiance to capitalism.

On another level, too, agribusiness is not interested in causing the extinction of wolves, but that does not mitigate their moral and ethical failures to which you refer.

In the final analysis, I see both, agribusiness (as currently practiced) and Derby Hunt, as “ethically bankrupt” enterprises. However, agribusiness could be performed in a manner that would alleviate that problem, while I see no way in which this Derby Hunt can be defended on moral, ethical terms. Killing as many animals as possible within an allotted amount of time for the sole purpose of scoring X-number of points per kill is just beyond my ability for rationalization.

I think hunting responsibly is the key; I don’t see this “Derby Hunt” as fitting that description. Thanks for reading and commenting.