Updated: Jul 24
Going into this hunting season a lot of different questions and opinions on ethics surrounding hunting have been raised in my mind. As I have mentioned in past posts I always try and challenge my beliefs by constantly barraging them with questions and opinions that I feel others might have that are either against or are different to my own. I have been doing this a lot this year because I was preparing to go on my first big game hunt. Sadly, the hunt did not happen for me due to me getting sick but there is always next year. That means that the rest of the year and season I will be going after any quarry that I can. One of the target animals is the pheasant.
One of the first animals I hunted was pheasant. I felt like it was a perfect way to get introduced to hunting in general. These birds are not only beautiful but they are fun to chase, and tasting good makes it a worthwhile pursuit in the end. I didn't, and still don't, have a dog but I feel like I managed well and was able to harvest a good amount of birds to fill up my freezer. This opportunity and experience would not have really been able to happen if it was not for the efforts that Idaho Fish and Game make to stock these birds in certain areas.
What is stocked quarry? Stocked quarry, or animals, is usually an effort that is made my the states wildlife and game agency to either help a population of certain animal grow or have a fighting chance, or to open up opportunities to for hunting for the public. Some animals that you might usually hear being stocked are certain fish like cutthroat trout or rainbow trout. Here in the eastern side of Idaho, Fish and Game tend to relocate fish from some river systems to lakes or ponds. This can create opportunity for young and old anglers to have a chance to catch decent fish and have a good time. You might hear of hatchery raised fish that are then released into rivers to help with the overall population of the fish and help the wild population have a chance to rebound. But like I mentioned before it is not just fish. Other animals are stocked as well.
So how does stocking pheasants play into this? Pheasants are not really that abundant in Eastern Idaho. I have seen "wild ones" but they are most likely left over birds from stocked areas or possibly even domestic ones raised by someone on their farm. Idaho Fish and Game invests money into raising pheasants to help stock areas with birds. There are multiple areas across the state that they stock with these birds. In fact they added a new stocking area near me this year. It made me excited to hear this because it is a good sign. That sign being that enough people are interested in pheasant hunting that Fish and Game made it a priority to open up more opportunity.
So now knowing what stocking game is and seeing how it is an opportunity provider for hunters in general. One might ask the question, Well if the animals are raised and then released for a hunting season, is that even considered hunting? It can be a difficult question to answer directly. This is a questions I have been asking myself a lot lately. Hunting to me is not only the research and chase of an animal it is being able to harvest wild meat that you can load your freezer with. It is being in the wilderness and working hard to pursue these animals and knowing that you can and probably will leave empty handed sometimes. It is not easy to explain to a nonhunter why I hunt for my food. It is often hard to put into words.
I feel that one of the best things to come out of stocked pheasant hunting is the money that is being made. Now that might sound weird at first but let me explain myself. Having more opportunities to hunt various animals allows for more people to be able to hunt. This increases license sales and permit sales for these hunts. This money is being put back into the stocking program but also the Idaho Fish and game, or the state agency that is over the wildlife in the state. This money can be used to help with conservation efforts of other species and animals across the state.
With my view on hunting it made me wonder. So hunting these stocked pheasants is not hunting then because if they were not stocked they would either not be in this area or their numbers would be so small that a hunting season would not be open for them. What is the difference of me hunting these birds then to me buying chicken at a store? The only difference, one might say, is that the bird is being found and shot. And that is the key to me. Some people may not see it that way but I am not going to the store and picking up a slab of meat that was raised in some farm in a different state. I am the one with the choice to kill that bird or not. I am the one pushing through thick brush and tall grass trying to find and flush these birds. They may be raised but they damn sure are hard to get with and without a dog. So in short, to me it is hunting. I am harvesting my own meat. I am in control. I am not forfeiting that control by subconsciously and inadvertently ignoring where store bought meat actually comes from and how it is produced.
Hunting is one of those lifestyles that needs to be experienced to truly understand the reasoning behind it. Sure my license, permit, and tag sales help my state's fish and game agency with conservation of the wildlife and lands of Idaho. If that is all I cared about then I would just write a check out to fish and game. That is not the only thing I care about though. This is something more important to me. It is being able to see animals in their habitat, appreciate them, be excited to see them in the landscape, hunting them for meat, and even feeling sorrow for taking a life. It is all that and more. These are things I experience while hunting these pheasants. Whether they are stocked or not in the end does not matter to me.