“You’d kill Bambi?”

That’s a question I get asked often when I tell people that I’m going to hunt. To answer truthfully, no, I would not, because it’d be illegal. However, when he’s all grown up, I’d gladly take a shot.

My answer wasn’t always this blunt, however. When I was younger, I thought hunters were just as bad as poachers and even animal abusers. I loved animals dearly and vowed never to hurt them. I saw all the malnourished, beaten, and scared kittens that I could stomach for a lifetime, and I never could imagine that I’d harm an animal in any way, much less kill it. I didn’t know much about hunting, but from what I recall, I was never really against it. I just knew that I wanted nothing to do with it. But then, I took up archery.

I was quite surprised to hear that people in the 21st century still hunted with bows and arrows. In all my then seventeen years of life, I had assumed that only certain tribes and cultures hunted that way, but I quickly learned that many people hunted right here in New York. I fell in love with archery the first time I shot a bow and I couldn’t stay away from the range for more than a few days. The hunting aspect, however, took some convincing. I remember seeing the pictures they had on the walls of people with their bows and the deer, bear, and boars they had harvested. It fascinated me, but I never considered hunting myself until my friend and range owner, Neil, asked if I wanted to. I don’t think I had a clear answer in the beginning, but I talked to so many people over the course of these two and a half years and the idea grew on me. Now I’m looking forward to my first hunt, despite the judgmental looks I get. Let me explain the reasons why I had a change of heart.

Most people who are anti-hunting have a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. They talk about it without knowing what it actually is and don’t have any real evidence of why it’s “wrong.” Most arguments are moral, about how it hurts the animals and that we shouldn’t be interfering with ecosystems. But what these people don’t know is that hunting is probably the most humane way of killing an animal for food. We’ve been doing this for as long as people have been around. We’re just like any other predator, except we’re using different tools to hunt. We don’t have claws or sharp teeth, but we do have guns and arrows and they work just as well, if not better. They kill an animal painlessly and quickly, within seconds, if done correctly. That’s something else most don’t know: good hunters will not take a shot if they aren’t 100% sure it will be a clean kill. Like the anti-hunters, they don’t want the animal to suffer.

There is that misconception that hunting equals murder. Here’s the difference. Murder is done for the sake of killing, whatever the reason may be. There is no respect for the target, and it is left to waste away. Hunting is for food and the enjoyment of the outdoors, not just to kill. Hunters respect their animals and don’t waste any part they harvest. Those that “hunt” animals for fun are usually poachers and do so illegally. Hunting is legal in many areas in the U.S., and regulations dictate how many animals can be harvested, in what season, how old they must be to be considered legal, and in what areas licensed individuals are allowed to hunt. Laws like these prevent the abuse of the hunting system.

Anti-hunters also oppose human interference, saying that we should let nature take its course and that it’s not our job to play God. However, the benefits of hunting vastly outweigh any moral dilemmas. Conservation efforts keep animal populations down and thus help regulate ecosystems. They also help prevent driving accidents involving deer and property damage when animals wander into residential areas. Furthermore, the tax money from hunting licenses and equipment goes back to the state, helping fund education programs and conservation land. Harvested meat is also healthier than what one might buy in a store. It’s leaner and not processed or soaked in chemicals. Plus the cost of harvesting a sizeable deer is far less than what one would spend on the same amount of meat at the store. Hunters can also donate their meat to help feed the poor.

Killing Bambi might not sound so appealing to the majority, but it is a lifestyle I and many people like me have chosen. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it is something that our generation should work on respecting and understanding. Hunting is not murder. Hunting is not evil. Hunting is just another way to put food on the table.

Beata Warchol is a sophomore majoring in Computer Arts, Animation, and Visual Effects at the School of Visual Arts.