David Petersen - Why Do I Hunt?

Why do I hunt? It’s a lot to think about, and I think about it a lot. I hunt to acknowledge my evolutionary roots, millennia deep, as a predatory omnivore. To participate actively in the bedrock workings of nature. For the atavistic challenge of doing it well with an absolute minimum of technological assistance. To learn the lessons, about nature and myself, that only hunting can teach. To accept personal responsibility for at least some of the deaths that nourish my life. For the glimpse it offers into a wildness we can hardly imagine. Because it provides the closest thing I’ve known to a spiritual experience. I hunt because it enriches my life and because I can’t help myself…because I have a hunter’s heart.

Copyright and permission from :

Petersen, David, ed. A Hunter’s Heart: Honest Essays on Blood Sport. New York:

Henry Holt and Company, 1996.

On Predators and Development

When it comes to keeping deer wild--that is, maintaining the deerness in deer--I fear I’m among a minority of hunters (and for that matter, Americans) who would enthusiastically endorse the thoughtful restoration of keystone predators to as many public lands as feasible. Further, I would gladly tithe a portion of my own hunting opportunity and wild meat for the almost unknowable privilege of sharing the woods with wolves and grizzly bears. My payment would be the rare feral joy of hearing wild wolves howl, the inimitable ambiance of a lurking grizzly presence, and the knowledge that wildness--that is, the natural processes and natural order--is alive and well. But for now, that’s a hookah-dream.

The current reality is that human overpopulation, cultural anthropocentrism and personal egocentrism, ubiquitous greed, and our ceaseless transmogrification of wildlife habitat into subdivisions, clear-cuts, golf courses, parking lots--even petting zoos--renders widespread restoration of keystone predator species practically, or at least socially, improbable.

Copyright and permission from :

Petersen, David. Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality, and Wildness in America.

Washington D.C.: Island Press, 2000.


I suggest to my fellow hunters that natural predation—whether by grizzlies, black bears, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, Bigfoot, or scalpel-wielding space aliens—will never cut big game numbers enough to hurt our individual or collective success. Rather, the true enemy of elk and elk hunting is the so-called progress that follows like detritus in the wake of unchecked human reproduction. “Growth for the sake of growth,” said Edward Abbey, “is the ideology of the cancer cell.” The most obvious symptoms of the growth disease in elk country include excessive logging (and the ecologically disruptive and destructive road building that facilitates it); untenable, unsound, and unsustainable grazing practices and policies; and the subdividing of large rural properties into ever-smaller residential and commercial lots. These are the predators in need of control.

“Progress,” said A.B. Guthrie, Jr., “is a word that should imply an improvement in the quality of life, but rarely does.”

By my lights, saving the last of the San Juan grizzlies, and by so doing, preserving in as near a pristine state as possible the last of their native habitat… now that would be progress.

Copyright and permission from :

Petersen, David. Ghost Grizzlies: Does the Great Bear Still Haunt Colorado? New

York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995.

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