Hunting and Wildlife Watching Don’t Mix Well

C.A.S.H.  asked Ingrid Taylar, inveterate wildlife watcher and photographer, if she felt that wildlife watching and hunting could co-exist.  She answered this way:

In my experience, hunting can dramatically change one’s wildlife viewing and photography experiences in the field. First, there’s the fundamental issue of distress by proximity. That is, seeing or even hearing the manifestations of violence toward animals can be stressful for those of us who care about wildlife. I volunteered at a wildlife hospital, so for me, bearing witness to intentional harm without having any productive recourse is difficult.

The constant sound of shotgun or rifle fire is additionally disruptive to other people and to the ecosystem at large. The noise level can be significant in bird and waterfowl hunting areas where a lot of shots are taken. Hunted animals do respond, and they tend to be far more wary and frightened, making it challenging to observe and photograph them. Ducks are notoriously skittish, and depending on their location, they will sometimes flush at the slightest movement. It’s easy to compare animal behavior when you visit parks or sanctuaries where hunting is not permitted. I’ve done this many times, and the access you have as an observer or photographer is profoundly different when the animals aren’t abjectly afraid of you.

In many states, it can be difficult to avoid hunting altogether if you like to observe wildlife, because large areas of public land are open to both archery and firearms during the seasons. That includes a big percentage of National Wildlife Refuges as well. Hunting seasons cover a good chunk of the year, with waterfowl hunting open for 100 or so days during the height of fall and winter bird migration. Deer seasons begin in late summer and go through the winter. Dove season starts in early September. Elk seasons open a bit later. There are spring turkey seasons and spring bear hunts, and many species, like coyotes, can be hunted without restriction year round. In other words, there is very little reprieve in some areas, even though deer and duck hunting seasons do tend to be the most intense in terms of shooting activity.

Lastly, hunting pressure affects where animals can be seen. On a local birding list, a ranger was asked about areas where wildlife watchers and hunters might accidentally find themselves on the same piece of turf. As the ranger laid out the boundaries of the hunted areas, she also mentioned that hunting activity will diminish later in the season in those areas that are “shot out.” I’ve visited some of those areas, where there is very little wildlife activity owing to the hunting pressure the animals sustained during the season. There’s just no question that hunting affects the behavior of wild animals, and in turn, changes the nature of the wildlife viewing experience.

Ingrid said that she and her husband spent a good deal of time trying to help the wounded birds that the hunters were shooting!

Ingrid Taylar’s amazing photography can be seen at  and you can read her “The Wild Beat” here:


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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561