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I’ve been reading up a lot on this whole Cecil the Lion thing. There are lots of social media posts and articles being written about it (I’ve provided some down below). I’ve been doing my best over the past year to not get involved in all the online debating and bickering that comes with this type of controversy. It just leads to annoyance and dislike towards everyone involved, even if they’re your own friend. With that said, I came across a Facebook post recently that didn’t sit well with me.
I told myself to ignore it. Don’t engage, Tyler. Don’t do it. But then I read it again and realized what was bothering me so much. It was obvious the poster had a blatant misunderstanding about common hunting practices, along with the 30 other people who had liked the post. I just couldn’t let it go unaddressed and have all those people thinking his sentiments were appropriate, reasonable, or accurate. It is those misconstrued sentiments which cause so many of those unfamiliar with hunting to abhor it without taking the time to understand anything about it.
Before I begin, I want to say that I am in no way supporting the hunter or the guiding service involved with the killing of Cecil the Lion. I am not trying to take a stance on those two parties at all actually. There doesn’t seem to be enough objective sources available at the time of this post to make a decision one way or the other yet. I am simply trying to shed light on a few aspects of hunting that most of those who do not partake in it aren’t aware of or don’t understand.
The following is a direct quote from the post I viewed on Facebook. Warning: there is graphic language.
“…To think some d******* baited this lion, shot it with a bow and let it live on for 40 hours before skinning it and beheading it is beyond messed up. I’m pro hunting but this is f****** ludicrous. It’s canned hunting that takes zero skill. Congrats Dr. Walter J Palmer for letting your vanity go unchecked you f****** a******.”
While there are a lot of facts we are still waiting for, there are several points made in this post I can and must address now.
First, I will address the “let it live for 40 hours” comment. After a person makes a less than ideal shot on an animal, it is a very ethical practice to give it time to go lay down somewhere undisturbed. If you pursue too soon, you could push the animal so far out of the area that it becomes unrecoverable, therefore losing out on an entire animal and causing much more stress and pain to it in the process. In the case of a wounded lion, pursuing too soon is actually a very dangerous endeavor and could prove to be life threatening to yourself. In this case, it unfortunately took 40 hours to track and effectively dispatch the animal. But honestly, that doesn’t surprise me it took that long for a wounded lion. African animals are notoriously tough. They can live on with a seemingly fatal wound for quite sometime, even if the hunter has used a more powerful rifle or bow. And lastly, no big game hunter or African guiding service just “lets an animal live for 40 hours” after the shot just for the hell of it. “That’s not even a thing” as the saying goes.
Secondly, I’ll address the “…skinning it and beheading it is beyond messed up” part of his post. The way it was skinned or “caped out” as it is referred to in the hunting world, is also very standard practice. That is how all big game animals are handled after they are recovered if they are to be mounted. Taking the hide and head off the body is necessary to preserve them correctly. A magnificent elk or whitetail deer would be treated the same way here in the U.S. as Cecil the Lion.
Thirdly, I will address the baiting issue. Baiting is legal in Zimbabwe where this incident occurred. Case closed. In this situation, it still remains unclear how the baiting process was conducted. I have yet to find a source that confirms with absolute certainty that a truck with a dead animal on it was driven into the preserve to lure the lion out. The word “allegedly” has been used a great deal, but with no concrete supporting evidence. I find it funny how “credible” media sources still find a need to include that detail even though they lack the proof to substantiate it. Unfortunately that is how the lame stream media works. They always have an agenda. I digress…
I still want to elaborate on the issue of baiting and hunting regulations in general. When travelling to another state, or country in this case, hunters rely extensively on the expertise of the guides or outfitter they are utilizing. For example, when I go to Arizona for elk hunting in the future, I will be paying the outfitter a substantial amount to provide me with the best experience, which includes walking me through all the information I need to know ahead of time. I am unfamiliar with the area, so it is part of the outfitter’s job to “guide” me, the client, through all aspects of the hunt from beginning to end. That includes directing me towards what tags and licenses to buy and how to conduct ourselves during the hunt, all the way to the very end when it comes to properly hauling harvested game animals across state or international borders. I’m certainly not advocating to be willingly ignorant and to forego learning as much as possible about the regulations in the area you will be hunting. I am simply saying it is nearly impossible to gain a full understanding of an area’s regulations and best practices, especially international ones, without hands on help from your guide. That is part of what you are paying them for after all.
Hopefully after reading this article, you were able to see I wasn’t trying to defend the hunter or guiding service specifically. More so, I was aiming to educate the Facebook poster (and those liking his post), who claimed to be a supporter of hunting while simultaneously being outraged over common practices found in hunting. A very distinct contradiction. It was clear there was a fundamental lack of understanding about hunting and I couldn’t sit idly by as the teachable moment passed. We as hunters have a duty to educate those around us who lack the knowledge or experience we have concerning our passions. If we do not, the anti-hunter movement will continue to grow and utilize uneducated and inaccurate claims to support their cause.