Man-made; adj. Made by humans rather than occurring in nature; artificial or synthetic.

A conversation about hunting and fair chase would be incomplete without talking about the pursuit of “game” that has been genetically manipulated to produce abnormally large antlers, which are then sold as “trophies” in artificial hunting situations. Why is this an important conversation to have? Because for the hunting community to allow this practice to continue unchecked is “whistling past the graveyard” for the future of hunting.

Let’s set aside for the moment the question of the impact on the species being altered by genetic engineering, including the use of hormones, blood thinners, excessive minerals and protein. Let’s set aside what the introduction of a false product means for the value of the real thing, and the value we place on nature. Let’s also set aside the issue of wildlife health and diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) that can be spread from the transport of these captive animals from one state or province to another and then from captive to wild populations. These are all legitimate concerns that drive the distaste the majority of sportsmen have for this practice. As ethical hunters what should be our focus is no longer ignoring the fact that this type of “hunting” has and continues to foster a perception among the non-hunting public that “this is what hunting has become.” There are already signs where hunting is being rejected over this wrongful association, and the lid isn’t really off this can yet. Fake news is a dime a dozen these days, and this is not fake news. This will get picked up more than it already has and fed to the public creating more brush fires against all hunting.

This type of commercial enterprise has been made legal in some states, so these businesses are established. It will take legislative action and restrictions to undo what’s been done. This very well could be an expensive, and long drawn out process, but there is another solution.

A case can be made that the breeders and operators of these businesses are just providing a service to willing buyers, and they currently have a legal right to do so. Businesses rely on customersno customers, no business. It is therefore up to the customer to decide if this is the type of hunting or product for them, or whether they consider it legitimate hunting at all. Thankfully we’re already seeing a trend coming from a handful of people who are saying, “been there, done that, not a hunt, not booking again.” As sportsmen concerned about the future and traditions of hunting we need not only nurture this trend, but also do everything in our power to distance hunting from these activities for when the ax does fall, and it will fall. The non-hunting public will see to that, if we don’t.

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