Humane Hunting

That headline may strike some readers as oxymoronic. But the killing of wildlife for sport or sustenance is an ancient human practice. While the number of hunters is declining, hunting is still very much with us, and those who wish to practice it should have no problem with steps needed to make it more humane.

That's the goal of a number of voter referendums around the country, from Massachusetts to Michigan to Washington. In all, seven states vote this year on measures to eliminate such practices as bear-baiting, hunting with packs of dogs (sometimes outfitted with radio transmitters), the use of leg-hold traps, and hunting from airplanes. An eighth state, Oregon, is voting whether to repeal a ban on bear-baiting and hound hunting of bears and cougars.

All of these techniques are extremely effective ways of killing trophy animals like bear, bobcat, or mountain lion. They give the prey virtually no chance. Treed, trapped, or baited animals can easily be dispatched. Thus big-game hunters, who may have paid guides a tidy sum, are given their money's worth.

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The banning of such methods will no doubt hurt business for some guides and force some would-be hunters to get their thrills elsewhere. But it should not adversely affect hunters who respect animals and consider hunting to be more than merely finishing off a helpless creature. Such a ban is a move in the right direction.

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