If you're like me you probably grew up hearing "shoot only what you eat". I learned it from my dad and he was taught the same from his dad.
The idea is not to be wasteful. If you are going to kill something it's for a purpose, to eat it. Of course that didn't include porcupines which eat tool handles. My grandpa fell down chasing one with a hoe and caught a face full of quills for his efforts, he was in his eighties, took them out with pliers. I don't know if you've ever been quilled but they are hard to get out. My dad shot another porcupine out of the pine tree down the end of the field.
And then there are all those mice that come into the house in the fall. I even remember something about a weasel at my grandpa's favorite trout pond that he wished to assist on it's journey to weasel heaven, but couldn't due to furbearer laws.
At a blog I read regularly, Fair Chase Hunting, a blog that widely discusses ethical issues surrounding hunting, I read an interesting essay by the contributer Phillip Loughlin called Ends and means - ethics versus wildlife managment.
Phillip posits the idea that more important than our individual goals as hunters of obtaining food or overcoming difficulty, are conservation goals. No matter the motivation of the individual whether it be to come closer to nature or to achieve some level of difficulty more formidable than one's fellows, often it is the end result that concerns the biologist or wildlife manager.
Further the wildlife manager changes the rules of the game as it were, to achieve specific conservation goals. Some changes hunters adapt to easily, longer seasons or increased "take" for instance. Others such as hunting doe deer still meet resistance. People have been brought up for generations to only take buck deer so that the does can repopulate. Yet doe are the most efficient way to control overpopulation.
Every species, hunted or trapped, has a conservation reason, even varmints or species with unlimited take and no requirement for food, such as prairie dogs, coyotes, and feral hogs.
At the end of his article Philip ask us...
And if you honestly feel wrong killing an animal you’re not going to eat, then you don’t have to go out and start hunting varmints and predators, or trapping for furs. If you live in a place overpopulated with deer, but instead of filling all of your tags you really only need one deer for your larder, you don’t have to go shoot more just to donate to the food bank.I went west as a very young man, and adopted the accepted ethics of the local. All of my friends who grew up on ranches and farms didn't even consider prairie dogs or coyotes in the context of hunting, they were simply something that needed constant culling. I've since expanded my thinking to include most other types and forms of hunting that I might not choose to participate in or even feel a dislike for such as baiting or hunting with hounds, trapping or trophy hunting. I've come to understand that my view is not the only legitimate one.
Here’s the thing, though. Other hunters will do these things. Many want to. Don’t condemn them or their methods simply because their moral compass points a few degrees askew of your own. It is legal for a reason. If one of the valid justifications of the hunt is our role in wildlife management and population control, then someone has to do the things you may not want to do.