It’s early Saturday morning, as you look out across the field you can’t help but feel the overwhelming sensation of anticipation as you wait for your selected trophy animal to step out into sight, and better yet into range. For each of us that has set out into the forest to land any type of game the feeling is all too familiar. This feeling has been felt by many individuals for as long as recorded history can be traced. It’s the “thrill of the hunt” so to say. Hunting, for all types of game, has been a cornerstone of civilization as we know it. The two most basic types of human activity to survive has been hunting and gathering. However today we’re just going to discuss the history of hunting in America; where it all began and just how it has transformed over the years.
Hunting in North America has its origins far sooner than the foundation of The United States of America. For thousands of years preceding this Native Americans hunted the land for sport and food. Weaponry that was used during this time period varied anywhere from a standard spear to the fabled bow and arrow. There were many species that were targeted such as Deer, Bison, Elk, Foxes, Coyotes, Wolves, Bears, Cougars, & Alligators just to name a few. As such many of these species are protected today to a degree due to overhunting, however during this time period this was not an issue due to the abundance of the game thereof & the lack of overhunting.
During the mid 1600’s and into the 1700’s the dynamics of hunting began to change. As various Native American tribes were forced from their land or migrated to different locations the European settlers took notice of the vast expanse of the land & the game within it. For thousands of years man has used domesticated canines to hunt and capture wild game, however it is widely believed that in 1650 Robert Brooke of Maryland became the first European settler to have an established pack of hunting canines. From there the practice became popular throughout the colonies & well into the foundation of the United States. Many states still allow the practice to this very day, while many more have outlawed it since the early 1800’s.
As the 1800’s came to a close and entered into the 1900’s the long overlooked problem of overhunting came into full aspect. Many species were hunted almost to the brink of extinction, while others were completely wiped out. Here are two notable cases of such events:
- American Bison: In 1850 there were approximately 60 million Bison in the wild population, however near the turn of the century the population dwindled down to a shocking number of only 150.
- Passenger Pigeon: Approximately 3-5 billion of these birds soared through the skies during the 1800’s, quite a large number indeed. However by the early 1900’s the species had been completely wiped out to where in 1914 the last confirmed Passenger Pigeon died in captivity.
Hunting in America has had many ups and downs, primarily downs as America became more and more populated. However, today, thanks to many conservation efforts in the past 100 years, numerous species have been pulled from the brink of extinction to overabundance once again. Sadly many species did not make it until these conservation efforts were put into place but the work is far from finished and we must do everything necessary to preserve the sport and the game for the next generation. After all, the “Saturday morning experience” is one that should live on forevermore.