Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Veterinarian's Perspective on Bowhunting

What Happens to the Animals?

Bowhunters contend that although crippling is undesirable, most wounded animals do not die agonizing deaths, but can quickly recover. They feel that the broadhead arrow inflicts clean wounds that heal quickly. Bowhunters also like to suggest that a broadhead arrow is an efficient killing tool, with brand names such as the Ripper, Penetrator, and Terminator Doublecut.

The pretense seems to be that somehow animals develop hemophilia the instant they are struck; thus, they bleed to death: Stop all body functions with incredible speed—within 30 seconds in most cases, according to The Complete Book of Bowhunting. Contrary to these claims, most crippled animals do not recover from their wounds; rather, they routinely contract peritonitis or a septic infection.

Broadheads do not inflictclean wounds; they generally inflict dirty wounds. The main cause of infection,according to Benke, is today’s multi-bladed broadhead. As these arrows penetrate an
animal’s body, numerous hairs are clipped, often caught in the slots of the arrow blades, and distributed throughout the wound channel. The external wound opening then becomes sealed due to clotting and dried blood-matted hair. The bacteria from the clipped hairs begin multiplying in the wound. The amount of bacterial infection emanating from the wound depends on the wound location.

The animal’s general health is also an important factor affecting the time period it takes for the animal to finally die. Death eventually results one to two agonizing weeks later.


“The exciting Warhead starts with its
bone shattering Tri-Cut Tip … that
explodes flesh and bone away so the
three surgically sharp stainless blades
can open a larger, more lethal
entrance/exit hole.” (From
manufacturer’s catalog)

In order for an animal to bleed to death, its blood-clotting system must be overwhelmed. To overwhelm this system, the broadhead must penetrate the heart or sever one or more major blood vessels. If these are not lacerated, an animal cannot bleed to death— the body’s natural blood-clotting system sees to that.

Benke estimates that 20% to 30% of deer struck by arrows die from hemorrhaging and that 10% sustain wounds that probably heal, leaving 60% to 65% of the deer to die from infections.
Benke asserts: the average time in which broadheads cause death must be measured in weeks or days rather than in seconds, minutes, or even hours. Sadly, it is not only the crippled animals who suffer, but those hit and retrieved successfully as well. According to experts clean kills are a rarity. While the deer who are hit and retrieved successfully are not fortunate, they fare better than those who have been wounded and left to suffer. A comment from an experienced bowhunter who writes in Fins & Feathers magazine

(March 1987) assumes that the elapsed time between the initial wounding of an animal
and the animal’s final death is exceedingly long—even if the hit occurs in vital (heart or
lung) areas. The rule of thumb for bowhunters has long been that they should wait 30 to 45 minuteson heart and lung hits, an hour or more on a suspected liver hit, 8 to12 hours on paunch hits, and follow immediately on hindquarter and other muscle-only hits to keep the
wound open and bleeding. Bowhunting literature serves as its own indictment. The book Bowhunting for Whitetails says: It’s important to give them (the deer) time to stiffen and die - 20 minutes at a minimum, 30 minutes even better... just hang back and have a smoke. There is absolutely no sure way to kill a deer instantly with a bow!

The broadhead arrow is notorious for its inherent inefficiency and singular capacity to
cripple, wound, inflict pain, and prolong the suffering of animals. All 50 states have banned the .22 caliber rifle for big-game hunting because of its inadequate killing power. Given that .22 rifles are far superior to compound bows in terms of killing capability, one can infer that states have failed to institute and implement responsible and consistent hunting regulations.

A Veterinarian’s Perspective on Bowhunting

According to Steve Nusbaum MA, DVM, if the damage to the vital area is less than
severe, and if an arrow nicks an auricle rather than cuts through both ventricles, the
blessing of shock-induced analgesia (a deadening or absence of the sense of pain
without loss of consciousness) to set in can take a long time.

Consider the physiology of the deer who dies by suffocation, choking on its own blood,
or the deer who dies after an arrow penetrates the diaphragm. The presence of a highly
sophisticated nervous system in deer certainly suggests that their nervous systems
perform the same functions as human nervous systems. The presence of the same
neurochemicals in deer as in humans similarly shows that they feel pain as we do.

In recent years there has been a major shift in the way the scientific community
understands the mental life of animals, particularly mammals. Presently, researchers in
a variety of animal-related disciplines generally agree that in addition to being sentient,
mammals are consciously aware and have feelings and emotions; even though they are
more rudimentary than those of humans.

Mammals, including deer, are presently understood by scientists to have the capacity to
think. Numerous studies indicate that the mental harm that is done to an animal placed
in a stressful situation may be more injurious than that done to a person in a similar
situation because the animal’s mind, in varying degrees, focuses more on the immediate
than the distant. Thus, an animal, unlike a person, is less aware that the present anxiety
it is experiencing may be temporary. Not only does bowhunting cause real physical pain and suffering, the deer’s mental suffering is just as real, and in its own way, may be just as painful.

Bowhunting as a Deer Management Tool

The use of bowhunting as a method to control deer population densities is ineffective:
*In a February 1988 report on bowhunting at Rock Cut State Park in Illinois,
Department of Conservation biologist Tom Beissel, states: …this report recognizes that bowhunting has never been an effective tool for deer control…
* In Texas, which has more deer than any other state, Parks and Wildlife biologist
Horace Gore comments: You cannot call bowhunting a population control
measure, it is a recreational pursuit. In fact, he adds: We do not advocate
bowhunting when the objective is controlling the population.
* According to John Parker, Area Wildlife Manager for the Minnesota Department
of Natural Resources, only 3 deer were killed from the 29 bow permits issued in
the 1989 bow hunt in the Minnesota River Valley Area.
* Larry Gillette, Wildlife Biologist for Hennepin Parks, acknowledges that
bowhunters fail to retrieve a substantial number of deer they shoot and does not
advise the use of archery hunting to control deer populations.
* The Eagan City Council decided in 1993 not to allow bowhunting. This was
largely due to FATE’s (Friends of Animals and Their Environment) efforts. An
article in Bowhunter’s Hotline (Sept. 1993) regarding Eagan’s decision reported
that the Mayor of Eagan had supported bowhunting in the past; however, his
mind was changed about the sport due to the information provided by FATE.
The Mayor of Eagan, Tom Egan was quoted in the article as saying: FATE
provided me with a lot of valuable information, and I have always supported
bowhunting, but I no longer feel the rationale that it’s an efficient management
tool outweighs the safety and cruelty aspects. Also, the Mayor was reported as
saying: I think if we set loose every bowhunter in Eagan, we still wouldn’t reduce
the deer population, and the city would be less safe. He added: It isn’t feasible
for every bowhunter to shoot and retrieve five deer. They might each shoot and
wound five, but not shoot and recover five.

The above listed items clearly show the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of bowhunting
as a population control method and deer management tool.

The Inescapable Conclusion

Those who indulge in the antiquated bow-and-arrow type of hunting knowingly commit
each living creature they hit to lingering agony, and this is true whether the wound is
eventually fatal or not. These animals endure prolong suffering before they collapse and

As this report has shown, the following facts about bowhunting are inescapable:
* Bowhunting is inhumane and wasteful.
* Bowhunters do not want to talk about the wounding issue and archery wounding
is the most denied problem in bowhunting.
* Wounding and crippling losses are inevitable.
*Shot placement is, for all practical purposes, random due to the difficulty in
shooting arrows accurately. There is absolutely no sure way to kill a deer
instantly with a bow
* More often than not, poorly hit deer are lost and not recovered.
* The main cause of infection in the wound is today’s multi-bladed broadhead
* Almost all abdominally shot deer die a slow death from peritonitis with the
average time of death measured in agonizing days or weeks rather than in
minutes or hours.
* The use of bowhunting as a method to control deer population densities is
ineffective. Bowhunting is not a population control measure; it is a recreational

Humans are provided with the capacity to imagine for a variety of reasons. And we have
the capacity to imagine empathetically for a singular reason—we can appreciate the pain
of others without experiencing it firsthand. Balancing the needs of humans and animals
is a difficult and complex task. If communities decide that deer herds must be managed,
it is reprehensible to reduce the taking of animal life to a recreational activity for
bowhunting enthusiasts. Instead, a truly humane solution must be found—whether that
solution is to hire professional sharpshooters to observe the herd, taking the old and
infirm, or to implement an immunocontraception program for the herd.

About the Author: This report was compiled by Linda Hatfield, a Minneapolis resident and current ExecutiveDirector of HOWL (Help Our Wolves Live). She has extensive experience with wildlife and wildlife issues, including working with the University of Minnesota Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and most recently The Raptor Center to rescue and release birds of prey, working with FATE (Friends of Animals and Their Environment) on hunting and deer management issues, and as a former lobbyist on wildlife issues with the Minnesota Legislature. She has testified about deer management issues and other wildlife issues in many communities and has served on many citizens’ task forces.

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