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December 13, 2006

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Why Darting Isn't Hunting

A recent issue of Sports Afield Magazine ran an unusual piece about elephant “hunting” in Africa, in which the pachyderms are  shot with a dart gun. This follows the current fad for darting white rhinos and posing with the doped-up beasts as they sleep off their nembutol, or whatever it is.

Ted Kerasote, who wrote the article (titled “The Green Hunt”), was enthusiastic about the practice, as it allowed you to “hunt” elephants without killing them. Well, OK, if it makes his liver quiver. The only problem I have with the whole business is that it’s not hunting. To illustrate this, let’s look at a couple of other pursuits.

The object of professional boxing is see to who can pound the stuffing out of whom. Olympic boxing, on the other hand, counts only the number of punches landed, and goes to some lengths to make sure that no one is inconvenienced by an authentic ass-whipping. That is the reason it’s followed by so many with such rapt boredom. Can anyone name an Olympic boxing champion in any weight division since Sugar Ray Leonard won gold in 1976?

And then there is bullfighting, which is not considered a sport by its fans but a form of theatre, the object of which is the demonstration of courage in the face of death. Take the death out of it and all you have is a guy in tights embarrassing both himself and a bull in a stadium full of people.

Hunting, and especially the hunting of dangerous game, is about life and death. If you try to kill an elephant there is always the chance he will kill you, and the death of one of you is what gives the enterprise its meaning.  If you yearn to stick a needle in the rump of some poor elephant, by all means do so, but don’t file the activity under “hunting.” It ain’t.


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I concur, though your olympic boxing analogy falls a little short. I mean, if they had to fight 10 rounds, nobody would make it past the 2nd round of fights!



This darting of elephants and rhinos has always sounded more like a political correct inspired fad than a trend. I don’t believe the game numbers are a factor. My sources in U of SA write there are more elephants now than there were 150-years ago and that black rhino is making a comeback.

Boxing is a great sport that’s hit the doldrums. From what I hear there’s more money and pazass in ultimate fighting than boxing…which isn’t a sport as more of a mêlée IMO without form or style. Don’t believe me; just do some bag work and jump rope. I took boxing to help my fencing skills. I found a love and understanding for Boxing although I’m a hopelessly lousy boxer.


Dave I agree. That is such an absurd concept that violates all the ethical reasons why a person would hunt.

It is so pathetic that most of your fellow bloggers would probably agree with you and we won’t have the usual name calling and asterisk filled words!! Thanks for providing a mellow blog today :)

Robert W. Sprague

Dave, I have always thought the difference between olympic boxing and professional boxing was the same difference between holding hands with your pretty cousin and spending a weekend in a hotel room with Carmen Electra. That having been said, I think Kerasote and friends would be better served using a camera to "hunt" than contributing to the drug habits of the local pachyderm population. You can sneak up close enough to get bitten or stomped, and have your trophy in the from of a photo detailed enough to show spinach caught between the animals teeth. Darting amounts to non-productive harrasment of the animals.
Robert W. Sprague

Mike Diehl

I think Dave's opinion is off the mark. Granted that darting something has no appeal to me. I eat what I hunt, so there's the big difference.

But otherwise the process of hunting an animal and getting close enough to hit it with an air-driven dart seems to entail as much risk, if not more risk, as shooting the animal with a bullet, and it seems to require the same skill set (stalking to close range and all that).

"Dart hunting" is wholly analogous to any other kind of lethal hunting expedtion in which the first and primary objective is a trophy wall mount or trophy photo rather than eating the meat.

Peter C.

Somehow, hunting with darts evokes images of Elmer Fudd stalking the Wetched Wabbit. I wonder what Ruark or Hemingway or T.R. would have said about this species of "hunting."

Ralph the Rifleman

Save the Darting for the boards in your favorite pub. Hunting IS about killing, not putting the animal to sleep for a photo opp!
"OUCH"! That felt like a DART!..ZZzzzzzz

Dave Petzal

I believe the Thompson/Center Encore will do what you want.

Micheal May

It's absolutely sad. I agree with Mark that it's a form of political correctness. I hunt! I kill! No apologies.

JA Demko

I'd come away from such a hunt feeling like I had been mercilessly cockteased.

JC Blauvelt

If you want your picture taken with an elephant go to the zoo. I would bet my best gun that there is a real hunter right behind the "darter" with a real gun. If this catches on there is going to be a lot of hungry Africans with no meat. May be the U.N. will send them elephant tofu.

craig curtis

green hunting , now even a tree hugger can shoot at the majestic elephant without hurting him !!! oh joy joy happy happy . no wonder i quit reading that magazine. who are these but holes that would actually pay for an african hunt just to put their game to sleep for a picture ? i can hear them now with a snifter in hand yes i got this one and then let him go after this marvelous picture .the crokidile hunter would be so proud. dave to tell you the truth i just dont get the big fasination with african big game ???????


I hunt to kill no ifs. ands or butts. I agree with Mark and Mr. Petzal.

O Garcia

Mr. Petzal,

Agreed 100% with your dislike for Olympic boxing in its current form. I call it "Cuban" Olympic boxing, because stylistically, it is. Add the weird, unpredictable scoring system, and you have a sport that isn't just boring, if you happen to like it, it's frustrating.

It's the padded (thickly padded, that is) fist version of Olympic fencing, another sport I cannot relate with. And like all the other martial arts that have been converted to sport (judo, taekwondo), the point has been totally lost IMHO. (One of the founders of taekwondo actually defected to North Korea, partly because he doesn't like what's happened to his martial art. Oh, I saw that in National Geographic.)

However, if you cannot name an Olympic boxer after Sugar Ray Leonard won the gold in 1976, you obviously missed out the "from East LA, the Golden Boy/El Nino de Oro/Oscar dela Hoyyyyy-ya" period. That's been with us for more than a decade already, and to be honest, has been an especially annoying experience for me, when you combine Michael Buffer's theatrics with Oscar's. The guy punches well, though. Even as an amateur, he already hit like a pro.

"And then there is bullfighting, which is not considered a sport by its fans but a form of theatre, the object of which is the demonstration of courage in the face of death. Take the death out of it..."

If you take pleasure out of seeing something needlessly die, you need mental health help.

Mike Diehl

Well, the thing that really makes me scratch my head about Dave's venting here, and all the collatoral supportive venting is this:

Who really gives a toot? If a bunch of Avid Dart Enthusiasts want to poke an elephant in the behind with a dart, why all the lookin' down the nose snobbishness here? If it's not your cup of tea, just say so.

Y'all sound like a bunch of finger waggin' old busybodies.



Where I come from it's, "Yoose Guys"!

Mike Diehl

I'm blogging under an assumed dialect. ;)

Daniel Bryner

Personally, I prefer to hunt with a bow or a rifle. I enjoy eating what I've hunted and would not get any satisfaction from "darting". But by definition, darting IS hunting.
Hunting is:
1)to pursue for food or in sport 2)to pursue with intent to capture
3)to traverse in search of prey

Most of us hunt for sport even if we eat what we kill. Most of us don't HAVE to hunt to put food on the table.
I would prefer to shoot an elephant from 50 yards with a bullet or arrow to the heart than get close enough to piss it off with a dart in it's ass and wait for some drug to take effect! Now that would be scary and probably a little fool hearted!


Darting isn't hunting. Then again hunting isn't hunting for most us of in the country. More like ambushing. And please stop with the danger aspect. Only an idiot would put himself in real danger with a elephant or deadly whitetail.


I take exception to a hunter, a PH and assorted "spear carriers" taking on 1 elephant with either a firearm or a dart gun under the guise of "dangerous animal hunting". To me it is cowardice. If you want to truly hunt dangerous game, do it with a spear!!


i wonder what a picture of an elephant tastes like.

craig curtis

avid dart enthusiasts ; that says it all ? and ill bet their the ones that look down their trunks at us . dont you think Mike??


The great olympic sport of boxing was doomed even without evisceration of the rules and scoring. Boxing was built as a microcosm for the tidal international struggles of the 20th century. from Joe Louis vs Nazi Germany to all the great Cold War fights, the sport couldn't withstand the loss of the Olympics as a cathartic forum for American patriotism. That said, if we could get Ahmadinejad and Kim-Jong Il to train up a few badass fighters, the Olympics might stand a chance at re-assuming their great traditional role and at the same time rejuvenate interest in (and quality of) the professional sport at home.
I know that's not the point of your piece on elephant darting, but anyway.

Kevin Paulson

Hunting for me has always been about the thrill of the chase, the memories that are created, the camaraderie of good friends and good guides and the opportunity to pull the trigger on a great animal and harvesting that animal. There is nothing better then getting to sit down and eat the animal that you harvested. If I cant at the very least eat a steak from the animal I hunted then I was not truly hunting. Now that being said when I do not get to pull the trigger, it is still hunting and I have the memories to remind me of the trip. Darting is not hunting because the outcome of the chase is not the same thing.

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