Like many others, I was a hunter before I became a conservationist. I should say that I probably became a conservationist because I was a hunter. I witnessed firsthand how sport hunting was decimating species (I confess to having done my share) so I stopped hunting and became a conservationist.
Great naturalists like Audubon and Darwin hunted and collected animals for study in a time where wildlife was plentiful and not as endangered. I doubt that either realized hunting would play a large part in the extinction of so many of the species they killed.
Then there is the primal hunting instinct. And in every hunter there is that urge to see, touch, feel and study wild animals close up and make their incredible beauty yours. That by keeping their pelts or mounted heads you not only prove to all what a great macho hunter you are, but relive the thrill of the hunt in a conversation piece.
By hunting, you prove your skills and courage and affirm reality by actually participating in the bloodsports instead of watching them on TV. In ancient times there was raw admiration from a grateful tribe for bringing meat home as a great hunter.
If not a genetic predatory trait, after millions of years hunting became epigenetic. An instinct inherited by kids with BB guns and many adults who today should know better and stop.
Hunting can be a hard habit to break. But in an overpopulated world where money is deemed more valuable than nature and endangered species like lions and tuna become more valuable because of their increasing rarity, hunters must go cold turkey.
If you need to kill something, maybe you can pay a farmer to let you shoot some juicy chickens, turkeys, pigs or cows in a canned hunt, like Cheney does. Or you can limit yourself to hunting feral pigs and other pests. Then there are always deer populations to balance seeing as how you've killed off their natural predators. If you want to experience the thrill of the warrior in us, take up paintball or join the military.
I think that giving up killing wildlife is reaching a kind of enlightenment. Or like having an epiphany and realizing that hunting, particularly trophy hunting, is not sustainable in a polluted, overpopulated planet ruled by stupid, greedy, cowardly rich people. Realizing that trophy hunting damages the gene pool of a species due to the fact that the fittest specimens are sought and killed.
People that hunt disappearing species are in my view, ignorant, irresponsible, conservative morons, never to be mistaken for conservationists.