As an American hunter, I was raised to be suspicious of what is known as the European system of game management. Under this system, wildlife is owned by whoever owns the land. This contradicts our American system, in which wildlife belongs to “we,” the collective people, regardless of whose land it happens to be on. The best way to understand the difference between these systems is to compare Europe’s Robin Hood to our own Daniel Boone. Robin Hood had to steal the king’s game in order to feed the poor, and thus became a wanted criminal with a price on his head. Conversely, Daniel Boone headed off into the frontier in search of deer and beaver pelts that were generally regarded as free for the taking. (That these pelts were quite arguably owned by Indian tribes is another story.)
Today, there is still a distinct difference between these two systems, as I discovered when I ventured to the Scottish Highlands in order to hunt red deer on Inverbroom Estate, a large privately owned tract of land. There, the estate earns revenue through the sale of venison harvested with rifles on the property. In the U.S., the sale of wild game is categorically illegal, and most U.S. hunters would consider a violation of this law to morally abhorrent. (Any U.S. “wild game” you’ve eaten in a restaurant, such as buffalo, deer, or elk, was harvested from domesticated animals raised in enclosures on farms and ranches.)
While my visit to Inverbroom did not necessarily alter my negative impression of the European system, it did give me a glimpse into the bonds that all hunters share—whether they hunt for money or meat. I think the following video of a meal that I shared with Steven Gow, a Scottish game keeper, captures this quite well.