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Arcade Hunting: No Tribute To The Great Outdoors

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had a hunting video game installed in the agency's cafeteria.
Molly Riley
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had a hunting video game installed in the agency's cafeteria.

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has just installed an arcade game called Big Buck Hunter Pro in his department's cafeteria. Interior staffers can now take a few minutes' break to aim toy rifles at a video screen and plink away at animated elk, antelope, caribou and deer.

The bucks fall over dead, but don't bleed. It's a game.

Secretary Zinketweetedon Tuesday, "To highlight #sportsmen contributions 2 conservation I installed Big Buck Hunter in the employee cafeteria. Get excited for #hunting season!"

Secretary Zinke recently signed an order to expand hunting on public lands.

I do not hunt. That will not surprise almost anyone who listens to Weekend Edition. I do not find hunting a sport, as long as the deer and bears can't shoot back.

But I know a few hunters, and have done hunting stories. I have even seen Big Buck Hunter games in a few bars. I respect that hunters cherish the outdoors and want to keep wilderness undeveloped and wild. I agree that people who eat cheeseburgers and holiday turkey shouldn't look haughtily down their noses at hunting. The chicken breast you may grill tonight wasn't born in that plastic wrap. Hunters at least lock eyes with what they eat.

But every hunter I've asked wants people to understand that they're hunters, not killers. Hunters observe rules. They respect their prey. Hunters are typically limited to shooting one or two deer a season, depending on the state. They often crawl and scrape, hide and run, crouch, shiver, and wait for hours just to take a single shot at a beautiful deer, sprinting — and miss. As James Swan, the nature writer and hunter says, "There is a special fondness in our hearts for wild things, and a hunter must work through guilt feelings to be successful. The more one learns about wild animals, the more one develops a fondness for them."

Hunters don't just aim, fire and fell deer like bowling pins.

I'm not as upset to see zombies, space invaders and super villains burst into flame when they're zapped on screens, and maybe that's all the animated deer are to anyone who fires away at them on Big Buck Hunter. But it's Secretary Zinke who suggests this arcade game is some kind of tribute to hunters and conservation. You can also show respect for wildlife and wilderness by going into the woods and walking, looking and listening.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.