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Pursuit of game animals, principally as sport. To early humans hunting was a necessity, and it remained so in many societies until recently. The development of agriculture made hunting less necessary as a sole life support, but game was still pursued in order to protect crops, flocks, or herds, as well as for food. Weapons now commonly used in hunting include the rifle, shotgun, and the bow and arrow, and methods include stalking, still-hunting (lying in wait), tracking, driving, and calling. Dogs are sometimes employed to track, flush, or capture prey. In Europe much of the land once hunted upon was owned by the aristocracy, and gamekeepers were employed to regulate the amount of game that could be hunted in a given area. By the 1800s the land hunted upon was not or had never been privately owned, and there began to develop a tragedy of the commons, in that no one hunter had any motive to limit the number of animals killed; certain species were hunted to, or very close to, extinction. To counter this development, ethical codes were established that give the quarry a fair chance to escape; attempts were made to minimize the suffering of wounded game; and game laws, licensing, and limited hunting seasons were established to protect game stocks. For instance, a modern license may authorize a hunter to kill only two deer during the brief season for deer, and he or she must present a kill to a game warden who will then document and tag the animal. There are often penalties and fines for being found with an animal that is not so marked.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hunting, visit Britannica.com.