Is knife hunting the fairest way to hunt?

A turkey hunter searches for prey. Could you see this guy from 50 feet away?
A turkey hunter searches for prey. Could you see this guy from 50 feet away?
Mitch Kezar/Getty Images

If you go out in the woods today, you'd better take our advice: Wear orange. This advice holds especiall­y true during deer hunting season in autumn and winter. Few things can ruin a pleasant stroll in the woods than being mistaken for game by a hunter. And it happens -- in 2007, four people in the United States were shot to death by hunters who mistook them for deer [source: HIC].

It's possible the people who died in these cases never even saw their shooters. The gear designed for hunters on the market today makes them virtually invisible. Extremely detailed camouflage clothing visually blends a hunter into trees from head to toe. Tree stands -- devices that convey hunters up trees and serve as hiding places dozens of feet above the ground -- elevate them out of sight and out of mind of wild game like deer.

The more removed from his or her prey a hunter is, the less the principle of fair chase applies. Fair chase is the idea that a balance should be struck between the hunter's ability to kill prey and the prey's ability to escape [source: UDWR]. With the technology available to hunters, the optimal balance of fair play should actually be unbalanced, with the scales tilted in favor of the animal.

­The easiest way to strike this imbalance is to eschew modern equipment. Shedding the camouflage, telescopic lenses -- and even guns -- decrease the likelihood of a hunter bagging his or her quarry. And some people who hunt wild boar favor this outlook, employing a method called knife hunting.

Knife hunting is exactly what it sounds like. And it's nothing new; the technique was used for centuries before inventions like crossbows and guns. As the balance of fair chase tips ever more in humans' favor, some hunters have decided to take it up once more. It requires sharp reflexes and a quick hand. Not to mention it's about as hands-on a hunter can get with prey. So is knife hunting the fairest way to hunt? Find out on the next page.