How Does Walmart Limiting Ammo Sales Affect Us as a Hunter Species?

sales shift exclusively to hunting equipment prompts look at hominid hunting

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Walmart will restrict ammunition sales and ask customers not to carry firearms, AP News reported. The move comes in the wake of a spate of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Walmart will instead focus on selling hunting rifles and ammo.

Hunting rifles lined up with trigger in focus
Sales of hunting equipment will continue as Walmart stops carrying handguns and related ammunition. Photo by Alla Laurent / Shutterstock

According to the AP article, Walmart will “stop selling handgun ammunition as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military weapons” once it runs out of its current inventory. The superstore chain will also end the sales of handguns altogether in Alaska, which is the last state in which Walmart sells them. Finally, the company asks customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms in their stores in the future, although law enforcement officers are still permitted to do so, as are civilians with “concealed carry” permits. By maintaining their selection of hunting rifles and their respective ammunition for sale, Walmart hopes to shift its firearm-related profits to sales from hunting equipment, raising the question of how evolution itself has depended on hunting.

When Did We Start Hunting?

As the predecessors of the human race evolved, hunting and gathering played large roles in obtaining proteins for food. However, we rarely consider at which point our early ancestors began hunting in the traditional sense. Fortunately, paleoanthropologists can look at some ancient animal bones and approximate which species of pre-humans actively hunted the animals as opposed to merely scavenging from the carcasses of already dead animals.

“Using this method, we can say that there’s no hard evidence of hunting for australopithecines or for Homo habilis,” said Dr. Barbara J. King, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at William & Mary (Ret.). “It’s a little bit more questionable with Homo erectus, but still nothing particularly clear with the Homo erectus time point. We already know that Neanderthals did hunt; but in fact, if we look at this transitional time period, what we’ve been admitting is a kind of fuzzy time period of the transitional hominids.”

However, Dr. King said that there is an archaeological site that offers the earliest known, clear-cut evidence of hominid hunting, which is dated to about 250,000 years ago and contains remains of mammoth and rhinoceros. Although chimpanzees hunt, they typically hunt small game and do so without tools.

Chimpanzees Offer a Clue

Dr. King also mentioned that by studying chimpanzees, we find there are many similarities that can give us clues for how much or how little hunting aided our own evolution—whether or not it was a “prime mover,” so to speak. She said the subject has been explored vigorously by anthropologist Craig Stanford and cited what his studies have helped us learn.

Dr. King said that Stanford chose to focus not on the communication and cooperation required to hunt prey, but what happens afterwards with the meat among groups of chimpanzees—and, by extension, hominids.

“To be specific, the strategic use of meat as currency when males interact with females is his single-most key factor,” she said. “What Stanford says is that meat is a kind of political tool, and that figuring out what to do with the meat when you’ve got it is what leads us to be able to appreciate hunting as a prime mover.”

Amazingly enough, male chimpanzees use this currency in two very different ways of obtaining what they want. According to Dr. King (and Stanford), first, male chimps present the meat to female chimps who show visible signs of being fertile and ready for impregnation in order to curry favor and obtain sex. Second, male chimps offer meat to other male chimps who have helped them climb the social hierarchy—or chimps who could do so soon—in order to win friends in a kind of political bid. Although there are currently no hominids around to observe, it’s very possible they did the same thing.

Hunting big game is a 250,000-year way of life tied intricately into gathering and scavenging. Whether done for sustenance or to gain prominence and popularity among the tribe, it’s virtually in our DNA. Walmart’s sales shift, away from handguns and related ammo to emphasizing its hunting equipment that’s always been sold, puts a spotlight on the fascinating, ancient survival technique of hunting.

Dr. Barbara J. King contributed to this article. Dr. King is a biological anthropologist and retired Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Douglass College, Rutgers University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma.