It is commonplace in hunting circles to try to justify hunting by some sort of appeal to participation in the natural order. For the moment, I don't want to try to defend that claim--though I do believe that it has philosophical merit. Instead, I want to do a bit of exploring and try to see what follows from this defense (granting that it is legitimate). In particular, I want to focus on the concept of nature (as that concept is employed in the phrase "the natural order") and argue that consistency demands that hunters be heavily pro-conservation in their relationship with the land.
The Moral: You can't simultaneously trumpet the merits of participation in nature and also be complicit in its undoing.
First, a couple of words (too few, really) about the concept of nature and its kin (e.g., natural). As the philosopher Elliott Sober has noted, there is a concept of nature that stands in juxtaposition to what is supernatural. So understood, both lightening bolts and A-bombs are natural phenomena, but poltergeists are not. It is clear that hunters cannot have this concept of natural in mind when they say that one of the main reasons to hunt is to become involved in the natural order. For, so understood, very nearly every form of food procurement (depending on your particular metaphysics) is equally natural. Hunting, on this reading, does not have any pride of place in getting us in touch with what is natural--we are saturated by it.
So hunters must be appealing to some more restrictive concept of nature. I don't have any fancy analysis to offer of this more restrictive concept, but I will say a couple of things about it. First, being natural in this sense is a degree concept; that is, something can be more or less natural. The park is more natural than the strip mall, but less natural than the Medicine Bow National Forest. Second, the concept has an historical connotation. Robert Elliot (another philosopher), for instance, has argued that what we find valuable in nature is partially destroyed by environmental reconstruction (that is, strip mining a tract of forest and then reconstructing it to look indistinguishable nonetheless degrades the value of the land).
If these two components are indeed part of the restrictive concept of natural under discussion, then we can see why hunters think of hunting as getting in touch with the natural order. For hunting, is certainly more natural than most other forms of food procurement and is causal-historically related to what is misleadingly labelled subsistence hunting. But if there is something valuable about participating in the natural order in this sense, then presumably the more natural the better (other things being equal). Hunting in the Medicine Bow is plainly more natural than hunting on a game ranch and less natural than hunting the Alaskan bush. And concomittently, hunting in the bush involves a greater degree of participation in the natural order than either of the other two.
What this suggests (though I am moving pretty quickly through the argumentative steps here) is that hunters ought to strive not merely to preserve the activity of hunting, but that they ought to strive to preserve a more natural setting in which to pursue it. This, in effect, was the desired conclusion: defending hunting by placing value on participation in nature is at odds with personal and political behaviors which tend to undermine the integrity of the natural world.