|The short answer: Because hunters don't hunt for these animals.|
The counter to the short answer is often:
"The woods are full of hunters who'll shoot at anything. If something like a bigfoot were really out there, a hunter would have definitely shot one by now."
That line is intended to conclude the discussion, and usually does so in most urban conversations. The argument usually goes unrebutted, because most urban folks aren't very familiar with hunting patterns in North America. If you were to go out and examine: a) how hunters hunt, b) where hunters hunt, c) what laws they have to observe, d) the actual statistics on poaching, and e) all the factors making it unlikely that a hunter will ever see a bigfoot, you'd discover the basic erroneousness of that argument.
Most non-hunters believe that hunters will shoot any animal they come across while hunting. This is one of the more glaring misperceptions about rural behavior. In reality most hunters focus their efforts and carry the proper equipment for only one type of animal on a given day. A hunter's choice of game animals is always restricted by law to particular animals at particular times of year. Thus the season usually determines the type of animal a hunter can fire upon. Between the equipment limitations and legal restrictions, a hunter is limited to only a handful of choices most of the year, and only a few more at other times of the year.
Most non-hunters also have a very skewed perception regarding the degree of saturation of hunters in rural areas. A majority of Americans who own guns do not hunt at all. Another way to look at that equation is to say a minority of gun owners ever hunt. Of that minority describing themselves as hunters, the majority of those men hunt no more than two weekends per year. Hunters, who hunt often and year round, are hard to find these days. Unless you head out into public hunting areas in October or November you'll probably never come across a hunter. If you stay away from maintained trails in national and state parks you probably won't see anybody at all. In almost every state and province from coast to coast there are thousands and thousands of acres of forest, some more remote than others, that never see any human traffic at any time of year. To say "the woods are full of hunters" is to confess one's inexperience with North American forests.
Poaching is hunting in disregard of hunting laws. Poaching is more common in some states than in others, but it's always the exception rather than the rule. Most poaching incidents are roadside occurrences involving opportunistic motorists who'll shoot deer from vehicles at night. Even poachers are selective about what they shoot. Arrests of professional poachers tend to make headlines whenever they happen. This has the effect of magnifying its perceived frequency compared to lawful hunting. The vast majority of people who hunt do so for relaxation and recreation. They obey state hunting laws and observe local hunting regulations.
In most states a hunter can be arrested and prosecuted for poaching merely for being equipped to hunt animals not specifically permitted in that season. They can't always carry the largest caliber rifles with them. A hunter will pass on shooting a large dangerous looking animal if the hunter feels inadequately armed. Those few who hunt bear or mountain lion want to feel safe themselves, and adequately armed when shooting an animal that could turn and attack. In most circumstances the only time a hunter will be carrying a very large caliber rifle will be in deer-gun or elk-gun season. Deer-gun season lasts only a few weeks in fall, and elk-gun season lasts only a few weeks in winter. In most areas high caliber rifles are restricted to shooting ranges at all other times of year. In states like Ohio hunting with high caliber rifles is completely forbidden. Hunters may only use short range firearms such as shotguns to hunt deer.
There are a few factors actually making it less likely for a deer/elk hunter, as opposed to a hiker or a camper, to see or encounter a bigfoot. A sighting or encounter is more likely to happen when the person sees a bigfoot before the bigfoot sees the person. A bigfoot is more likely to see the person first when the person is wearing a bright fluorescent orange ("hunter orange") hat and jacket. These extremely conspicuous garments are worn by deer/elk hunters to make them more visible to other hunters. They are invisible to deer because of the eyesight physiology of deer. One could assume that the eyesight physiology of a bigfoot would be closer to primates than deer, so bigfoots would probably see hunter orange as distinctly as humans can. Also, for safety reasons deer/elk hunters cannot legally hunt deer at night (except by special permission for crop damage control purposes, and then only in open fields). Coon hunters can hunt in forests at night (when bigfoots are believed to be most active) but they are required to carry lit lamps with them, for the same reason deer/elk hunters must wear hunter orange -- to prevent hunting accidents. With or without lit lamps, coon hunters are even more noticeable than deer/elk hunters because of the loud hounds they employ to sniff out coons. Even in the thickest forests coon hunters and their dogs can be heard, literally, a mile away. This gives bigfoots plenty of warning to leave the area before a confrontation can occur.
Another widespread presumption is that coon dogs and bloodhounds can be used to hunt anything and everything. The fact is, hunting dogs have to be rigorously trained to follow a particular scent and ignore all others. The typical training involves exposing them to body parts of the particular game species from the time they're puppies. It would be difficult to train a pack of dogs to all consistently follow the scent of a bigfoot if the dogs have never smelled a bigfoot before. Bloodhounds can follow the scent of a human that they've never smelled before, but it's always the same species they're after -- humans. ***
If you were to try to put some faces on the term "bigfoot hunters" you'd steadily discover that there aren't many people who regularly, or even occasionally hunt for bigfoots with the intent to kill one. I've asked around for many years now trying to find people who actually hunt for bigfoots. I've met several people who have large enough rifles to do the job, and who are not philosophically opposed to it, but they meet only the most basic requirements. I have yet to meet anyone who consistently pursues sighting reports in order to hunt and kill a bigfoot. There were situations in the 70's where car loads of rural hunters would patrol a vicinity following a flap of sightings, but those were always localized situations and they never lasted more than a week or two. The occasional solo commando bigfoot hunter usually doesn't get very far on his own. Those who are lured by the fantasy of slaying the great monster for the sake of science ... tend to get frustrated after a while and throw in the towel. The few weekend profiteers who stick with it eventually switch from rifles to camcorders. There are a few reasons for this eventual change of equipment and goals.
Anyone who actually carries a high caliber rifle while looking for a bigfoot gradually realizes how unlawful it is to merely carry a rifle in most forests during most seasons of the year. Even patrolling backcountry roads with a rifle in a vehicle can lead to some stiff fines and/or jail time. The fantasies of an aspiring bigfoot assassin will eventually mature from visions of scientific glory to visions of big money. Once that transition is made the fantasizer gradually comes to realize that a quantity of stunning, clear, close-range video footage could be worth as much, if not more, than a carcass. After all, unlike video footage, the body of bigfoot does not have an established market value. It might actually be worth less than nothing if confiscated by the government as part of a criminal investigation. A body would certainly be much more difficult to transport, store and preserve than a videotape. And no government authority would ever challenge someone's right to sell the footage or collect continuing royalties from it. A videotape would not be worth as much to science, but a body may, in the end, only advance the careers of the scientists who study it, and not bring anything to the hunter other than some dubious notoriety. The hunter's notoriety might only generate a relatively paltry amount of cash from interviews immediately after the incident, but intriguing video footage would bring notoriety as well as commercial licensing fees and royalties for use of the footage. These are the realities that help diehard bigfoot field researchers to favor cameras over guns.
The diehards are probably correct in assuming that the hearts and minds of the general public can be won over with compelling video footage. When that happens one can expect that the scientific community will not at first admit any embarrassment, but will probably be more inclined to investigate recent eyewitness reports for themselves. Some will probably obtain the funding and support to conduct systematic searches of remote North American caves to look specifically for giganto bones. Most caves and deep overhangs in Canada and the United States are not marked on any maps. There may be thousands of "undiscovered" caves and deep overhangs in our remote forests and mountain ranges. These mini-frontiers could be suddenly appreciated as fertile ground for biological and archeological exploration. At the moment, the idea of searching for "bigfoot bones" is still politically risky in academic institutions. But an earthshaking videotape could change that quickly. A clear close range video with good audio would capture the public's imagination in an unprecedented way. Sudden popular interest and political pressure would inevitably "enlighten" institutional attitudes. The media and legal community will begin to ask more pertinent questions and demand better answers from the scientific community and the government. Unlike the U.F.O. phenomenon, the "bigfoot phenomena" will be seen as something native, and within our reach, and therefore more practical to study.
Some suggest that the credibility of any video footage would be questionable because of the capabilities of high-tech Hollywood special effects. This is a rather naive argument because even the best computerized special effects, when used to create living creatures, can be immediately distinguished from reality by the trained eye, and by the untrained eye in most cases. Real footage of real animals has qualities that still cannot be duplicated by computers. Real footage of a bigfoot up close in daylight would be extraordinarily powerful and captivating to most people, and therein lies its power and commercial value. The owner of the footage does not have to convince every last stubborn skeptic before he can market his tape for public consumption or create media interest. A good tape would create a lot of public interest, even if it did not provide immediate "scientific proof."
Let's examine hunting laws in the United States. Most states have hunting laws beginning with blanket prohibitions against killing any member of a few classes of animals, including any "fur bearing animal." Then the hunting laws go on to spell out the exceptions to the blanket rule. These exceptions form the bulk of a state's hunting laws. They specify which type of animals can be considered "game" animals at specific times of year (e.g. deer in deer season, squirrels in squirrel season, etc.). It is important to understand that general hunting laws do not specify which animals cannot be hunted. They specify which animals can be hunted.
No state provides an exception for an "undiscovered" fur bearing animal. Therefore a successful bigfoot hunter would be, by definition, a poacher. A bigfoot poacher and his transferees would face several legal and societal risks: Confiscation and prosecution by the government, and villainization by the public and the media, regardless of the "discovery" factor.
Among the factors making a discovery by a hunter unlikely, the importance of a more common obstacle shouldn't be underestimated. That obstacle is the average hunter's basic decency and civility toward other humans, and things that might appear to be humans when viewed from a distance. The few casual hunters who've reported random encounters with bigfoots typically claim they didn't know what the things were at first and they didn't want to shoot them because they seemed so humanlike. A good example is a 1970 incident involving three hunters in Routt County, Colorado. A more recent report from Pike County, Kentucky demonstrates the natural shock and uncertainty following a sighting by a truck-load of rural hunters. An article in "Alabama Fish and Game Magazine" documents how well-armed rural hunters will abandon a sighting area, and be disinclined from even discussing their encounters, rather pursue these animals. A third report from Jefferson County, Washington, shows a hunter's reaction of surprise and wonder when observing a bigfoot -- a reaction that supplants any thoughts of shooting or pursuing the specimen. You'd have to picture these situations and appreciate that a bigfoot / sasquatch looks a lot like a primitive man. Without even considering the influence of hunter safety courses (which everyone must take before getting a hunting license), it is simply not realistic to expect that a hunter's natural reaction will be to shoot a primitive manlike figure in the back as it runs away.
The understandably 'human' reactions of surprised hunters, and the other above mentioned factors, tend to decrease the likelihood that a hunter will kill a bigfoot, yet these factors do not even touch upon the geographic and legal restrictions related to where hunters can go hunting. The geographic restrictions alone reduce the odds substantially.
Other odds-reducing factors are related to bigfoot behavior: Nomadism, nocturnal feeding, nocturnal migration, intelligent strategic behavior (see the article "Deer Kills and Bigfoots"), dense forest habitats, a tendency to avoid areas where humans are afoot, the absence of predatory behavior toward humans in all cases, the lack of aggressive or territorial behavior toward humans in almost all confrontation cases, and the apparent habit of at least temporarily abandoning a habitation area when there is some degree of human intrusion.
The rarity of these animals combined with their own elusive habits make the odds of a random sighting drastically lower than the odds of sighting any other type of large mammal with a comparable geographic range. On top of the poor odds of a sighting there is a whole series of events that would have to precede a "discovery" by a hunter. Each one of these events has its own debatable odds, which have to be compounded mathematically in a string to evaluate the overall odds of a discovery by a random hunter. The odds are not very good to start with that a hunter will ever see a bigfoot, especially in daylight hours. If the opportunity arises a surprised hunter must then 1) overcome his immediate shock, fear and awe in order to have the presence of mind to quickly deliberate and assure himself with absolute certainty that this hairy manlike figure is not a man in a costume, 2) be absolutely certain that his unprecedented decision to kill this non-human, seemingly intelligent, powerfully built whatever-it-is will have no negative legal, moral, or supernatural consequences for him and his family either now or in the future, 3) have enough time to get a clear shot before the figure dashes back into the treeline, and 4) hit the figure in a vital organ so it falls down quickly. If these events fall into place then the location of the kill will have to be close enough to a road or vehicle to make retrieval of the body feasible and inconspicuous. The body will then have to remain with, or end up in the hands of, an individual or institution willing to display the body to the public and the media. The individual or institution must then manage to hang on to it so it can be examined and reexamined to the satisfaction of the scientific community.
The bottom line is that there are plenty of unique and unusual factors to consider when evaluating the likelihood of a bigfoot "discovery" by a hunter.