Attitudes on Hunting

January 30, 2009 by  

Jon Mitzel

“Hunting should not become just an unregulated, gadget-driven shooting event. Some level of skill, effort and woodsmanship should be involved, even for those who are young, old or new to the sport.”

“Hunting should not become just an unregulated, gadget-driven shooting event. Some level of skill, effort and woodsmanship should be involved, even for those who are young, old or new to the sport.”

A short trip through a sporting goods store or catalog will reveal an awful lot of products for sportsmen… stuff we couldn’t have dreamed about even a decade ago. It’s designed, I guess, to make our hunting adventure easier and more successful. Manufacturers of outdoors products, since the beginning of time, have been pushing each other to gain more of the sportsman’s attention… and dollar. And as a result of the American free-enterprise spirit, the list of “gadgets” designed for the field are endless. If there’s a way to make a buck, someone will find it.

Some of the more ridiculous things involve shooting deer live from a computer, or remote control, along with killing animals inside fences, no matter how big an area is involved. In Illinois, legislation is in progress to ban the practice before it begins. State Rep. Dan Reitz is behind such a measure.

What have we become?

“I just think it’s wrong,” Reitz said, adding that it goes against fair chase and gives legitimate hunters a black eye. Some two dozen states have already outlawed “remote control” hunting, which some animals rights groups call pay-per-view slaughter.

It is evident that at least some people have lost focus of traditional hunting practices and beliefs, a tradition that dictates skill, effort, fair chase and a belief that the end result is less important than the getting there. All across the country, especially in the more metropolitan areas, we see hunting traditions assaulted like never before. Fenced animals, computer killing and a me-first attitude have produced a genre of strange, and I believe, dangerous gunners, for it is the general public (nonhunters) who will ultimately decide the fate of hunting if it comes down to such a decision.

Leave it to Texas to come up with the idea of remote control hunting first. In early 2005, Texas entrepreneur John Lockwood of San Antonio created a website for subscribing hunters with high-speed connections to shoot big game on his 220-acre ranch… via remote control… from anywhere in the world.

Fortunately, his operation was quickly shot down by legislative authorities, but the concept has spread elsewhere and prompted states to take action before the practice, like a fast-moving cancer, spreads.“We believe sick ideas have a bad was of spreading, so we want to make sure we nip this in the bud and ban it in all 50 states,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, an prominent anti-hunting, animal rights organization. But on this issue, they have the support of visible outdoor groups, including Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association.Another aspect of modern hunting practices involves game preserves. While surveys reveal about 65 percent of the hunting populous believes they shouldn’t exist, there’s a strong element that says such animals, on private land, are considered livestock, and that makes it a farming issue, not a hunting issue.

Last year, John Martone near Boise, ID, killed a magnificent bull elk with a 130-yard shot from a handgun. The rack was later measured at 374 and 4/8 points, a huge trophy. It cost Martone $8,000 to bag that trophy on a 1,200-acre private ranch surrounded by a high fence where elk are raised to produce giant antlers. The hunter is guaranteed a trophy.

And as if to justify his greed and thorough lack of class, Mountain View Elk Ranch owner Ken Walter, said, “We have a lot of people who are just tired of hunting on public land and all they see is wolf tracks. There’s just too much competition out here and there aren’t that many elk in the wild.”

‘Scuse me… not that many elk in the wild? Are you kidding? The hunters we’ve talked with who’ve made the trip to western America to hunt elk say there are plenty of elk available to anyone who wants to make the effort at hunting these great animals in the spirit of fair chase, skill and is willing to work hard for it, a commodity these pay-per-kill hunters have lost. High-fenced hunting is an egregious degradation to this magnificent animal.

The bottom line is money, not a lack of public land or elk. If you’ve got $8,000 to spare and want a easy, quick hunt for a trophy, you can go for it.

While the Boone and Crockett Club takes a plain, tough stance against high-fence hunting, The Safari Club was quoted as taking a wishy-washy stance on the practice, approving of canned hunts, but frowning on hunting farms that guarantee a kill, saying it violates fair chase. Someone should tell the Safari Club they can’t have it both ways. If they want to clarify their position here, we’d welcome it.

Our personal code of ethics in the field determines who we are, how we hunt and why. A lot of that comes from our involvement in hunting as a youth, who taught us to hunt, and how we observe the wildlife world today. For some, it’s still necessary to whop it up after killing an animal. The “if it flies, it dies” mentality is out there alive and well, and things like bad shots that cripple game aren’t a consideration for them. All you need to do to see that is watch a firing line in a goose field.

But then there are the real strutters.

In an article in Field and Stream last year by writer Bill Heavey entitled Morons Among Us, Heavey proficiently exposes the lack of class among many hunters who seem to have some type of overpowering need to not only kill their game, but conquer it. Insecurity must be met by claiming physical and moral victory over animals. If I have to shoot a doe this year, God help me if I have to apologize to my friends.

Heavey said that in visiting a chat room, he found a disappointed hunter who complained that the deer he’d shot died before he could taunt it with a dance he’d choreographed just for the occasion. The guy wrote, “I’m really into sports. I based my dance on some of Terrell Owens’ moves after he scored a touchdown. It’s this really in-your-face, I-own-you sort of deal. I worked pretty hard on all the moves and I thought it would be cool for it to be the last thing some deer saw, knowing that I’d beaten it. I’ve done it for my friends at a bar, and they all thought it was hilarious. I’m hoping next year I get to do it for real.”

Said Heavey about the comments: “I’m sure we can all share his frustration at a game animal that has the nerve to expire before a guy gets his chance to humiliate it. And it sure would be nice to meet his buddies.”

On another site, a bowhunter logged in that it had always been a goal of his to kill a deer with a brain shot through an ear. He waited and waited, and patience paying off, he got finally his chance. Everyone in the chat room was treated to a picture of what appeared to be a yearling doe with a shaft angling out of the right side of her head.

Says Heavey: “Forget that such a tiny target makes this an ethically indefensible shot. Forget that it shows no respect for the life of the animal.”

I guess that’s what bothers me the most about things like this — a lack of respect for living things. Bad manners aside, it’s appalling that some hunters have to not only kill their animal, they have to let it know, somehow, of their superiority over it, which ironically, isn’t superiority at all.

Coyote hunting contests, which are increasing all across the western region, are another issue of contention. Organizers of such events, many of them chambers of commerce, see it as a way to increase tourism dollars into the community. Baker, Montana has been sponsoring a coyote killing derby for five years, under the guise of predator control, but it’s really about that old staple, “economic development”. Heck, there’s a $6,000 prize list involved.

“I don’t know why God put them on this Earth,” said Jerrid Geving, a hunter who organizes the contest in Baker. “If he put them on this world to give us sport for hunting, maybe. But I’ll tell you what, they do a lot of damage to livestock.”

Not everyone agrees with Geving’s liberal attitude on killing coyotes. In an AP story last winter by Matthew Brown, an Baker area sheep rancher wasn’t happy about killing just for killing.

Randy Tunby said he has turned down requests for contest participants to hunt, indicating the results aren’t all that good anyway. He prefers the services of the federal Agriculture Department for predator control.

It’s interesting how popular these contests have become, but it’s a money thing. Another sprang up in Dickinson last winter, with organizer Jamie P. Olson proclaiming what appears to be a contradiction — emphasis on the “quality” of the hunt. How, I wonder, can it be listed as a “quality” hunt with money at stake. More than $10,000 in cash and prizes was awarded the previous year. Of course you’re going to attract people offering them that kind of incentive.

Seems to me, sportsmen and women need to maintain hunting as a one-on-one, personal adventure, in lieu of the carnival-like atmosphere displayed in some areas. It’s not a contest and it shouldn’t be. The end result shouldn’t be the focus as much as the trip itself. The spirit of hunting must remain the priority.

With the amount of gadgetry out there today for the hunter (and fisherman) am I wrong to assume there should be a bit more responsibility to go along with it? I mean, just how easy do we want to make the hunt? Will it get to a point where we don’t even have to go out there anymore… where we can just kill animals from our home… pick up the phone and order a rack of venison steaks from a commercial enterprise? What a horrible thought.

Heavey, who is well-respected as a writer and sportsman, sums up the hunting experience as good as I’ve ever read:

“The longer I hunt, the more humbling I find the experience. Each time I walk into the woods with my bow, I re-discover how infinite nature is and how transitory and small I am. My carefully maintained suburban identity falls away like a dry husk. I become more alert. My consciousness opens. I am focused, aware, alive. I am hunting. Everything around me comes alive, too. The slightest tremor in the air is like the blast of a trumpet, the squawk of a distant woodpecker, a siren.

“I am seeking an animal whose knowledge of this place is greater than mine will ever be. I come in humility precisely because no one is watching me, because I alone must live with the consequences of my actions here. Should I be granted a killing shot on a buck, I will kill. This is a confirmation of the hunt. What I love beyond all reckoning, beyond my ability to explain even to myself, is this feeling of being more intensely alive than I’ve ever been.”


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