The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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I've been looking into the High-Fence Hunting, Preserve Hunting, Game Reserves, and Game Ranches issue for some time. What I have seen and heard are a substantial number of opinions, but very little in terms of critical analysis. Wild game management, fair chase, disease, and access are controversial issues that need reasoned and careful deliberation. This is going to be an ongoing project, subject to revision and correction as we explore the concept and separate fact from fiction, opinion from substance, and try to resolve one of the most contentious issues among us.
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Rick at Whitetail Woods set off a series of comments in his post This Should Not be Allowed to Happen. I took exception to both Rick's assertions and the source of his information. In my opinion, the source material was first and foremost biased, and without merit due to its authorship. Secondly the source material lacked any substantiation, any facts.
(Rick and I are very good friends, and both of us can discuss these kind of matters without taking offense at the other.)
An even greater issue in my opinion, is that Whitetail Woods is a valuable resource. When I was researching the origins of the issue, Whitetail Woods came up as the fourth reference on Google. If you know anything about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), first page is great, first five is awesome! What this means, is that as a source Whitetail Woods is an authority on the subject. I don't think that Rick was working SEO magic, he just writes great content.
Unwittingly, he was drawn into the web of one of the most notorious anti-hunting organizations that exists today, the Humane Society of United States. And his hard work on Whitetail Woods, would ultimately be used against him and the sport he enjoys. Imagine if you will, Rick sitting behind his desk, and finding his name and a quote from his blog being used in some anti-hunting website.
Holly A. Heyser of NorCal Cazadora puts it succinctly, "Hunters who pile on in this debate will be gleefully quoted by the antis. I monitor anti activity pretty closely, and they are at their most effective when they say "ethical hunters agree with us." Non-hunters who are pretty reasonable will say, "Oh, well if even the good hunters agree, it must be a bad thing."
This is something that all of us have to be aware of. I saw many comments to the post. I would be furious if I was quoted and misrepresented by any organization that I was against.
I think it is very important that we look at the issue of High-Fence Game Ranch, and Preserve hunting objectively.
The majority of us if asked, would respond that killing, for the sake of killing, is inappropriate, except in the case of cockroaches in the cupboard. Yet, it happens more often than we would care to admit. We read about it all the time. I get the reports from many State Fish and Wildlife Divisions, and plenty of folks get arrested for doing things they shouldn't. Kids getting wild and shooting anything that moves, grown men who break laws just to shoot something, even fishermen filling their coolers and letting it go to waste. These folks are lawbreakers.
People that hunt in game preserves or behind fences are not lawbreakers. The law is very explicit on what may or may not be done. That much is indisputable. That laws may be broken is also indisputable. But that one can legally hunt in a preserve or behind high fence is a fact.
Before we go off on a tangent of what defines hunting, let me preempt that by saying: Hunting is what you make of it. If we, the hunting population, start to define what hunting is, where will it stop? Will rifle use be more hunt worthy than bows, self bows more worthy than laminates, minie ball appropriate and sabots not? Harris hawks ok, but Merrils out of the question? Why shouldn't I, a well trained soldier, be allowed to risk my neck and receive the charge from a boar at the end of a spear, or better yet a sword and buckler? Is the European model any less hunting than sitting in a blind at the edge of a food plot? Is flyfishing the only way to fish?
Bitter of Bitchin in the Kitchen says, "In PA, the latest debate was over expanding crossbow use. I kid you not, I met several guys who were more outraged over that decision, than they would have been if the had cut all hunting seasons in half. Sebastian was talking to one outdoor writer here who was just laughing about the entire thing. He pointed out that these very same people and groups screamed as loudly about compound bows years ago - and now they would scream bloody murder if you tried to restrict compound bows. Meanwhile, as non-hunters who care about the issue, Sebastian & I are wondering why, if it has the possibility of opening up hunting to a slightly broader audience, bow hunters are seeking to shut it down."
How ridiculous is that.
Othmar Vohringer in his post "A Muzzleloader by any Name is Still a Muzzleloader" puts it very succinctly. "This is the 21st century and we’re faced with huge problems that could end the hunting and shooting tradition for the next generation if we do not wake up to the challenges we face." He goes on to relate, "I am also pleased to see that the guy realized that we’re faced with more important issues then who shoots what. It is my hope that in the future we can concentrate more on what unites us all, and less on what divides us."
If someone has an argument that defeats the statement, "Hunting is what you make of it", I'll be willing to listen to it.
I want everyone to think deeply on this for a moment. Does property ownership and access have anything to do with or influence how you define hunting?
Let's explore why Game Ranches, Hunting Preserves and High Fence Ranches operations exist.
One of the laws of capitalism is that things exist because there is a market for it. Obviously there must be a market for it. Otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Someone works hard, works smart, or just gets plain lucky and buys some premium elk habitat. He takes his hard earned money and invests it in impenetrable fences that elk, deer, and bears can't get through. He puts in watering stations, feeders filled with hi-protein feed, and plants shelterbelts and food plots. So far you probably don't have an issue with it. It is his property after all, and who are you to say anything, right? Well, he decides to charge a trespass fee to hunters that are willing to pay for it. He's got some good sized elk in there, and a couple are even royals! A great bull is pulled from there and all of a sudden he is in the enviable position that he can pretty much charge whatever the market will bear for access to his property.
What are the moral or ethical considerations? Are any laws of the nation being subverted? I can't find any that will stand the light of investigation. There are some arguments based on preferences that border on ethics, but none that are incontrovertibly on immoral or unethical. (Based on the land owner's actions.)
OK, do we criticize the hunter who uses the Game Ranch or Preserve? What are his or her motivations? And... by the way, why would we care what the motivations are? (Unless they are illegal of course.) I don't believe that we can criticize another's motives. Is there some moral imperative that makes a trophy hunter an immoral hunter? I would disagree. The person who hunts trophies for the sake of a trophy, is no different than the person that hunts meat for the sake of meat. Or truffles for the sake of truffles. A trophy hunter is not motivated by hunger or need, but by a desire for pleasure. It pleases him to pursue and collect. I don't know about you, but I pursue and collect stamps. I am having a hard time differentiating any moral or ethical issues between them. We could argue whether the animal is used properly, but that would be a question about a person's behavior or character, not about whether it is moral or not to hunt for trophies.
I have heard the comment "Fair Chase" bandied about quite a bit. What exactly does fair chase entail? The Boone and Crockett Club have a definition, but lo and behold, it relates directly to trophies. I would present to you, that again, fair chase is what you make of it. I've killed hogs mere yards from my back door, and miles away. Each one was different.
I've had hard hunts, exciting hunts, dangerous, easy, filthy and sweaty, hungry and tired, wet, cold, hot, you name it I've had one. Some are memorable, some are nightmarish, all of them were fair chase as far as I am concerned. I have not had one hunt where I am ashamed to retell it. Embarrassed, maybe, but never ashamed. So what is the concept applied to and how so?
Gary of Base Camp Legends has this to add, "Pulling up to a ranch house and saying, "I'm ready," isn't my idea of a hunt, but maybe there is a reason it fits another's bill. I think when it comes down to it, I'm sure many of the same hunt tactics are used that are acceptable in 'fair chase'. Sitting over water, over food plots, over bait, or even on trails."
Real quick, Let's just see how big things really are. We will make it flat and square for the sake of perspective, but you will get an idea of what we are talking about.
100 acres would be 10 acres by 10 acres or 2,100 feet per side or a little less than four tenth of a mile
500 acres would be 22 acres by 22 acres or 4,695 feet per side or a little less than nine tenth of a mile
1000 acres would be 31 acres by 31 acres or 6640 feet per side or a little more than one and a quarter miles square.
5000 acres would be 70 acres by 70 acres or 14,850 feet per side or two and eight tenths of a mile... that's a hell of a long way.
In 90% of my reading on the subject, if you dig deep enough, the issue revolves around access.
People are just plain annoyed with the perception that Joe Silk Shirt can afford to pay $30,000.00 to shoot a 350 elk at a High Fence operation. Notice I say shoot, not hunt. And it annoys them even more that Joe got out of an Eddie Baur Edition Crew Cab pick-up truck that costs more than they earn in a year, wearing the latest from Cabelas, toting a new Winchester Model 70 in .338WM, with a Leupold on it that costs more than I earn in two weeks. And as if that isn't enough, Joe only fired a half dozen rounds through it because he was too busy getting bonuses from the bail out money! Now to top it all off he walked 250 yards, fired his shot, got a back-up shot from rancher's guide, and the 350 hangs in his living room. And every time you go to the local gun shop Joe's picture is there, making a mockery of all those hard earned spikes and forkhorns most everybody else got.
Just chafes your jaw, doesn't it.
Not mine. Quite frankly I don't care. What he does is his business. Joe Silk Shirt never leaped over an enraged wild boar and shot it at point blank range. He's never been charged by a feral bull. He's never held a rattler or cottonmouth. He's never sat in a treestand seven or eight hours straight with nothing but his thoughts and nature to keep him company.
The issue about access though is a serious one. I will not argue that private property owners are at fault. No sir. I am a proponent of property rights with the caveat that property should not be substantially changed in such a way that it is detrimental to the health and well being of an ecosystem. (I would rather not delve into housing and population growth...) In other words, you want to put a fence around your property I'm OK with that so long as you don't block the water.
There is the issue of free movement of game animals, but I would argue that given a large enough property, most of the animals we consider game, will never venture near the "edges" anyway. Their territory just isn't large enough. So if the land was not fenced and we could trust that the majority of people would respect posted property, then the whole fencing issue would go away. But we all know that we can't. I personally know people who have had deer shot in their own front yard, exotic animals shot from off their property, hunters trespassing on their property, people setting up stands well within a posted area.
We need to clean up our own house.
I have yet to hear an argument against High Fencing that was based on sound science. Diseases and CWD in particular is a red herring thrown out by opponents of Preserve and High Fence operations. To quote Mike Riddle of Native Hunt,
"The real fact of the matter is that "all" legitimate and licensed preserves must have a veterinarian validation of the herd before transport, and also another veterinarian validation before introduction of the herd into the preserve.
State and Federal laws require this to be done.
Also, most preserves utilize "double fencing" to prevent contact with an outside animal.
This helps to further insulate the preserve animals from any disease or contagion."
And it strikes me as duplicitous to throw that type of accusation at "game ranching." We have seen massive cases of hoof and mouth disease, and other highly contagious diseases, and no one has called for the end of cattle and sheep ranching because they can potentially spread hoof and mouth.
So if Mike was fortuitous enough, skilled enough, smart enough to create the means and opportunity for himself to buy property, what exactly is the issue that so infuriates other hunters, if not petty jealousy?
Well, we have all seen the rouge operator that blackens every hunter's eye. The circumstances surrounding the Spider Bull comes to mind. Not the hunter, but the outfitters and guides that were involved, even on the periphery. Guilty or not, those guides and outfitters were irresponsible and uncaring, forgetting everything important, except for the thought of money in the bank. Again whether true or not, the impression given was that some operators will stop at nothing, including breaking the law, to get theirs.
The brush paints broad, and the legitimate businessman gets soaked.
But that doesn't have anything to do with access does it? That's business ethics.
Over at Hodgemans's Thoughts, Mike brings this to the table, "As access to hunting lands diminish many fear that hunting will devolve into a "pay for play" exercise where only the wealthy can afford to hunt (ie. the European model). Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen but hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness are being purchased and locked off from public use and made available for a "fee" that exceeds what the average hunter will pay."
And Tom of Boomers and BS also adds, "Having lived all over the US and currently back in Texas, where I've spent most of my life, it makes a tremendous difference if there is minimal public land to hunt!" "Many places I have lived have had extensive huntable public lands. Texas has almost none. The deer lease prices are often ridiculous."
Now we are getting to the meat and potatoes of the issue. As the urban population continues to expand, and rural areas are slowly being covered in asphalt, the remaining land becomes more valuable, regardless of use. The problem as I see it, is ours (The sporting population). We are complacent, we do not demand that the State and Federal governments purchase lands for the use of outdoor enthusiasts. And then there is the issue of geography. The blue states and the red states.
As it is, we have a difficult time getting folks to write to their congressmen with a prepared form. How many of you actually followed up on the DoD Brass Destruction ruling? Did you write your congressmen and Senators? Luckily enough of us did, to stop it. How about next time? Will you take the seven minutes to fill out the few blanks, and send your voice to Washington?
Here are a couple more examples. The federal government is going through the motions of purchasing several million acres of land. Do you happen to know what the stipulations are? I don't and I should know better! Here is one closer to home. The Florida State Legislature has approved the purchase of Big Sugar's land for eventual restoration of the Everglades, again I am clueless as to the stipulations involved with respect to access. Shame on me! We all have to try harder.
Let us recall that Theodore Roosevelt himself, wanted all Americans to have access to the natural resources of the Nation. We have allowed the system to fail us. Not because property owners are exercising their rights, but because all the citizens of the Nation aren't exercising theirs. There is more than enough room in this Great Land of Ours for all to do as their conscience dictates. We do not need the constant internecine combat that is currently plaguing our sport. Shun those that break the law. Shun those that are vile and despicable. But leave unto others the right to practice our sport as they see fit.
As Issac of Another Falconry Blog put it:
"Claim the privilege of hunting according to the dictates of your own conscience, and allow all hunters the same privilege; let them practice how, where, or what they may."
We will continue this exploration at greater length. Keep on checking back for updates and more commentaries.
This is an important topic. I want everyone to treat this as an intellectual exercise. Think hard before you write, or write then think before you click the button!!! We may begin to get to the bottom of this before it is all done.
Best Regards To All!
The Ethical Question, Hunting or Shooting
The High Fence Discussion Continues
The Hog Blog: Hunting Ethics Vs. Logical Debate
Albert A Rasch™
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...
Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.
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