Monday, April 27, 2009

The High Fence Discussion Continues

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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"You are hunting if your moral compass is steady and tells you, you are hunting."

Photo Credit: Ben
I had an interesting exchange with Zack, also known as Dukkillr, at his blog The Daily Limit, in his post The “Facts” About High Fence Shooting?!?. It wasn't exactly a discussion of the pros and cons of high fence, preserve, or game ranch operations, but it was a discussion none-the-less.

Zack hails from Kansas, a wonderful state of grain and beef, a quintessential breadbasket if you will. It is also a place where hunting pressure is low, and the deer get big. It is on a major waterfowl flyway, and through the efforts of Ducks Unlimited and any number of conservation organizations, affords its citizens some of the best waterfowling in the nation.

We also exchanged an e-mail, on my part to clarify my points and what I thought were a couple of inaccuracies in his description of our discussion Game Reserves, Preserve Hunting, High Fence Hunting, What are the Facts? Though I appreciate Zack's commitment to traditional hunting I wanted to clarify some points of our disagreements.

Zack says, "I eventually finished the piece and when I was done I couldn’t find a single fact. There were some quotes… a few opinions… much pontificating… but no facts."

I agree with most of that, especially the pontificating. I love to pontificate, elucidate, and prognosticate. There is only one small point of contention...

There were plenty of facts.

Fact #1: "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."

Fact#2: "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."

Fact #3: "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."

That's just three for starters.

Now, in Zack's post he continues with an explanation of what fair chase isn't. I am, for the moment, going to ignore his insulting comment on what kind of person hunts on a preserve. First of all, it is unseemly, but it is also unprofessional, and gives a bad impression. He didn't seriously mean it, but if an outsider was looking it over, that is what they would take from it.

He does give an example of what isn't hunting, and I am taking his word on it, as I didn't see the show, but it is an example which I whole heartedly agree with him on.

What I was hoping for was that Zack would include what he thinks fair chase is. Well, to be fair he did say,"Hunting is pursuing wild game in their own environment." But that isn't enough to explain why High Fence operations cannot provide a hunting experience. Nor does it explain what fair chase has to do with hunting. Not that I don't understand the definition of "fair chase", but the discussion revolves around ethics and hunting. Fair chase is a concept that is separate from hunting and ethics.

Going on; I would like to point out that I did not dismiss CWD. I just pointed out that it, in and of itself, is not a reason to condemn high fence, preserves, or game ranches. There's plenty of brucellosis in wild and tame herds, tape worms, parasites, ad nauseum. That is the state of affairs. How we manage these threats is what is important. When a law is broken by someone transporting animals illicitly, then it becomes a law enforcement issue. It has nothing to do with xyz ranch that has been scrupulously abiding by the letter of the law.

Zack, unfortunately brings up an example that doesn't quite make a convincing argument in his favor. We could make up examples that are ludicrous, but we are talking about the practical realities. Private enclaves aren't pig lots, and private enclaves can provide wonderful hunting experiences.

After I responded in Zack's blog I emailed him, and in that exchange he commented, "My initial post was designed primarily to show an objection from myself and hunters like myself who simply do not share your, "if it's killing it's hunting" thesis."

I think that has bothered me more than anything else.

Nowhere did I even imply that "if it's killing it's hunting." Quite the contrary, I spent most of my effort, my thesis if you will, in explaining that only the person in the field can decide for himself if he is hunting. Where Zack and I seem to be missing each other, is that in my judgment, the moral imperative when you are defining the hunting experience, revolves on the person's belief system. Hunting is not just pulling the trigger, it isn't humping the hills, it isn't the bow, flintlock, or levergun.

No, not any of that. What it is though, is the experience. Hunting is the experience. Whether you sit in an elevated blind and shoot a beanfield rifle, our set up for turkey in a spot that you know is going to produce, or wait to ambush ducks by an open piece of water, you are hunting. That is, you are hunting if your moral compass is steady and tells you you are hunting.

I am hoping that Zack will weigh in here at the Chronicles, I've sent him an e-mail inviting him over. Y'all know me, always room at the campfire...
Photo Credit: Kronhoff
And behind the wood shed...

Related Posts

The Ethical Question, Hunting or Shooting
The High Fence Discussion Continues
The Hog Blog: Hunting Ethics Vs. Logical Debate

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

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.


Caleb Pearce said...

Very well put Albert.

I hope that Zack weighs in as well.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I realise this is a hugely contentious issue on your side of the pond and I'm really enjoying hearing differing voices and opinions. the way you're conducting yourself is a credit not only to hunters in general but single handedly is raising the level of internet discussion. good work chap.

Holly Heyser said...

OK, I read his post and objected to all sorts of stuff, but just don't have the time and energy to respond - not when my back's against the wall on grading and I have a thousand things to do to get ready for our big trip to NY this weekend.

But I don't feel too bad about it: When a post like that gets only one comment in 19 days, methinks it's not getting much attention and perhaps isn't worth my time.

One thought though: He says it's not hunting when there's a no kill-no pay policy. So when Hank and I went striper fishing a few weeks ago and caught nothing and our guide said he'd comp us a trip, was that not fishing? Lots of guides comp you when they don't do their job, which is to put you on game (be it fish, fowl or four-legged).

Anyway, I'm glad you're taking up this battle. Perhaps when school's out I'll have more energy to fight these fights.

native said...

I believe that you have the "Patience Of Job" I would have walked away from such a narrow and opinionated as well as a fact-less viewpoint as people like Zack express, and not given it a second thought.

There is no reason in the world (as far as I can see) to "ever" condemn,disparage,pommel or oppress another persons "Blessings of Liberty" so long as anybody else's blessings of liberty are not being infringed upon.

This sort of thinking (berating someone's outdoor enjoyment) is purely born of ignorance and self indulgence.
Those same self serving individuals usually have not one single shred of dignity or respect when it comes to "crossing someone's fences" in order to poach an animal which they desire.

Sorry for the tirade, and back to what I originally was saying.
Thanks for having the patience and intelligence to address these "false Prophets" in such a well thought out manner.

R. Gabe Davis said...

I don't understand why people like Zack must dislike people they have philosophical differences with and be so insulting. He reminds me of a animal rights activist who of couse has disdain for hunter's because they view killing animals as murder. Maybe the dukkiller is not to far from thinking animals have rights. I believe they have the right to be eaten.

Albert A Rasch said...

Before we get on a "let's beat up Zack" tangent, let's remember that Zack is a hunter just like us. His opinion is just as valid as anyone's, but the purpose of these discussions are to open up avenues of understanding and find common ground.

I've looked Zack's blog over and I find nothing that would lead me to believe that he is anything but sincere in his beliefs. Hell he even has a picture of my favorite tortoise the Box Turtle. He just can't abide game ranching, hunting in enclosures, or "tame" deer. His definition of hunting revolves around the concept of fair chase, and his perspective comes partly from living in a wonderful state like Kansas, where hunting pressures are much lower, and access much greater, than they are on either coast.

So in all fairness, let's discuss the specifics of Zack's assertions and mine.

I've invited Zack to participate, and I hope y'all are as welcoming as I have been. We can argue tooth and nail, maybe take it behind the wood shed, but at the end of the day we are all going to sit around the fire and toast the days successes!

Your Friend,

Caleb Pearce said...

well put Albert He is welcome to have his own view on the subject, and we should respect his views. At least he has a stance on stuff I don't know how manny people I have met who don't have a stance on almost any subject.

Kristine Shreve said...

Albert, this has been a fascinating series of discussions, and a textbook example of how to conduct those discussions on a blog. Kudos to you for working to keep it fair and for making your blog a comfortable space for dissenting opinions to be expressed.

We should all strive to be able to do what you're doing.

Good on you for doing it.

Zack (dukkillr) said...

I’ll start by saying that I have no financial interest of any kind to any type of penned animal shooting operation. I’d hope that anyone else who comments here will make clear if they have the same unbiased starting point. Up to this point they haven’t.

In a piece by Field and Stream a couple of years back they interviewed an elk guide who had led hunters into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Seeking a more regular income stream he took a job at Big Velvet Game Ranch in Montana. Here’s the quote from that piece:

--What disturbed him most, though, was the contrast between real elk hunting and what was being fabricated at the ranch. "If the clients told me that they wanted it to be like a real hunt, the first day I'd drive them around a part where there were no elk, and we'd walk downhill along the ridges awhile. Then the next day, we'd drive up and get one." Their primary interest lay in what the animals would score on the Boone and Crockett scale, says Butler. "The experience just doesn't mean anything to them."—

This is the essence of my point. Killing an animal that is artificially restrained isn’t hunting. Maybe it seems like hunting, particularly to someone who doesn’t know any better, but it’s not. Attending fantasy camp doesn’t make you a major leaguer, and it’s only providing a distant approximation of the major league experience.

But perhaps there’s a better analogy. After all, besides some 50 year olds with tired legs, no one takes those guys seriously. But let’s say, hypothetically, that I want to run a marathon. I’m going to get the T-shirt, the 26.2 sticker, the whole nine yards. But there’s a problem… I work full time and spend a great deal of my free time hunting and fishing (which makes the whole, “he’s really from PETA” claim all the more absurd). So I can’t really train to run the marathon. I figure I’ll just get someone else to drive me 22 of the miles and I’ll run the last 4 and trot across the finish line with a great time. Should anyone question me I’ll just point out that I did run 4 miles and “We runners need to stick together”. I’ll probably also point out that, “Running a marathon is what you make of it”. Then I’d go around telling everyone I completed a marathon.

But we all know what would happen don’t we? No one would take me seriously. It’s absurd. Runners would be appalled at the mockery I made of their sport. I’d skipped all the commitment and skill and cheapened what they dedicate themselves to and take very seriously. Perhaps more important, if I was taken seriously I would be showing young runners that cutting corners is no problem as long as you reach the desired result.

But there’s a reason that this discussion is more important than my hypothetical marathon. Unlike marathons, people and organizations are actively trying to destroy hunting. They look for every window they can find to make inroads with public opinion. So be honest with yourself, what could possibly be more damaging to the reputation of real hunters than this? From the same Field and Stream piece:

--Doug Schleis, publisher of Wild Idaho News, wants the ranches outlawed. "The essence of elk hunting in our state is the experience of wild country and the effort it takes to hunt an elk," he says. "Of 17 shooter-bull operations in Idaho, only six are bigger than 450 acres. We have one as small as 10 acres, one at 25 acres, one at 60 acres. The hunting public here doesn't want this place to become like Texas."—

If the public really understood that people were shooting elk in a 10 acre pen (and it IS a pen if it’s 10 acres) do you think they’d support that activity? Seriously think about this. We are not guaranteed the right to hunt in this country. It is subject to the will of the people, and 95% of those people are non-hunters (stat from this month’s SCI newspaper).

Mr Rasch objected to my characterization of his thesis as, “If it’s killing it’s hunting.” He (and one of the above posters) thought my example of hanging pound puppies was ridiculous. It was. It was supposed to be. The point was that I could pick an example that someone might claim is hunting, but it’s obviously not. The importance is that now we’ve acknowledged that just because someone claims it’s hunting doesn’t make it true. Or, to put it slightly differently, hunting may not be simply what you make of it. So if we agree that some killing isn’t hunting, then it’s just a matter of where you draw the line. We may all disagree on where that line is, and it’s no doubt a difficult question to answer. But there is a bright line answer available to us: killing an animal that cannot escape your boundary is where I draw that line.

I don’t expect this discussion to change anyone’s mind. It won’t change Mr. Rasch’s, and it probably won’t change mine. Several of those who commented here did so without even reading my piece, so I think it’s safe to assume that they’re not looking to challenge their own beliefs. So be it. I told Mr. Rasch that I would engage in this discussion only so that someone would lodge an objection on the behalf of real hunters in favor of real hunting, at least as I see it. A wavering reader should understand that the readership at The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles do not present the only viewpoint available to sportsmen. I would even make the claim that they don’t represent the opinion of a majority of hunters.

So I’ve posted why I don’t think shooting confined animals is hunting. In a perfect world I wouldn’t care though. Frankly, if you want to go out to the south 40 and shoot a Herford and call it hunting, what do I care? Well I care because I want to protect real hunting and the image it invokes in people. I want my kids to have the freedom to hunt like I do. Free animals, wild country, - the way it should always be.

native said...

I would have been prepared to respond to an intelligent rebuttal from (Dukkiller) but all he/she did was regurgitate his/her own essay from his/her own blog.

I tell ya' Albert every time that an animal rights extremist writes in from somewhere with an opinion, they always choose a moniker which sounds extremely offensive.
ie: Dukkiller, Pigslaughter,Deerdeath etc. etc.
It just gets so very tiresome and redundant having witnessed and hearing the same rhetoric time after time, that I am beginning to believe that it might just very well be the same individual each time.

Using the same approach and logic that these "anti" individuals employ, I guess I could go on and on about how a "real hunter" would just hunt with a single dog and a knife.
Just go right on in and grab that animal by the hind leg,flip it over and dispatch it with only that knife in hand and nothing else.

The above scenario sounds exactly like the "My style of hunting is more ethical and challenging than your style of hunting" crowd when they start disparaging another individuals chosen style of hunting enjoyment.

You have nailed it time and again Albert when you have stated that: As long as it is legal and doesn't break any state or federal laws, where is the harm done?
An east coast hunter can legally sit over a bait station with spotlight in hand and kill hogs all night long with a .22 rifle.
A west coast hunter can't legally employ "any" of the above methods of take for wild hogs.
Does that make either one of these hunters ethically right or wrong?
Not in the slightest, just so happens to be the laws of each State and must be followed accordingly.

As I have stated for over 30+ years now, I can smell an Animal Rights Extremist a mile away, even over the sterile environment of the internet!

And DUKKILLER is definitely one!

dukkillr (Zack) said...

Here's an offical invitation to visit during either the fall or spring and hunt with this "Animal Rights Activist". Then I will expect a full, complete and humble apology when it becomes obvious how wrong you are about me.

Albert A Rasch said...


I have had an excellent and constructive e-mail dialogue with Zack over the last couple of weeks. His blog is well put together and documents his outdoor hunting and fishing exploits. He is by no means an animal rights activist.

What he is, is an individual that is very passionate about hunting as it was defined by the American management model instituted in the early 20th century.

Zack and I disagree on some very fundamental points, but we both agree that hunting is something to be preserved and protected. And I might add, that he and I are both personally continuing the discussion of the issue in depth.


native said...

I, as well am very passionate about the blessings of liberty.
Also, concerning the hunting experience as being something pure, spiritual and moving. Something tangible, and at the same time, intangible.
That of which I can pass on down to my children as well.

I would never propose to encroach upon the blessings of liberty of another individual no matter "what" my personal feelings were concerning their fundamental beliefs, philosophies and their religious or hunting practices, as long as it is legal, and does not encroach upon another persons individual liberty's.

The blanket statements made by Zack are so steeped in emotional rhetoric, that I cannot find one shred of science based fact within the context of his essay.
This, type of discord which he display's is just one more example of the "division" caused in the hunting community ranks.

I should think that the true essence of hunting could be held within a person's own individual experience, nothing more,nothing less!
We have enough mandates and oppressive laws without calling for more to be written, thus bogging down our hunting heritage with even more unnecessary trivial.

Zack, if you continue to disparage another's style of hunting (even though it is perfectly legal) while exalting your own, then you deliberately place yourself into the category of divider and belittler of unity.

I would love nothing more than to join you on a hunting trip in the fall Zack (I love the cold weather), Just remember this though.
I do know of some Animal Rights Extremist's who have hunting licenses, and they live for nothing more than to infiltrate, and then divide the hunting community by stirring the pot with hot button topics.

Topics like: High Fence Preserves vs Open Range Hunting, Shot Gun vs Rifle, recurve vs compound, Public Land Humping vs Private Land Easy, Trophy Hunting vs Sustenance Hunting etc. etc.

Express your opinions yes! But do not make the claim that your style of hunting is more ethical and challenging than someone else's.

Remember the old Joe South song, "Walk A Mile In My Shoes"
"Before you criticize me do, Walk a mile in my shoes!