Friday, December 31, 2010


by Jim Posewitz
November 2010

Hunting in this creative “New World” democracy we call America is still carving a sustainable niche for itself as our rapidly evolving culture closes the first decade of the 21st Century.  A lot has happened since we became a nation in the 18th Century, declared wildlife a public resource in the 19th Century, exploited many species to near extinction in that same century, and then restored almost all the hunted species to a wonderful abundance by the close of the 20th Century.

            Introduction of a hunter’s sporting code and the emergence of a conservation ethic late in the 19th Century, advanced by people like George Bird Grinnell, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gifford Pinchot, led to the restoration of a wonderful wildlife abundance.  As this was occurring, hunters gained the cultural respect of the people.  The respect was earned through the conservation investment of sportsmen; and, through the image they presented as hardy outdoorsmen in fair chase pursuit of wild, elusive, maybe even a few dangerous, game animals.  In the process, the animals pursued also acquired a value with the idea of trophy very much a part of the social value of wildlife.  In the process, wildlife trophies became symbols representing hunters gaining honor through effort and the animals too were thus valued.

            As with any activity in a free-enterprise market driven economy, things of value are coveted, taken as commodities, and peddled for a price.  This was true in the 19th Century when the last buffalo seeking sanctuary in Yellowstone Park were poached for profit.  It is true today as game farmers and high-fence ranchers domesticate deer, elk, and other species for profit.  The peril is that each purchased pseudo-trophy devalues the real thing the community had come to value as totally wild and traditionally earned through personal effort.

            The privatizing, commercializing and domesticating of American wildlife is not a new phenomenon.  Theodore Roosevelt spoke directly to the subject in Outdoor Pastimes of An American Hunter in 1905 when he wrote: “The professional market hunter who kills game for the hide or for the feathers or for the meat or to sell antlers and other trophies ….and the rich people, who are content to buy what they have not the skill to get by their own exertions – these are the men who are the real enemies of game.”  At the time, he was President of the United States.

            On the positive side, there are still legions of American hunters in fair chase pursuit of wildlife out on the great American commons – gaining honor through effort and collecting trophies as honorable and rock solid as Mount Rushmore.  Their activity and character was described by the last president whose image we chiseled into that national icon.  Here is how TR described the hunter and the hunt:

When hunting him (wapiti) …he must be followed on foot, and the man who follows him must be sound in limb and wind.”

“…skill and patience, and the capacity to endure fatigue and exposure, must be shown by the successful hunter.”

“We knew toil and hardship and thirst…but we felt the beat of hardy life in our veins, and ours was the glory of work and the joy of living.”

“If they would only keep to rowboats or canoes, and use oar or paddle themselves, they would get infinitely more benefit than by having their work done for them by gasoline.”

“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach the highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”

            Writing in his biography Gifford Pinchot, the father of American forestry, had cause to describe the character of TR.  While scores of biographers have written volumes trying to capture the essence of TR, it took Pinchot only nine words to describe what the man was all about.  Pinchot wrote: “He was an outdoor man – more a wilderness hunter.” TR’s observations on gaining honor through effort are as valuable today as they were the day he penned them.  The value our society places on wildlife trophies was built on the reality of what it takes to earn success afield – not really on the dimensions of the animal thus taken.  Each commercially manufactured pseudo-trophy or catered easy kill only contributes to the inevitable erosion and ultimate loss of those values.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's what you do after the shot

The other day a fellow came up to me to ask if I would sign a copy of my book, Vermont Wild. He then said, "You arrested me years ago for shooting an illegal deer, do you remember me?" I had to admit I didn't but if he remeinded me of the facts I might. Turned out he had shot at a legal buck, and hit a doe. He didn't realize it until he came out of the woods and his neighbor pointed out a blood trail coming down the hill. This fellow then figured out what happened and proceeded to try and cover up what had happened. With the help of good tracking snow he eventually fessed up and settled it thru court diversion.
The clipping below shows a better way to do it. Like my neighboring warden would say, "Everyone makes mistakes, but the measure of a man is what they do after." Very true...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

100 yard bow shot at a deer? Wrong!

There is a discussion going on over at the On Your Own Adventures blog about a hunting show bow hunter talking about taking a shot at over 100 yards at a deer. He claims he can make that shot constantly on targets.
My take on long bow shots is that anything over 45 yards is a no shoot, no matter how good a shot you are. At that range even the fastest bow will not get the arrow to the deer faster than it can react to the sound or sight of the arrow coming toward it. Plus all the usual problems with the animal moving just as you release,,,
Clean kill is a core ethic for hunters. We all know that lots of stuff can go wrong, but it is our responsibility to reduce the chances of a wounding shot as much as we can before taking a shot. One quote that comes to mind is, " you don't shoot to see if you can hit your target, you only shoot when you know you can hit it."
There was a variation on this in one of the hunting magazines a few years ago with a very long rifle shot and the writer justified it because it was a once in a life time trophy. Which sounded to me he valued this deer less than a normal deer by taking a much higher probability wounding shot. More likely he got sucked into the mind set that he was hunting to kill a big animal for bragging rights. It that is true, why not use poison, or napalm or a machine gun?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

VT Lawmakers Look To Reverse 'Pete The Moose" Law

The Public Trust of Wildlife got a boost today here in Vermont. Both the Burlington Free Press and Vermont Public Radio had feature pieces on a new bill designed to repeal the "Nelson Amendment" that passed in the 11th hour last year that gave control of native deer and moose to the operator of a shooting park in Irasburg. When the give-a-way of our public property became known, Orion began a campaign to educate Vermonters about the public trust doctrine. Using several papers commissioned by Orion in an earlier fight in Montana, it soon was clear to hunters and many legislators that this amendment was in violation of hundreds of years of common law and case law.
We then convened a meeting of the hunter/conservation leaders and legislators to craft a coordinated plan for reversing the damage and restoring the public trust of wildlife. Representative Kate Webb and Fish and Wildlife Committee chair David Deen crafted a draft bill. After input from the group at our second meeting the bill was finalized. With over 30 sponsors and the support of Governor Elect Peter Shumlin, it appears there is a good chance it will pass. However, the owner of Big Rack Ridge is unlikely to return ownership of "his" deer and moose to the citizens without a fight.

From Vermont Public Radio:

Lawmakers Look To Reverse 'Pete The Moose" Law

Listen (13:04)
Tuesday, 12/21/10 12:50pm
AP/Toby Talbot
Pete the moose eats leaves in a tree in Irasburg, Vt., Thursday, July 30, 2009.
Incoming Governor Peter Shumlin and other legislators are hoping to reverse a law that went into effect this year that ended up giving the owner of an elk hunting park custody of all the wild moose and deer on the property--including Pete the Moose. Burlington Free Press reporter Candace Page discusses the potential change to the law, and how it would impact Pete the Moose. 

From the Burlington Free Press:

Vermont lawmakers set to reverse 'Pete the Moose' law

By Candace Page, Free Press Staff Writer • Monday, December 20, 2010 

Key lawmakers and Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin are ready to reverse a 2010 law drafted in secret and passed at the 11th hour that gave an Northeast Kingdom farmer ownership of wild deer and moose on his property, an action that provoked an outcry among hunters.

Key lawmakers and Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin are ready to reverse a 2010 law drafted in secret and passed at the 11th hour that gave an Northeast Kingdom farmer ownership of wild deer and moose on his property, an action that provoked an outcry among hunters.

A bill already in draft form restates the longstanding principle that wild animals belong to all people of Vermont. It requires the wild deer and moose trapped inside Doug Nelson’s elk hunting park to be removed, probably through hunting. It also allows for protection of young Pete the Moose, an orphaned resident of the park.

Read More



Federal Court Of Appeals Ruling Deals Blow To Wildlife Conservation

From the USSF:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                      
           Contact:     Greg R. Lawson (614) 888-4868 x 214
December 21, 2010                                                          Sharon Hayden (614) 888-4868 x 226

Federal Court Of Appeals Ruling Deals Blow To Wildlife Conservation

(Columbus, OH) -The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling which protected active wildlife conservation efforts on National Wildlife Refuge lands.
In 2007, environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) after the FWS had restored wildlife watering devices within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona on lands designated as “wilderness areas.”  The watering devices are critical to the survival of bighorn sheep and other desert species.
The groups’ lawsuit claimed that the Wilderness Act prohibited the FWS from constructing the watering devices because the Act required that wilderness areas be left totally unaffected by human activities. 
The Service, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF), and a host of other conservation groups argued that the wilderness designation within the Refuge did not prohibit the FWS from engaging in active wildlife conservation efforts.  Overall, the USSAF argued that the Refuge was required to be managed to conserve wildlife pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, even on lands designated as wilderness areas.
In 2008, Judge Mary H. Murguia of the U.S. District Court for Arizona sided with the FWS and USSAF and found that the Wilderness Act did not prohibit active wildlife management in the Kofa areas.
By a 2 to 1 vote, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision.  The Court found that the FWS could not construct or maintain watering devices unless it found that devices were “necessary” for bighorn sheep conservation.  It also found that the FWS could not show that the devices were “necessary” for sheep conservation until the FWS showed first that banning hunting, banning sheep translocations, controlling mountain lions, and restricting other forms of human visitation would not sufficiently conserve the sheep.
“This is truly a misguided and unfortunate ruling by the Ninth Circuit,” said Bud Pidgeon,  USSAF president and CEO.  “Precedent from this lawsuit could severely handicap the FWS’s wildlife conservation efforts in the future.”
In light of the recent decision, the USSAF will be examining all remaining options to minimize the effects of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.
Joining the USSAF in the lawsuit were several other conservation groups including: Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundaton, Yuma Valley Rod & Gun Club, Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

THUG shotguns and TV show - you've got to be kidding!

This from the Outdoor Wire.
It makes you wonder, what are these people thinking??? Naming a series of shotguns THUG and a TV show! If some anti group smeard  us with this term the NRA would be all over them. But the marketers at Mossberg and Mossy Oak do it and we all roll over. As Pogo famously said, "We have met the enemy and it is us."

Mossberg delivers four new high-performance Turkey THUG shotgun models, each engraved with "Turkey THUG Series" on the receiver. Mossberg Turkey THUG shotguns will be the exclusive shotguns used in Mossy Oak's Turkey THUG television program in 2011-2012, which airs on the Pursuit Channel. | For More...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Executive Director Nuse Tapped to Advise on Hiring New VT Fish and Wildlife Commissioner

Newly appointed Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, Deb Markowitz,  asked me to help identify the most important atributes for a new Commissioner of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and to assist in the hiring process. Today, along with former commissioner and NWF regional representative, Steve Wright, we went over the resumes' with Secretary Markowitz and narrowed the field to three. She will now interview the finalist and make her recommendation to Governor Elect Shumlin.
I was honored to be asked to assist and heartened by the openness of the process. It was also clear that comptience, experience, knowledge of the science and the people served by the Department was important. Politics was not on the list.
I have a very good feeling that the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Dept will be under excellent management come January and they will be well supported by Governor Shumlin and Secretary Markowitz.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wildlife War Is Not Over Yet

The first game warden murdered in the US was under the employ of the Audubon Society working on Pelican Island in Florida. The latest was a Warden in my birth state of Pennsylvania. We should never forget there is a "thin green line" of dedicated folks out there protecting our wildlife from the greedy, the lazy and the criminal.

BY JOHN MESSEDER, Gettysburg Times – Nov. 22, 2010
The call went out over the radio for the officer identified as 4-16.
“Sir, there is no response from 4-1-6.”
“Please take 4-1-6, Wildlife Conservation officer David Grove, Badge Number J2038, out of service for the final time. Radio Call 4-1-6 shall be retired forever.”
Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove, was shot and killed at 10:38 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11, by a man thought to have been poaching deer.
The dialog retiring Grove’s radio call identifier and badge number was recited Sunday evening, as he was interred at Green Hill Cemetery, in Waynesboro.
About 2,000 people filled the Waynesboro Senior High School auditorium Sunday afternoon for the funeral service. A lone bagpiper, WCO Jack Lucas led a detail of fellow Wildlife Conservation Officers into the auditorium, carrying Grove’s flag-draped coffin.
A childhood friend, Josh Miles recalled Grove’s deep laugh, which he described as “more like a chuckle, that came all the way down from his toes, … pounding his fist on the table, wondering if he was going to be OK.”
“I’ll never forget that laugh,” Josh said. “I never want anyone … to forget that laugh.”
Another close friend talked of taking Grove to his first ice hockey game, and making him a Pittsburgh Penguins fan.
“(Grove) love-hate relationship with the game of golf,” Tony Myers said. “It was the only time he tried to not spend too much time in the woods.”
David’s brother, Chad, in a voice broken by tears and sniffs, described the brother with whom he went to school, hunted and fished, and got into mischief, “and also the discipline that followed those (latter) events.”
After recalling his brother’s relationship of support with the children in his family, “It will be hard to watch them grow without you there,” he said to his departed brother.
WCO Kris Krebs worked with Grove in Centre County, and during his turn to talk at the funeral called him “brother officer (and) closest friend.”
The night Grove was shot, Krebs said he was waiting for dinner to be served to himself and other officers in a Denny’s restaurant when he talked with Grove by phone.
“You know, real game wardens aren’t sitting in a booth in Denny’s,” Grove told his friends.
Dinner was served, the phone call ended.
A few hours later, Grove was dead.
Grove’s pastors described the intense faith, in a life that included two years at Appalachian Bible College before he switched to become a Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer.
“It wasn’t something he did to earn money, but something he felt called to do,” said Pastor Brad Heacock.
At the end of the service, an otherwise silent audience punctuated a video of Grove’s life with sniffles and stifled coughs, and a piano accompanied “Amazing Grace.”
Gov. Ed Rendell, who had attended in silence, and was not introduced, left the auditorium quietly.
Outside, more well-wishers lined both sides of the two-mile long route from the high school to Green Hill Cemetery. The procession required nearly an hour to enter the cemetery, where Grove was saluted, words of faith were spoken, a Pa. State Police helicopter executed a flyover, and Grove’s radio call and badge number were “retired forever.”
The suspect in Grove’s killing was arrested Nov. 12. District Attorney Shawn Wagner has said he likely will seek the death penalty; killing a police officer is one of a limited number of convictions that carry that penalty in Pennsylvania.
Grove was the first Pennsylvania game warden killed in the line of duty in 95 years.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Draft bill to reaffirm the public trust of wildlife in Vermont

At our last coordinating meeting for the Public Trust, Rep David Dean distributed copies of the bill he intends to introduce in the next session of the Vermont Legislature. We had a good discussion on the proposed bill and several areas will be modified before it is introduced. Copied below is the statement of purpose of the draft bill:

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to declare that the fish and wildlife of Vermont are held in trust by the state for the benefit of the citizens of Vermont and shall not be reduced to private ownership.  The bill would also declare that the fish and wildlife of Vermont are owned and controlled by the state in its sovereign capacity as the trustee for the citizens of the state.  In addition, the bill would repeal the regulatory authority of the agency of agriculture, food and markets over the wild cervidae at a captive cervidae farm in Irasburg.  Regulatory authority over the wild cerivade at the Irasburg facility would be transferred to the department of fish and wildlife.
The finalized bill should be ready in early December. Then the work will begin to get it passed in a timely manner.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rasch on High fence hunting

Just ran across this post by Albert Rasch at The Rausch Outdoor Chronicles blog: High Fence Hunting: Is the Public the Problem?

I really like some of what Rasch has to say here. An excerpt:
While I agree with the premise that American wildlife is a public resource, I object to the idea that because I own the real estate they inhabit, I should be prohibited from profiting from their presence or for granting someone access to them, whatever the reason. Never mind that I have a very real interest in wildlife management, once that fence goes up I am publicly stating that I choose to use the land I own in any way I wish, from plowing it up and flattening it out for mono-culture corn growing, to highly ethical permaculture based land use. Regardless, from the perspective of anyone but the landowner, access is now prohibited in very real terms, to not only the real estate, but from everything animate and inanimate upon the dirt.

Again, in principal I do not disagree with
Tovar and the others with respect to the unpalatability of some enclosed or put and take operations. My objection to banning the use of high fence hunting is simply one of liberty, private property, and the libertarian ideals. Bad apples will be weeded out, of that there is no doubt - the internet makes darn sure that everything gets way out in the open - and the market soon adjusts to the realities on the ground. But seriously, how many operations are there out there with an elk in a cage and a corral for some knuckle head to shoot it in? How many of you know of someone with a twenty acre high fence enclosure, billing itself as a trophy hunting mecca? Business excesses of that sort, should they exist, can be dealt with through the legislative process if the market forces don't resolve it. . . .
The probability of someone hand feeding an elk, supplementing his diet with high protein pellets and vitamin tablets, in an attempt to raise a 400 class bull, is pretty high. If that person then releases it into an enclosure regardless of size, shoots it, and then hangs it on the wall for all to see, that's his choice. It wouldn't be my choice of course. It might not be yours either. Now if he sold you the right to shoot that bull, that would be your choice to buy it... or not. It's up to you. I just don't see the moral dilemma.

My argumentative buddy Dukkiller (
The Daily Limit, see his post The “Facts” About High Fence Shooting?!?. He is a lawyer after all..) often reminds me that the problem starts when you call that hunting. I don't disagree with him entirely; I wouldn't call that hunting either. In some cases its plain old shooting. But that's none of my business. That's the chump who paid big money for a semi-tame elk so he could hang it on the wall, that's his business. I would prefer that he keeps his business to himself too.
Rasch is led to ask "why High Fence ranches exist in the first place," and while I am not sure I agree 100% with his market analysis, I do agree that high fence ranches symbolize a failure of modern, publicly-funded game management to give hunters what they desire. The state of Pennsylvania, for example, has just spent the past ten years trying to implement the rudiments of a Quality Deer Management system. It has not been an easy process, and the jury is still out whether it works or not. If private companies can do better what the state cannot, then I think we should at least have that discussion.

The failure of states like Pennsylvania to produce a quality deer hunting experience for a certain percentage of hunters seems to me to be another casualty of an exclusive "we hunt for food" philosophy. While many hunters enjoy eating the food that hunting yields, food is not the sole motivator for many hunters. Managers who downplay other motivations--including aesthetic motivations for sport and trophy--perhaps are guilty of a kind of blind spot.

At any rate, a very thought-provoking piece by Albert Rasch.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Honor the hunt by hunting with honor

We have had some discussion amongst the Orion board about having a “tagline” or a slogan to fix in people’s minds when they think of Orion. One candidate is the title of this post: “Honor the hunt by hunting with honor.”

Some of us like this line, some don’t. Advantages include the connotations with fair chase, respect for game animals and for the sport of hunting, and promoting the positive idea of “honorable behavior” or hunting honorably when no one is looking.

Negative reactions have focused on the aristocratic connotations of the term “honor.” As in “Your honor” and deference to high rank.

Although some our board members are sensitive to the negative connotations of “honor,” they argue that allowing some interpretation of what it means to hunt with honor isn't necessarily a bad thing. They point out that to some people honor will mean respecting the animal, to others it may mean respecting other hunters and landowners, and being true to their own value system.

To me, honor as an ethical term carries more positive than negative associations. When we speak of an honorable person, we think approvingly of an honest and trustworthy individual who is able to follow his/her convictions and act with integrity. In this way, honor and integrity function as moral virtues. “He is a man of honor and therefore will keep his word.”

In one of the few sustained book-length works on the topic, Honor, anthropologist Frank Henderson Stewart argues that honor is best understood as a right to respect. This interpretation, too, has certain advantages to hunters. Ethical hunters command the respect of their fellow hunters. At the same time ethical hunters ask that society extend the same respect to them and to ethical hunting.

Stewart reviews the range of meanings that includes the idea of honor as a moral virtue. He cites a famous passage by the Renaissance humanist Fran├žois Rabelais that captures the essence of this meaning: “Free people, well-born, well-instructed, conversing in good company, have by nature an instinct and a spur that always impels them to virtuous behavior and restrains them from vice: they call it honor.”

For hunters, the Rabelaisian meaning is analogous: Ethical hunters, well-brought up, well-instructed, surrounded by a supportive hunting community, have instinctively a trait that always impels them to ethical hunting behavior and restrains them from its opposite: that trait is honor.

Or we might think in terms of sportsmanship. Sportsmen do not take advantage of the animal, rather they give it. Fair chase is all about giving every possible advantage to the animal within the limits of the hunter’s own individual abilities and skill level. The novice hunter begins on a more level playing field than the expert; the expert accordingly restricts his advantage over the game with ever more restrictive techniques, including stricter rules, less efficient technologies, and voluntary restraint. The advanced deer hunter may forego the gun for a bow, impose antler restrictions on himself, and hunt only by stalking his prey on the ground rather than using a tree stand. Each of these voluntary, self-imposed choices confer advantage to the animal while removing advantages from the hunter.

These voluntary choices are born of respect for the game animal, but they are also in an important sense born out of respect for the hunt itself. Hunting does not take place in a cultural vacuum, but instead occurs within an ongoing historical tradition that identifies the moral bounds of honorable and ethical hunting.

Fair chase is sportsmanship, therefore, in an important sense. Honorable fair chase hunting is hunting with honor, but fair chase hunting is also deserving of honor—that is, the honorable fair chase hunter is someone who has earned the right to society’s respect.

I believe this is the image of hunting that Orion the Hunter’s Institute wants to communicate and promote. We should embrace the fact that the ethical hunter deserves respect.

We should embrace the fact that the ethical hunter deserves a kind of “deference to high rank.” After all, the ethical hunter who holds to a high standard of fair chase is truly elite, in the best sense of the word.

We should embrace the fact that the ethical hunter is worthy of our respect and deference both. In the same way that we defer to skill and knowledge in other contexts—dentists and doctors come to mind—we should hold up the example of good hunters as models to follow. We can and should defer to the experience of skilled hunters, and we should hold their hunting knowledge in the high esteem it deserves.

In this way, Orion the Hunter’s Institute can promote a vision of admittedly elite hunting, and of elite hunters. Why wouldn’t we? Elite hunters, that is to say, who honor the hunt by hunting with honor.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

ND Hunter's for Fair Chase Measure

KFGO pod cast featuring Orion founder Jim Posewitz talking about hunting heritage and how it relates to high fence shooting operations:

ND Hunter's for Fair Chase Measure 2 pt1
Dick Monson and Jim Posewitz, North Dakota Hunter's for Fair Chase, talks about Measure 2 on the November 2 ballot.

Fish & Wildlife Commissioner raps elk hunting park plan

From the Burlington Free Press:
Politics and Government
A trophy elk strolls along a road at Big Rack Ridge in Irasburg on Monday, June 14, 2010. It is part of a herd of 50 or more male elk on the square-mile property. Owner Doug Nelson of Derby sells elk hunts for $2,000 to $7,500 to clients from across the Northeast.
A trophy elk strolls along a road at Big Rack Ridge in Irasburg on Monday, June 14, 2010. It is part of a herd of 50 or more male elk on the square-mile property. Owner Doug Nelson of Derby sells elk hunts for $2,000 to $7,500 to clients from across the Northeast.

By Candace Page, Free Press Staff Writer • Wednesday, October 27, 2010
  • Debate continues to swirl around Big Rack Ridge, the hunting park in Irasburg that is home to non-native elk, exotic deer, native white-tailed deer and an orphaned moose known as Pete.

In a six-page letter to the Agriculture Agency, Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche says the park’s proposed management plan fails to comply with state regulations and might not protect the health of the park habitat, the captive animals or Vermont’s wild deer.
“The plan offers little, if any, assurance that management of this captive herd will be conducted in such a manner as to secure the health of Vermont’s free-ranging white-tailed deer and moose population,” Laroche wrote late last week.
He was responding to a plan filed by Doug Nelson, a dairy farmer who also raises trophy-sized elk, which are confined to Big Rack Ridge, where hunters pay to shoot them. The management plan was written by Nelson’s consultant, James Kroll of Texas, a wildlife biologist and an expert in managing captive deer.
Nelson and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment about Laroche’s critique.
Laroche has no power to approve or deny the plan. In legislation written behind closed doors earlier this year, state lawmakers stripped his department of oversight of the Nelson park and transferred that authority to the Agriculture Agency.
Legislators acted after public protests that Fish and Wildlife rules would require killing all the native deer and moose trapped inside Nelson’s five miles of fencing as a disease-prevention measure. State wildlife biologists say the non-native animals brought to the hunting park could spread a feared illness, chronic wasting disease, to Vermont’s wild herd.
Protesters were defending Pete the Moose, an orphaned bull moose adopted by a local man and later housed at Big Rack Ridge. Pete became a cause celebre, with his own Facebook page and rallies.
But the legislators’ decision also sparked outrage, this time on the part of some hunters who fear not only the spread of deer diseases but viewed the law change as giving Nelson ownership of the white-tailed deer inside his fence, deer that by longstanding doctrine are considered the property of all citizens.

read more:

Agriculture Agency Denies Management Plan for Elk Farm

From blurt Seven Days staff blog:

Agriculture Agency Denies Management Plan for Elk Farm

250-LM-moose21 The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has rejected plans to manage wildlife on a 700-acre Irasburg game preserve owned by Doug Nelson, whose herd of elk became famous this year when it was joined by a moose — Pete the Moose.
The agency said Nelson's 20-page proposal offered few details about how he planned to ensure that his captive animials would not mix with the native species. The proposal also failed to show how Nelson planned to accurately catalogue all of the animals currently penned inside his 700-acre Irasburg preserve, and it provided the agency with no plans for how it would manage the herds going forward.
In a separate letter to Nelson the agency did approve elements of his fencing plan, which includes adding a second perimeter fence around his game preserve as a way to keep native species out and nonnative species in. However, the agency asked him to add one electrified wire at 54 inches from the ground. Nelson has proposed only going as high as 42 inches.
The rejection is the latest in a nearly one-year saga that started when a national public relations campaign was launched to "Save Pete the Moose" from being killed by state officials. Nelson has been flaunting state authority for years, and the state was trying to force Nelson to find better ways to keep wild and captive species from mixing. Their fear? Chronic wasting disease, a brain disease that affects cervids in a similar way to how "mad cow disease" affects bovines.
Part of that plan included a culling effort to thin out the herds through controlled hunts.
The public outcry eventually led to a last-minute, secretive legislative deal that ensured that Nelson could ensnare, and eventually kill, all wild animals found on his property. Nelson also owns a private stock of breeding elk in Derby.
In short, Pete may have been "saved", but Nelson also got to keep all of Pete's friends to hunt at a later date. That outraged many hunters and wildlife advocates who believe the move violated the stae's public trust doctrine. How? By handing over a public asset— the wildlife — to a private individual to later for profit.
Part of the last-minute legislative deal included a caveat that the Agency of Agriculture — not the Department of Fish and Wildlife — would regulate Nelson's herd. For years, Nelson had rebuffed efforts by DFW to regulate his herd of elk. In part, because DFW wanted Nelson to have a better culling plan to thin out his herd, and to ensure that wild deer were not mingling with some of his own captive deer.
Read more

Monday, October 25, 2010

Major Sportsmen’s Victory in Maine

Court of Appeals Upholds Major Sportsmen’s Victory in Maine

U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and Leading Trapping Groups

Win Again in Precedent Setting Case

(Columbus) – Trappers in Maine and sportsmen nationwide scored a huge victory after a Federal Court of Appeals rejected an effort from anti-hunting groups seeking to use the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to stop trapping in the state. This decision reaffirms a lower court decision that set a precedent against manipulation of the ESA to stop hunting, fishing, and trapping.

“We are ecstatic and relieved that this lawsuit is no longer a threat to our lifestyle as we prepare to open the 2010 trapping season,” said Skip Trask of the Maine Trappers Association. “The Maine Trappers Association couldn’t be happier with this decision. It is much more than just a victory for Maine. This decision will help protect all trapping and other sports from coast to coast. We appreciate the support and guidance of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation (USSAF) legal team and all of our partners.”

The anti-hunting groups had originally filed the suit in 2008 against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. They had argued that Maine’s trapping regulations provided insufficient protection for the Canada lynx, a species listed as threatened under the ESA, and thus required the season to be stopped.

The USSAF, along with the Maine Trappers’ Association, Fur Takers of America, National Trappers’ Association, and several individual sportsmen, intervened in the case on behalf of the state. The groups argued that those seeking to shut down an entire season of trapping (or hunting or fishing) must not only prove the incidental take of an ESA-protected species, but also “irreparable harm” to the population.

In the initial lower court decision, Judge Woodcock concluded that the take of individual members of a reasonably numerous protected species does not necessarily meet the requirement of irreparable harm. He also indicated that the take of lynx occurring in Maine foothold traps, typically catch-and-release incidents, did not constitute irreparable harm in this case. Consequently, Judge Woodcock declined the injunction and the trapping season was able to take place.

Unhappy with the result, the anti-hunting groups filed an appeal in December, 2009 seeking to reverse Judge Woodcock’s decision. The USSAF and the others immediately filed legal briefs in order to defend the major legal victory.

In the unanimous opinion rejecting the appeal, Chief Judge Lynch affirmed Judge Woodcock’s findings that the plaintiffs’ failed to demonstrate the irreparable harm necessary for an injunction. Judge Lynch then went on to criticize the plaintiffs’ last-minute request for lesser sanctions restricting trapping. In the lower court, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) expressly refused that option and instead pursued a full ban on trapping.

“It may well have done so for tactical reasons, preferring to stress the inadequacy of other remedies in order to strengthen its case for injunctive relief against foothold traps,” wrote Lynch. “Parties are held to their choices and AWI's bait and switch tactics in the courts are to be deplored, not rewarded.”

The latest decision should assist in the defense of any further lawsuits by anti-trappers. It leaves the plaintiffs in this case with few options other than a petition to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The Supreme Court agrees to consider only a few dozen cases a year out of the many hundreds of cases filed with it each year.

“It was clear all along that anti-hunters were looking to set a precedent that could be used in state after state to shut down not only trapping, but hunting and fishing as well,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSAF president and CEO. “With this strong decision, antis are going to have a far more difficult time doing this.”

About the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing, trapping, and shooting – that generate the money to pay for them. The Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible.

About the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organizations that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Backpacker Hunter - "Killer Hike"

This is one of the rare times that I have seen an article on "the other side" done to this level.
*Note* there are 9 pages to it, so when you finish the first click on the 2 just below it, then 3, etc. I struggled a bit until my 9 year old pointed it out...........Mark Hirvonen

From Backpacker Magazine
Killer Hike

When a lifelong backpacker decides to shoot a deer, will he lose touch with the wilderness he loves--or get closer to it?
by: Bruce Barcott Photography by Paolo Marchesi
Tracking dear in the Snake River Bluffs.
Tracking dear in the Snake River Bluffs.

Day three: Gator’s last chance at a deer. We decide to hit it hard, hunting the Blue Mountains’ ponderosa pine forests in the morning and working the isolated Grande Ronde River breaks in the afternoon.

At first light, Gator and I and Shaun Bristol, who has joined us for the morning, set up on the edge of a Blue Mountain meadow. We’d seen some does browsing in the field at dusk the previous night, and figure we might catch a buck among them this morning. We lean against the rough bark of the ponderosas, trying to blend in and remain motionless. If open-field hunting is all about covering ground and flushing game, forest hunting requires opposite tactics: Hide and wait for the prey to come to you. Or so we think. We’re hunting for the first time without Jennifer—a solo flight of sorts.

As Gator creeps forward for a better view, a spear of meadow barley nails him in the eye.

“God damn,” he says, pulling the barbs out of his eyelid.

“Um, guys…” Shaun is trying to get our attention.

“Did you get it out?” I ask. Gator shakes his head.

“Guys…” Shaun says. I look back at him. He points to two whitetail bucks quietly crossing

the road 20 yards behind us.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say. The deer catch our movement and bolt into the
forest. I laugh at the thought of Gator and me standing there, Jethro and Elmer Fudd, as our prey fearlessly strolls by.

In the afternoon, we load our packs with food and water and hitch a ride to the rim of the Grande Ronde River canyon. The Grande Ronde, a tributary of the Snake, unwinds like a curling ribbon through the Columbia Plateau near the Oregon-Washington border. It’s world famous for its steelhead, and the dry, brushy ravines above the river are prime habitat for deer, coyote, wild turkey, chukar, black bear, elk, and bighorn sheep.

We have a plan. Gator and I will start about a quarter-mile apart at the top of the rim, then pick our way down in a V that meets at the bottom of the ravine. I’ll flush the deer in Gator’s direction.

As I heel plunge down the scab-land ravine, my eyes scanning for movement, Gator in my periphery, a sort of perfect moment comes over me. My own hunt is done. Because I’ve already bagged my deer, I can relax and enjoy the hike, the camaraderie, the strategy and cunning, the suspense, and the pure joy of physical movement in the wild. Gator, on the other hand, hunts with all the pressure and anxiety of a live trigger. If you’re doing it right, hunting comes with a huge responsibility. You’ve got to line up a good shot, not carelessly wound the animal, not shoot something illegal, not crack off an errant bullet that flies into a house a half-mile away, and not kill your partner. It’s not that far from mountain climbing, in fact. A certain amount of danger and risk enhances the experience of moving across wild terrain. It revs up your adrenaline and puts the senses on edge. Hunting combines strategy, motion, experience, skill, and danger.

read more:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hunting Stories

Vermont Folklife Center Radio
Deer Stories

Deer Stories

Deer STories
Hunting is as fundamental to Vermont's cultural heritage as dairy farming, and its lineage reaches back beyond the arrival of the first European settlers. But as Vermont has changed, knowledge of hunting is no longer universal and some Vermonters are entirely outside its culture.
Based on interviews with hunters conducted by the Vermont Folklife Center, the Deer Stories series does not advocate for hunting but rather explores the experience from an insider’s point of view. In programs that range from tracking to taking an animal’s life, deer hunters introduce us to their world through stories that illustrate its culture, practices, and core values.
The twenty-three narrators featured in this series were chosen for their passion, knowledge, commitment and excellence as deer hunters, and their stories are representative of stories heard many times over in the course of this research.
About the Series
About the Hunters
Read the Transcripts
Listen Online (sign-in required)

1. Hunting with My Dad
2. The Changing Culture
3. A Championship Buck
4. "Hunt Like an Indian"
5. Careful What You Shoot
6. Being in the Woods
7. The Rut
8. Taking a Life
9. Hunting Companions
10. Mother and Daughter
11. Dogs and Deer
12. Cleo Johnson and Lady

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Wolves and the ESA

The following is from a message sent out to Montana Wildlife Federation folks:


I stumbled on this posting today from In this link, Don Peay, of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife outlines why he’s upset with Senator’s Baucus and Tester for their insistence that a moderate, reasonable wolf bill be considered over the Texas bill which would permanently preclude wolves from ever being listed under the Endangered Species Act. That means if we were down to one wolf in Alaska, wolves would never be listed and/or protected. That’s a damned shame. We would never agree to that for elk, otters, bighorn sheep or any other animal, and we should never agree to that for wolves, as troublesome as they are.

Regardless of how we individually feel about wolves, and the impacts wolves are having to hunting and ungulate populations, it is imperative for Hunters to maintain their conservation roots. To permanently exclude one animal based on inconvenience and political punditry is an affront to our conservation heritage. States can manage wolves effectively and sustainably, while mitigating impacts. Our state and Idaho have developed plans that would reasonably manage wolves. That’s all we’re asking for from Congress.

To permanently preclude a critter based on hatred or convenience is a horrible precedent to set, and it paints hunters and slathering fools who only care about species that we hunt and fish for. I don’t know one hunter or angler who cannot identify the warble of meadowlark, or who doesn’t spend some time watching mink, martens and otters. Our outdoor experience is heightened by these non-game species, and we must constantly strive to protect them as much as we protect elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep. To do otherwise betrays the heritage that our fathers, and their fathers have passed down to us.

Please take a moment and read the link. The position that people who are pushing for a Texas solution to a Montana issue do not have your best interest at heart. They are more interested in wielding power and influence. These same advocates have turned Utah into a “once in a lifetime” state for nonresident elk hunters, and in many areas, for resident hunters. They have, through their advocacy, kept Wyoming’s flawed plan in place, and have kept the Rocky Mountain Wolf listed for more years than any environmental group. Their policy has nothing to do with the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, and everything to do with transferable tags, set-asides, and blocking off public lands for the well heeled.

We have seen the enemy, and he is us, as the old saying goes. Senators Tester and Baucus have genuinely worked with MWF and other local stakeholders to develop a solution that has a chance at passage in the lame duck, but it will require hunters to stand up and support reason, civility, and most importantly, a Montana solution.

Representative Rehberg will be holding three panel discussions regarding Wolves next week in Hamilton, Kalispell and Dillon. Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife will be at the Dillon meeting and possibly the Hamilton meeting as well. Luckily, due to MWF’s and our club leaders’ hard work on this issue, we will be included in these panels as well. It is critical for clubs to turn out and let Representative Rehberg know that while we demand that the wolf be delisted, we also firmly believe that any attempts to weaken the ESA under the guise of wolf delisting is a dead end street for us.

Whether or not the Endangered Species Act needs reform is not the issue. That can be taken up in the next Congress. Now, under the stresses and complications inherent in a Lame Duck Session, we have the opportunity to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho. We should take that opportunity and move forward.

These meetings will take place as follows:

October 5:  Dillon
9:00-11:00 AM
University of Montana Western, Lewis and Clark Room at Matthews Hall
October 5:  Hamilton
3:00-5:00 PM
Hamilton Performing Arts Center
October 6: Kalispell
10:00-12:00 PM
Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Large Meeting Room.

Please plan on attending these meetings and give support to the North American Model, and to sensible management of wolves.

For all wildlife,

Ben Lamb
Conservation Director for State and National Issues
Montana Wildlife Federation
P.O. Box 1175
Helena, MT 59624
(406) 458-0227 xtn 108

Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. 
Aldo Leopold

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wolf hunters and haters are creating more anti hunters

From the 
Some interesting food for thought. It  also seems to be a call for action for more moderate folks on both sides of the debate to come up with some solutions that don't involve throwing the baby out with the bath water!

Another column from New West: Wolf hunters and haters are creating more anti hunters

Here's another side to the wolf debate that comes from George Wuerthner at New West. He says hunters could drive more moderates into the anti-hunting camp with their anti-wolf rhetoric and insistence on killing wolves.
It's an interesting counter to another New West column I posted below by Bill Scheider that said wolf advocates have over played their hands by suing to have wolves relisted and possibly causing Congressional action that will weaken the Endangered Species Act. A bill is now pending that would do just that.
Read more:

Here is the Wuerthner article:

Wolf Restoration is a Challenge to West’s Old Guard

If hunters succeed in this end run around the ESA, and there is the perception of a widespread slaughter of wolves, they risk long term public opposition and loss of public support for all hunting.

By George Wuerthner, 9-27-10
  George Wallace defying federal officials at U of Alabama
  George Wallace defying federal officials at U of Alabama
A year ago I wrote a New West column asking rhetorically if hunters were stupid. In that article I wondered if hunters were aware of the fact that shooting wolves is unpopular with most Americans and if hunting of wolves continued, it might create a backlash against hunting. 
To answer my own question I have to say that hunters are not stupid—but most are clueless.  Hunters don’t seem to have a inkling about how non-hunters perceive them.  Public support for hunting is only luke-warm—the majority of Americans grudgingly accept hunting, but they are not enthusiastic about people killing animals. Only 10 percent or so of Americans hunt. Hunters are in the minority and they are largely older white males. In America older white males are in their twilight years.
read more:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The ethical life: Hunting leads to an appreciation and understanding of life, nature

The ethical life: Hunting leads to an appreciation and understanding of life, nature

Robert Marshall, co-founder of the Wilderness Society, predicted that wild places would acquire even more value as they became scarce.
He thought, as many did in the early 20th century, that wilderness is an ineluctable human need, like food, water and security, and that the less people have, the more they will desire it.
But history has proven him wrong. Wilderness appears instead to be an evanescent good, like art or literature. The less we have, the less it is desired. In its absence, other things, arguably less valuable, take its place. (Facebook, anyone?)
In his best-selling book, “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv documents how our society is raising a generation of children who are technologically adept but ecologically illiterate. He refers to the condition as “nature-deficit disorder,” a condition characterized by both indifference to and fear of the outdoors.
My own introduction to and, ultimately, infatuation with wild places came through hunting and fishing, but by the time I had children of my own, I had effectively given them up as serious pursuits.
We were living in a big city, and instead of going hunting and fishing, we would read our kids nature books, take them to the zoo, go on trail hikes and the occasional camping trip. All of which are fine entertainments. But they allow children merely to observe — not to have a participatory relationship with — wild things.
So I began hunting and fishing again with regularity, making those activities part of a seasonal routine integral to my life, so that I could introduce our children to the natural world in the same manner that I was... read more


Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Matter of Life and Death, Hunting in Contemporaty Vermont

This post is from my friend Tovar Carulli's blog The Mindful Carnivore. I highly recommend reading the book he comments on, A Matter of Live and Death by Marc Boglioli. As a former Vermont Game Warden the commentary on rural culture and hunting resonates loud and clear with me.

Redneck culture, city culture: The clash over hunting

Eighteen years ago, I had no doubt: hunting was wrong.
Not that I made big distinctions among kinds of violence. I abhorred the idea of industrial meat operations, and thought little about the alternatives. Why split hairs? A murdered animal was a murdered animal.
Hunting, however, did seem especially gratuitous. We no longer needed to do it. Thanks to agriculture we now had ample plant matter to survive on.
At the same time, though, I mourned the extermination of indigenous hunter-gatherer cultures around the world.
If someone had pointed out that contradiction—the fact that I wished for the survival of cultural traditions that involved killing animals—I probably would have argued that such cultures, like ours, could make moral progress away from hunting and meat-eating.
Yikes. Might I have made a good missionary?
I also would have argued that indigenous cultures respected animals in ways that Euro-American culture did not. My problem wasn’t really with human predation in all times and places. My problem was with hunting here and now: mainly white folks with guns.
Now, most of two decades later, a new book has me reflecting on the views I held back then.
In A Matter of Life and Death: Hunting in Contemporary Vermont, anthropologist Marc Boglioli argues that mainstream American culture is increasingly dominated by a particular way of seeing (and talking about) nature and animals. “Killing beautiful wild animals,” he writes in the Introduction, “simply does not fit into the mainstream urban worldview.”
Read More:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact

The following comes from The Outdoor Wire.

I feel it is time Vermont and other states that are not part of this compact get onboard. There is no excuse for not presenting a united front against poaching. Suspensions of the right to hunt and fish has always been our best deterent to those tempted to violate. But with neighboring states close by our repeat violators have no problem "legaly" hunting will waiting out their Vermont suspensions. We could also easily become a destination state for out of state violators as more states clamp down an sigh the compact.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe praised Gov. Edward G. Rendell for signing Senate Bill 1200 into law, which clears the way for Pennsylvania to join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact (IWVC). 
"We are one step closer to banding with 37 other states in a united front against convicted poachers, who steal from all citizens, most especially, law-abiding hunters," Roe said. "Once we complete the administrative step to join the compact, someone who has lost his or her hunting license privileges in one state for a poaching conviction will lose those hunting license privileges in Pennsylvania, as well as in all states that are members of the compact.

"In addition, individuals convicted of poaching here in Pennsylvania will lose their ability to lawfully hunt in the 37 other states who are members of the IWVC."| For More...