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.