Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Killing treed bears: Rejecting hype to find out for myself

Hounds work to pick up the scent of a bear that had crossed a Forest
Service road in Tehama County, California.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012
By Holly A. Heyser

Three years ago, I had a pretty low opinion of hunting bears with hounds. Being a relatively new hunter, I wasn't yet aware that even in the hunting community, there was disdain for houndsmen. I just didn't like the idea of a hound hunt. I preferred - then and now - ambush over chase.

It wasn't just that aesthetic, though; the big stopper for me was the idea of shooting a helpless and frightened treed bear. I always put myself in the heads of the animals I am about to shoot, or have just shot, and the treed bear's perspective made me cringe.

So, how was it that I found myself shooting a 225-pound black bear out of a tree this Sunday? It started with the Humane Society of the United States' campaign against bear hunting in California.

A bear track on a Forest Service

© Holly A. Heyser 2012
In 2010, California's black bear population was continuing to grow, and there was an effort to increase the "quota" - the total number of bears that can be killed by hunters each year. That, of course, caught HSUS' attention, and it launched one of its emotionally laden, fact-deficient campaigns.

One word in particular set me off: "trophy." The HSUS California lobbyist was being quoted in newspapers all over the state referring to "the trophy hunting of bears."

Hmm. Most hunters I know would love to get a "trophy" animal of any species, but most are also just happy to be successful on a hunt - smaller animals are fine.

This was nothing less than the organization's usual strategy for picking low-hanging fruit: Public support for meat hunting is very high - 85 percent - while public support for trophy hunting is very low - 28 percent (source: Responsive Management, 2006). Most non-hunters I've met interpret "trophy hunting" as "not eating the meat." Say the word "trophy" and you can count on fanning hostile sentiment among non-hunters. (Here's what I wrote on the topic in my blog that year.)

There was another component to the Department of Fish & Game's proposal: allowing houndsmen to use GPS collars on their dogs, making them easier to track down. I ignored this, because I knew nothing about it and really didn't much care for the whole hound thing.

Neither proposal passed that year. One year later, DFG tried again to raise the quota, but dropped the GPS tracking collar issue. This effort, which I blogged about here, also failed.

Then this year, there was a big public relations disaster: The president of our Fish and Game Commission, Dan Richards, hunted a lion with hounds in Idaho and sent a photo to a weekly hook-and-bullet newspaper, Western Outdoor News. What he did was legal in Idaho, but Californians had banned all lion hunting here. HSUS fomented outrage, and tried to get Richards booted from the commission. (Here was my take on that.)

Closed-door politics defeated that effort, but the HSUS still wanted to demonstrate its power, so it decided to go after hunting with hounds, partnering with Southern California state Sen. Ted Lieu to introduce a bill that would ban hunting bears and bobcats (but not pigs) with hounds.

Two Plott hounds ride atop the box on the back of a pickup,
chained to the box for safety. The driver cruises Forest Service
roads slowly in hopes that the dogs will detect the scent of a
recent bear crossing - called a "strike," which the dogs will
signal with their signature bark.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012
By this time, I had already begun trying to learn more about hound hunting from friends - people I liked and respected - who were familiar with it. Before I started hunting, my view of hunters was that they had to be sick to get off on killing. But watching my boyfriend learn to hunt, then deciding to take it up myself, showed me how wrong I was. Could I also be wrong about hunting bears with hounds?

After remaining silent on hunting with hounds in the previous debates, I now leapt to the defense of houndsmen, because it was becoming clear they were being caricatured - another typical HSUS tactic - as lazy rednecks who kick back while dogs do all the work.

HSUS also really hyped the "terrified, treed bear" image, and I'd heard so many houndsmen reject that depiction, which had been the core of my concern, that I began to doubt my assumptions. More on that later.

I took a long hard look at how I hunted, or to be more exact, the nature of the deaths I caused. I came up with three kinds:

* Some were my own Holy Grail: instant deaths that they didn't see coming. One pig I have shot died instantly, and probably half of the birds I've shot did as well (some of which didn't see it coming, some of which did moments before the shot).

* Some were close to my ideal: quick deaths. They didn't die instantly, but because I had hit lungs, they had bled out and died within a minute. Three big-game animals I had shot went this way (none of them saw it coming), and maybe a third of the birds I've shot did as well (again, some saw it coming, but others didn't).

* Some were cringe-worthy deaths: poor shots that merely crippled, leading to suffering that would last until I finished the job. One pig I shot went this way (found him and finished him off within five minutes) and all the remaining birds did as well (most finished off quickly, but undoubtedly some got away - it's inevitable). I have chased lots of birds that were trying like hell to get away from me.

I despise the third category, yet I accept that it is an unavoidable facet of hunting: We cannot shoot perfectly all the time, which means invariably I will have to chase an animal before killing it. If I could accept that, why could I not accept shooting a treed bear? I decided I would go on such a hunt to gain some firsthand knowledge.

A houndsman waits with me on the road
while the rest of our hunting party follows
dogs working cold bear trail in steep

© Holly A. Heyser 2012
The hunt could be an entire story itself, but I'll just hit the key facts here: We hunted 10 hours the first day, slowly cruising Forest Service roads with hounds riding atop the vehicles in hopes that they would catch the scent of a bear that had crossed the road, or that we would see tracks of bears crossing the road. No fresh tracks, no "strikes" - which is what they call the hounds' reaction to a fresh scent.

We had hunted that way for maybe five hours on the second day when we stopped to check out some tracks that seemed  reasonably fresh. The scent was so cold that no one was sure the dogs would be able to follow it, but they did, and within about an hour we heard the barking that indicated they had treed the bear.

As we set out toward the cacophony, my empathy reaction kicked in: I imagined what that bear was experiencing at that moment. I wondered if I could go through with it. Then I remembered why I was there: I had already decided to kill a bear on a hunt with houndsmen. I wanted and needed meat from a big-game animal in my freezer. And I needed to know - really know - what it meant to kill a treed bear.

When we got there, it went down fast. From one position, I couldn't get a shot. I shifted to a better position, and the bear started coming down the tree. Here's the thing: Bears will stay in trees over barking dogs for hours, unconcerned about creatures that can't climb up to get them. Humans, on the other hand, are a real threat, and bears are willing to risk contact with the dogs to get away from us.

As she started making her way down fast, I put the crosshairs behind her shoulder and pulled the trigger. She fell dead.

Did I hate myself for killing her that way? No. I had the same reaction I always do: I was grateful I had made a good shot, in this case doubly so because a wounded bear is dangerous, whereas wounded ducks, pheasants and doves aren't. I was grateful that I would be bringing home a LOT of meat. And I was mindful that I had ended her life, which is always - ALWAYS - a serious event, regardless of whether the animal sees it coming.

This is me with the bear I killed Sunday.
Would I do this again? Yes. While the road-cruising was tedious, I admired the dogs' skill and the houndsmen's fitness, watching them clamber up and down hills that had me out of breath in 10 seconds. When I last saw them on Monday, they were preparing to head out to an area that would require brutal hiking - no road cruising - something they'd tried to spare me on my first bear hunt.

Also, I like bear meat, and this is an effective way to get it.

Sadly, though, I will not be doing this again, because the California Legislature passed that bill. Hunting bears with hounds will be illegal next year, and I have tagged out for this year's season.

We've lost something here in California, and I wonder how many hunters - laboring under the same knee-jerk reaction I'd had - don't even realize it. I'm just glad I took the time to get to know something I didn't understand before it was too late.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012


  1. Great post, Holly.

    You know how I feel personally about shooting bears. You shoot it, I'll eat it, but I just can't do it myself. Whatever... it's just me.

    But the hound hunting thing... well, I'm glad you got to experience it first hand and under good circumstances. There are a lot of misperceptions about hound hunting, and unfortunately, few of them are easily dispelled with words. It takes experience.

    Even then, this particular method isn't for everyone. That's fine. A lot of guys don't care to spend hours sitting in a tree, waiting for a deer to pass by either. But for those of us who do it, it carries a whole suite of rewards that go way beyond killing the prey.

    It's a shame the strong foothold HSUS has managed to secure in California. I see that they're after the waterfowlers in Marin again, and I won't be surprised to see the hog dog hunters in the crosshairs in the near future. One cut at a time... it's a successful strategy for an organization that has nothing but time, and the longer a battle goes on, the more publicity and money they garner. Wish I could offer a solution besides, stand fast and fight hard. Make them earn every victory and rue every defeat.

  2. Re "There are a lot of misperceptions about hound hunting, and unfortunately, few of them are easily dispelled with words. It takes experience."

    As I was telling the houndsmen, defending any form of killing to a predominantly urban population that is generations moved from the actual realities of nature is an uphill battle.

    There was a lot of talk this weekend about the point at which it gets so bad we have to flee the state. I know some people who've done this, and others who are now considering it, not just because of this law, but because of gun laws that have passed recently.

    I'm not ready to give up hope. I believe one of the two key liberal population centers in this state - the San Francisco Bay Area - is open to hunting. But L.A.'s perpetual hostility toward life outside of its erudite boundaries is a real threat.

    1. Well, as you know I'm one of the people who has "fled" the state, although the state of hunting and firearms legislation was only one of many factors in the decision.

      I think there's probably plenty of awesome hunting in CA for the next couple of generations, although I expect to see it become exponentially more restricted. That doesn't change the fact that it's a beautiful state with fantastic public land hunting opportunities... and even better private land hunting. I do intend to return from time to time, as I am a lifetime license holder. I already miss Kokopelli Valley, and chasing mule deer in the eastern Sierra.

      In line with teaching people through experience rather than words, I like the idea you put forward, about sending "successful" children to the wilderness camps, as well as the "troubled" youth. An "Outward Bound" type of scenario has a lot to offer anyone, not just the troublemakers. Or maybe a six week outfitter's training, or wilderness survival school.

      But of course, that flies in the face of more civilized and socially acceptable pursuits, such as varsity sports, computer camps, and sitting around in their room playing video games.

  3. You won't be surprised to hear this from me ... a rare, contrarian voice in your current universe. I'm genuinely disheartened by this trajectory, from the refreshing perspective you held when you started writing about hunting, the one that drew me to your blog initially, to this particular stop, farther on down the line. Of course, without resorting to moral relativism, I understand this is how it is, and that my feelings have no relevance or moral weight here beyond what they mean to me.

    I will just add that to get inside the head of another being before you pull the trigger is not empathy. Genuine empathy would preclude pulling the trigger because the vicarious and visceral understanding of her experience as a victimized being, subject to fear and violence, would be so profound as to make that action psychically impossible.

    Sympathy would be a more accurate designation for what you describe. Sympathy and pity allow for the seeming dichotomy between feeling and taking a life. Feeling true empathy, on the other hand, is often the turning point for those people who one day just can't find it in themselves to draw the bow or fire the weapon.

    1. I'm curious about your views on the animals that are killed but not eaten so that you can eat. Whether you pull the trigger or someone mutilates animals with a combine, animals die so we can eat. Is it more morally acceptable to kill for soybeans, corn and wheat than to eat meat?

    2. Robin, first, anyone who adopts a plant-based diet is well aware of ancillary death and damage in this universe. No one is proclaiming perfection. But it's a logical fallacy to suggest that just because you can't eradicate all of suffering, you don't take measures to stop your own complicity in deliberate harm.

      There are two corresponding ideas here, one is magnitude and context, the other is intent.

      You do realize that 70 percent of crops like soy are grown to feed livestock, so if, hypothetically speaking, everyone turned to a plant-based diet, the amount of land cultivated could actually be reduced. There are varying estimates (and yes, they're all estimates) of how many animals are actually killed by combines and the numbers are not what meat eaters would suggest. But even if they were, meat eaters and hunters would be radically more culpable in those deaths since, generally speaking, they consume both the products of those crops and the animals which consumed those same crops in large quantities, along with massive amounts of water, some of which is diverted from habitat, expressly for the use of feed crops.

      I personally eat extremely limited amounts of organic corn and soy. But how much vegetarians eat of those crops is overstated compared, again, to what livestock consumes. There is also organic, veganic farming, not the norm yet, but still viable, which seeks, and succeeds in many regards, living in balance with the wildlife on the land, and using stock-free methods like cover crops which further eliminates certain forms of exploitation.

      In sum, a hunter who kills wildlife, eats some beef or pork, and also eats bread, corn-based products and plant foods has a significantly larger impact on animals and the environment. That's putting aside considerations of violence toward the individual animals killed, and the disruption in their social structures (mates, young, etc.) I know, that's nothing to be taken seriously here, but it's how I view it.

      There are almost 14 million hunters (out of 314 million Americans) and they take upwards of 200 million animals each year. That's a lot of animals per capita. I suspect that's an under counting when you consider undocumented "varmint" kills, etc.

      If you look at the recent writings of Anhang and Goodland on climate science, they believe that a dramatic reduction in meat consumption is an imperative if we're to have any profound effect on our future and on shifting climate issues. Hunting, even without my personal ethical considerations, is not a sustainable substitute on any level with 6+ billion people, so the most logical conclusion from the above is to eat much less meat, no matter where you get it. Americans eat meat often at every meal. There is just no need for taking that many animal lives, whether or not one chooses eat meat.

  4. No, Ingrid, I'm not. Nor am I surprised that you presume to know what my "current universe" is.

    Whether you call it sympathy or empathy is irrelevant: You believe killing animals is wrong, so of course deciding not to kill animals is, for you, the pinnacle of evolved thinking, and the appropriate response to empathy.

    I believe killing animals is a normal part of the process that has sustained life on earth since animals appeared, and empathizing with them, picturing my own death under the same circumstances, does not change that.

    I'm sorry I've continued to disappoint you in your quest to find a unified hunting morality code that would finally make our killing acceptable to you. But I really don't think that was ever possible in the first place.

    1. By "current universe," I meant your current writing venues, as contrasted with your previous universe which is the blog where I commented.

      As far as a unified hunting morality code, if there's anything I learned from reading your opinions and those of other hunters, it's that everyone will remain true to their own, individual reasons for hunting animals. I just feel sad when the ambivalence over killing is gone. I don't expect it, I know that this comes with hunting experiences. I just felt it more intensely in reading this piece, because in the beginning at least, we did have some confluence of ideas on sentience and the profound complexity of nonhuman experience, something that often permeated your elegant prose. I always appreciated that, even when we disagreed.

      As far as "evolved thinking," I know, I get it, it's easy to marginalize and ridicule my perspective by suggesting that arrogance is at the root of what I say. I also realize that if that's what you thought about me through the years we exchanged thoughts, there's not much I can do to change it now. The truth is that if you advocate for animals, you rarely feel arrogance. The opposite. You feel helplessness, sorrow, exasperation. You pretty much know where you stand in mainstream society when you stand up for nonhuman species. Not that any of that matters.

    2. Ingrid, did you not intend ridicule when you pronounced yourself a "rare contrarian voice" in my "current universe," as though I'm draping myself in my wingnuts here? Not buying it - articulate people such as yourself craft your words too carefully for that insult to have been an accident.

      And based on one post, did you conclude I no longer believe in the complexity and sentience of non-human life? Because I killed a big mammal that knew I was there, rather than my usual ducks I lure in by fooling them into thinking there's a big duck party where I'm hiding?

      I'm a hunter with some odd views and a handful of online kindred spirits in the blogosphere, Ingrid, same as I always have been (for the time you've known me, anyway). Killing a bear and writing about it reflects one shift, and one only: I was willing to cast aside my knee-jerk reaction to the concept and learn about it for myself, rather than lap up HSUS propaganda (about which, BTW, I am even more furious now that I've seen what this kind of hunting is about).

      I actually do feel sorry for you, living in that the world of helplessness, sorrow and exasperation. But if you think you're the only one whose viewpoint is marginalized in this equation, you're flat-out wrong. Talk to my friends who were on this hunt and see how they feel.

    3. Here's the thing: I knew my comment about empathy was provocative. That, I admit. I was deeply disturbed by the presentation of empathy in that context and I totally understand a strong reaction in return. I take responsibility for inciting feeling with that statement. But what you're saying about my other comment *other* comment -- about being a rare contrarian -- is not true. If it were, I would admit it, I have no reason to lie about that even though you believe I am. So maybe it's pointless to explain more thoroughly, but I will anyway, for what it's worth.

      In retrospect, it was poorly worded phrasing, and even an reasonably articulate person can do that in a heightened emotional state and fatigue. But this is what I *thought* I was saying: I used to be the "contrarion" at your blog. I even used that word, if you look back in some of my comments at yours and Tovar's blogs. I used it more than once. And, since your blog no longer exists, I can't comment there anymore, so my contrarion views are now "rare" in your "current universe" which is other writing venues. That is truly all I meant, but have a sense you're convinced of my duplicity on that particular statement and I can't prove it.

      I'll just respond to this then leave it all be. You wrote: "I actually do feel sorry for you, living in that the world of helplessness, sorrow and exasperation." I realize why you might pity me, which is basically what feeling sorry for someone entails. Conversely, I'm sorry you don't under what it means to feel a deep degree of sorrow and helplessness over another's suffering, suffering that you simply can't stop. Suffering that's often perpetrated with a violent hand by other humans. Feeling that kind of sorrow is actually empathy, but I realize we have different ideas, even, of that that means. Still to equate those emotions with powerlessness that requires your pity is kind of misguided. Powerless people don't last in traumatic work. And as far as being marginalized, okay, we're all marginalized. On some level, that's true. I actually don't care that I am because what I'm talking about isn't about me being an outsider or a freak or whatever we get told all of the time in animal work. I only really care insofar as the whole *idea* of caring more for animals is so marginalized, that every form of exploitation we've leveled at them for centuries, continues to exist precisely because of that marginalization.

    4. (case in point, my above comment is riddled with typos an inarticulate phrasing coming from an ostensibly articulate individual. Verbal ability doesn't necessarily translate into good editing skills.)

    5. I found only one typo, but I'm on my first cup of coffee, and typos in late-night comments about an upsetting topic are no biggie.

      One thing about me hasn't changed, Ingrid: I still care far more about animals and animal suffering now than I did before I started hunting. I still hate roadkill and the fact that most people don't give it a second thought, especially if it's an "undesirable" like an opossum. I still rescue spiders from the bathtub. I still hate crippling birds, and finding crips (I dispatched one Sunday that was so emaciated it was heartbreaking - his keel bone was so pronounced). I hate the fact that my beloved calico Giblet has such bad sinus congestion now that she sounds like a zombie on the move.

      I still hunt, despite these feelings, because hunting involves killing for a purpose: eating. I hate the purposeless deaths that arise from human creations, such as fences and cars. And I still hate that so many people don't think about the source of the meat they eat because they're thrice removed from its death.

      This bear knew she was in trouble when the humans arrived, but I killed her quickly, with no lingering pain, and we are wasting precious little. Her death was not so different from the deaths of other animals I've killed, which was the point of this piece.

      I am eminently capable of feeling suffering in the way that you do, Ingrid, which is why I really and truly pity you, and not in a condescending way. The difference is that I allow myself to feel those feelings, then move on. That's how we are in my family, and I am a product of my family and upbringing as much as you are of yours.

  5. This was a great article. The hypocrisy in this state is disappointing and scary. It’s ok for people to eat hamburger but taboo to talk about hunting an animal, even though the latter is morally superior. We all know the way “domestic meat” is treated yet people want to detach themselves from reality and judge those that pull the trigger themselves while paying someone else do pull the trigger for them. If people are concerned about animals being scared while hunted, they need to remind themselves that wolves rip buffalo to pieces, coyotes shred deer, and lions snap the necks of their prey, not to mention all these predators have been found to fight with, injur and kill each other. Furthermore, the cows at the slaughter house got to watch the cows in front of them die and knew what was coming. Cows are smarter than horses; I have some of each. We are part of the food chain, too. Our responsibility should be to ensure the animals are killed as swiftly as possible, not over-hunted and the whole carcass consumed. California is the canary in the mine shaft. I think the only way of preventing this from happening to other states is to make hunting education part of the education system (I am not even joking). Otherwise, people become permanently disassociated and uneducated and not able to defend what is right. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. ~ Jen Izzarelli

  6. Interestingly enough, we all talked about something like that after the hunt. Maybe not hunter education, but outdoor/wildlife education, just so they understand some basic realities.

    Why is it that we send juvenile delinquent boys to serious outdoor camps to rehabilitate them, but we don't send our successful children to them as well? Have 'em spend their freshman year of high school in the woods feeding themselves.

    I supposed there's not enough wild land left to support that, though.

  7. Thanks for writing that article. I have encountered the same type of anti-hound sentiment in the past among other hunters. In Massachusetts, where I live, the ballot question banning bear hunting with hounds came in 1996 and many hunters I talked to didn't think it was a big deal or they opposed it themselves. Prior to the ban I worked with houndsmen to capture bears for research, not for consumption, but the process was the same. However, we often tried to recapture specific bears that were already radiocollared and even then, when we could walk in on them and start the hounds close, we didn't get them all, maybe 7 or 8 out of 10. I have used that example many times to counter the fairness question. Obviously, the success rate was even lower doing it the way you described, looking for a track to strike. Bear behavior in the tree varied by individual. I observed many treed bears that were quite comfortable with people below the tree, and others that were very antsy and bailed out.

    Now that my research is over, were it legal, I would have no problem hunting bears with hounds. --John McDonald

    1. Interesting observation on the behavior of the treed bears! My guys definitely warned me that there was a chance the bear would want to bolt once we showed up.

  8. Dr. Val Geist has written that long inefficient hunting seasons for large predators educates them to be afraid of humans leading to fewer negative contacts with people that results in us being able to coexist with a higher population of predators than in areas without such seasons. My experience here in Vermont (we have a 3 month training season and a 2 month bear hounding season) is that this is very true. We have a high population and low numbers of conflicts. So if you love bears you should support hounding. Counter intuitive but true.

    1. Clearly we needed MORE houndsmen in California, not a ban on hounding. Bear contacts are increasing, and I'm pretty sure it's about to get worse.

  9. Great post Holly. I too have evolved with much of my attitudes towards different types of hunting. Thanks for elevating the discussion.

  10. Hey all, been chewing on this hunt and reached an interesting conclusion that I posted on my other website and wanted to share here as well: Bear hunting with dogs is a LOT like pheasant hunting with dogs.

    In both pursuits, humans use dogs with superior senses of smell and other unique attributes that ultimately force prey we would rarely find on our own into a position where we can kill it. With pheasant hunting, the fleeing bird eventually takes flight. With bear hunting, the fleeing bear eventually climbs a tree. Both are much easier to kill when they do this.

    Another striking similarity is the hunters' love not just for their dogs, but for watching their dogs do great work - they admire the dogs tremendously. Both types of hunters are often motivated to hunt primarily for the dogs.

    Here's the biggest difference between the two: I've never heard of a pheasant hunter passing on a shot opportunity (the disdain of the dogs is just too much to, uh, bear), but the houndsmen I've talked to often release the bear unharmed by pulling their dogs away and creating an escape route.

    Here's the more relevant difference from a public relations perspective: Bears are charismatic megafauna, often one of the first dolls/toys an infant human gets (my first was Winnie the Pooh); pheasants are pretty chickens, not particularly loved or admired out of hunting circles.

    Here's the more politically relevant difference: Bird hunters tend to be far more affluent and influential than houndsmen. Influence prevents dumb laws like California's new ban from passing.


    1. Holly, you're pretty much dead on here about the charismatic megafauna when it comes to shaping public opinion, but I don't think it's limited solely to the hunting vs. anti-hunting conversation.

      Notice in most hunting ethics discussions, when no specific game is mentioned, that the conversation almost always turns to big game... particularly deer. Birds get short shrift, as if many hunters barely consider them worth the discussion. We shoot them on the wing instead of sitting still, and fire at them with scattered shot that doesn't always kill instantly. You don't see many hunters nodding a gesture of thanks over a dead pheasant or mourning dove.

      And then, of course, there are fish... creatures that receive an unsolicited facial piercing that pulls on them to the point of exhaustion, and then are snatched into an environment where they can't breathe where they are either thrown, still alive, into a box of ice, or unhooked and released. Can you imagine the uproar if we treated cute little bunnies that way?

      I'm not decrying the fact, simply pointing it out. I've often found it curious in conversations when hunters express so much conscientiousness about the humane death of a deer, but so little about a dove or a trout.

    2. It was interesting: When I apologized to the bear while stroking her head, one of the guys reassured me that she'd died instantly, and I said, "Oh, I know. This is just what I do." Always for big game animals, almost always for small game. But even as touchy-feely as I am, I don't think I've ever apologized to a fish.

      Shotgun shooting is fun, but if there were a better way to kill ducks, meaning more likely to lead to instant death, I'd do it. Ever see footage of people netting auks? Takes a lot of skill.

    3. When I was doing my dissertation research, I ran across a Victorian print of a bird hunter holding a bird, looking down on it fairly pensively, dog at his knee, with a shotgun broken open with a faintly visible wisp of smoke coming out of the barrel. I've often wished I'd been able to take a photo of the print, this was before iPhones with cameras. I've never run across it since. The print was titled simply, "The Moment of Regret." That's stuck with me. I think it speaks to the ambivalence at the moment of the kill: the "yay I was successful at something that's pretty difficult," as well as the, "damn, I wish I could put this bird back up in the sky and do it all again" kind of bittersweet sadness, almost, mixed with a kind of regret for having taken the life of something so beautiful siting there in your hands.

      The other thing I thought of in reading Holly's comments, is that woodcock hunters at least routinely pass up shots. If one runs into a flight of birds, and there's 20 or 30 woodcock, say, in five acres of pasture, the hunter will sometimes wish to prolong his/her hunt and just work the dog, mostly for the sheer joy of it. Then occasionally you shoot so the dog gets a 'reward' of feathers in the mouth. Or if the birds are so scarce, you put one up and give it a pass.

      Don't know about pheasant hunters, though, you may be right about them.

    4. I appreciate the comment about the ambivalence of a successful hunt. I participate in two sports, traditional archery hunting and hound hunting. I once drew down on the chest of a male coyote, standing still a distance of 15 yards. He seemed to sense danger that he could not identify. As I was about to release the arrow, the sound of rustling leaves signaled the approach of a second animal. A half-grown puppy ran up and playfully nipped at his father's ear. I do not regret holding the arrow.

      In my other hunting life as a houndsman, I have often pointed out that catch-and-release hunting is a little more satisfying than consumptive hunting, but the reason has been difficult to articulate. Now it's clear: the ambivalence is not there. When the bear climbs down and runs away over the protest of the tethered hounds, I experience a completely successful hunt without regret. I hope we can preserve our trail-hound culture in other states.

    5. Dan, thank you so much for chiming in! There is so much about hunting that is hard to articulate. I've literally spent six years trying to find the words that help non-hunters understand not only WHY we do what we do, but what it feels like when we hunt.

      I am so grateful to you for taking me on this hunt, for your skill and your (and Pete's and Josh's) hounds, and especially for the venerable Osage, without whom we may not ever have seen this bear.

      Though I'm not at this stage now, there may come a time when I will pass on shots. For now, though, I'm so grateful to have killed this bear, and to have killed cleanly.

      This bear is going to feed so many of our friends and family members! I've already begun eating her liver, a friend made osso bucco (oso bucco?) with her meat last night, and today we're heading to a central location where friends in the region can come pick up some of her fat. Our chef friends are eager to try her fat and meat!

      I will definitely continue to hunt bears, but I am deeply disappointed that this experience may be my last bear hunt with hounds. There is so much more I want to discover about it, and I share the sense of mourning that you and other houndsmen are experiencing because this is being ripped from your - and your hounds' - lives. If I feel this way after just one hunt, I can't imagine how deeply painful this must be to you.

      Thank you, again, for everything.

  11. Many good comments on well written column. Your observations regarding increased interactions with bears was spot-on, Holly. Bears need to fear people. That is the only way we can coexist. There are more than a few people that will take exception with that observation, but I'm pretty sure that I can't reason with them (I've tried, believe me). Too often, their emotions trump rational thought.

    On a parallel thought, take a look at the coyote. Over the last thirty years, their numbers have steadily increased across North America. Everyone has their own theory as to why they have done so well, but the fact remains that they are here, and in great numbers. If you study confirmed coyote attacks on humans, one fact stands clear. They almost always occur in urban areas, or in county, state, national or provincial parks. Areas that prohibit hunting. I can connect a few "anecdotal" dots.

    1. That's not necessarily the whole picture. Coyotes, as with some meso predators, are efficient at filling biological niches when hunted in large numbers. Why is it that despite rampant and little-regulated killing practices against coyotes, do their numbers continue to increase? In part it's this ecological principle.

      Another facet, which corresponds to your comment about coyote attacks (which are still comparatively rare), is that there is social structure disruption when indiscriminate killing of predators coyotes occurs. It's the same with wolves, where complex relationships between the animals not only keep packs intact, but the long-term interrelations between parents, young and other members of their groups produce hierarchical structures that, in essence, keep the young boys out of trouble. When older animals are killed, the wily juveniles are often the ones that become problematic with respect to human-nonhuman conflicts. You could anthropomorphize to say that they lose their social boundaries and role models. This is sometimes seen with rampaging elephants, as well.

      That says nothing, of course, about the habitat we destroy at an earth-killing pace, practically forcing these interactions which then always end with the animal scapegoated for the practices we perpetrate.

  12. Your hatred of HSUS drives you to do something you normally wouldn't do out of spite. Now that's something to be proud of.

    1. Not spite at all. I would never kill an animal just to spite a person or an institution.

      It's just that the public debate got me interested enough that I took the time to learn about it, and around the same time a friend gave us some meat from a bear he killed and we liked it. If I'm willing to eat a type of meat, I'm willing to hunt and kill the animal myself.

      But do I hate HSUS? Hell yes. Those people just make stuff up to get their way.

      Case in point: When the houndsmen wanted the regs changed to allow the use of GPS collars, HSUS fought it, using the caricature of lazy hunters sitting in their pickups until the collars alerted them to a treed bear that they could saunter up to for an easy kill.

      Well, there is rarely any sauntering. Though my hike was just 20-30 minutes, it was in steep terrain. And bears can be treed miles from where the hunters' trucks are. And there's definitely no sauntering back to the truck - it took six of us to pack out my bear.

      The more crucial issue is that GPS collars allow you to track and find your dog much more easily than radio tracking, which is important if the dog separates from the rest of the hounds. Without GPS collars, it can take days to find them.

      But HSUS loves it when the dogs get separated, because footage of emaciated hounds is much more useful for vilifying houndsmen - never mind that HSUS deliberately kept houndsmen from doing something that would help prevent that. Yay HSUS! Political gain by any means necessary!

  13. You already signed up to shoot the bear before you even knew what it was all about. Stop trying to make yourself feel better.

    1. Sorry, Anonymous, that's just not true. If you want to argue, argue with facts, not fiction. And if you want to fling accusations, please have the courage to leave your name.

    2. Holly.

      Don't feed the trolls.

  14. "Then I remembered why I was there: I had already decided to kill a bear on a hunt with houndsmen. "

    Not true? You wrote it.

  15. So what's next for Holly shoot-critters-in-trees Heyser? Fish in a barrel? Canned hunt? Certainly your remorse and guilt are real. You've tried to justify your actions in every way possible: it's HSUS fault, apologized to the bear, it's like bird hunting, we're sharing the meat, we worked hard. In the end, however, it's not fair chase no matter how much you try to sugarcoat it.

  16. "In the end, however, it's not fair chase no matter how much you try to sugarcoat it." Wow, hard to say how much this comment gets wrong. I will only say that the hunting of prey using dogs/hounds is probably the oldest form of hunting, and in some contexts the most respected. The animal has many opportunities to elude the hounds (fox hunters notoriously come up empty-handed, for example), which many people take to be the necessary and sufficient condition for a "fair chase" hunt.

    Moreover, from a humane perspective it is pretty hard to beat that "shoot-critters-in-the-tree" situation that you deride. The ability for a hunter to assess the animal, sex the animal if necessary, and take a well-placed shot if that's the decision, is virtually unmatched by other forms of hunting. Animal activists who argue against hounding and the use of bait routinely obscure the fact that if these practices were banned (as they will be in California), hunting bears is likely to result in some long-distance shooting at running bears--not a recipe for a humane kill. So Anonymous, I think you'd be better off adopting less of an ad hominem tone against the author and more of a polite, respectful tone, which will earn you respect in return.

    1. Being old doesn't make it fair chase. Driving buffalo off a cliff does the job, but certainly doesn't fit today's fair chase model. With hounding, what you have is a process of tormenting the bear over a course of miles only to tree it and then shoot it from the tree. It no more fair chase than shooting an animal in a cage. Similarly, cage shooting offers the same shot placement aspects as you describe. I have yet to see anybody claim that cage shooting is fair chase.

      You might not like the tone, but I think she took a step backward.

  17. "With hounding, what you have is a process of tormenting the bear over a course of miles only to tree it and then shoot it from the tree." that's certainly one way to look at it, one interpretation. It's a bit like the duck-rabbit gestalt switch picture, one phenomenon, two interpretations. As regards hounding I suspect there are other, equally compelling, perhaps more valid interpretations than the one you offer.

    "It no more fair chase than shooting an animal in a cage." There is a HUGE difference between chasing a bear for many miles and eventually treeing the bear, and "shooting an animal in a cage."

    1. There is only one factual interpretation and here the bear is running out of fear over the course of miles. If its in fear then it's being tormented.

      Shooting an animal out of a tree is no more different than shooting one in a cage. Its a cornered animal. In this case the bear has been tormented for hours prior.

      There is no way to gloss over this. This isn't fair chase or proper treatment of wildlife.

  18. "There is only one factual interpretation and here the bear is running out of fear over the course of miles." Well right there you've got some additional problems with your inference about the bear's psychological state of mind. How do you know the bear experiences "fear"? Ethologists have long studied the flight or fright reflex: is the animal simply on autopilot and running away from a stimulus (the parsimonious explanation), or is the bear "in terror" as you say, thinking to itself, "oh my god, oh my god, if I don't escape from these hounds then I will be shot by a hunter." Probably not.

    If all animals experienced "fear" in the way that you suggest, then we are all moral monsters every time we walk in the woods and scare up a flock of chickadees.

    for what it's worth, one of the classic papers in this area is Thomas Nagel's "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" Nagel argues we cannot know what it is "like" to be a bat or any other critter. We can only anthropomorphize and imagine what it is like for me, Jim Tantillo, to pretend I'm a bat: clicking my tongue like I'm echolocating, flapping my arms as if they were wings. But we can't know the psychological experience of the bat, or the bear, really.

  19. No matter shooting a bear out of a tree is no different than shooting one in a cage. Its not fair chade

    1. Well, Anonymous, sounds like hunting bears over hounds isn't for you! That is, of course, fine - I would never begrudge you a spot-and-stalk bear hunt, or insist that you hunt any animal the way I do. To each her own.

      Good luck out there!

  20. Aaaaand, that's all she wrote - the California bear season ended today because we hit our quota.

  21. Anonymous,

    You speak from a position of ignorance (having never gone hunting with hounds much less had to overcome the challenge of breeding, raising, and training hounds yourself) and an utter lack of logic (having nothing more to rely on than a few overused and weak talking points), and are sorely out of your element in this discussion. Some points that I would like you to address, if you please...

    1. Please articulate what fair chase is specifically. Do you consider the definition you provide to be universal? Is it irrefutable? Has it changed over time? Is it above the corruption of human bias?

    2. How exactly do you reconcile your assertion that the use of hounds does not constitute fair chase given the fact that the use of hounds for bears is the ONLY method that actually involves a chase? All other methods involve either sneaking up on the animal UNAWARES, luring the animal in UNAWARES, or shooting it from a distance UNAWARES. In no other situation does the bear actually know it is being hunted and given a chance to do something about it.

    3. Regardless of how you answer questions 1 and 2, do you think that a notion of fair chase should trump what is biologically supported, justifiable, or beneficial?

    4. Consider the fact that the use of hounds provides the BEST means of identifying the sex, age, and reproductive status of the bear so that young bear, females, and females with offspring can be left unharmed. Consider also the fact that the predisposed selection of larger, older, male bears by hound hunters is beneficial to the species because it removes a primary source of bear cub mortality (yes, the males will kill the cubs whenever they can) and can actually contribute to or influence an increase in a region's bear population. When you consider further the fact that the use of hounds is the ONLY means of catch and release hunting in existence, clearly, the use of hounds is a model for good wildlife stewardship.

    1. Preface: You assume too much. Shall I assume you are a bloodthirsty goon?
      1: Likely the same as the blog maintainers
      2: Somehow being "AWARE" and backed into a corner is better?
      3: I have to do it, so that makes it right?
      4: Harassed, but unharmed. There are laws against this.

    2. Anonymous,

      I must say that I am not at all surprised by the brevity of your responses.

      With respect to your preface, it may be an assumption but it is an accurate assumption nonetheless. At the very most, you went out once and now think that you know all there is to know of it. Nothing I have indicated would lead you to logically assume that I am a bloodthirsty goon, so please do try to avoid the logical fallacy of attempting to demean my assertion with your suggested assertion.

      1. First of all, I didn't ask what their definition is nor do I know what their defintion is. I am asking you to articulate your defintion. Secondly, if your definition is the same as theirs as you suggest, and Holly has spoken favorably of hound hunting, how then do YOU consider hounds not indicative of fair chase? Either you define it as they do or you don't. Which is it?

      2. You assert that hunting with hounds is unfair. I've demonstrated that the use of hounds gives the bear a warning (unlike any other method). It is the only method that does not rely on technology but is instead the only NATURAL method of bear hunting in that it is the ONLY method that the bear evolved defenses against. How then is the use of hounds unfair to the bear? Also, please tell me where these "corners" are exactly. I've spent a fair amount of time in the woods in my life, and I have yet to see any corners. THERE ARE NO CORNERS. The bear can leave at any time.

      3. Yes, when the use of hounds is not only NOT adverse to the prosperity of the bear population, but is actually beneficial to it, that makes it right.

      4. No, there are not laws against pursuing bears but leaving them alive after treeing them. This is why the use of hounds has remained legal for the study of mountain lion following the passage of Prop 117 and why it remains legal for the study of bear and bobcat following the passage of SB 1221.

  22. Anonymous,

    Here are the rest of my points that I had to break into two submissions...

    5. When it comes to the shooting of an animal, any person with any regard for an animal being hunted strongly desires that the animal be both stationary and at the closest range possible. Hound hunting affords the hunter with both of these and thus, ensures the best opportunity for killing the animal humanely and instantaneously.

    6. Unlike a bear in a cage, a bear being pursued by hounds does not start in the tree...the hounds must attempt to force the bear up a tree. To do this, they must use their sense of smell to follow the scent of the bear that can be many hours old over long distances covering varying conditions, temperatures, and soil substrates over many hours, all the while barking and giving the bear a heads up that they are following it. So warned, the bear will use every capability that its age, experience, instinct, and physiology provides it to elude the hounds. This often means running through the deepest canyon and over the tallest mountain in order to throw the dogs off or force them to abandon their pursuit. The hounds must overcome all of the challenges to their ability to follow the bear by SMELL while barking non-stop through the roughest topography in the bear's territory. We have bred in our hounds the instinct to bark even though it is counter-productive (sneaking up would be easier) and requires far greater endurance...after all, when was the last time you saw people chatting with each other while running a marathon.

    7. Unlike a bear in a cage, a treed bear can climb down and continue running any time it wants to. They often do this to catch their breath, but the dogs never stop barking and therefore never have a chance to catch their breath.

    8. Please cite the scientific literature indicating the "fear" and "torment" you claim is present in a bear that is pursued by hounds. Once you fail to do so, I would be glad to point you in the direction of literature indicating that the adrenal response (indicating stress levels) of treed bear is lower than the other forms of capture of bears. Why is this? Simple...because the bear is reacting to the hounds in the same way it would to a pack of wolves. This reaction, and the instinctive and physiological influence to evade canines and potentially climb trees to escape their agitation was forged over the millenia as the two species evolved alongside each other. Given this, and even if you ignored the clinical research supporting my assertion, there is no reason to think that being pursued by hounds is anymore stressful to the bear than being caught out in a rainstorm...in either case, the bear evolved the ability to react to either stimuli.

    9. Please reconcile how an animal that is supposedly caused fear and torment by the experience would choose to remain in the same area where it experienced this supposedly traumatic experience. Hound hunters are often able to catch the same bears time and time again because the bears do not disrupt their normal home ranges simply because they were treed by hounds.

    1. 5: So does shooting an animal in a cage or within a fence.
      6: So you train your dogs to harass the bear for many hours over long distances.
      7: You mean if the shooter lets it.
      8: "fear", "torment", and harrassment. Pick one. The outcome is the same.
      9: Stop feeding them.

      You obviously like shooting cornered animals. I don't.

    2. Josh, thank you for laying all of this out there. You obviously know way more about the hounds, and about hunting with hounds, than I do. You have increased my appreciation for hounds and houndsmen.

      Your comment about the adrenal response also rings true. The first bear meat I ate was from a bear that was shot in a tree (a friend happened upon the houndsmen at the tree, and they invited him to take the shot). We'd always assumed that chase would leave an adrenal taint, but that wasn't the case at all. I think it's impossible to truly know what another animal is feeling (whether we hunt the animal or wish to save it from evil hunters), but it's interesting to know about that particular stress marker.

    3. Anonymous,

      5: Yes, shooting an animal in a cage or behind a fence does ensure a close and stationary target, but what you have yet to acknowledge is that a bear being pursued by hounds is not in the same situation; its chosen direction, speed, and duration of travel are not constrained by hounds. In addition, the biggest point you should understand is that the shot is what should be LEAST challenging when hunting. Instead, putting the animal in a position where the shot can be made is where the challenge or sport should be. When you consider the effort spent in animal husbandry to create a puppy with good potential, and then raising, training, and exercising that animal, followed by pursuits that may last "3-12 miles over the course of up to twenty hours" (as asserted by the sponsors of SB 1221), the use of hounds BEST epitomizes the idealized scenario where all of the challenge is before the shot and all of the ease is found at the time of the shot.

      6: Since you can't let go off the caged bear talking point, let me try to break it down for you...shooting a caged bear is only similar to shooting a treed bear if you devise a sport that involves trying to force the bear into the cage using natural means and then allow the bear to leave the cage whenever it so chooses and then try to force the bear into the cage all over again.

      7: Um, newsflash: The speed with which the bear covers the topography is far greater than that of the human. Thus, the bear gets to the tree long before the hunter does and can leave if/when it wants to.

      8: Good, so you have demonstrated that you have mastered the concept of synonyms. With that behind us, please cite your literature and address the argument.

      9: I don't need to feed them. There's plenty of natural feed for them already.

      Once again, the animal is not cornered. Also, I'm not interested in shooting bears, treed or otherwise. I haven't killed one in years, as I personally find it more fulfilling to leave them in the tree where I found them.

  23. Hi Holly,

    I'm glad to offer my thoughts on the topic, and appreciate the fact that you were intellectually curious enough to make a concerted effort to see a glimpse of the tradition of hound hunting for yourself and tag your 2012 bear in the process.

    While I hold no illusions that Anonymous is likely to ever let go of his/her preconceived biases and embrace fact and logic, perhaps others reading this blog but not participating in the discussion will be more receptive.

    When it comes to accounting for an animal's response to the stimulus provided by hounds, fortunately, we've got lots of evidence to draw from. This includes anecdotal observations of treed animals demonstrating "curiosity" or "complacency", or are even found sleeping...which they would not do if stressed. The ability to tree the same animal repeatedly during a season or over the course of years in its same home range is also indicative of the innocuous impact of being treed. Finally, there are volumes of scientific literature that consistently demonstrate that collared animals resume their normal behavior after being treed by hounds and neither succumb to any stress-induced impairment nor modify their activities in response to having been treed.

    1. Josh, I just wish I'd done it a lot more before before it was over. I quickly realized I'd experienced a very small fraction of what it means to hunt with hounds, and the chance that I'll ever get to do it again are close to nil, because it's hard for me to travel out of state during hunting seasons (I teach, and when your work requires your presence only 32 weeks a year, you really shouldn't take vacations during those weeks.)

      I also really appreciate your responses to the ever-so-courageous Anonymous, and I really wish all those ideas you expressed here had made it into the media during the debate. Having been a newspaper reporter for decades, though, I know that pretty much no story has room for every interesting idea. And having read the coverage, I know there were a fair number of reporters who were all to eager to lap up what the HSUS was spooning them.

      I also know from talking to other houndsmen that the people pushing this bill declined offers to go out and see what hunting with hounds is really like - why let truth get in the way of a stupid bill?

  24. "The ability to tree the same animal repeatedly during a season or over the course of years in its same home range is also indicative of the innocuous impact of being treed."

    And here the claim is that hounding is necessary to reduce human-bear interaction. Can't have it both ways can we?

    We have laws against harassment of wildlife. Hounding is legalized harassment. It's a loophole. It doesn't matter if it's dogs or robots. It doesn't matter if the dog-bear interaction is identical to interactions with wolves. While dogs are natural elements, the event is man made and fits the definition of harassment of wildlife. To do this repeatedly to the same bear even more so.

    Shooting a bear in a tree is shooting a cornered animal. There is but one path to escape and that path includes increasing danger. By definition, it's cornered. Shooting a treed bear is a level beyond the sitting duck. How the bear got in the tree is mostly irrelevant. But in hounding, shooting the treed bear spoils whatever fairness houndsmen think was in the chase.

    1. "And here the claim is that hounding is necessary to reduce human-bear interaction. Can't have it both ways can we?"

      Yes, actually we can have it both ways. The use of hounds affords us the opportunity to respond to multiple scenarios according to what is deemed appropriate or necessary. These include:
      1. catch and release hunting for those inclined to do so
      2. humane harvest of an animal for consumption for those inclined to do so
      3. capture or dispatch of a depredating animal instead of killing others that may just happen to be near the "scene of the crime"
      4. individual or collective aversion conditioning (especially when used in conjunction with OC paintballs, bean bag or rubber rounds fired from a shotgun, and loud noises) in areas of human habitation
      5. minimally invasive study of wildlife

      The use of hounds for either consumptive or non-consumptive hunting is no different than consumptive or non-consumptive fishing; either the animal can be caught and released unharmed at the site of its capture, caught and transferred to another area, or removed from the overall population if there are concerns that the individual or the population level has an adverse impact on human enterprise or other flora and fauna.

      "We have laws against harassment of wildlife. Hounding is legalized harassment. It's a loophole. It doesn't matter if it's dogs or robots. It doesn't matter if the dog-bear interaction is identical to interactions with wolves. While dogs are natural elements, the event is man made and fits the definition of harassment of wildlife. To do this repeatedly to the same bear even more so."

      Yes, using a hound to pursue an animal is harassment specifically because the origin of the word "harassment" means to pursue with a dog...I bet you didn't know that. You have yet to demonstrate why harassment (defined as the pursuit of an animal by a dog) is adverse. The wildlife research and wildlife management communities (the guys and gals with advanced degrees and lots of expertise that you do not have) think otherwise.

    2. Anonymous,

      "Shooting a bear in a tree is shooting a cornered animal. There is but one path to escape and that path includes increasing danger. By definition, it's cornered."

      Once again, the bear can leave when it wants to because it is not caged, chained, nor constrained. In fact, while bears are often unalarmed by the dogs, the arrival or approach of humans often motivates them to come down the tree and keep running...this is a common occurrence that results in even lengthier pursuits or the escape of the bear.

      Also, when you consider that the bear is aware of the situation it is in (let's call it a warning) when treed by hounds, but is not at all aware of the gunscope or bowsite positioned on its vital area from a hunter it doesn't know is even there for all other methods, how do you logically suggest that the act of shooting a treed bear is unfair? Logic would dictate that not informing the animal and therefore denying them a chance to save themselves would be more unfair. Would you want to know if someone was after you or would you prefer to be grabbed from behind in a dark alley and never have a fighting chance?

      "Shooting a treed bear is a level beyond the sitting duck. How the bear got in the tree is mostly irrelevant."

      Let me remind you that you said that the use of hounds does not constitute fair chase. You never offered an articulation of what you define fair chase as, but you nevertheless condemned the use of hounds as not fitting that definition.

      1. We established that the use of hounds as the only method of hunting bear that actually involves a CHASE.
      2. We established the fact that a tremendous amount of time, energy, effort, and money must be expended in both breeding, raising, exercising, and training a hound and then in the difficult effort to pursue a bear's scent over challenging conditions and terrain for miles and miles and hours and hours.
      3. We established the fact that this method does not rely on man-made technology like all other methods do but instead replicates a natural scenario that the bear uniquely evolved defenses against.

      ...NOW you say that the fairness of the chase is no longer relevant and that only a supposed lack of fairness of the shot is what matters?

      "But in hounding, shooting the treed bear spoils whatever fairness houndsmen think was in the chase."

      Please help me to understand why you think it is important that the shot be challenging? Why would this ever be a good thing?

  25. "Yes, actually we can have it both ways."

    No you can't and apparently not just California thinks so. If it's "innocuous impact' then no effect. If no effect, then it's purely harassment. In other words, if you are treeing the same bear, your harassment effort isn't working as a means of control. If it's not working, why are you harassing the wildlife?

    There is no reason to state why harassment is adverse (even given that by definition it's adverse). It's against the law and now for bears too. It's as simple as that.

    A cornered animal is a cornered animal. It can leave, but only via an increasingly dangerous route. It may not as well after being harassed to the point of complete exhaustion.

    "...NOW you say that the fairness of the chase is no longer relevant and that only a supposed lack of fairness of the shot is what matters? "

    If shooting a bear out of tree isn't fair chase (like shooting a roosting turkey, a sitting duck, or a fenced animal), then the entire act of hounding and subsequently shooting the bear out of the tree isn't fairchase. Hence, the hounding part is mostly irrelevant to the fairchase aspect and only relevant to harassment (which is against the law).

    Didn't say the shot should be challenging.

  26. A while back in this discussion the question was raised about Orion's definition of fair chase. Here are some excerpts from our position statement as posted on the Orion web site:
    Fundamental to ethical hunting is the idea of fair chase. This concep addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken." [p.57]

    "There are some activities that are clearly unfair as well as unethical. At the top of the list is shooting captive or domesticated big game animals in commercial killing areas where a person with a gun is guaranteed an animal to shoot. These shooting grounds are alien to any consideration of ethical hunting. When discussing the ethic of fair chase, it is important to clarify that we are talking about hunting free-ranging wild animals." [p.59]
    In Aldo Leopold's 1933 text 'Game Management', he states: "...the recreational value of game is inverse to the artificiality of its origin...." This is still a standard that can be used to measure these activities." [p.60]

    "The mechanized pursuit of wildlife is high on the list of violating fair-chase principles. We have invented machines to carry ourselves over land, sea, an air. Evolution of the animals we pursue can not keep pace with these inventions. If we are to pursue animals fairly, the ethical choice is clear - we pursue them on foot. The ethical hunter never chases or harasses wildlife with a machine." [p.61]

    "The ethical hunter must make many fair-chase choices. In some areas, chasing big game with dogs is an accepted custom. In other places, it is considered an unfair advantage for the hunter. Likewise, luring animals with bait or hunting in certain seasons sometimes is viewed as giving unfair advantage to the hunter. While local custom and practice need to be respected, it is equally important to be honest about the result of these practices. If there is a doubt, advantage must be given to the animal being hunted." [p.61]

    "In addition to hunting practices, there is a constant flow of products developed to provide advantages to hunters. Sights, scents, calls, baits, decoys, devices, and techniques of infinite variety fill the marketplace. In each case an individual choice must be made as to what sustains fair chase and what violates that concept." [p.62]
    Jim Posewitz. 1994. "Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting". Falcon Press. Helena, Montana. ISBN 1-56044-283-2

    Ortega y Gasset devotes considerable attention to what may be called the "constitutive elements" of sport hunting in his search for the essence of hunting. These include effort, fair play/fair chase; limitation of technological advantage; scarcity of game; special seasons; and so on. From Meditations on Hunting.

  27. The first kind of hunting needed, so far as the experts can tell, involved weapons like warrior spears or bow and arrows shot from the distance. Surprisingly, our forefathers caught their food while using identical method we use to trap public transit to operate when we are late. We went after it. Before he heard to make use of lengthy range weapons, early guy didn't have other method of catching his dinner than being persistent and putting on it lower on the lengthy trek, frequently occasions even just in the oppressive midday warmth. Some early predators would chase antelope over 20 miles in warmth over 100 levels. Persistence hunting will be the order during the day. African predators would chase a Kudu, that is an earlier form of the antelope, by startling your pet therefore it went away. They'd chase the animal in a fast pace, and, as the faster Kudu would continually be further ahead, the predators would get caught up into it if this invested some time to relaxation within the shade. The hunter would eventually finish your pet served by a spear, although not until he what food was in close range. This kind of hunting continues to be practised in Southern Africa.

  28. I've hunted all my life (with dogs BTW). Driving around in a gasoline powered vehicle is not hunting. I'm sure you have plenty of other lazy people on here who will support your type of "hunting" but that is just a sad comment on todays society. I don't see how someone can get a feeling of accomplishment from something like that, but like you said "to each his own". Maybe the true art of hunting is being lost and replaced by this ....I hope not but I fear it is so......

  29. Yeah, great sport, if by great sport one means insecure gun totin' tool living in a world gone by. Don't shoot your foot off like Chuck Heston did.

    1. Well, that was a courageous and articulate reply. Thanks for elevating the discussion!

  30. You are one of the most bravest and gallant hunters I know. Thats a joke ! killing a helpless animal with it s back to you climbing down a tree. How much more of a low life can you be? and how do you call yourself a hunter ? You need to ask how you call yourself a human being.

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