Monday, December 9, 2013

Hunting - Time Magazine Article Calls for More

America's Pest Problem: It's Time to Cull the Herd 

After nearly wiping out many wildlife species 50 years ago, Americans are once again living close--sometimes uncomfortably so--to all kinds of feral creatures. Why wildlife in the U.S. needs stronger management

As a young Vermont Game Warden in the early '70s I wasn't called on to handle many damage wildlife complaints. Most Vermonters had the means and knowledge to take care of a skunk in the shed or a deer in the garden. That changed as new folks moved in, more land was posted and hunter/trapper numbers declined.
I remember one lady calling me complaining about beaver cutting down her trees. I asked where they were coming from - "Oh from my wildlife pond." I politely informed her that beaver were wildlife. She didn't care, she wanted them removed. I suggested a trapper could help her out, preferably during the open season when the hides were worth selling. She declined, but a month later she wanted some names and phone numbers of area trappers.
As the number of nuisance animals rose I worried that overpopulation would be a greater threat to hunting than anti-hunters or posted land. My thinking was that if deer became horned rats, who would care enough for them to be sure humans wouldn't wipe them out again? In the late 1800's it was hunters who cared, out their money up, became conservationists that lead to the recovery of wildlife in the US.
A Mass Conservation Officer told me about a hearing on overpopulated deer on Martha's Vineyard. A fellow asked why they had so many deer. The CO replied lack of hunting to reduce the numbers and good habitat with plenty of food. The guys reply was to get rid of the habitat by paving it over!
This cover story in Time was interesting to me because the author takes the stance that over populations or wildlife is driving greater hunter access, more hunters and greater knowledge of wildlife and their habitat.
I hope he is right.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cornell Kicks Off Analysis of Public Trust Doctrine

This from the Wildlife Management Institute:

Cornell Kicks Off Analysis of Public Trust Doctrine PDF Print E-mail
Wildlife Management Institute Western Field Representative, Chris Smith, shared thoughts on the implications of the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) for state fish and wildlife agencies, kicking off an in-depth analysis of the PTD sponsored by Polson Institute for Global Development at Cornell University. Smith’s presentation, hosted by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, was the first in a series of discussions through which practitioners and scholars will explore the opportunities and constraints related to this fundamental element of conservation law. The discussions will culminate in a 3-day workshop in the spring of 2014 designed to contribute to the academic literature, teaching and training related to the PTD, and enhancing application of public trust principles in daily work of resource professionals.

The concept that government holds fish and wildlife in trust for the benefit of current and future generations is explicit in the statutes and constitutions of countries around the world, and is implicit in the norms, customs and governance arrangements of many more. In 1842, the United States Supreme Court articulated this legal duty as the Public Trust Doctrine. Interest is increasing among scholars and natural resource management professionals in the potential for PTD to meet persistent and emergent challenges in natural resource conservation and governance. However, the specific questions that public trust doctrine is able to address and the challenges for implementation have not been fully examined. Concerns have also been expressed about the PTD’s current ability to affect conservation outcomes.

Cornell University professors Dan Decker, Bernd Blossey, and Charles Geisler along with PhD student Darragh Hare have organized a multi-disciplinary “reading group” that will meet six times to analyze the literature and application of the PTD. Academic participants come from Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, Department of Development Sociology and Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. To ground the analysis of the PTD in real world issues, the organizers have invited participants from several state and federal agencies to join the discussions. Dr. Decker said the objective of the effort is “to explore the promise and limitations of public trust thinking as a basis for policy leading to sustainability of natural resources and the principles of natural resource practice that will guide effective management.” (cs)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gayle Joslin Honored with $1000 Cinnabar Grant Award

Gayle was a long time Board member of Orion. Congrats Gayle!

Montana BHA Member Honored with $1000 Grant Award

18.2  SuccessGJGayle Joslin, Montana BHA member, wildlife biologist and lifelong wildlife advocate was recently awarded Leonard and Sandy Sargent Stewardship Award through the Cinnabar Foundation. This award was given Gayle for her lifelong effort on behalf of wildlands and wildlife resources. After 32 years with Montana Dept of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Gayle has continued as a volunteer since 2007. Having worked with a number of government agencies and their complex planning processes, Gayle generously shares that experience with a variety of non-governmental wildlife conservation groups, advocates and litigators. Much of Helena Hunters and Anglers organization’s efforts has the touch of Gayle’s work.  Montana BHA and Helena Hunters and Anglers, along with Montana Wildlife Federation, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers and Clancy-Unionville Working Group, are currently working together to protect elk security and promote improved travel planning in the Helena National Forest’s portion of the Blackfoot drainage.
The Sargent Stewardship Award recognizes outstanding achievement in environmental advocacy, preservation, and education within the Montana and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This award was accompanied by a special opportunity for Gayle to designate monetary grants to conservation organizations.   Other organizations benefiting from Gayle’s recognition are Helena Hunters & Anglers, Montana Environmental Information Center, Montana Wilderness Association, and Northern Plains Resource Council.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Naturally Rich

Essay by Bradley Carlton

Many of the problems in my life have been the cause of a poor relationship to money.  When I was young I did not learn the value of working hard for commensurate remuneration (I never had to “earn” anything.) All I had to do was beg or be stubborn and I would get what I wanted.

Let me say that this set me up for a significant struggle. When I got in trouble financially I believed that someone would come along and “bail me out.” I don’t fault my father for this. He was the 10th child of a very poor coal mining family in Pennsylvania. All he wanted was to give his children everything he could not afford. He was very successful in his early business career and the family was perceived by many to be “rich.” I based my entire self worth on what my family could afford to lavish on me. This was to become one of my greatest challenges in life.

In my teens I began to hunt and the first thing I learned was that it didn’t matter how much money my family had, nature treated everyone equally under the same conditions.

I was 30 years old before the lesson hunted me down and presented itself in a way that I could no longer ignore. As they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

My father, through his magnanimously naïve nature had made several poor business decisions and managed to lose all the income he had created. He could no longer support the delusions of grandeur that I had created.

This was to become the starting point for my sacred path. Hunting, fishing and foraging were to become my teachers. To quote Red Cloud, a late 19th century Sioux Chief, “…I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.” This struck me one day as I stood weeping for my condition. What was it that I wanted? What did I need to feel like I was worthwhile?

My answer came to me as I hunted.

I thought I was hunting for deer, squirrels, turkey or rabbits, but what I was unconsciously seeking was my need to feel as though I had value in the world. Since I had equated “value” with monetary measures, I did not find what I was looking for externally. I tried guiding for  waterfowl for a little more than a decade and it seemed that taking money for providing clients with a chance to shoot a limit of ducks or geese seemed to diminish the value of what I was striving to exchange. It almost seemed that the birds became a commodity that had an assigned value that could be purchased with currency. It felt demeaning after a while.

But during that time I also discovered that what I was searching for all along was the “meaning” behind what I enjoyed so much. It was the beauty of a wood drakes’ herringbone patterned flank feathers, the iridescence of a redlegged drake’s crown, the inimitable cupping of wings of a lone Canada goose dropping in from the heavens after a long migratory journey. I wanted to share the love of his lonely her-onk in the moonlight. I felt drawn to communicate the exquisite aromas of wood smoke, decaying nuts, and the majestic display of a tom turkey strutting for attention in the early morning light of the spring woods. I found myself speaking of the impending arrival of fiddleheads, ramps and wild asparagus as the earth warmed up to 63 degrees in the spring. I languished over the taste of fresh brook trout with nothing but some lemon and butter in a pan over an open fire.

More than anything I had known before, I wanted to share my love and my experiences with others.

As I became aware of what I wanted, I began to realize that my values were shifting. Away from material possessions and a consumptive lifestyle. I wanted to, at least, partially support myself and my wife with food that I had grown, foraged or harvested.

As my values shifted, so did my self-image. Over time I began to feel wealthy. Rich, even. I was filling my freezer with nutritious food. I was growing my own vegetables and finding my own mushrooms. I was eating pure, natural, local food. My household grew to include chickens to provide us with eggs. I didn’t even eat eggs before I had chickens, now an omelet starts off my day three mornings a week. When we have guests over for dinner, it is a production. I cook venison backstraps in a plum pepper sauce and we celebrate our feast with a good bottle of merlot.

All of this has lead me to the conclusion that despite my lack of monetary income, I have learned that true riches, which I believe is better described as “wealth”, comes not from how new my truck is, nor what cell phone I use, but the abundance of natural elements in my life and how conscious I am of all that is available to me. With this, my definition of wealth has changed and my self-image is now based on how much love and gratitude I have in my life.

So the next time you are feeling poor or are not sure how you define value in your life, I would propose that you pick up your gun, your fishing rod or a basket and walk into the woods. Nature provides us with all the riches we need.

Bradley Carleton is Executive Director of Sacred, a non-profit organization that is being formed to educate the public on the spiritual connection of man to nature and raises funds for Traditions Outdoor, which mentors at-risk young men in outdoor pursuits.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Call to support fair chase hunting on television

From the Montana Wildlife Federation:
(note Randy was a longtime board member of Orion)
Show support for the hunting show that supports conservation

MWF supporters,

This month hunter/conservationist Randy Newberg is featuring our effort to conserve some of the best wildlife habitat in Montana on the Rocky Mountain Front on his popular TV show, Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg.
The hard-core mule deer hunt will air at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on the Sportsmen's Channel on Oct. 24.

In this day and age, it's refreshing to see cable television embrace fair chase effort and the conservation of our public lands and public wildlife. Randy's show told the true story of not only the big game on the Rocky Mountain Front, but of the habitat that is the foundation of North America's world-class hunting opportunities. We know that the Front is incredible habitat and that's why we're working hard to protect this remarkable landscape with the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act currently in Congress.

Fresh Tracks harkens back to an era of hunting shows when the focus was on conservation and habitat. He stresses that when it comes to wildlife, it's habitat, habitat and habitat. That can make for some difficult hunts but also rewarding ones. And sometimes he doesn't kill an animal - that's hunting, as we all know.

Randy's stood with us for a long time. Now it's time for us to stand with him. Please take a moment to contact Randy's prime sponsor: Federal Ammunition and thank them for sponsoring Fresh Tracks.
You can contact Federal here. Let them know if you use Federal ammunition.

Also, please contact the Sportsman's Channel and thank them for allowing Randy to portray hunters as thoughtful, educated and conservation-minded stewards of our public lands and public wildlife.
You can email the Sportsman's Channel here:

Please cc your emails to Thanks for supporting one of our biggest conservation partners.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Use of Drones While Hunting

Orion-The Hunters' Institute Position Statement

Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (commonly called “drones”) to aid or assist in hunting.

It is the position of Orion-the Hunters’ Institute that the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (UAVs) to aid or assist in hunting should be banned.  We believe that the use of airborne camera and sensing equipment gives an unfair advantage to the hunter over game and is therefore a clear violation of the principles of fair chase.
We further urge States to immediately ban the use of UAVs in hunting before it can become established.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Waiters

Hunters wait. Or so I was told. I’d never hunted from a tree stand before, and couldn’t imagine wanting to. I didn’t want to sit around and wait for something to happen. I know how to hunt walking, sneaking, crawling, sometimes running. But hey, I supposed I could give waiting a chance, if I got the opportunity.

I got it in Germany, a pretty exotic locale for me, so why not try this waiting business there?  After all, the rural German landscape is dotted with Hochsitzen, mostly permanent tree stands, many outfitted with blinds, on the edges of meadows or farm fields. So off I went, with a farmer-hunter (a distant relative), driving down the cobblestoned road to a dirt track in-between two fields. At the end of the track was the Hochsitz he had in mind, and we got out and snuck in the rest of the way. I thought (whisper-style) to myself: “well at least I know how to do this.”

But I didn’t, really. I was paying attention to sneaking into the Hochsitz, but my hunter companion was watching for prey on the way there. And he saw one, off in the distance. I guess I should have known better. Regardless, I thought, let’s get closer to it, close some distance. But that’s not how they do it over there, because it doesn’t work. We were hunting rehwild, roe deer the size of a big dog, and it’s simply not possible to stalk them. They will hear or smell or spot you and run away in the grass before you realize they have.

So we moved towards it with our eyes. I can’t even remember if I managed to spot it at this point. We climbed the ladder, opened the door, and settled into the blind as quietly as possible. Just that was weird for me – I was climbing a ladder trying to make sure something that we had spotted wouldn’t spot us. I wouldn’t have guessed that climbing a ladder was hunting. But it was.

Inside, we shortened the distance with Ferngläser, far-seeing glasses. Turns out the roe deer was a rikke, a doe. We had a license for a rehbock (almost sounds like the shoe company) with antlers shorter than its ears. But we didn’t want the rikke to be startled, lest she scare off any legal bucks out there. And then she disappeared.

I don’t imagine she was lost, but we lost her. So we sat down to wait the appearance of another. Waiting for appearance. Things can be there, apparent, an apparition – or not there, disapparent, nothing. We waited for “there” to happen. The word “existence” comes from the Latin exsistere, “to stand forth.” When something stands forth, it exists. When it does not stand forth, it does not exist. We were waiting for a deer to exist, because from where we were sitting, no more deer were there.

Waiting for existence. It occurred to me then that those who wait do not control that for which they wait. Rather, they rather place themselves in what they hope will be the right spot at the right time, situating themselves where they hope something might come into existence. But the rightness of the spot is not up to the hunter. Roe deer go where they will, like the Spirit or the wind. They do their own existing, or so it would appear to us, those who wait.

Of course when and where one waits is not random. A great deal of practical knowledge and experience goes into making that call. I had no such knowledge, although having grass nearby seemed to be a good bet. Yet no amount of practical knowledge or experience will make the appearance of the prey certain. For that we would have needed theoria, the kind of knowledge that’s supposed to drill through the veils of flesh which keep existence hidden: x-ray vision, infra-red goggles, camera-equipped drones, that sort of thing. But no, we were stuck in our spot with nothing that allowed us to see past the apparent world into the hidden places where the rehbock might be. I bet that’s why those technologies are illegal for hunters anyway, because they take away our human perspective and give us something like what might be the God’s-eye point-of-view. Reality-stripping certainties are not supposed to be in the hunter’s cards.

Appearances are sudden. All at once, a rehbock was there. Wasn’t he always there? Apparently not. He was only always there to himself, I suppose. Perhaps he had been waiting for something too. Or watching. Because of course we weren’t just waiting either. We were watching. Waiting without vigilance is of no use. We watched for his arrival, we watched a lack of existence and waited for it to exist. We held vigil.

He was far off. Much too far for us to shoot him, unless we were mathematical masters of physical logic. Mostly we were not. The mathematical physics logic of our far-seeing glasses brought our human gaze close enough to see that he was a “big one,” with white-tipped antlers and other distinguishing features that would help my companion remember him. We could watch the buck’s existence, walking a route through the grass, circling around to our right, and then back in front of us and close enough to shoot.  But we were not to shoot bucks with tall antlers that year. As if on cue or in response, he disappeared.

So we waited, watched, again. The sun was going down. Our waiting was becoming urgent. But then, in the same place where the first buck had come out of nothingness into somethingness, another one appeared. Maybe this was the right place! My eyes could not tell if it was a buck or a doe, glasses or no. But the hunter could tell it was a legal buck. So our waiting was finished, except that it was not.

Watching was easy. He was already there. He was in our vision, but vision does not catch. But now that the buck was apparent, we had to wait for him to present himself to us. We needed him to come to us. Even when present in the field, the wild thing continues to go where it wills. And so we watched and waited to see what would happen. He seemed to follow the same path that the larger buck did, but more slowly – stopping to eat at places, loping along at other points. The sun was fading; we needed him to come closer!

All we could do was sit there and will him to come closer. We groaned inwardly and sometimes outwardly as he did what he willed. We threw our wills towards him, to catch and pull him in with the power of our hearts. We urged him. We called him earnestly, but in silence – in spring there is no use of “calls.” It was like a kind of prayer.

And so it was a futile battle of wills, where only one side knew of the battle, and the other side did not know that he ignored it. Such was the struggle, that we the hunters might be overcome by an entirely oblivious counterpart. The rehbock needed to present himself to us for a shot, and we were helpless to make him do that. Nor would he have done that willingly anyhow. Our only hope was that we would be obliviated to him in our Hochsitz – that we would not exist – and that he would happen to walk by in range and at the right angle.

He did not. Nor did he the following night, when we threw ourselves into the field again. He was lost to us in the darkness, standing out only when the night took him back.

However, we hunted as waiters, the taste of which I had never savoured before, and may not again. The hunter waits because the hunter makes itself a nothing in the environing embrace of the world. The hunter waits because the hunter can only will inefficaciously that a free thing will present itself at all, and then present itself to the hunter unawares. Because the hunter waits, control is relinquished. The hunter can only call silently and hope. Compare with the gardener, the farmer or the builder, the urban dweller. We are always some of these too, but none waits in the world like the hunter.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Quartering and Packing Big Game Video Released

WASHINGTON --( Steven Rinella, host of the Sportsmen’s Channel show “Meateater,” has teamed up with seven sportsman-conservation organizations in a new instructional video, “Quartering & Packing Big Game,” that demonstrates big-game field dressing and packing techniques for public land hunters. Rinella offers tips and techniques to allow hunters to confidently hunt deer, elk, bighorn sheep and other big game on remote areas of public land.

“A lot of hunters feel uneasy about hunting backcountry public land because they’re worried about what’s going to happen when they get a deer or elk down on the ground a mile or more from their rig,” says Rinella in the video.

“But the thing is, public land hunting often doesn’t even get good until you get this far from the road. The hunting pressure drops off because fewer people are willing to walk this far, and the animals know that. If you want to consistently harvest good bucks and bulls you need to be willing to hunt away from your vehicle.”

Millions of American sportsmen depend on public lands, and these lands can receive a lot of hunting pressure. That pressure can push deer and elk deep into areas that are far from roads and vehicles, prompting many sportsmen to hunt on foot, quarter their kills and pack out the meat on their backs. Rinella’s video aims to help public land hunters develop the skills and confidence necessary to hunt away from their vehicles – in places where their odds of success often are higher.

“Hunting the backcountry requires some additional skills,” acknowledges Rinella. “I’m going to give you a few tips on how to break an animal down and get it out on your own. Using this skinning and butchering method is going to help you hunt farther away from the road in places where the hunting is simply better.”

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Wild Sheep Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, Orion the Hunters Institute, the Pope and Young Club and the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance teamed up with Rinella to produce and distribute the new video. All of these groups are committed to ensuring the responsible management of public lands and to safeguarding habitat for fish, wildlife and sportsmen.

Watch “Quartering & Packing Big Game” right now.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Overhand throw - our evolutionary edge?

From the NY Times and Harvard University:

No one knows whether Homo erectus, the early ancestor of both the Yankees and the Red Sox, threw the split-finger fastball. But he could have, according to a group of scientists who offer new evidence that the classic overhand throw used by baseball players at all positions, ....
They first appeared, the researchers say,around 1.8 million years ago, when humans were most likely beginning to hunt big game and needed to throw sharp objects hard and fast.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wildlife for the 21st Century (Volume IV)

Orion is a long time partner/member of the AWCP:

This is the fourth in a series of recommendations from the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) to Presidents Bush and Obama since 2001. AWCP is a consortium of 49 organizations that represents the interests of America’s 20 million hunters, their families, and the economies of many rural communities.
We began issuing these recommendations at the turn of the 21st century to apply to today’s issues the fundamental ideas on which the American conservation movement began over the prior 100+ years: the ideas of public access to wildlife, personal responsibility, and active scientific management.
The legacy of personal commitments by conservationists fills this heritage with valuable achievements in restoring and sustaining wildlife, discovering and teaching its science, and mentoring generations of hunters, trappers, and target shooters in safe and ethical recreation.
The continuity of accomplishment under these principles runs from the first hunting clubs proposing game laws in the mid-1800s, to the creation of Federal agencies and public lands at the turn of the last century, and to passage of a self-imposed tax on arms and ammunition that has funded massive restoration of deer, elk, and other wildlife. That program is now called Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration and reached its 75th anniversary in 2012. We are now equipped to add to the legacy through the work of state, Federal, and tribal wildlife agencies, the largest caucus in the Congress (the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus), a Federal Advisory Committee with a unified 10-year agenda (the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council), and our network of private groups in AWCP.
It is from this perspective of history, service in government and private enterprise, and basis in principle that we submit the following recommendations. These recommendations represent a general agreement of the partners.

to download a copy of vol IV follow this link

Friday, April 12, 2013

Public Trust Doctrine

Please check out this short video we have been putting together on the Public Trust Doctrine.  Any constructive criticism is welcome.


Glenn Hockett
Volunteer President, Gallatin Wildlife Association
P.O. Box 5317
Bozeman, MT 59717

Working to Protect Habitat and Conserve Fish & Wildlife

Friday, April 5, 2013

Orion Joins Conservation Partners on Gun Control Letter

In conjunction with 30 other members of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), Orion has signed the following letter to the U.S. Senate leadership in response to proposed federal gun control legislation:

The Honorable Harry Reid                                           
Majority Leader                                                            
United States Senate                                                     
522 Hart Senate Office Building                                  
Washington, DC 20510                                                
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
United States Senate
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
April 4, 2013

Dear Senators:

Our organizations, which represent millions of Americans who actively support professional wildlife management and the advancement of our nation’s hunting and recreational shooting heritage, are writing to express our sincere hope that your upcoming gun control debate will be constructive. 

Like you, we were devastated by the recent tragedy in Connecticut, and we share your goal of ensuring that appropriate actions are taken to prevent similar acts of senseless violence in the future.  We believe an opportunity exists to enact legislation that addresses the causative agents of this and similar tragic events. Specifically we support:

·      National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) improvement measures that will effectively prevent access to firearms by those not legally qualified to possess them, without criminalizing private transfers;
·      Vigorous enforcement of existing federal firearms laws;
·      Efforts to improve security in our nation’s schools;
·      A comprehensive process to review, evaluate and recommend changes to our nation’s treatment of the mentally ill before their actions result in these devastating consequences; and
·      The development and implementation of a community based “family watch” program that helps families with concerns that an immediate family member who they believe has the potential to become a societal danger is afforded the assistance that they need to intervene before a tragedy occurs.

As much as we support this five point plan that responds to the causative agents that could have potentially avoided this tragedy, we oppose unnecessary restrictions of our ability to attain and possess legal firearms and that have no foundation in addressing the factors that led to this tragedy or like tragedies.

In addition, the signatories to this letter are proud of our hunting and recreational shooting heritage and the support that our activities contribute to our nation’s conservation, economic and societal interests.

Specifically, shooting sports participants are the largest financial supporters of wildlife conservation throughout the United States, having contributed over $5.4 billion to the management of our nation’s wildlife, recreational shooting and hunter education through Pittman-Robertson excise tax payments since 1991. This uniquely American System of Conservation Funding – a “user pays-public benefits” system - is heralded internationally as the most successful wildlife management program in the world.

Economically, the companies in the United States that manufacture, distribute and sell firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment employ as many as 98,752 people in the country and generate an additional 110,998 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries.  In 2012 alone the firearms and ammunition industry was responsible for as much as $31.84 billion in total economic activity in the United States. The significant contributions these companies are making to our nation’s economic recovery should not be sacrificed to unnecessary and ineffective restrictions and bans, no matter how well-intended their proponents may be. 

Societally, these lawful recreational activities provide untold hours of benefits to our nation’s families and their friend and neighbors that should not be unnecessarily impinged upon.

For these reasons, the undersigned organizations respectfully request that you continue to work collectively, as the voice of sportsmen and recreational shooters in Congress, toward pragmatic bipartisan solutions in a manner that enhances wildlife conservation, benefits the economy and protects America’s rich hunting and shooting heritage, while not impeding the Second Amendment rights of our members.  Thank you for your ongoing service to our nation and future generations of sportsmen and women conservationists.


Archery Trade Association
Boone and Crockett Club
Camp Fire Club of America
Catch-A-Dream Foundation
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Conservation Force
Dallas Safari Club
Delta Waterfowl
Masters of Foxhounds
Mule Deer Foundation
National Rifle Association
National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Trappers Association
National Wild Turkey Federation
North American Bear Foundation
North American Grouse Partnership
Orion, The Hunter’s Institute
Pheasants Forever
Pope and Young Club
Quail Forever
Quality Deer Management Association
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Ruffed Grouse Society
Safari Club International
Texas Wildlife Association
U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance 
Whitetails Unlimited
Wild Sheep Foundation
Wildlife Forever
Wildlife Management Institute
Wildlife Mississippi

CC: The Honorable Patrick Leahy
The Honorable Chuck Grassley

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Depredation Hunting As A Commercial Concern

In which I once again open a door that I might wish had stayed closed...

It's an interesting conundrum.

Feral (wild) hogs are devastating farm crops from North Carolina to California and most points south of that line.  It won't be long before they're causing similar issues in the upper midwest as well.  That's pretty irrefutable.  A relatively small sounder can wreak havoc on a freshly planted corn field.  They'll mow down a barley field, and whatever they don't eat they'll trample into the mud. They can till up a crop of peanuts or sweet potatoes to the point where it's barely cost effective to replant.

There are a few methods to manage these animals.  Poison is one consideration, but most poisons are indiscriminate. They tend to kill animals that you didn't really intend to kill, from coyotes and racoons to cats and dogs.  For this reason, their use is regulated and even prohibited in some locations. Recent research into sodium nitrate (the food preservative) has shown promise, but at this point it is still in the research phase. 

Trapping is an efficient option.  By capturing the animals alive, the trapper is able to ensure that non-target animals are not harmed.  A properly operated trapping system, such as the M.I.N.E. (Manually Initiated Nuisance Elimination) program recommended by the guys at Jager-Pro can be particularly effective in removing entire sounders.  This is, arguably, one of the best options currently available, but it requires time and patience.  It is also very localized.  Large-scale trapping would require significant outlay for equipment, and a lot of time to manage multiple traps across a wide geographic area. 

And there's depredation hunting/shooting. 

On the small scale, this method has a certain level of success.  Serious hunting pressure will drive hogs out of an area.  However, the problem here is that the hogs will re-settle on another property.  They'll also come back eventually, once the pressure has eased.  For the farmer who just needs time for his crops to take root, or time to ripen and harvest, that may be enough.  But in big farm country, like Georgia, it's not good enough to push the hogs onto your neighbor's farm.  It's not real neighborly either.

To address this, small companies have cropped up and have been offering their services to multiple farmers in an area.  This way, the depredation hunters can move with the hogs and keep the pressure up until their numbers have been reduced to a manageable level.  It's pretty much a given that the hunters won't be able to completely wipe out the population, but keeping the population in check is the goal.  They accomplish this with varying levels of success through the use of dogs, high-tech night vision, and helicopters.

But here's where it starts to get into a grey area.

Maintaining a staff, running hounds, buying night vision, and flying a chopper all cost money.  Some farmers are willing to pay a bit to the depredation teams, but others are unwilling or unable to foot the costs of this service.  Enter, the paying customer.

For many sport hunters, an outing with a depredation team offers something they don't get in an average outing.  There's generally a high level of success, and the opportunity to use the professionals' methods is alluring.  It presents a sort of no-holds-barred environment.  The hunter can shoot without limits on size or number, and he can utilize tools like high-end thermal imaging scopes, or shoot from the door of a flying helicopter. 

For the depredation company, the sport hunters are a source of additional income to help pay the expenses of the operation.  For the more successful companies, "guiding" hunters may even provide a profit.  Well-managed with a solid clientele, the arrangement can even become pretty lucrative... as long as the hogs hold out.

It raises a couple of valid ethical questions.

First of all, some people question the ethics of sport hunters participating in an activity simply for the thrill of killing more animals, especially when they're using means that would typically not suit accepted, sport hunting practices.  Shooting from the helicopters, for example, pretty much eliminates any pretense of Fair Chase.  Likewise, hunting at night with thermal-imaging scopes and semi-automatic rifles stuffed with high-capacity magazines wouldn't seem like much of a challenge. 

There's also the reality that neither method is known for quick, clean kills... nor is there much opportunity (or effort) for tracking and finishing wounded animals.  Firing rapidly at a scattering herd and trying to knock down as many animals as possible before they clear the field is guaranteed to result in a significant amount of wounding. 

Of course, logically, most of us recognize that this is eradication.  One must necessarily adopt the mindset of the exterminator, and treat the target animals as nothing more than cockroaches or mice.  To the pest control expert, killing is killing, whether death occurs rapidly or slowly.  The end game is to remove as many pests as possible from the customer's property. He doesn't necessarily think of the creatures as sentient beings, and he seldom takes the time to take a close look at the outcomes of his actions.   

So is it wrong to sell this experience to customers who are paying for the excitement... for the thrill of killing indiscriminately?  Is it wrong for the customers to find the experience thrilling in the first place?  What kind of person would pay for the opportunity to do this?  How can someone actually do this and find it fun? 

It is, at the very least, a challenge to the narrative presented by most hunting apologists who would create the myth of the thoughtful hunter... of the connected sportsman who feels deeply about the animals he pursues and the sanctity of the chase.  It blurs the image of the ethical paragon (if such a person ever existed in the first place), overlaying it with the grinning, bloodthirsty killer of Cleveland Amory's nightmare. Which is real? How do we reconcile?  Is it necessary to try?