May 27, 2023

High-Fence Hunting

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In a perfect world, the hunter would walk out his back door on opening day of the season with rifle in hand and just walk to his or her favorite stand. Whether hunting whitetail or mule deer, elk or moose, bear or mountain lion, quail or grouse, the back yard would be free and accessible to hunt on.

But maybe that’s not your idea of the perfect world. Perhaps you would prefer hunting with a bow and arrow and not just any bow. It would have to be a long bow with no sites – more primitive. Or are you such a purist you want to hunt with an atlatl or your bare hands and a knife made from shale.

On the other end of this hunting spectrum is the hunter who might just prefer a new high-powered rifle with scope that draws on available light, perched in a tree in a tree stand that comes equipped with color TV and beer on tap. They need the latest in electronic calls to call in their favorite game. They wear hi-tech scent-blocking camouflage clothing and they drove to their stand with an ATV equipped with everything but a driver.

Where are you on that continuum? To some, that event has no beginning and has no end. The purist would morph into an animal rights activist. The ultimate hunter would become a killing machine.

We all have friends and acquaintances who hunt and they all have their ideas of how their hunt should be. If I disagree with someone else’s version of the perfect hunt are they wrong? Am I?

Add to this mix, ethics. Now we have a serious problem. To me arguing about hunting ethics is about the same as trying to prove the existence of God to an atheist.

I have read in many places that hunting or fishing ethics is what you do when nobody is watching. This is quite true but there’s really more to it than that. Psychologists can tell you that there are personality types who believe that rules and regulations are for everyone else and that it is their job to enforce them. I know a lot of people like that. You?

Some believe hunting with a rifle is unethical. Some say not having a weapon powerful enough to make a clean, instant kill is inhumane therefore unethical. Some want to believe that shooting an animal chained to a stake is unethical or enclosed in a fenced-in area as well.

Are you one who thinks that “canned hunts” or the “high-fence hunts” is unethical? It’s okay if you do. You have your reasons to feel that way and those reasons should be respected. On the same token hunting on a game ranch does not have to be unethical.

I’m not in a position to sit here and tell you how big a ranch has to be and how many animals can be housed on a predetermined amount of space because there are too many variables. There are of course obvious situations that we all would agree aren’t good.

I hate the term “canned” or “high-fence” simply because now those two terms carry a very negative connotation. Media and those who choose to believe that hunting on a game ranch is unethical, use these terms to convince the unknowing that ALL hunting preserves is like shooting Bambi in a barrel.

The educated know there are differences but more importantly hunting preserves serve a purpose. No, they are not for everybody. As a matter of fact they aren’t for the majority but they are for some and for those some we shouldn’t be working so hard to take away an opportunity.

I visited the Idaho Elk Breeders Association website and read what they had to say about elk hunting preserves. I think it is safe to say that the majority of elk ranches in Idaho are set up for raising elk meat. It’s livestock. Instead of beef critters they raise elk critters. Some of those elk ranchers excercise their right to offer some a chance to come on their land and hunt elk.

Right off the bat some of you are going to say it isn’t hunting. That’s fine. To you it isn’t but what about to someone else. Let’s take a look at what the IEBA has to say about the minority of elk ranchers who offer hunting.

Providing Equal Hunting Opportunities for ALL

Some of our Elk Ranchers operate elk hunting preserves which are also located throughout the state. Some mis-conceptions lately in the local news media have given people the impression that these ranches are only for the rich, and that their operations are unethical and should be outright banned. Once again, we are here to provide the accurate view on these sort of operations.

Clientele: Our Elk Hunting preserves offer their services to ALL Idahoans. These hunting preserves are visited by many different hunters…

The Elderly Hunter who can no longer walk for miles in order to find an elk in the wild
The Disabled Hunter whose only opportunity to hunt is within one of our preserves
or the Out-Of-State Hunter who due to the strict limitation and lack of native wildlife in their state, opt to come hunt on one of Idaho’s private preserves in order to assure a successful hunt
even the fellow Idahoan who either is unable to find an elk in the wild, or is just too overwhelmed by the overpopulation of hunters in a specific region.
Size: Our Elk Hunting Preseves are operated in accordance with Safari Club International’s requirements for the “fair chase rule”. These ranches range anywhere from 200 acres to 2,000 acres in size. Most of our hunting preserves resemble an elk’s natural habitat, and are strongly regulated by the Idaho Department of Agriculture.

Health Testing: ALL animals which are harvested on these particular ranches are tested for CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease).

Fencing Requirements: ALL domesticated elk ranches are required to have 8 foot fencing in order to properly secure their animals from interaction with the wild. (This incident in Eastern Idaho is not a common occurence, and is believed to have been caused by another species of animal.)

You are entitled to have your beliefs in what is hunting and not hunting and what is ethical and not ethical. So is that somebody who can’t do things the way you do or chooses not too.

We don’t live in a perfect world and there will always be those who abuse things and appear as bad apples but just because someone does something a bit different than you doesn’t give you the right to snatch their right away from them. It’s call respect.

Get informed and then tell the truth. Not all hunting preserves consist of hundreds of poorly neglected animals crammed into a tiny muddied up pig sty while some blood thirsty killer has his way. There are good legitimate hunting preserves and remember this. The longer people keep insisting that lands be closed and hunting as we know it stopped, we are paving the way for more “canned hunts” as the media so determinedly call it.

You can no more insist that all preserve hunting be stopped when you don’t agree that all forms of hunting be stopped. Think about it.

Tom Remington