February 7, 2023

A 1970s Conservation Officer Stuck In Time Warp

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In today’s Idaho Statesman, John Gahl, a one-time conservation officer or game warden, tells of his days in the 1970s when he saw bad things on a game ranch.

Back in the 1970s, I was a conservation officer (game warden to most people) in the Cascade area. Some of my duties, among many other things, was to work with an individual who ran “canned hunts.”

You can tell immediately the tone of the opinion piece. I’m not going to make any attempt at disproving Mr. Gahl and what he saw or how he feels about what he and his ilk refer to as “canned hunts” or “shooter-bull operations”. Mr. Gahl is entitled to his opinion and because I would have no reason to believe he would lie about what he saw, I’m not going to question any of it.

There are two things that I will address. The first is to make a statement that I believe is a fair assessment of things today compared to 30 years ago. Things have changed a lot since Mr. Gahl’s days of beating the bush. I’m not naive enough to believe that there are not abuses that exist today concerning domesticated animals of all kinds. We can’t rid our world of bad acting people as much as we would like. But I think there are far fewer cases of animal cruelty today than back in the 70s. So let’s put that aside for a moment.

The second issue begins by me asking a question. Does Mr. Gahl believe that because he was once a conservation officer he has the power to rule over others and dictate or legislate hunting ethics? By his comments he makes, I think he has some serious issues with certain “types” of people.

First of all, we need to understand who participates in these canned hunts. (Don’t be fooled, “shooter-bull facilities” are just a more polite way of saying canned or guaranteed hunt.) As an officer, I checked U.S. senators, princes, sports writers and a myriad of more “common” folks. They had money but really weren’t interested in fair chase or what a real hunt entailed.

I guess money determines hunting ethics.

I think Mr. Gahl typifies the average Joe who wants hunting on ranches stopped. The reasons are basic. One, they want to force their own ethics on other people while at the same time sitting in judgment of the character of anyone who opts to try it. Secondly, the more liberal view of hunting and hunting ethics, proposes to throw out the baby with the bath water. Because one ranch 30 years ago abused animals, we need to ban ranch hunting. Think about the logic behind this for a moment.

When we get in our cars and head down the highway, we see bad drivers. We see lawbreakers, speeders, those driving to endanger others, we see running of red lights and we see some automobiles that are obviously not safe to be driving. Do we banning driving?

We turn on our television sets and there are some good family programs and there are some bad ones, full of violence, sex, foul language, etc. Do we ban televisions?

There are billions of people in the world, some good some bad. What do we do about that? I played Little League baseball. There were good coaches and bad coaches. Did we ban baseball?

There are millions of people in the United States who fish. There are good fishermen and bad fishermen. Do we ban fishing? The majority of fishermen condone and actively support “put and take” fishing. This is where fish and game departments farm fish and dump them into lakes and streams so fishermen can fish them out. A lot of fishermen see that as unethical but do we ban it? Does put and take fishing give fishermen a bad name?

There are millions of different kinds of hunters all over the United States. Some consider themselves to be a “purist” by making their hunt as primitive as possible while others use every tactic legally available to increase their chances for success. Is the purist a better hunter or person because they chose that method? Some view shooting game over bait as unethical. Do we ban hunting?

The point to all this is simple. I’m not God and have no right to sit in judgment as to what is ethical or not. As an American I am guaranteed certain rights and I don’t take kindly to those who have no respect for those rights simply because they may not agree with them, in this case hunting behind fences. This IS America!! America has remained strong because people fought to keep our freedoms not take them away.

We don’t ban automobiles, baseball, fishing, and television. We work to make them better and in many cases we work to allow people a choice. Choice is an important part of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Nobody makes me drive a car with all the crazies on the road. I choose to do that understanding there are risks and there will always be bad drivers.

I have a choice as to what I watch on television. I see some television as good and some bad. My next door neighbor sees different things and he has a choice as to what to watch. I don’t try to ban certain channels because I think they are wrong.

We should be working to make sure that hunting ranches offer a reasonable amount of “fair chase” opportunities while limiting animal abuses. The owners of ranches have rights guaranteed them under our constitution to conduct business and pursue happiness, even if we don’t always agree. Certainly we can all think of some kind of business we don’t like or question whether it’s good for our community but do we ban it and strip others of their rights in the pursuit of happiness?

Instead of seeking a ban, we should be working to improve an American business for the good of all.

Tom Remington