High tech hunters push ethical envelope


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rick_reno
March 5, 2005, 12:45 PM
http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/03/04/high.techhunting.ap/index.html

High tech hunters push ethical envelope
Friday, March 4, 2005 Posted: 11:27 AM EST (1627 GMT)

GRANTS PASS, Oregon (AP) -- Ever since man picked up a rock to kill dinner, hunters have been technology pioneers. These days, they've got more gadgets than ever to choose from.

Heat sensors will spot wounded game in dense brush, remote-controlled cameras can scout game trails. There are motorized duck and deer decoys, electronic duck and coyote calls and even holographic archery sights.

But some of the latest in hunting tech pushes the ethical envelope, and some states are outlawing high-tech innovations that game managers feel give hunters an undue advantage.

A San Antonio entrepreneur recently created an uproar with a Web site, www.live-shot.com , that aims to allow hunters to shoot exotic game animals or feral pigs on his private hunting ranch by remote control, with the click of a mouse, from anywhere in the world.

"The idea of sitting at a computer screen playing a video game and activating a remote controlled firearm to shoot an animal is not hunting," said Kirby Brown, executive director of the Texas Wildlife Association, a hunters' group. "It's off the ethical charts."

The Texas game commission appears to agree, and is moving to outlaw remote-control hunting for native game animals. But it will take an act of the legislature to stop it with exotic game animals on private property, and at least one lawmaker says that is just what he will do.

Live-Shot owner John Lockwood figured his idea was not much of a stretch from the predominant Texas practice of shooting from a tree stand at deer drawn to mechanical feeders and would allow disabled hunters and servicemen overseas to continue to enjoy the sport.

Under his plan, the hunter would aim and fire a .30-06 rifle by remote control from a computer terminal, with a video camera allowing him to sight in on his prey. An attendant in the blind with the rifle could override any unsafe or unethical shots.

"It's just like it was if you paid for a guided hunt on my ranch, or any one of a thousand of them here in Texas," said Lockwood. "Ever since we stopped running after our prey and killing it with our hands we have evolved into distancing ourselves farther and farther from the game and making it more and more efficient, for whatever reason we want to take it."

For some game regulators, it was mechanical duck decoys with spinning wings -- one of them goes under the brand name Robo Duk -- that crossed the line when they began showing up at blinds. Following Pennsylvania's lead, Washington state outlawed them in 2001.

"The issue for Robo Duk is similar with some of the other technological advances," said Dave Ware, game division manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Because they appear to give hunters an advantage, they presented regulators with a dilemma: should the devices be allowed but the duck season be shortened?

"When we asked hunters what their preference was, outlaw equipment or shorten seasons, they were very definite they would rather we outlaw equipment than shorten seasons because time in the field is so important to them."

Oregon followed suit in 2002, and included a prohibition against mechanical deer decoys. California restricted mechanical decoys to the latter part of duck season.

When Alabama decided last year to begin allowing decoys for turkeys, the state drew the line at motorized decoys.

The issue continues to be hotly debated around the country.

Finlay Williams created Robo Duk in Santa Maria, California, after seeing that a kite with shiny metallic spinners would draw in ducks mistaking the flash for the wings of birds landing on water.

He figures the mechanical decoy gives the occasional hunter a chance to have a more satisfying outing. Besides, the ducks that survive one encounter with Robo Duk aren't often fooled again.

To justify the longer seasons for archery hunters, Oregon outlaws such innovations as mechanical broadheads, which have blades that expand on impact, allowing the arrows to fly more accurately without the wind resistance of broadheads.

Another group that enjoys longer hunting seasons around the country are hunters who use muzzleloader rifles. In Oregon, whether they set off their blackpowder charge by flintlock, side-lock percussion, or the modern inline percussion, the ignition systems must be exposed to the wind and rain.

"It's back to the intent of maintaining a primitive weapons hunt," said Tom Thornton, game program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Rather than going more modern, Walt Christensen, past president of the Washington State Muzzleloaders Association, is heading the other way. He plans to hunt next season with a flintlock, joining friends seeking the challenge and romance of the older technology.

"No matter what kind of weapon you use, in hunting you still have to come back to that concept: You don't shoot a game animal that is 4,000 yards away just because some advertisement says that's a reasonable thing to do," said Christensen.

As hunting innovators develop more reliable ways to take game, more ethical questions are sure to arise.

Lockwood, the Web site-hunting entrepreneur, thinks the ultimate innovation is just around the corner and is a technology that won't be very difficult to adopt.

"The next one will be lasers," he said. "How far can you shoot a laser in a straight line? As far as the eye can see, basically."

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Art Eatman
March 6, 2005, 01:10 PM
Some of the high-tech stuff strikes me as good; some, I don't like.

The heat-seeker dealie would help find a wounded animal so you don't lose it, don't leave it to slowly die from wounds.

The laser range-finder has a downside in that it could induce somebody to take a longer shot than otherwise, and wound an animal due to wind drift causing a bad hit. But, the upside is that you can make a good hit that otherwise would be over or under...

I've used a tapedeck to call coyotes, but I'd rather use a hand-held call. My own personal skill at calling then comes into play, and it just seems more like "fair play".

I guess that because the use of the old standard decoys for hunting ducks and geese is traditional, I don't object to them. I'm not sure why, but the idea of decoys for other game species bothers me as to the ethics. Mechanical decoys? No...

The remote control killing by computer has nothing to do with hunting. It's just a money-hustle with a bunch of hype to sell the deal. Outlaw it.

2ยข worth...

Art

ThreadKiller
March 6, 2005, 11:45 PM
Remote control? That's shooting, not hunting. No real sportsman would do this.

Tim

HankB
March 7, 2005, 12:02 PM
The remote-control "hunting" is, IMHO, completely unacceptable for anyone other than - maybe - a severely handicapped individual, under very controlled circumstances.

Robo Duk? I don't see a real problem with that, either. After all, in the early 20th century it was legal to use live decoys for a while, and both sporting and market hunters used to do so.

I suspect the increasing popularity of gadgets is an attempt to compensate for reduced time in the field. Let's face it, with increasing work demands, family demands, etc., it's getting harder and harder to spend time in the field for scouting and such . . . and with things like urban sprawl leading to reduced land available nearby to hunt, many folks are finding that what used to be a simple late afternoon hunt after work just isn't in the cards any more.

Success comes harder for hunters living in the city or suburbia, and yes, you tend to appreciate your game more if you work for it, but if you keep returning empty handed, discouragement sets in. Too much discouragement, and a person may quit hunting . . . and long term, that's not a good thing for anyone else.

SOME people consider riflescopes to be unsporting . . . and I've actually heard GPS locators criticized, so it's largely a matter of WHERE do you draw the line. IMHO if a gadget helps success, and wildlife populations are properly managed so the species' existance isn't threatened, I don't see a problem with most technical innovation.

BenW
March 7, 2005, 04:51 PM
The heat-seeker dealie would help find a wounded animal so you don't lose it, don't leave it to slowly die from wounds.
The infrared detector is an excellent example for showing that it's not a matter of the device being ethical or not, but the user of the device.

As Art stated above, using technology to find downed game is an excellent example showing that the device is not only not unethical, but can actually be viewed as more ethical than not having the device and losing the animal.

Using the device to locate prey to shoot (in my opinion) is highly unethical. But I'm uncomfortable outlawing technology because someone might do something unethical with it.

The infrared device, much like a gun, just sits there until a human picks it up. That's when the ethics come into play.

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