(CO) Bill to outlaw canned hunts won't survive panel


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Drizzt
January 15, 2003, 07:07 PM
Bill to outlaw canned hunts won't survive panel

January 15, 2003

On one side of the fence are hunters who don't want their public image and national heritage smeared. On the other side are shootists and ranchers who routinely buy and sell antlered "alternative livestock" as if they were dealing in pickup trucks.

Everyone is likely to turn out for brief, impassioned arguments over a bill to ban canned hunts, except the shootists (don't call them hunters), who don't like to admit they bought their way past long-established "rules of fair chase" for the purpose of adorning trophy rooms.

The arguments over HB1094 will be brief because the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will shoot the bill dead on sight in a hearing at 1 p.m. on Jan. 22. Count on it. It's what you get when agricultural values duke it out with wildlife values in a committee that puts agriculture first.

HB1094 was written by the Colorado Wildlife Federation and sponsored by Rep. Lois Tochtrop, D-Westminster, a hunter. It intends to declare the "hunting" of elk and deer in enclosures on private game farms to be unethical and to outlaw canned hunts in Colorado, as Montana outlawed them in 2000.

It's unfortunate the bill uses the term "hunting." Shooting enclosed animals is slaughter, not hunting.

The existence of canned shoots marketed as "hunts" in Colorado came as a surprise to many hunters when the practice was revealed in news stories about game farms and chronic wasting disease. In fact, about a dozen of the state's 119 game farms offer canned shoots.

Price is determined by a complicated antler-scoring system used by the Safari Club International, the only hunting-related organization that recognizes privately-owned trophy animals shot in enclosures. Game ranchers cite SCI scores in advance to buyers to justify prices of from $1,000 to $20,000 - and higher - for elk.

Other hunting and conservation groups refuse to accept in their record books animals taken on canned shoots, citing bad ethics. That includes the Boone & Crockett Club, the nation's oldest conservation group, which was founded by Theodore Roosevelt.

Boone & Crockett defines "fair chase" as "the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big-game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such game animals."

In 2002, the Colorado chapter of the Wildlife Society, an organization of scientists, also loaded its guns against canned hunts in a policy statement: "Ethical fair-chase hunting is an important wildlife management tool. Shooting of penned, privately owned cervids by a small proportion of the hunting community erodes public support for hunting because fee harvesting is largely viewed as unethical."

The European-style privatization of wildlife that allows canned shoots has been creeping through the United States for several decades, despite intents of the founding fathers and legal precedents confirming that wildlife is owned by all Americans.

As early as 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that wildlife belonged to everyone. Justice Edward White, writing for the majority in a case involving game birds, wrote that the states had the "right to control and regulate the common property in game," which was to be exercised "as a trust for the benefit of the people."

Several states, including Colorado, dodged the notion of "common property" by declaring some wildlife "alternative livestock," subject to private ownership. Maybe a future Supreme Court will look at how some states abandoned their trust.

HB1094's ethics may be a hard sell to a legislative body with a long history of animosity toward sportsmen and wildlife management.

At least, legitimate hunters have this opportunity to express their feelings about canned shoots. The phone numbers of House Agriculture Committee members are prefixed with (303) 866. The members are: Diane Hoppe, R, Chairman, 2906; Ted Harvey, R, 2936; Greg Brophy, R, 2906; Mary Hodge, D, 2912; R. Ramey Johnson, R, 2951; Alice Madden, D, 2915; Bob McCluskey, R, 2945; Carl Miller, D, 2952; Greg Rippy, R, 2945; Ray Rose, R, 2955; John Salazar, D, 2916; Lois Tochtrop, D, 2931 and Tom Wiens, R, 2948.

Some proponents of canned shoots say they are afraid this bill will divide hunters. No, it can only divide hunters from shootists, which is the whole idea.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/recreation_columnists/article/0,1299,DRMN_85_1674631,00.html

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Art Eatman
January 15, 2003, 08:02 PM
The big problem is a reasonable definition of "pen". Some of the more anti-hunting people seem to think that a high fence around a 10,000-acre pasture is a pen. I think the basic idea of the Bill is good, but as usual, "The Devil is in the details."

Art

JGReed
January 24, 2003, 07:33 PM
I agree. Some "canned" hunts are on land much larger than the woodlots I grew up hunting in Massachusetts.

Additionally, I don't think it's up to me to decide which types of hunting are ethical for others. As long as the kill is relatively humane, it's all hunting to me. If somebody wants to pay $20K for an elk trophy that's their business. I'm not going to respect them for it, but I'm not going to try and make it a crime either.

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