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US big game hunting, easy style under the microscope

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  • Colleen <wildfawn1@yahoo.com>
    http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/19686/story.htm FEATURE - US big game hunting, easy style under the microscope USA: February 4, 2003 DENVER
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2003
      http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/19686/story.htm

      FEATURE - US big game hunting, easy style under the microscope

      USA: February 4, 2003

      DENVER - Which is more ethical: To track a big game animal in the
      wild, not
      knowing if you will be lucky enough to bag it, or to pay thousands of
      dollars to hunt one at an enclosed game ranch where you're almost
      guaranteed
      of ending up with a beautiful set of antlers to show off?

      The question is a big one in the multibillion-dollar U.S. hunting
      industry
      these days, and a lawmaker in Colorado even tried to get the practice
      of
      hunting deer and elk on enclosed game ranches banned, characterizing
      the
      so-called canned shoots as unethical.

      Game ranch operators counter that letting somebody hunt an animal on
      their
      land gives them much needed revenue and is no different from a farmer
      letting someone kill a cow on his farm.

      The Colorado bill was easily defeated, but the controversy over game
      ranches
      continues. Supporters of the bill said they planned to take the
      measure
      before Colorado voters in 2004.

      Most of the big game ranches focus on elk in Colorado, which has the
      biggest
      elk population in North America, although exotic animals like zebra
      can be
      found at ranches in Texas, a popular state for hunting big game on
      private
      land.

      Hunters who do not want to hunt in the wild can pay $20,000 or more
      for a
      bull elk, the kind with large antlers. Some may be tired of
      traditional
      hunting, or are top business executives who do not have the time
      needed to
      bag an elk or may not be in good enough physical shape for the rigors
      of
      hunting.

      While it is much easier to shoot an elk on a game ranch, nobody is
      walking
      up to a tame animal and shooting it either.

      Hunters on an elk ranch with the help of a guide can get as close as
      150
      feet (45 metres) to the animal. The shooter still has to aim
      carefully, but
      getting that close and having a guide help find the animal make all
      the
      difference between being successful or going home empty-handed.

      BREEDING FOR ANTLERS

      The typical game ranch can be as big as 30,000 acres (12,140
      hectares),
      although some ranches are smaller. But the catch is that the area is
      fenced,
      meaning the animal cannot truly escape.

      Hunters on game ranches are also more likely to find a bull elk with
      large
      antlers. "We breed for antlers. We feed them when they're babies," Ron
      Walker, president of the Colorado Elk Breeders Association, said.
      Walker,
      who operates two game ranches, said the 119 elk ranchers in Colorado
      only
      earned about $4 million last year in total.

      "We're not hurting anybody. We own the animals. We're not stealing
      them," he
      said. Walker said in the wild a hunter who is not an excellent
      marksman may
      injure an animal, but on the ranch if that happens an experienced
      guide will
      then shoot the animal. "We don't want wounded animals out there," he
      said.

      Colorado state Rep. Lois Tochtrop who introduced the bill to ban
      enclosed
      game ranches said she was disappointed it failed and was hoping anti-
      hunting
      groups do not try to mount a more stringent voter initiative.

      The Colorado bill called for allowing "fair chase," meaning that the
      animal
      has a chance of escaping, a concept credited to President Theodore
      Roosevelt, known for his love of hunting.

      ECONOMIC IMPACT

      There are economic issues too.

      Hunters who visit game ranches do so without obtaining a hunting
      license,
      denying a source of income to the Colorado Division of Wildlife which
      manages big game in the state. Colorado has about 300,000 elk. A
      hunting
      license for a bull elk with big antlers will cost $483.25 this year,
      Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Tyler Baskfield said.

      People who bag an elk on game ranches spend a short amount of time in
      the
      state and less money in the small towns that depend on the
      multibillion
      dollar hunting industry, Tochtrop said. "This is something that
      impacts an
      important industry in our state," she said.

      Not true, countered elk breeder Walker. "We have a different
      clientele.
      These people won't hunt in the wild," he told Reuters.

      But Tochtrop, who favors hunting, maintained that "true hunters"
      supported
      her bill. The Colorado lawmaker said she learned about fenced-in
      ranches
      during the recent rise in chronic wasting disease cases among wild
      game,
      which crossed the Continental Divide for the first time last year.

      But she said her bill was not tied to concern about chronic wasting at
      ranches because not enough information is known about the cause yet.

      Susan Reneau, author of "Colorado's Biggest Bucks and Bulls" said the
      Boone
      and Crockett Club, founded by Roosevelt and his hunting friends in
      1887,
      does not recognize antlers from big game animals shot on game ranches.

      She said she expected a voter initiative to be on next year's
      ballot. "It's
      going to come from pro-hunters, not anti-hunters," she said.

      Story by Judith Crosson

      REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

      Copyright Notice: Distributed in accordance with Title 17 U. S. C.
      Section
      107.
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