“I heard a young child scream. I thought he got a deer.”

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1999:

Four kinds of hunting stories involving children reach
ANIMAL PEOPLE with tedious regularity: children killed
while hunting; children killing their own fathers, brothers,
mothers, or sisters in hunting accidents; children using hunting
weapons to commit murder; and adult authorities working to
lower the minimum age for hunting.
Among the child and teen victims of legal hunting
during 1998:
Isaac Earl Reynolds, 13, of Paonia, Colorado,
killed on his first hunt by his father Earl A. Reynolds’ accidental
Marvin Olausen, 9, of Oriska, North Dakota, killed
by an adult hunter’s stray shot as he sat with his mother in a
pickup truck;

Jarod Nign, 9, of Carrollton, Ohio, whose killer,
Lester Manns, 57, of Canton, was on December 8, 1998
charged with negligent homicide;
Misty Taylor, 16, of Topeka, Kansas, killed by an
accidental discharge as she rode down a bumpy road with two
young male hunters;
John L. Schultz, 17, of Wellsville, Pennsylvania,
who apparently accidentally killed himself;
Bobby Ahrns Jr., 16, of Dayton, Ohio, killed by an
accidental shot when his 13-year-old brother tripped on a log;
Joshua Jesperson, 12, of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania,
who tripped on his first deer hunt and accidentally killed
his father, Neil M. Jespersen, 34.
“I heard a young kid scream. I thought he got a
deer,” witness Charlie Calabrese of Pittston, Pennsyvlania told
Philadelphia Inquirer correspondent Aileen Soper. “But he
kept screaming.”
At least two other boys killed their brothers. Their
names were not disclosed.
At least two other boys killed their fathers. Their
names were also not disclosed.
The other kind of young hunter story starts arriving in
spring, when state legislatures convene. One name often figuring
in that sort of story is New York state assembly majority
leader Michael Bragman.
Soon after the massacre of four children and a pregnant
teacher by two adolescent hunters in Jonesboro, Arkansas,
in March 1998, Bragman unsuccessfully introduced a bill to
lower the legal deer and bear hunting age in New York from 16
to 14. The timing, noted by news media, may have doomed
that effort, but Bragman returned to the assembly this year with
an almost identical measure (A1083) plus another bill repeatedly
defeated in past years which would legalize the use of
drowning snares to kill beavers, who can stay submerged without
drowning for up to half an hour (A1084).
The Bragman effort to lower the hunting age echoes
repeated findings by psychologists and demographers that children
tend either to learn to hunt young or not at all.
Alarmed by declining hunter numbers, wildlife agencies
and pro-hunting organizations are vigorously pushing special
seasons for youth, classroom hunting instruction, and
other means of inuring youth to recreational bloodshed.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, for
instance, allows youths under 17 to hunt free of charge on designated
public land, if accompanied by a license-holding adult.
Participation in the program has gradually risen from 415 in
1984 to 8,206 in 1997.
In Michigan the current hunter recruitment campaign
figurehead is Ted Nugent, the one-time “Motor City Madman”
rock guitarist who may by now be better known as a hunting
columnist and radio talk show host.
“Nugent’s approach to promulgating killing through
thinly veiled love-of-nature rhetoric is actually taken from a
rather scary 1996 document entitled Governor John Engler’s
Hunting and Fishing Heritage Task Force Recommend-ations,”
Jackson psychologist John S. Hand informed C i t i z e n – P a t r i o t
readers in a letter-to-the-editor published on January 15, 1999.
“All but a handful of the 32 members of the Heritage Task
Force had a strong financial stake in the hunting, fishing, and
trapping industry. They recommended that five-to-ten-year-old
children be targeted, especially females, and that public
schools should be used as the primary delivery system for prohunting,
fishing, and trapping propaganda, with the assistance
of the Department of Natural Resources. That sounds a bit
Orwellian, but it gets worse.
“This 14-page report talks about creating ‘an aggressive
marketing strategy,’ so as to depict hunting, fishing, and
trapping as ‘acceptable, ethical, essential, time-honored and
family-oriented.’ The task force also recommends propagandizing
Scout troops, church and youth organizations, and 4-H
households––in direct conflict with the morals and values
taught in the homes and families of the vast majority of children,
who have chosen not to participate in blood sports.”

Hunting and family
“Many social scientists have theorized that strong

families and stable communities dampen
human aggressive tendencies,” B. Bower of
Science News summarized in September 1998.
However, Bower continued, recent
research by University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign
psychologist Dov Cohen “suggests
that in regional cultures that condone certain
types of hostility, social stability may promote
violence and even murder. Within those
regions, areas with solid families and communities
have the highest rate of honor-related
homicides and the greatest support for violent
social policies and hobbies…such as watching
violent television shows and hunting.”
Other investigators––criminal investigators––are
beginning to recognize that socalled
hunting accidents are in themselves
often a form of violent crime.
Explained Columbus Dispatch hunting
writer Ken Gordon in November 1998, “In
the old days, shootings in the woods were
called ‘accidents,’ and were treated as such.
Today they are called ‘incidents,’ and the
places where they happen are treated like a
crime scene.”
Ohio Division of Wildlife outdoor
skills section supervisor Dave Wilson told
Gordon that about 90% of the investigations of
“incidents” reported to his department result in
some sort of criminal charges being
filed––usually, negligent hunting or
“There used to be a saying,” Wilson
said, “‘If you want to knock off somebody,
take them hunting. That’s not the case any
more. Investigating these incidents is now our
top priority.”
In 1997 there were 1,038 hunting
“incidents” including 96 fatalities in the U.S.
and Canada.
The 1998 totals are not available
yet––but ANIMAL PEOPLE is aware already
of six murder prosecutions proceeding in 1998
“hunting accident” cases. One of the alleged
murderers was a 17-year-old.

So far, well-funded attempts to
revive hunting by recruiting youth are emminently
unsuccessful. Even in Texas, one of
the states with traditionally high hunting participation,
the number of active hunters has
fallen 18% in 10 years––and when population
growth is taken into account, the proportion of
hunters per capita is down 31%. Hunting participation
is especially low among minorities:
26% of Texans are Hispanic, according to
Texas A&M University researcher Myron F.
Floyd, but they form only 8.6% of the hunting
population, and 12% of Texans are AfroAmerican,
but Afro-Americans are just 2.6%
of the hunting population. The average age of
Texas hunters is meanwhile up from 36 in
1974 to 41 today––yet another indication that
attitrition far exceeds recruitment.
Yet another measure of the decline
of hunting is the rapid increase in the amount
of land posted against hunter incursions.
Vermont has some of the most tedious posting
regulations, and long had one of the highest
per capita rates of hunting participation of any
state. Nonetheless, the volume of posted
acreage in Vermont increased by 33% from
1996 to 1998.
Failing to bring new hunters into the
field, hunting recruiters are now shifting their
emphasis to keeping the already involved
active––at any cost.
Making more animals available to
kill is one option. Claiming that snow geese
have increased their numbers four-or-fivefold
in 30 years, and are now eating themselves
out of Arctic summer habitat, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service on February 12, 1999
announced that 24 states will be allowed to
expand snow goose hunting opportunities this
year. Utah and Indiana are reportedly close to
approving legislation to permit so-called
canned hunts, in which hunters pay to kill
captive-reared animals.
In southern Maine––within a short
drive of parts of New Hampshire and
Massachusetts where deer overpopulation is
allegedly a problem––the state Department of
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was in December
1998 revealed to be spending $10,000 a year to
kill 150-250 coyotes, so as to increase the
number of deer available to be hunted.

The annual Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s
Association coyote-killing contest in
Frenchville, Pennsylvania has a similar pretext,
as do many other coyote-killing contests
around the U.S.
In 1994, a man identifying himself
as a member of the Mosquito Creek club actually
called ANIMAL PEOPLE to insist that
coyotes had to be killed to undo the damage to
the deer herd caused by animal rights activists
who were releasing coyotes in the area in an
effort to destroy hunting.
But the participants have another
motive, too: the entry fees are pooled, with
the person who kills the most coyotes getting
to keep the jackpot. At least 3,880 hunters
signed up for the February 20 event.
“It’s a no-holds-barred hunt,” wrote
Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Sandy
Bauers. “The hunters can use every calling
mechanism imaginable, even go after the
quarry in groups. Last year, Brian Weidener
of Easton and his team had nine foxhounds,
each fitted with a radio transmitter that had a
range of 15 miles.”
The humans followed the dogs in
comfortable four-wheel-drive vehicles.
The coyotes, however, outsmarted
that particular team. Indeed, the entire bag,
among 2,700 participants in 1998, was four
coyotes. This year, the mob killed 21.
De-emphasizing so-called sportsmanship
in hunting is another ploy. Minnesota
liberalized the rules for issuing “disability permits”
in 1993, allowing holders to kill antlerless
deer from their cars. The number of disability
permit holders more than doubled.
Recently reported Doug Smith of the
Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Some Department
of Natural Resources officials fear that applications
for disability permits will only increase
because of a new law that requires grouse
hunters to be 20 yards away from their vehicles
when they shoot at grouse. The disability
permit would allow them to shoot from their
They may not have to be sober
behind the wheel, either.
“Since 1992,” wrote Conrad
deFiebre of the Star Tribune on February 18,
“Minnesota hunters have been subject to a little-noticed
law forbidding them from being
drunk within two hours of taking game. State
senator Bob Lessard, of International Falls,
says he sees an injustice in the making, especially
now that some legislators are pushing
again to cut the blood-alcohol standard for
drunken driving––and drunken hunting––from
0.10% to 0.08%. Lessard, chair of the Senate
Environment and Natural Resources
Committee, said that the law could trip up
innocent hunters celebrating a kill. ‘You could
lose your hunting privileges,’ he said. ‘It borders
on being unconstitutional.’”
Minnesota––whose voters passed a
“right to hunt” amendment to the state constitution
in November 1998––and Virginia are
the last two states which have not complied
with the 1996 federal welfare reform act. The
act requires states to suspend the hunting and
fishing permits of parents who don’t pay child
support as per court order.
Under the circumstances, hunters
have showed little sense of humor in response
to Deer Avenger, a parody of the popular
Deer Hunter Avenger video game.
As described by New York Times
computer game critic J.C. Herz, in D e e r
Hunter Avenger “you play the title character,
Bambo, a camouflage-clad buck out for blood.
Your arsenal includes a slingshot loaded with
deer dung, an M-16, a bazooka, and a stream
of snide one-liners. Your quarry is big-bellied
rednecks, goofy Minnesotans, and overequipped
yuppies––moronic cartoons irresistably
drawn to hunter calls like, ‘Help! I’m
naked and I have a pizza!’ Instead of deer
droppings and tree scratchings, they leave
beer cans, toilet paper, and freshly wrinkled
pornographic magazines.”
Safari Club International president
Alfred “Skip” Donau in December 1998
reportedly asked the maker of Deer Hunter
A v e n g e r, Simon & Schuster Interactive, to
withdraw it––even though it has apparently
increased teen interest in hunting, at least in a
manner of speaking.
That was about the same time the
Detroit chapter of Safari Club International
reportedly reneged on a pledge to donate
$5,000 to the Oregon Wildlife Heritage
Foundation to assist wildlife law enforcement,
by way of apology because five members had
hired convicted poacher Donald Dungey, of
Medford, to guide them in pursuit of trophy
deer and elk. Four of the five were eventually
convicted with Dungey as co-conspirators.
Explained former Detroit chapter
president Donald Black, “We were reluctant
to put chapter money into something that could
become a public relations nightmare,” because
it might be seen as “wealthy hunters buying
themselves out of a problem.”
Returned Oregon Wildlife Heritage
Foundation spokesperson Rod Brobeck, “This
may confirm some negative feelings some
people have about that group––that they are
just a bunch of rich hunters.”
[Marian Stark, Albany representive
for the Fund for Animals, asks that letters
opposing both Bragman bills be addressed to
New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver,
c/o Michael Boxley, Esq., N.Y. State
Assembly, Legislative Office Building,
Albany, NY 12248, and New York senate
majority leader Joseph Bruno, c/o Kenneth
Riddett, Esq., N.Y. State Assembly,
Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY
12247, as well as to New York governor
George Pataki, c/o Executive Chamber, State
Capitol, Albany, NY 12224.]

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