Hunters become trophies as “boomers” fade away

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2000:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Reputedly the oldest
white rhino in the world, with the longest
horn, Long Tom, 36, roams the Thomas
Baines Game Reserve near Grahamstown,
South Africa.
Long Tom is a widely renowned living
symbol of the African wild––and, to
many, of male potence, not least because he
is still siring young. His most recent offspring
was reportedly born on August 22.
The Eastern Cape Nature Conservation
Department hopes the birth will make
wealthy hunters more eager than ever to mount
Long Tom’s head and horn on a wall, or to
grind his horn into a purportedly aphrodisiacal
powder which in Asia is believed capable of
assuring men that they will sire sons.
Because the Eastern Cape Nature
Conservation Department estimates that permission
to kill Long Tom may fetch as much
as $75,000 at auction, he may go to the block
on September 8.

“A notice to this effect was placed in
the Herald and Grahams Town’s Grocott’s
M a i l on August 18,” South African activist
Leeann Hopwood told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Long Tom is to be auctioned,
Hopwood alleged, because “The Thomas
Baines Reserve is in serious financial trouble,
not least because all funds generated by
Eastern Cape reserves must be deposited in
general funds, and are thus diverted to other
causes. Long Tom’s life is forfeit because of
financial mismanagement.”
The auction was proposed a year
ago, but was delayed by public outrage.
“We love him,” insisted Grahamstown
tourism director Willem Makkink to the
Cape Town Star.
But, replied Eastern Cape Nature
Conservation Department assistant director of
special investigations Jaap Pienaar, “Tom is at
the final stage of his lifespan in terms of sustainable
use. We can still get a good hunting
trophy offer for him. It would be a waste if he
dies here.”
Although the proceeds from selling
Long Tom are officially to be reinvested in
conservation, the Cape Town Star noted the
warnings of sale opponents that, “There are no
guarantees the funds will not disappear. The
province has been plagued by corruption.”
The official desire to sell Long Tom
appears to have been whetted by the May 2000
arrest of seven people in Pretoria who allegedly
sought to sell an “unregistered” rhino horn
to agents of the South African Endangered
Species Protection Unit for $57,000.
“Unregistered” tends to mean
“poached,” or “bootlegged from another
Management goals
Speculation about the auction price
of a permit to kill Long Tom might also have
been stoked in July 2000, when one Randy
Deeter, identified as “an American surgeon,”
reportedly paid about $12,000 to the
Mpumalanga Parks Board for permission to
shoot tranquilizer darts at three white rhinos in
the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve.
Self-interested mismanagement has
notoriously afflicted the Mpumalanga Parks
Board in recent years. Former MPB chair
Francis Legodi, appointed in April 1998 to
reform the board, frustratedly resigned in
November 1999, denouncing the “corrupt
leeches” he had been unable to bring to justice.
But MPB Wildlife Protection
Service division spokesperson for permits and
professional hunting David Sutherland told the
African Eye News Service that his department
wouldn’t offer tranquilizer dart hunts just to
make money.
“We will only allow these hunts
where there is a specific management goal
such as the relocation of large animals like
elephants, rhino, and buffalo,” Sutherland
Of the three rhinos whom Deeter
darted, two cows were microchipped, while
the bull was transferred to the Orighstad Dam
Nature Reserve.
As the darting and relocation was
underway, however, Fiona MacLeod of the
Johannesburg Mail & Guardian disclosed that
in the Northern Cape town of Kuruman, a
longtime mascot rhino “was slowly tortured to
death in the Billy Duvenhage municipal game
reserve by hunters who did not want to shoot
her in the head because they did not want to
spoil their trophy.”
Continued MacLeod, “The white
rhino cow and her mate had served as tourist
attractions for 15 years. Angry locals didn’t
want the rhinos to be hunted. When an
American hunter offered to buy them two
years ago, townsfolk signed petitions and put
an end to his plans. But in early May the pair
were sold at auction and split up. The municipality
says it sold the rhinos because they were
not breeding. Locals believe the rhinos were
sold because their long horns were prized by
trophy hunters. The bull was sold for $65,000

to Douglas Fletcher of Sandhurst Safaris, a
Northern Cape hunting outfit implicated in
various ‘canned’ hunting incidents. He
removed the bull from the reserve. The bull
has since been shot. The cow was killed inside
the reserve on May 17,” suffering 14 to 15
bullet wounds according to witnesses, as a
paying client pursued her from first an all-terrain
vehicle and then a helicopter.
Trophy hunters argue that their
ostensibly highly regulated activity, contributing
funds to African wildlife management, has
never been as destructive as either legal or illegal
ivory and meat hunting, predator control,
and the ongoing conversion of wild habitat to
plantations and pasture.
But African trophy hunting emerged
out of 19th century competitions among ivory,
meat, and predator control hunters to bag the
most and biggest elephants, rhinos, Cape buffalo,
lions, and leopards. Hunting promoters
labor on to maintain the illusion that killing
wildlife for sport has inescapable utilitarian
rationale: for instance, a need to “cull” dangerous
animals who wander outside protected
lands, or might, and the frequently bogus
claim that the meat of culled animals will be
eaten by hungry natives. Some is––and some
just goes to the dogs, vultures, hyenas, and
jackals, for want of adequate refrigeration,
while entrepreneurs have many times tried to
figure out an efficient means of collecting,
processing, and packaging the carcasses of
animals shot on game reserves for export.
Promoting such “sustainable use” is
the purpose of the CAMPFIRE program
underway in Zimbabwe since 1987 with $29
million from USAid––which has accounted for
an estimated 90% of all CAMPFIRE revenue.
Another 9% comes from the sale of hunting
permits. Nature tourism, though a mainstay of
the economies of nearby Kenya, South Africa,
and Tanzania, earns just 1%.
The failure of CAMPFIRE to positively
influence Zimbabwean attitudes toward
wildlife is evident in the destruction of private
reserves by “war veterans” allied with president
Robert Mugabe.
Struggling to keep control of
Zimbabwe, Mugabe in early 2000 revived a
promise made 20 years ago when he first took
over the the nation, then called Rhodesia, that
landless supporters would be given “unused”
land confiscated from farmers of European
descent. Thousands of landless Zimbabweans
in February, March, and April invaded an
estimated 1,400 farms and squatted upon about
100,000 acres.
Targeted in particular was the 2,200-
acre Save Valley Conservancy, formed by the
1990 merger of 21 farms.
“On Humani ranch alone, covering
barely 10% of Save, squatters have snared
2,000 impalas, 365 other antelopes, 20
zebras, two cheetahs, two elephants, and one
wild dog since April,” reported David Blair of
the London Daily Telegraph in mid-July.
“The squatters turned to poaching initially to
feed themselves, as growing crops is impossible
in Save’s rugged bush. But evidence has
emerged that meat is being sold and commercial
poaching has begun. The tusks on the
dead elephants were removed, and game
scouts fear that the next step will be the targeting
of rhinos for their horns.”
The scouts, mostly of African
descent, “can no longer carry rifles for fear of
provoking the squatters,” Blair continued.
Two scouts, Edward Mashamba and Webster
Bhangeni, were reportedly severely beaten by
a mob of squatters.
On the 8,500-acre Dindingue Game
Ranch, formerly run by Ian Rutledge, 39,
squatters reportedly lynched chief tracker John
Mugwise. Police called the hanging a suicide
even though Mugwise was found with a handcuff
around one ankle.
President Mugabe, who introduced
a shoot-to-kill anti-poaching policy in 1984
but failed to curb involvement in poaching by
senior members of his own government, did
little or nothing to control the mayhem.
In mid-May, however, amid international
outcry over the televised bludgeoning
of dogs by squatters at one farm near
Bulawayo, the Zimbabwe Department of
National Parks and Wildlife Management
issued a decree to “prohibit any person from
injuring, capturing, willfully disturbing,
molesting, following, or searching for any
animal using dogs.”
The decree belatedly responded to a
January pre-land invasion complaint by the
Zimbabwe SPCA and Wildlife Association of
Zimbabwe that certain private game ranchers
were using U.S.-bred coonhounds allegedly
controlled by electronic shock collars to help
paying hunters track, tree, and kill leopards.
On July 14, three weeks after winning
a national election, Mugabe listed 804 of
the 1,400 occupied farms for “compulsory
acquisition,” and authorized the eviction of
the former owners from 160 farms. By midAugust,
1,542 farms were confiscated.
Leaving in haste, some of the owners
tried to take elephants, rhinos, and breeding
stock of other species with them to rented
land elsewhere in Zimbabwe or in South
Africa. Rutledge reportedly planned to try to
move as many as 1,100 animals of 11 species.
Johan du Toit, director of the
Mammal Research Unit at Pretoria University
in South Africa, on August 18 told BBC News
Online environmental correspondent Alex
Kirby that “dumping impoverished peasants
on geometrically plotted patches of virgin nonarable
land, without any infrastructure, tillage
equipment, venture capital, housing, water,
or training will result quite simply in an ecological
disaster. Wildlife will [continue to be] overhunted and snared,” du Toit predicted,
“habitat loss will be rapid, and the whole crisis
will just get exponentially worse.”
Advocates of hunting-based free
market wildlife management claimed that the
Zimbabwean crisis showed the importance of
paid hunting in protecting wildlife and habitat,
and the breakdown of wildlife protection when
the concept of wildlife-as-property gave way
to a view of wildlife as belonging to no one.
But the consumptive approach to
wildlife management had clearly failed to
share enough wealth with enough Zimbabweans
to instill a conservation ethic widely
enough to deter the squatters’ excesses.
That wildlife may be killed for a
price, however, seemed to have been learned
all too well.
Missed aim
If CAMPFIRE, Save, and other
Zimbabwean game ranching schemes had
attracted tourism at the level attained by other
African nations whose policies give at least
equal consideration to non-consumptive use,
enough jobs might have been created to avert
the economic crisis which led to the farm invasions.
Instead of focusing on wildlife watchers,
however, who spend relatively little per
capita to see and photograph animals, but
come in much greater numbers, the
Zimbabwean strategy aimed to attract highspending
trophy hunters. This enabled planners
to avoid having to invest heavily in hotel,
restaurant, and transportation infrastructure,
which some members of the Mugabe government
equated with mechanisms for keeping
African people in service to people of
European descent. But, as critics of the
Mugabe regime responded, the Zimbabwean
emphasis on consumptive use also meant that
money was funneled more narrowly and was
more easily diverted by the best-positioned
Mugabe supporters.
Whatever the cause was of the miscalculation,
CAMPFIRE, Save, and other
Zimbabwean game ranch entrepreneurs appear
to have anticipated that about 10 times more
hunters would pay lavishly to kill African
wildlife than actually have.
CAMPFIRE et al also enormously
underestimated the growth of competition for
hunter patronage. The planners accurately
anticipated that as the “Baby Boom” generation
aged, more American, Canadian,
Australian, and European hunters would be in
their prime earning years than ever before,
able to make a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage
to shoot African trophy animals, but
did not foresee the cutthroat struggle now
underway to attract them, with no realistic
prospect that another comparably large and
affluent generation of hunters will follow
when the Boomers’ weapons have boomed
their last.
Competition comes not only from
the game ranches of other African nations, but
also from the newly opened wildlife reserves
of eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union, so-called canned hunts both in North
America and abroad, and––with increasing
desperation––from U.S. and Canadian state
and provincial wildlife departments, which
typically derive more than 60% of their
income from the sale of hunting permits.
The number of U.S. hunting license
holders rose steadily from the end of World
War II until 1980, when 21.1 million
Americans hunted, including about 10% of the
adult male population. Just under 14 million
Americans bought hunting licenses in 1999,
including 6.8% of adult males. Thirty-one of
the 50 states have fewer hunters now than in
1980, despite population growth. Per capita
participation rates have fallen by more than
50% in California, 46% in Wyoming, and
31% even in Texas, which ranks with
Pennsylvania and Michigan among the states
with the most hunters.
In Canada the number of licensed
hunters grew twice as fast as the human population
from 1960 until 1981, peaking at 1.8
million. But only 1.2 million Canadians hunted
in 1998. Hunting participation has declined
in all 10 provinces, with dips of 68% in
Alberta, 62% each in Prince Edward Island
and British Columbia, 42% in New
Brunswick, 35% in Ontario, and 24% even in
Newfoundland, despite the 1995 revival of the
Atlantic Canadian seal hunt with near-record
sealing quotas.
Wildlife managers worldwide
expected attrition from the hunting population
at about 1% to 2% per year, as Boomers age,
because surveys have shown for more than 30
years that hunters tend to hunt less after age
45, with an exponentially accelerating dropout
rate after age 55.
Not anticipated, however, was that
recruitment of new hunters would slow to less
than half of attrition. Even very heavily funded
youth recruitment programs begun with
great fanfare during the past decade have
mostly fallen far short of expectations.
In Virginia, for example, just 2% of
all hunters have hunted for under five years.
Enrollment in the state “junior hunter” program
fell 21% between 1993 and 1999.
In New York state, the legislature in
1992 lowered the minimum age for obtaining a
small game permit to 12––but through 1999,
the number of first-time permitees fell 29%.
The hunting population is now aging
at a rate suggesting that still steeper declines
are imminent.
In 1985, according to the National
Shooting Sports Foundation, the average age
of U.S. hunters was 38.
By 1996, similar surveys showed,
the average age of hunters was up to 41 in
Texas, 46 in Vermont, and 47 in Wisconsin.
Confirming the impression that most
of the hunters counted recently were the same
ones counted 10, 15, and even 20 years ago,
a Virginia study found that 60% of active deer
hunters had been hunting for 26 years or more.
Hunter behavior changes markedly
with age, Robert Jackson and Robert Norton
of the University of Wisconsin found in a 1977
study commissioned by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. Jackson and Norton in hindsight
seem to have prophesized the global
direction of sport hunting.
Young hunters, Jackson and Norton
discovered, are attracted by any excuse to discharge
their weapons. They tend to favor
small game seasons with no bag limits; dove
and squirrel seasons, with high bag limits;
and inexpensive high-volume killing contests,
such as pigeon and prairie dog shoots.
The heated debates over the introduction
of dove hunting in Ohio in 1995 and
Wisconsin (scheduled to start in 2001), a
failed attempt this spring to introduce dove
hunting in Iowa, the 1999 end of the notorious
Hegins pigeon shoot, and the possibility
that prairie dogs may be protected as a threatened
species have accordingly all centered on
the effect of killing animals on children.
The one point about which hunters
and hunting opponents agree is that young
people who learn early to kill for fun are likely
to continue recreational killing throughout
their lives.
As hunters develop skill, Jackson
and Norton found, typically between the ages
of 25 and 35, they begin seeking to fill bag
limits, and focus on bigger, more difficult,
and more commonly eaten species such as
deer, ducks, and
geese. Competition focuses upon bagging the
limit sooner than peers.
The diminishing number of hunters
in this age range and behavioral category is
evident in the difficulty that many U.S. and
Canadian wildlife agencies now have in finding
enough hunters to kill surpluses of whitetailed
deer and Canada geese resulting from
the management strategies of the 1960s
through the 1980s.
Then, wildlife agencies responded
to a relatively young hunting population by
restricting deer hunting to bucks, so that wintering
herds would consist mainly of pregnant
does. As a pregnant doe who is not competing
with bucks for forage will usually bear twins,
Michigan and many other states were by the
1980s routinely producing a “huntable surplus”
of up to a third more deer than the estimated
winter carrying capacity of the habitat,
who might starve if insufficient numbers of
deer were shot each fall.
Michigan wildlife managers in particular
boasted of this achievement, and taught
their technique at seminars as a means of
increasing wildlife agency income.
Wildlife agencies across the U.S.
also avidly stocked lakes and ponds with nonmigratory
giant Canada geese. This too was
done in anticipation of increased revenue.
The agencies couldn’t have guessed
farther wrong.
By the late 1980s, deer and Canada
goose populations grew much faster than
hunters could kill them, expanded into cities
and suburbs, and often became a nuisance.
Professional hunters have been paid
this year to kill deer in or near Chicago,
Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee,
Minneapolis, New York City, and
Philadelphia, among other population centers.
New Jersey this adopted special legislation
enabling towns to hire deer-killers.
Deer culling schemes are still under
discussion in other cities and states from St.
Paul to St. Louis, Maine to South Carolina.
USDA Wildlife Services meanwhile
killed 3,500 giant Canada geese in the Seattle
area, 2,100 near Washington D.C., and lesser
numbers in many other places, under contract
to state and local governments.
Whether any of the killing is necessary
is much debated. In January 2000 a study
of the impact and health of deer in the 33,000-
acre Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation
Area, ordered by Federal Judge Paul
Friedman, found that neither the park flora
nor the deer were demonstrably suffering.
The Chicago-area activist group
SHARK meanwhile determined via clandestine
video surveillance of bait-and-shoot zones
in the Ryerson Woods that relatively few deer
approached the bait stations––and on February
15 also discovered a deer who had apparently
been wounded but not dispatched by one of the
purported sharpshooters.
The rationale for the goose culls in
both Washington state and Washington D.C.
was contested in federal court. The killing
proceeded as planned in both locations, but
the Humane Society of the U.S. won a July 19
ruling that USDA Wildlife Services may not
kill “surplus” geese without a permit issued by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
After just bagging the limit is no
longer a challenge, according to Jackson and
Norton, which usually occurs among hunters
between the ages of 35 and 45, their emphasis
shifts toward bagging spectacular trophies.
This may involve declining easy shots to await
a bigger animal––or spending more money to
go somewhere that has more big animals.
Imports of trophies by U.S. hunters
reportedly increased 71% between 1990 and
1995, as the collapse of the Soviet Union and
the end of apartheid in South Africa combined
to make hunting abroad more accessible.
Game farming and “canned hunting”
also exploded, catering to hunters who want
to kill trophy-sized animals without taking the
time to locate and stalk them in the traditional
manner––and, though most hunters who venture
abroad like others to think they hunted in
the wild, or at least the semi-wild, much
more hunting occurs in relatively close confines
these days than not.
In South Africa, for instance, about
6,500 foreign hunters kill approximately
100,000 animals per year, mostly hooved and

horned species, on a mere 100-odd hunting
ranches. Kudu, warthogs, and other species
readily bred in captivity are often killed for
less than $750. But hunters with the money
often want to shoot something more prestigious.
As game breeders can’t produce
enough African lions to meet hunter demand,
even at $15,000 a head, South Africa has had
recurring scandals since 1996 involving
“canned hunt” outfitters from the Northern
Province and Mozambique luring lions out of
Kruger National Park and the adjacent privately
owned Timbavati Nature Reserve.
Elk ranching
Game farming and “canned hunting”
in the U.S. and Canada until under 20 years
ago were more-or-less regional phenomena.
Large exotic species were ranched for hunting
mainly in Texas and Oklahoma. The South
had “chase pens” and “hog-dog rodeo,” in
which hounds are set upon captive coyotes,
foxes, and pigs. Captive bird-shoots existed
mainly in the mid-Atlantic states. A handful
of elk ranches operated in Colorado, Idaho,
Oregon, Washington, and Montana, but otherwise
hardly anyone tried to sell the opportunity
to bag deer and elk in close confines.
That has changed abruptly, and regulators
are struggling to catch up, amid an
often accusatory struggle between hunting
ranch proprietors and their clients on the one
hand and state wildlife agencies on the other.
Officially, wildlife agencies mostly oppose
hunting ranches for allegedly eroding hunting
ethics; hunting ranch proponents counter that
the real issue is economic competition.
Bills seeking to restrict game farms
and “canned hunts” died during the 2000 legislative
sessions in Indiana and Louisiana, but
passed in Maine. A Minnesota bill to expand
elk farming at last report had the approval of a
state house-and-senate conference committee,
but was short of final approval and was reportedly
recommended for gubernatorial veto by
the state departments of wildlife and agriculture,
in the event that it did pass.
Elsewhere, the Arkansas Game and
Fish Commission unsuccessfully sought a legislative
ban on “canned hunts” other than
chase pens and captive bird shoots.
The Wisconsin Division of Trade
and Consumer Protection uniquely invoked
fair advertising standards in October 1999 to
close four game farms which allegedly offered
boar hunting in close confinement.
The Wyoming Game and Fish
Commission struggled to maintain the integrity
of a 1971 law preventing trophy ranching,
while hunting guides attempting to compete
with elk ranchers on the Crow Reservation in
Montana were in late 1999 accused by rivals of
using salt licks to lure elk and grizzly bears out
of Yellowstone National Park.
Brain rot
A bigger issue meanwhile smouldered
in the background, raised by some critics
of “canned hunts” as far back as the mid-
1980s but eluding general notice until mid-
2000: public health. In specific, regulators
are now concerned that elk ranching may
become a vector for transmitting “mad cow
disease,” or bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
BSE for short, which in humans can
become the invariably fatal new variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD).
The possible links emerged when the
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board held a July
2000 hearing on whether to allow farmers to
keep elk and sell elk-hunting rights.
Advanced by dairy farmer Doug
Nelson of Irasburg, the elk ranching proposal
may have been doomed by the near-simultaneous
discovery of scrapie, believed to be the
source of BSE and nvCJD, among flocks of
Belgian sheep imported in 1996, kept by
Larry and Linda Fallaice of East Warren, and
Houghton Freeman of Stowe.
As anxiety rippled through
Vermont––along with some activist sympathy
for the Fallaice family and their sheep, some
reportedly quasi-pets of their daughters––the
USDA ordered that all 355 sheep be killed, to
keep the disease from spreading.
The USDA order, briefly contested
by the Fallaice family, coincided with publication
of an article by British government nvCJD
researchers in the medical journal The Lancet
which concluded that new cases of nvCJD are
being discovered at a rate increasing by 23%
per year. That report drew far more attention
than reports published a few days later in the
equally respected journal N a t u r e which used
similar statistical analysis to lower the worstcase
projection for nvCJD fatalities by 75%,
and hinted that the current known human death
toll of 69 could be approaching the minimum
number of deaths to be expected.
The Vermont scrapie outbreak was
discovered just as officials combatting the
spread of chronic wasting, a similar disease
occurring in ranched deer and elk since the
1960s, killed 31 elk at the Elk Valley Game
Ranch near Hardin, Montana, and 64 elk at a
ranch in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The
Canadian Food Inspection Agency on August
23 announced that 35 elk would be killed on
another Saskatchewan ranch, while four more
ranches were placed under quarantine.
Both Elk Valley and the Swift
Current ranch had reportedly sold elk to many
other facilities. The Elk Valley Game Ranch
was believed to be the source of infected elk
found in fall 1999 at the Sunlight Game Farm
in Philipsburg, Montana––but necropsies
found that the Elk Valley herd was uninfected.
Meanwhile, scrapie appeared in a
ram at a southwestern Montana sheep ranch,
and two captive elk taken to Oklahoma from
Montana turned out to have chronic wasting.
That discovery gained weight with
the April 2000 death of Jay Dee Whitlock II in
Miami, Oklahoma. Whitlock, 28, was
reportedly an avid deer hunter.
Montana was already rethinking
game ranching. In March 2000 a coalition
backed by the Montana Wildlife Federation,
called Montanans Against the Desecration and
Commercialization of Wildlife, a.k.a. MADCOW,
announced that it would petition to
place an initiative on the November 2000 ballot,
I-143, which would stop “canned hunts,”
forbid the start of any new game farms, and
forbid the transfer of game farming permits.
A special four-day state legislative
session in early May approved a competing
measure favored by Montana Alternative
Livestock Producers, imposing a moratorium
on the opening of new game farms and the
expansion of those already existing, until a
method is found to test live deer and elk to find
out if they carry chronic wasting.
Montana Governor Marc Raciot
signed the bill into law on May 11, but MADCOW
lost no momentum. MADCOW president
Gary Holmquist, of Hamilton, announced
on July 13 that the Montana secretary
of state had certified that his group had gathered
enough petition signatures to put I-143
before the voters.
The Manitoba legislature passed legislation
similar to I-143 in August.
New seasons
Once hunters have collected the
usual trophies, their goal tends to shift again,
according to Jackson and North. Their object
becomes demonstrating exceptional skill in
other ways, such as killing animals with
unusual weapons, for example bow-and-arrow
or muzzleloader; killing more exotic species
in hard-to-visit locations; or they may turn to
guiding, helping less skilled hunters to kill
trophy animals.
Most hunters at this stage shoot less.
After age 55, they often go long enough
between kills that “hunting” for many becomes
essentially nature-walking with a weapon.
Reflecting the aging of the hunting
population, the number of bowhunters is up
by a third since 1990, even as the total number
of hunters is down by as much. A decade ago
most bowhunters hunted as often, according to
surveys, but used only firearms.
Striving to keep jaded hunters active,
wildlife agencies are opening seasons on an
ever wider variety of formerly protected
species, on the pretext that the species have
recovered from having once been hunted to the
brink of extinction. Trumpeter swan hunting
in Utah, Montana, and Nevada, experimentally
allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service since 1995, and otter trapping in
Missouri, reopened by the Missouri
Department of Conservation in 1996, were
early examples of the trend.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in July 2000 made the trumpeter swan season
permanent, with a total allowable take of just
a dozen among all hunters combined, and
authorized falconers to take as many as 82
peregrine falcon young from nests.
In April 2000, the Pennsylvania
Game Commission voted to allow up to 290
hunters and trappers to kill one bobcat apiece
at any time between October 14 and February
24, 2001. Pennsylvania had protected bobcats
since 1970.
The New Jersey Fish and Game
Council in June approved a bear season for the
first time since 1971, and––in deference to
public opposition––cut the quota from 350, as
originally proposed, to 175.
Predator hunts, in particular, are
expanding, welcomed as a challenge by some
hunters, a chance to bag a dangerous-looking
head by others, and by many as a means of
reducing competition for deer, elk, moose,
and caribou.
The Utah Division of Wildlife, for
instance, on July 31 presented for public comment
proposals to open a spring bear hunt in
the Wasatch and Manti mountains, and to
raise the puma quota to 450.
The Washington Department of Fish
and Wildlife has meanwhile issued draft regulations
for “public safety” hunting and hounding
of pumas in purported problem areas
which amount to virtually repealing the
statewide ban on hunting pumas with dogs that
the state electorate approved in November
1996. Hounding permits will be issued by lottery,
hunters would be allowed to keep trophies,
professional guides could escort paying
clients on the hunts, unlimited numbers of
“observers” could accompany the hounds, and
hunts could be conducted up to 22 miles
beyond the designated problem areas. In
short, the proposed rules for all practical purposes
fully restore hounding.
Responding to hunter complaints
that pumas are thinning the Oregon deer and
elk herds, the Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife has applied for $1 million in U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service funding for a “study”
which would involve killing 50 pumas to see
how deer and elk fare in their absence.
Wildlife agencies in at least seven
states are reportedly planning to open wolf
seasons as soon as possible after wolves are
removed from the U.S. threatened species list.
The Fish and Wildlife Service formally proposed
a downlisting on July 11.
Old World
On average, as many animals are
killed per hunter as a decade ago, according to
research by Norman Phelps and Conrad L.
Dickey of the Fund for Animals: about 100
apiece per year. Thus U.S. hunters killed
about 200 million animals in 1989, and 134
million in 1999.
But the number of hunting opportunities
has sharply increased, and the distribution
of the killing seems to have shifted.
Though the most active and ardent hunters kill
exponentially more animals, taking advantage
of newly opened and expanded seasons, the
majority kill fewer.
Leading hunting advocates have
been warning fellow hunters for more than a
decade that without much more successful
youth recruitment, hunter-funded wildlife
management and even hunting itself could die
of old age within another 20 to 30 years.
If hunting persists, many add, the
prevailing management model might revert to
that of the Old World, where wildlife
belonged to the landholders, and only those
who owned sufficient land to support animals
were allowed to hunt them.
This limited the practice of hunting
to the titled gentry, who privately funded
anti-poaching work, predator control, and the
propagation of animals to be hunted. People
of middle and lower income levels mostly
couldn’t afford to hunt.
The Old World management model
gained some hold in the U.S. and Canada, persisting
in the form of elite private hunting
clubs. In most of the U.S. and Canada, however,
wildlife came to be seen as common
property, and public hunting privileges were
therefore claimed as a right––which hunters
are now seeking to reinforce with actual “right
to hunt” amendments to state constitutions, as
adopted in Alabama and Minnesota, as well as
amendments disenfranchising voters from
overturning wildlife management policies,
adopted in Michigan and Utah.
The “hunters’ rights” movement
spread to Canada in 1999 with proposed legislation
in New Brunswick and the promise of
legislation by Ontario premier Mike Harris
during the 1999 election campaign. Harris
announced on August 24 that his government
is in fact drafting a law to make hunting
“something that’s not negotiable.”
Hunters are keenly aware that as
their population shrinks and ages, they may
lose their hold overwildlife-related policymaking––which
was not gained without a struggle.
Responding to the regional loss
through overhunting of deer, elk, bison,
beaver, and the passenger pigeon, New York
humane advocates in the early 1890s nearly
succeeded in pushing a bill to ban sport hunting
through the state legislature.
Influential hunters including thenNew
York state representative Theodore
Roosevelt thwarted the effort by introducing
the parallel arguments that wildlife conservation
should be funded by hunting license sales,
and that hunters should therefore have the
strongest voice in how the money is spent.
Hunter-funded wildlife management,
in essence, replaced the titled gentry of
Europe with an elite of dues-payers, whose
privileges could be bought by anyone interested
in killing animals.
After hunter-funded wildlife management
became established in New York,
hunting columnist Jay “Ding” Darling in 1936
formed the National Wildlife Federation as
umbrella for 48 state hunting clubs, and successfully
wove the concept into federal policy.
The notion of hunter-funded wildlife
management went international via the “sustainable
use” paradigm promoted since 1961
by the World Wildlife Fund––which was
founded and is still guided by trophy hunters
who came together in opposition to the national
laws against sport hunting adopted by both
India and Kenya soon after they gained political
independence from Britain.
Last gasp
Alternatives to both hunter-funded
wildlife management and the Old World model
already exist. For example, while the majority
of U.S. National Wildlife Refuges allow hunting,
many others are managed strictly to maintain
biodiversity and to protect endangered
species, funded mainly by direct allocation.
The National Park Service manages most of its
lands for nonlethal study and recreation, typically
funded by a combination of direct allocation
and access fees. Military lands are often
under no active wildlife management regime,
other than attempts to comply with the
Endangered Species Act.
Many ways to protect wildlife and
habitat without killing animals to fund the
effort might be found––when and if wildlife
agencies gain the motivation to seek them.
Hunting meanwhile persists much as
does dog-eating in Korea: as the anachronistic
proclivity of a dwindling minority of aging
men whose socioeconomic status is disproportionately
large, whose self-image and sense of
virility are deeply invested in their ability to
inflict death and injury on creatures who cannot
fight back.
The rhino Long Tom, for instance,
will never be allowed to thrust his horn anywhere
near the hunter who finally shoots him,
standing safely beyond the distance that a
rhino interprets as threatening.
At least Long Tom may have lived
longer than anyone will remember, admire, or
emulate his eventual killer.

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