“Future of Hunting” TV show and future of hunting itself in question

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:

BENNINGTON, Vt.–Vermont Supreme Court Justice Brian Burgess
on October 5, 2007 amended the conditions of release for The Future
of Hunting cable television show host Kevin M. Hoyt, 37, who on
August 27, 2007 pleaded innocent to felony charges of lewd and
lascivious conduct.
The Future of Hunting features expenses-paid “dream hunts” by
children. Recent episodes were reportedly taped in Alabama, Ohio,
and Tennessee.
Hoyt, according to a September 2005 profile by Pam Belluck
of The New York Times, “quit a job as a structural steel draftsman a
few years ago and decided to dedicate himself to getting children
across the country interested in hunting. Hoyt, a father of five
children under age 13, says he is committed to recruiting younger
hunters.”


Hoyt boasted to Belluck that, “My youngest child was with me
when he was 2 months old and I shot a deer with a muzzle loader. He
was in a backpack. I was stuck home baby-sitting and I felt like
hunting.”
Belluck followed Hoyt, a nine-year-old Massachusetts girl,
and her father on an unsuccessful bear hunt in southern Vermont.
“The new conditions will prohibit Hoyt from having contact
with children under age 16 unless another adult is present,
regardless of whether parents have granted permission,” said
Bennington Banner staff writer Neal Goswami. “Hoyt must also give
written notice of parental approval to the state,” before
associating with children, Goswami continued. “The parents must
also be notified, in writing, of the charges Hoyt is facing.”
Hoyt was arrested on August 13, two weeks after Bennington
police detective Peter Urbanowicz and Vermont Department of Children
& Families investigator Kyle Hoover began probing an allegation that
Hoyt sexually molested a nine-year-old girl at his home in 2005.
Urbanowicz filed an affidavit stating that the girl told him she was
at Hoyt’s home playing hide-and-seek with one of his relatives,
according to Patrick McArdle of the Rutland Herald.
The incident lasted about three minutes, the girl told
Urbanowicz. Frightened, she never returned to the house, but only
managed to tell her sister what had happened two years later. Her
sister told their mother, who approached the police. The victim of
the alleged molestation reportedly provided an accurate description
of the house, which is no longer Hoyt’s residence.
At arraignment Hoyt asked through attorney Daniel McManus
that he be allowed to have supervised contact with children in order
to continue The Future of Hunting series, recounted Goswami. Ruling
that hunting trips could not be supervised appropriately, Bennington
District Court Judge David Howard denied the request, but District
Court Judge Katherine Hayes in September 2007 allowed Hoyt to have
contact with children under the age of 16 with parental permission.
“Deputy Bennington County State’s Attorney Christina
Rainville appealed the conditions, saying they were insufficient to
protect children in the community,” wrote Gos-wami. “Rainville also
argued that the condition requiring parents to be notified of the
charges against Hoyt were unenforceable.”
“Hoyt is well-known in the Benning-ton County area for his
efforts to bring more young people into hunting,” said McArdle.
“Earlier in 2007, he was the featured speaker at the University of
Vermont 4H Shooting Sports Jamboree, a shooting competition for
young people, hosted in Shaftsbury.”
Hoyt’s web site, <www.thefutureofhunting.com>, features
photos of himself with children, including his own, in hunting
camoflauge, and lists 33 “sponsor links.” Among them are
Buckmasters and the National Shooting Sports Federation. Most are
hunting-related businesses.
“With his wife Heather supporting the family by working from
6 a.m. to 11 p.m. at a veterans’ home and a Wal-Mart, Hoyt devotes
himself to his mission,” Belluck wrote, “asking for donations of
services from outfitters, taxidermists, hunting guides and others.
This month,” September 2005, “he plans to drive his
camouflage-tattooed Toyota Tacoma truck to dream hunts for deer,
elk, bison, or pronghorn antelope” in seven states plus
Saskatchewan, Canada.
“He intends to sleep in his truck,” Belluck said, “and not
return home until Thanksgiving.”
Despite the effort and investment, The Future of Hunting
does not appear to have been hugely successful. The Future of
Hunting web site mentions exposure through many hunting magazines and
radio broadcasts, but the program was last aired by the host
station, Catamount Access Television in Bennington, in April 2007,
McArdle found. Hoyt also produced a 40-minute video about deer
hunting at the CAT-TV studios, called WWO Smackdown. This,
McArdle said, was broadcast several times in July 2007.
CAT-TV executive director Judy Murphy told McArdle that Hoyt
was never an employee of the station, and only had the same use of
facilities and air time as other producers of public access material.

The missing link

ANIMAL PEOPLE was published from Shushan, New York, and
printed in Bennington, Vermont from 1992 to 1996. Noticing
unusually high rates of both hunting participation and prosecuted
sexual abuse of children in the region, ANIMAL PEOPLE investigated
the possibility of a cultural relationship by comparing the rates of
hunting participation and crimes against children in all 232 counties
of New York, Ohio, and Michigan.
In 21 of 22 New York counties of almost identical population
density, the county with the most hunters also had the most
prosecuted sexual abuse of children.
Ohio counties with more than the median rate of hunting
license sales had 51% more reported child abuse, including 33% for
sexual abuse and 82% more neglect.
Michigan children were nearly three times as likely to be
neglected and twice as likely to be physically abused or sexually
assaulted if they lived in a county with above average hunting
participation.
Michigan as of 1994 sold twice as many hunting licenses per
capita as upstate New York, but had seven times the rate of
convicted child abuse, and twice as high a rate of sexual assault
on children.
ANIMAL PEOPLE concluded that the data supported a hypothesis
that both hunting and child abuse reflect the degree to which a
social characteristic called dominionism prevails in a particular
community.
Yale University professor Stephen Kellert, in a 1980 study
commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, defined
dominionism as an attitude in which “primary satisfactions [are] derived from mastery or control over animals,” a definition which
other investigators later extended to include the exercise of
“mastery or control” over women and children.
Kellert reported that the degree of dominionism in the
American public as a whole rated just 2.0 on a scale of 18. Humane
group members rated only 0.9. Recreational hunters, however, rated
from 3.8 to 4.1, while trappers scored 8.5.

Presidential order

Hoyt was arrested four days before U.S. President George W.
Bush addressed the future of hunting with an executive order “to
direct Federal agencies…including the Depart-ment of the Interior
and the Department of Agriculture, to facilitate the expansion and
enhancement of hunting opportunities.”
Bush decreed that, “Federal agencies shall, consistent with
agency missions, evaluate the effect of agency actions on trends in
hunting participation and, where appropriate to address declining
trends, implement actions that expand and enhance hunting
opportunities for the public.”
Bush ordered federal agencies to, “Consider the economic and
recreational values of hunting in agency actions, as appropriate,”
and “Manage wildlife and wildlife habitats on public lands in a
manner that expands and enhances hunting opportunities, including
through the use of hunting in wildlife management planning.”
Said Public Employees for Environ-mental Responsbility
executive director Jeff Ruch, “This may amount to no more than
meaningless pandering to the ‘hook and bullet’ vote…There appears
to be no shortage of hunting opportunities. Perhaps the reason for
the decline in hunting licenses lies elsewhere.”
“Clearly, Bush is catering to a constituency. There is no
biological or ecological justification [for the order],” Defenders
of Wildlife executive vice president Jamie Rappaport Clarke told John
Heilprin of Associated Press. Clarke formerly headed the U.S. Fish
& Wildlife Service.
Bush acted shortly after the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
published preliminary findings from the 11th of a series of surveys
of hunting and fishing participation begun in 1955. About 34 million
Americans hunted or fished in 2006, the Fish & Wildlife Service data
shows, or about 11% of the U.S. population. But this was the lowest
rate of hunting and fishing participation ever surveyed.
Ninety percent of the U.S. hunting population are age 35 or
older; the number of hunters 16 and older is now falling at the rate
of about 1% per year; and the total number of hunters is down to
about 12.5 million, half the numbers of 25 years ago.
The number of U.S. migratory bird hunters fell 22% from 2001
to 2006, while the number of small game hunters fell 12%. Big game
hunting declined 2%, the only type of hunting that did not fall off
even faster than overall hunting participation. Big game hunting,
however, is primarily a pursuit of older, more affluent hunters,
while small game hunters are mostly young.
Fishing declining too
Fishing participation, which had held steady for some time
after hunting participation began to fall, dropped at three times
the rate of hunting after 2001, including a 23% crash in the Great
Lakes region. Freshwater fishing outside the Great Lakes declined
10%; saltwater fishing fell 15%.
About 30 million Americans fished in 2006–five million fewer
than in 2001.
Non-lethal wildlife watching, meanwhile, increased 13%.
About 71.1 million Americans, nearly one in four, watched wildlife
as a recreational pastime in 2006 without feeling the need to kill
the animals.
“The American attitude regarding wildlife is changing,” said
Humane Society of the U.S. spokesperson Andrew Page. “I suspect the
day will come when a presidential candidate goes to a local humane
society to adopt a homeless animal, rather than pose as a hunter
with a gun.”

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