Is High Fence Hunting a Good Thing for Sportsmen?

Is High Fence Hunting a Good Thing for Sportsmen?

What disturbed him most, though, was the contrast between real elk hunting and what was being fabricated at the ranch. “If the clients told me that they wanted it to be like a real hunt, the first day I’d drive them around a part where there were no elk, and we’d walk downhill along the ridges awhile. Then the next day, we’d drive up and get one.” Their primary interest lay in what the animals would score on the Boone and Crockett scale, says Butler. “The experience just doesn’t mean anything to them.”

Many hunters say they would never go after confined game. They call it “canned hunting” no matter how big the enclosure is and say it threatens the foundations of the sport. But those who pursue game at the estimated 1,000 high-fence operations across the country (there is no national regulatory system, so getting an exact number is impossible), and many who don’t, say it’s a choice left to the individual. The size of the enclosure, and the type of terrain inside, they feel, determines what is fair chase and what isn’t.

The operators of these high-fence hunting ranches say they are simply filling a demand for hunting opportunities in a world where public lands are swamped with hunters, wild big-game animals are taken long before they reach maturity, and complex regulations have killed the heart of the traditional experience. In a society where a lot of hunters are pinched for time, flush with cash, and eager for a very large trophy, such a business can be very successful.

In 2000, Montana passed a controversial ballot initiative banning the practice of selling hunts for captive big-game animals. A total of 20 states have some laws to limit high-fence shooting operations, and most have enacted bans on importing domestic deer and elk in the wake of CWD problems on game farms in various states.

But the high-fence industry continues to expand, driven by a market for “hunting experiences” targeting everything from hogs and bears to giant domestic bull elk and farm-raised bucks.


Ranches located in America’s elk country are the sources of greatest concern and conflict because of the heightened risk of disease transmission, the blocking of crucial big-game migration corridors by high fences, and the strong belief that their imitations of a challenging wilderness hunt cheapens the real thing.

In August 2006, as many as 160 domestic elk escaped from the Chief Joseph Idaho, a high-fence hunting operation near Yellowstone National Park. Their owner, Rex Rammell, a veterinarian and elk rancher, had long been in conflict with the Department of Agriculture officials charged with monitoring his breeding and trophy shooting operation. These elk lacked the tags required by law, and the escape was not reported; agriculture officials discovered it on a visit to the ranch. Rammell has since claimed that the elk could have been lured back into the repaired enclosure with their favorite treat of molasses-soaked barley, but Idaho wildlife officials did not give him the opportunity to try. Sharpshooters and hunters with special tags killed more than 30 of the fugitive elk, including one that had drifted into Wyoming.

The escaped elk are believed to have been healthy, although questions remain over whether the introduction of their genetics into wild herds will cause harm. But the incident galvanized opposition to the high-fence hunting industry in Idaho. “This is the train wreck we’ve seen coming for a long time,” Steve Huffaker, then director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, told local newspapers.

Doug Schleis, publisher of Wild Idaho News, wants the ranches outlawed. “The essence of elk hunting in our state is the experience of wild country and the effort it takes to hunt an elk,” he says. “Of 17 shooter-bull operations in Idaho, only six are bigger than 450 acres. We have one as small as 10 acres, one at 25 acres, one at 60 acres. The hunting public here doesn’t want this place to become like Texas.”


Even though wildlife is considered a public resource in Texas, it is not illegal to fence it in, as it would be in other states. Gameproof fences have been used as a deer management tool here, and to harbor various exotic big-game animals, for decades.

“In the late 1960s we started to see these fences used by landowners who wanted to manage their deer, to keep overpopulated deer herds out,” says Kirby Brown, the executive vice president of the Texas Wildlife Association, a group including hunters, landowners, and wild-life advocates. “It’s not like out West here, where big game has to migrate to winter range, or travel some big distance to feed. The average home range of a whitetail here is about 640 acres, one square mile. So, in my opinion, high fences are not the issue here. The size of the enclosure does make a difference–it’s not very sporting when you can see the fence on the other side.”

The problem with the Texas model, Brown acknowledges, is that there is a tendency to raise deer like livestock and then try to hunt them like wild big game.

Mike McGee believes that he has found one solution to that problem at his high-fenced Dead Man’s Pass Ranch near Del Rio, Texas. McGee runs a whitetail breeding program in pens on the ranch, separate from the 4,800-acre hunting enclosure. “I put one of our breeder bucks in a 7-acre pen with 10 does–I can tell you that you’d like to come back in your next life as a buck on our ranch–and when he’s done, we’ll dart him again and put him somewhere he can rest up for another year. The does are then released onto the main ranch. It’s the same thing they do with cattle or sheep.”

McGee stresses that the experience at Dead Man’s Pass is about far more than just killing a trophy deer. “A lot of our clients are looking for all the things that go with it–shooting pool, throwing washers, pigging out on really good food.” Business is booming, McGee says. “People call here who say they would not hunt high-fence, but I usually convert about 80 percent of them. There are more people wanting to buy hunts than there are hunting operations.”


None of that makes sense to Jim Posewitz, retired wildlife biologist for the state of Montana, director of Orion: The Hunter’s Institute, and author of Inherit the Hunt: A Journey into American Hunting, which is often used as a text in hunter-education classes across the nation. “There is an evil seed buried here,” Posewitz said in a discussion of high-fence hunting. “By selling these facsimiles of real wild animals, these people degrade the whole reality of hunting. They strip away the concept that man the hunter is engaged in an important activity. Suddenly, what was wild is domestic, what was difficult to obtain is easy, what was once valuable is trivial. It is a tremendous threat on many levels.”

Although animals in high-fence operations are almost always evaluated on the Boone and Crockett Club scale (which is also used to determine the harvest price), the club will not list any domestic animal, or any animal taken behind high fences, in its book of wild big-game records. Several years ago, responding to the proliferation of huge-horned, pellet-fed domestic elk and deer, B&C issued a statement specifically banning canned-hunt animals from record-book consideration if they have been “transported for the purpose of commercial shooting” or are “confined by artificial barriers, including escape-proof fenced enclosures.”

Merle Shepard, vice president of the Safari Club International, takes a broad view of the situation, one that makes room for both the traditionalist hunters who would never shoot a domestic game animal, and the hunters who might want to take a trophy behind the fences. “I’ve been working for 10 years to try and find a way for those two groups to coexist,” he says. According to Shepard, a recent poll taken by SCI revealed an interesting contradiction. “Basically, 83 percent of the people polled thought that you should have the right to hunt behind high fences. But that same group said that they would not participate in the activity themselves.”

Shepard echoes many high-fence operators and many sportsmen when he says that this conflict should be resolved within the hunting community. “We have to tolerate each other, because as we fragment into smaller and smaller groups, we make an easier target for the antihunters out there.”

The debate is far from over. In a recent Internet hoax, a massive 566 B&C bull elk was shown in a dramatic photo captioned with a claim that it was killed by a bowhunter in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the very region where Earl Butler guided pack-string hunts. The bull did green-score 566 before shrinkage, but it had never seen a wilderness of any kind, having been raised, and shot with a rifle, on a game farm in Quebec.

As the story unfolded, photos of the same bull, alive on the farm and eating placidly out of what appeared to be a dog dish, were discovered and circulated. Hunters following the hoax made up a nickname for the animal, which would have been revered had it truly grown to such magnificent size in the wilderness.

They called it the Alpo Bull.


Hunting organizations don’t monitor the high-fence industry, but their counterparts do. “Canned Hunts: Unfair at Any Price,” a publication of the Humane Society of the United States, summarizes the statutes and regulations governing shooting preserves in those states that have laws concerning them.

Difference between a poll and a survey

Difference between a poll and a survey

A poll allows you to ask one multiple choice question. Participants can choose from among answers that you predefine. You can allow the voter to select just one answer or allow them to choose multiple answers. You also have the option of adding an Other field to allow a voter to enter their own answer. Here’s what a sample poll looks like:

A survey allows you to ask multiple questions across a wider range of question types. So you can ask for a comment, an email address, a name, an address etc., as well as multiple choice questions. Here’s what a sample survey looks like:



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U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons

U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons

U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons

The debate over gun control in the United States has waxed and waned over the years, stirred by a series of mass killings by gunmen in civilian settings. In particular, the killing of twenty schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 fueled a national discussion over gun laws and calls by the Obama administration to limit the availability of military-style weapons. However, compromise legislation that would have banned semiautomatic assault weapons and expanded background checks was defeated in the Senate in 2013, despite extensive public support.

Gun control advocates sought to rekindle the debate following another string of deadly mass shootings in 2015, including the killing of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and fourteen at a community center in San Bernardino, California. These advocates often highlight the stricter gun laws and lower incidents of gun violence in several other democracies, like Japan and Australia, but many others say this correlation proves little and note that rates of gun crime in the United States have plunged over the last two decades.

In January 2016, President Obama took a series of executive actions intended to curb gun violence, including measures to expand federal background checks to most gun buyers.

United States

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Supreme Court rulings, citing this amendment, have upheld the right of states to regulate firearms. However, in a 2008 decision (District of Columbia v. Heller [PDF]) confirming an individual right to keep and bear arms, the court struck down Washington, DC, laws that banned handguns and required those in the home to be locked or disassembled.

A number of gun advocates consider ownership a birthright and an essential part of the nation’s heritage. The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has about 35–50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, according to a 2007 report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey. It ranks number one in firearms per capita. The United States also has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate among the world’s most developed nations.

Global Gun Policy Comparisons

But many gun rights proponents say these statistics do not indicate a cause-and-effect relationship and note that the rates of gun homicide and other gun crimes in the United States have dropped since highs in the early 1990s.

Federal law sets the minimum standards for firearm regulation in the United States, but individual states have their own laws, some of which provide further restrictions, others which are more lenient. Some states, including Idaho, Alaska, and Kansas, have passed laws designed to circumvent federal policies, but the Constitution (Article VI, Paragraph 2) establishes the supremacy of federal law.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibited the sale of firearms to several categories of individuals, including persons under eighteen years of age, those with criminal records, the mentally disabled, unlawful aliens, dishonorably discharged military personnel, and others. In 1993, the law was amended by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which mandated background checks for all unlicensed persons purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed dealer.

In January 2016, President Obama issued a package of executive actions designed to decrease gun violence, notably a measure to require dealers selling firearms at gun shows or online to obtain federal licenses and, in turn, conduct background checks of prospective buyers. Gun control advocates hope these steps will help close existing legal loopholes that have allowed violent criminals and others to purchase weapons without FBI screening.

Additionally, he proposed new funding to hire hundreds more federal law enforcement agents, and budgeting $500 million to expand access to mental health care. (Suicides, many by individuals with undiagnosed mental illness, account for about 60 percent of gun deaths.) The president said he was compelled to move on this issue under his own authority because Congress had failed to pass “commonsense gun safety reforms.”

As of 2016, there were no federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity ammunition magazines, which can increase the potential lethality of a given firearm. There was a federal prohibition on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines between 1994 and 2004, but Congress allowed these restrictions to expire.

The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has about 35–50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, according to a 2007 report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey.


Many analysts characterize Canada’s gun laws as strict in comparison to the United States, while others say recent developments have eroded safeguards. Ottawa, like Washington, sets federal gun restrictions that the provinces, territories, and municipalities can supplement. Federal regulations require all gun owners, who must be at least eighteen years of age, to obtain a license that includes a background check and a public safety course.

There are three classes of weapons: nonrestricted (e.g., ordinary rifles and shotguns), restricted (e.g., handguns, semiautomatic rifles/shotguns, and sawed-offs), and prohibited (e.g., automatics). A person wishing to acquire a restricted firearm must obtain a federal registration certificate, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Modern Canadian gun laws have been driven by prior gun violence. In December 1989, a disgruntled student walked into a Montreal engineering school with a semiautomatic rifle and killed fourteen students and injured over a dozen others. The incident is widely credited with driving subsequent gun legislation, including the 1995 Firearms Act, which required owner licensing and the registration of all long guns (i.e., rifles and shotguns) while banning more than half of all registered guns. However, in 2012, the government abandoned the long-gun registry, citing cost concerns.


The inflection point for modern gun control in Australia was the Port Arthur massacre of April 1996, when a young man killed thirty-five people and wounded twenty-three others. The rampage, perpetrated with a semiautomatic rifle, was the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history. Less than two weeks later, the conservative-led national government pushed through fundamental changes to the country’s gun laws in cooperation with the various states, which regulate firearms.

The National Agreement on Firearms all but prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles, stiffened licensing and ownership rules, and instituted a temporary gun buyback program that took some 650,000 assault weapons (about one-sixth of the national stock) out of public circulation. Among other things, the law also required licensees to demonstrate a “genuine need” for a particular type of gun and take a firearm safety course. After another high-profile shooting in Melbourne in 2002, Australia’s handgun laws were tightened as well.

Many analysts say these measures have been highly effective, citing declining gun-death rates, and the fact that there have been no gun-related mass killings in Australia since 1996. Many also suggest the policy response in the wake of Port Arthur could serve as a model for the United States.


Military service is compulsory in Israel and guns are very much a part of everyday life. By law, most eighteenyear-olds are drafted, psychologically screened, and receive at least some weapons training after high school. After serving typically two or three years in the armed forces, however, most Israelis are discharged and must abide by civilian gun laws.

The country has relatively strict gun regulations, including an assault-weapons ban and a requirement to register ownership with the government. To become licensed, an applicant must be an Israeli citizen or a permanent resident, be at least twenty-one-years-old, and speak at least some Hebrew, among other qualifications. Notably, a person must also show genuine cause to carry a firearm, such as self-defense or hunting.

However, some critics question the efficacy of these measures. “It doesn’t take much of an expert to realize that these restrictions, in and of themselves, do not constitute much by the way of gun control,” writes Liel Leibovitz for the Jewish magazine Tablet. He notes the relative ease with which someone can justify owning a gun, including residing in an Israeli settlement, employment as a security guard, or working with valuables or large sums of money. Furthermore, he explains that almost the entire population has indirect access to an assault weapon by either being a soldier or a reservist or a relative of one. Israel’s relatively low gun-related homicide rate is a product of the country’s unique “gun culture,” he says.

United Kingdom

Modern gun control efforts in the United Kingdom have been precipitated by extraordinary acts of violence that sparked public outrage and, eventually, political action. In August 1987, a lone gunman armed with two legally owned semiautomatic rifles and a handgun went on a six-hour shooting spree roughly seventy miles west of London, killing sixteen people and then himself. In the wake of the incident, known as the Hungerford massacre, Britain introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act, which expanded the list of banned weapons, including certain semiautomatic rifles, and increased registration requirements for other weapons.

A gun-related tragedy in the Scottish town of Dunblane, in 1996, prompted Britain’s strictest gun laws yet. In March of that year, a middle-aged man armed with four legally purchased handguns shot and killed sixteen young schoolchildren and one adult before committing suicide in the country’s worst mass shooting to date. The incident sparked a public campaign known as the Snowdrop Petition, which helped drive legislation banning handguns, with few exceptions. The government also instituted a temporary gun buyback program, which many credit with taking tens of thousands of illegal or unwanted guns out of supply.

However, the effectiveness of Britain’s gun laws in gun-crime reduction over the last twenty-five years has stirred ongoing debate. Analysts note that the number of such crimes grew heavily in the late 1990s and peaked in 2004 before falling with each subsequent year. “While tighter gun control removes risk on an incremental basis,” said Peter Squires, a Brighton University criminologist, in an interview with CNN, “significant numbers of weapons remain in Britain.”


Gun control had rarely been much of a political issue in Norway—where gun laws are viewed as tough, but ownership rates are high—until right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed seventy-seven people in an attack on an island summer camp in July 2011. Though Norway ranked tenth worldwide in gun ownership, according to the Small Arms Survey, it placed near the bottom in gun-homicide rates. (The U.S. rate is roughly sixty-four times higher.) Most Norwegian police, much like the British, do not carry firearms.

In the wake of the tragedy, some analysts in the United States cited Breivik’s rampage as proof that strict gun laws—which in Norway include requiring applicants to be at least eighteen years of age, specify a “valid reason” for gun ownership, and obtain a government license—are ineffective. “Those who are willing to break the laws against murder do not care about the regulation of firearms, and will get a hold of weapons whether doing so is legal or not,” wrote Charles C. W. Cooke in National Review. Other gun-control critics have argued that had other Norwegians, including the police, been armed, Breivik might have been stopped earlier and killed fewer victims. An independent commission after the massacre recommended tightening Norway’s gun restrictions in a number of ways, including prohibiting pistols and semiautomatic weapons.


Gun-control advocates regularly cite Japan’s highly restrictive firearm regulations in tandem with its extraordinarily low gun-homicide rate, which is the lowest in the world at one in ten million, according to the latest data available. Most guns are illegal in the country and ownership rates, which are quite small, reflect this.

Under Japan’s firearm and sword law [PDF], the only guns permitted are shotguns, air guns, guns that have research or industrial purposes, or those used for competitions. However, before access to these specialty weapons is granted, one must obtain formal instruction and pass a battery of written, mental, and drug tests and a rigorous background check. Furthermore, owners must inform the authorities of how the weapon and ammunition is stored and provide the firearm for annual inspection.

Some analysts link Japan’s aversion to firearms with its demilitarization in the aftermath of World War II. Others say that because the overall crime rate in the country is so low, most Japanese see no need for firearms.

Survey says……

Results of an online survey posted on the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians listserv examined the patterns of analgesic medication and pain management modalities used for captive giraffe and hippopotami. Compiled data included signalment, drugs administered, dosing regimens, subjective efficacy scores, ease of administration, and adverse events. Nineteen institutions exhibiting hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibious) and pygmy hippopotami (Choeropsis liberiensis) and 45 exhibiting giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis spp.) responded. Phenylbutazone was the most-commonly administered nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), followed by flunixin meglumine, but doses varied widely. Eight institutions reported adverse events from NSAID administration. Tramadol was the most-commonly administered opioid followed by butorphanol. Only one adverse event was reported for opioids. Twenty-three of 45 institutions exhibiting giraffe utilized alternative analgesia methods including gabapentin, glucosamine-chondroitin, local anesthetics, and low level laser therapy. Six of 19 institutions exhibiting hippopotami administered omega 3-6 fatty acids, gabapentin, glucosamine-chondroitin, and α-2 adrenergics to provide analgesia. While all reporting zoological institutions administered similar drugs, there was substantial variation and diversity in both dosing regimens and frequencies, indicating the need for both preclinical and clinical studies supporting dosing regimens.

Exotics – Timeline of Events


Timeline of Events


C Number of exotic hoofstock in TX in 1966: 37,5001


C Number of exotic hoofstock in TX in 1974: 57,3001 C

Llamas become popular as novelty. Products: meat, wool, pack and guard animal C

Farmed bison estimated at 30,000, with four bison ranchers producing the bulk of commercial meat (1972) 2


Number of exotic hoofstock in TX in 1988: 164,3001 C

Ostrich ranching began again in early 1980s (were raised in AZ & CA from about 1880 to late 1930s, mainly for feathers, but industry died out when demand did)3 C

Prices for ostriches soared, in part as a result of South Africa stopping exports and the US temporarily banning imports due to disease concerns (1988) .


General C As of 1993, bans or severe restrictions on owning potentially harmful exotic species exist in CA, WY, AZ; regulations tightened or proposed in LA, NH, WI, SC, MO, OH, IN, CO.4 C

The Livestock Conservation Institute in 1997 reaffirmed 3 resolutions concerning alternative livestock due to “the increasing growth of the captive wildlife and alternative livestock industries”.        The resolutions encourage APHIS to provide leadership on several issues regarding legal authority, interstate movement, and disease transmission. 5 C

Number of exotic hoofstock in TX in 1996: 198,060 6 C

Other principal states with exotic big game: CA, FL, HI, MA, MO, NE, NH, NM, NY, NC, PA, TN, VA C

Big game products: meat – mainly to gourmet establishments; by-products (antlers, horns, hides) – mainly to Asian countries C Other income from big game: fee hunting – examples of number        of entries in Farm Journal’s fee hunting directory: 8 in CO; 16 in KS; 25 in NE; 48 in SD (October 1997)

A potentially disease-carrying tick was found on an imported ostrich. Other diseases of a ostriches or ostrich products that pose a potential animal health threat are: Newcastle disease; avian influenza, and born a disease.

Deer and Elk

North American Elk Breeders Association founded in 1990 and had 300 members; up to 1,400 members with 90,000 member-owned elk in 1997 8 C

Estimated 126,000 farmed deer in 1996, up from 44,000 in 1992 9 C

The US supplies only 25-30% of venison consumption (1997)9 C

States that do not allow deer and/or elk farming due to disease concerns, primarily tuberculosis: AL, AZ, CA, MD, MA, OR, VA, WA, WV, WY (1997)

Ostrich and emu

New ratite industry featured in national news services, national newspapers and magazines, and major TV networks (early 1990’s) C

Booming emu market in TX in early 1990s, with breeding pairs selling for as much as $40,000. Emu products: meat and oil11 C

One million emu nationwide in 1997 12 C Emu market collapses, with breeding pairs selling for $400, and owners turning their animals loose or killing them (1997) C

Imports of ostrich chicks and eggs re-opened in 1991 C

American Ostrich Association (national level) founded in 1992 C

350,000-500,000 ostriches in 1995, up from about 15,000 in 1992. Major states are TX, CA, AZ, and OK. Ostrich products: meat, hides, feathers3,13 C

Prices of ostrich breeding pairs dropped from $45,000 to $5,000 in five years14 C 1997: Ostrich sales are up during the past two years; 2,500 birds slaughtered in the US monthly, compared           with 100 a month two years ago, with close to 70% of that meat going to foreign markets15 C

1994: FSIS begins voluntary, fee-for-service inspection of ostrich plants and expands this to include all ratites in 1995 16 C

1996: NPIP allowed ostriches to be regarded under its regulations as poultry, and have their own subsection under the program


About 250,000 bison in 1997, up from 116,000 in 1992 2,18 C

More than 100 bison-producers in CO14 C Denver Buffalo Co (founded in January 1990) sold 2 million pounds of bison in 1997, double that of 1996 14 C

American bison industry growing by 30% a year15 C

Demand for bison meat is greater than supply


118,000 llama in 1997, up from 7,000 in 1984 19 C

Prices collapsed in early 1990’s due to oversupply


“Bison is here to stay as a viable niche market … but it will never be a direct threat EXOTICS 34 to beef.” (executive VP of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association)14 C

Continued interest of consumers in healthier alternatives to ‘usual’ red meat

Uncertainties For The Future

Continued expansion of captive wildlife For: favorable characteristics of meat (healthier than most others, palatable) Against/barriers: public reluctance to try unfamiliar meat; urban development; price of meat; inconsistent health and meat handling regulations (regulations re: handling and sale of exotic game meat vary from state to state) C

Regulations re: captive wildlife. The market for captive bred animals has largely been overlooked by regulators because the focus of much animal trade regulation and enforcement has been on protecting animals in the wild.




Holiday poll

The Average American Gun Owner

Average American Gun Owner

Transgender restrooms in public schools?

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What’s more popular……salt water or fresh water fishing?

What’s more popular……salt water or fresh water fishing?


Should we ban assault weapons?

Hillary for President!