Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
30 June 1999 Issue

Canned Hunts
By [email protected]

Canned hunts can have a number of definitions. In some cases a "canned" hunt is merely an all inclusive hunting trip that includes transportation, licensing arrangements, food, horses (if needed), camping supplies and accommodations (or alternately, cabins), guide service etc. The hunter pays an outfitter one fee and the outfitter takes care of all arrangements. The hunter shows up and hunts.

This type of hunt is usually for free roaming native animals and is, in all likelihood, conducted under the rules of "fair chase", so to speak.

The more insidious type of canned hunt are those done in enclosures. In these hunts, "exotic", non-native, animals are hunted in an enclosure. These enclosures, usually called "deer proof", are 12 ft. or higher fences. They range in size from a few hundred square feet to a few dozen square miles. The YO ranch in Texas, one of the largest "canned hunt" operations in the world, has 44 sq. miles in a single enclosure.

The exotic animals are raised by the operator, or purchased from breeders for hunting, and released in the enclosures. The animals range from the mundane feral hogs (sometimes called "wild boars") and Spanish goats to the more exotic blackbuck antelope, nilgai, axis deer, mouflon sheep, ibex, etc. In most cases game laws do not apply to these "privately owned" animals and they can be hunted year round, usually without need for a hunting license.

The client pays a fee for the hunt, usually by the day, and a "trophy fee" if an animal is killed. Alternatively he may pay a single fee for a "guaranteed" hunt. If he kills nothing he gets his money back, and can hunt as many days as needed to get his kill. Trophy fees range from $200 for a feral hog or Spanish goat to upwards of $10,000 for the more exotic animals. This may or may not be in addition to fees for food, lodging etc. Depends on the operator of the hunt.

In a canned hunt, the client is taken into the enclosure by a guide, canned hunts are ALWAYS guided. The guide undoubtedly knows where the animals he seeks "hang out", but he will usually lead the client around to unproductive areas, just to make it seem "sporting". After the requisite walk in the brush, the client is "guided" to the area containing the game he seeks. The client selects an animal to kill and shoots it. The animal is then processed by the operator, cleaned, cut-up, wrapped, frozen and packed......after pictures are taken, etc. The hunt is over in one morning, usually.

At some of these operations a client may choose to kill an animal that is led directly from a barn into a small corral. In one case that I know of, a client at a canned hunt operation near Bandera, Texas, did this with a feral hog. He wished to kill a "wild boar" with archery equipment. The feral hog, selected for the length of his tusks, was led into a small corral. The client stood safely outside the corral and loosed arrows at the animal. Over and over he shot the animal, never hitting a vital area. The animal was tortured until the client, literally, ran out of arrows. The feral hog was then killed by a single shot from a .44 magnum revolver the client borrowed from the "hunt" operator. The client paid his fee of $50 for the "guaranteed" hunt, the hog was butchered, the head mounted, and the client brags to this day of his bravery at facing a wild boar with just a bow and arrow.

A new twist is canned hunting for "native" game. The perversely named "Sanctuary", in central Michigan, raises trophy whitetail deer in it's 400 acre enclosure. Animals are selected for their antler development potential, animals that don't measure up are released from the enclosure to the wild (and hunters are supposed to reduce deer populations?) and only the "best" are kept for the clients. These animals must be hunted under the laws of the state for deer.....2 weeks per year, and the hunters must have a deer license. Because of their limited season, the "Sanctuary" is booked years in advance for hunting. Fees range upwards of $3500 per day, but they guarantee a chance at a minimum 10 point buck, with a minimum 20" antler spread.

That is big game canned hunting.

More common are canned bird hunts. Pre-purchased birds (pheasants, quail, etc.) are placed in fields direct from small pens or crates and the hunters are released moments later to hunt the birds they paid for. There are thousands of these clubs throughout the US and they kill millions of birds each year. A small club I know of in Delavan, WI has 80 members and kills over 5,000 birds each year. Another, larger club, in nearby Richmond, IL, kills over 30,000 pheasants, ducks, quail every year. Birds that are not killed quickly succumb to the elements or predators. "Carry over", or survival, is nonexistent.

At Richmond, ducks are also hunted. The clients are taken to a blind on the edge of a man made pond. They are provided with sandwiches, drinks, etc. Of course they all wear camouflage and have their duck calls with them. The ducks they have paid for are taken to a "launch tower" in trees on the other side of the pond. Employees of the club then place the ducks in a spring powered mechanical launcher, and launch them toward the hunters in the blind. After all, if they were merely released, they may choose to fly the wrong direction. Why the duck calls? Why, to signal the launcher when they are ready for another duck, of course.

Fees for this hunting can be steep. Richmond charges $3000 to join the club, an "equity" membership. It also charges a $300 annual fee which covers the client for a number of "points". Pheasants are 10 points, for example, as are ducks. So the annual fee covers the first 10 pheasants or ducks. Guests are charged $75 for a four hour hunt and must buy a minimum of 4 birds at $15 each. For a guest to have the opportunity to kill four birds costs $135. Or about $17 a pound for meat filled with lead shot......and that is IF the client kills all his birds.

Make no mistake. There are NO magnanimous excuses for this type of hunting. There is NO wildlife management, no contributions to wildlife agencies, no experience of the animal's natural habitat, and no contributions to the economy of rural areas, the fees line the pocket of an operator who sells death.

These "hunts" are, indeed, an atrocity.

Federal law banned the import of animals for hunting in 1973. But, of course, there are loopholes. Animals can still be captive bred here, and animals can be imported for zoos and such. Many zoos sell the offspring of these imported animals to auctioneers, who in turn sell them to canned hunt operators.

Go on to Fur Sales Plunge - [email protected]
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