The Nature of Hunting in the 21st Century

By Peter Muller

A common theme in current discussions about hunting is “canned hunts.” In canned hunts the killing of animals takes place on privately owned “shooting preserves” where exotic animals or animals native to the region are kept and released to be shot by the clients of the preserve. Canned hunting is usually considered the most abominable form of hunting. Even hunters will frequently disavow the practice. The Izaac Walton League, a pro-hunting organization, for example, has repeatedly denounced the practice of canned hunts. The only major hunting organization that actually endorses canned hunts is the Safari Club.

(Photo sent by anonymous killer.)  Canned hunting distinguishes itself from sport hunting in that:

1. the shooting area has artificial barriers so that the targeted animals have little chance of avoiding or fleeing from hunters, and

2. the “target animals” are released by the organizers to accommodate the hunters.

In New York State and other densely populated states, sport hunting is increasingly assuming characteristics of canned hunting.

Because of the increasing encroachment of human land-use on wildlife habitat, the remaining areas are getting smaller and smaller; they are increasingly interrupted by more dwellings and roads and are bound by ever more constricting barriers.

However, even more instrumental in morphing sport hunting into canned hunting, but less well known to the general public, is the fact that the target animals are artificially provided and released by the “organizer.” – The “organizer” poses as a government organization – the Bureau of Wildlife (BOW) of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) of the state of New York.

The general non-hunting public (about 96% of NY State’s population) as well as a fair number of hunters believe that the DEC manages the population of the deer herd as well as other wildlife populations for the benefit of the environment – which presumably benefits the managed species themselves.

A look at the actual policies of the DEC shows that the population of the various species are actually managed to accommodate the hunters’ demand for more targets. The declared goal of the DEC’s wildlife management policy is “maximum sustainable yield.” The procedures, prescription, and proscriptions are all geared to furnish hunters with targets to shoot.

Sometimes that is done overtly without any pretense of benefiting the environment or anything but the hunters’ passion to kill. For example, pheasants are raised and released annually by the DEC in designated areas so that hunters can shoot them. Ring-necked pheasants are birds that are native to Asia; they rarely survive a typical winter in most parts of New York. They are bred specifically for the hunt and released for hunters at specific locations and times. [See page 6 for more information about pheasants.]

Sometimes BOW of the DEC operates a little more subtly. For example, a superficial look at the white-tailed deer population looks to the untrained eye like a clear-cut case of “nature out of control” – and only the DEC can save us by permitting hunters to reduce the population. However – a look at the actual DEC hunting licenses shows that only bucks, not does, can be taken with a regular hunting license. Since all deer are in competition for browse (food) in the winter months – this eliminates a portion of the herd and provides more browse for the surviving and fawn-bearing does. Shooting out bucks has the net effect of increasing the deer herd not decreasing it because of the population dynamics of deer reproduction. When they do issue “doe permits,” they are really permitting the hunting of “antlerless deer” of which 30% are male! The net effect is that the combination using hunting licenses and “doe permits” invariable removes more bucks than does from a herd that’s already badly skewed in favor of does. This, in turn, exacerbates the increased fertility and fecundity of the herd.

Last year the DEC was weighing the option of introducing an elk population in the State of NY. If the interest of the general population had been taken into consideration – the answer would clearly be that – although elk are beautiful to look at they simply cannot be introduced into the Catskills without upsetting the fragile environment of the area and disturbing much of the existing human society and economy.

In all aspects of its operation BOW of the DEC acts more like the operator of a large canned hunt preserve than like a government agency responsible to the citizens of the State of New York.

Some counties’ legislatures and some members of the NY State assembly are starting to realize BOW of the DEC is not functioning like a responsible governmental department.

The Rockland County Legislature had passed a law banning trapping in the county. The DEC went to court and challenged the county’s enactment of the law and prevailed with the NY State Supreme Court holding that only the DEC can regulate wildlife in the state. There are bills currently pending in the NY State Assembly and Senate that would explicitly permit counties to enact such laws.

Another Bill in the NY State Assembly, Bill 9421, introduced on Sept. 6 by Reps. Ortiz, Gromack, and Cummings, would create a new cabinet position called the “Advocate of Wildlife.” If the legislators believed that the DEC is doing an adequate job of managing wildlife they would not introduce legislation to diffuse the DEC’s power to manage wildlife and to report on the condition of wildlife to the governor and the people of New York.

With your support for measures like these we can hopefully curtail this renegade agency. (See our website for details on what action you can take)

In sum, through its policies, regulations, and practices the NYS DEC is really acting and thinking like a manager of a shooting preserve and not like a agency responsible to the people of the state of New York. They are running the state’s largest canned hunt operation while pretending to be “managing” the wildlife for the benefit of the environment, the people of the State of New York, and mot importantly, for the benefit of the wildlife itself.


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561