Follow Up – Michael Sutton Issues “Apology”

February 16, 2014

It’s only fair to follow up on last week’s post in regards to comments made by Fish and Game Commission President, Michael Sutton.  If you didn’t read that post, or other articles on the topic (it was hardly mainstream news), Sutton said in a web conference, hosted by the animal rights organization, HSUS, that legal hunting in CA might be a bigger problem than poaching.

Along with some other outdoors writers, and (hopefully) many CA sportsmen, I took Sutton to task here on the Hog Blog.  I also sent a harshly critical email to the Fish and Game Commission.  In response, Sutton wrote a letter to Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the CA Fish and Game Commission that purports to “set the record straight” about Sutton’s views on legal hunting.  You can read Sutton’s official statement on the Fish and Game Commission website, but I’ll save you the effort and copy the body of it here:

Earlier this week, my quotes in a press account of a webinar in which I participated on the illegal wildlife trade gave rise to confusion regarding my attitude towards legal hunting in California. I’m writing to set the record straight.

I fully support legal, well-regulated, science-based hunting in California. As you know, I’ve been an active hunter and fisherman most of my life and I recognize the vital contributions hunters make to wildlife conservation. Further, I believe that hunting in California is well managed by our Commission and the Department of Fish & Wildlife, using the best available science. I am unaware of any legal, managed hunting today in our state that contributes to the decline of our native wildlife. Both the Commission and the Department continually strive to improve our stewardship of wildlife in California.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my position and clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen as a result of my comments during the webinar earlier this week. I apologize for the confusion and hope that this letter serves to forestall any misinterpretation of my position on hunting. You are welcome to circulate this to anyone who may inquire.

How you interpret Sutton’s words here is up to you.  But what I see is… well, nothing.  There are three paragraphs of empty words, none of which either explain or excuse the statement he made in the conference.  In fact, what he says here is in direct contradiction to what he said in the conference.  So which is it, Mr. Sutton?

Michael Sutton has demonstrated an antagonistic attitude toward CA sportsmen since he was named to the Commission in 2007.  In fact during one of his first interviews as a Commissioner, in Cal Waterfowl magazine, Sutton explicitly stated that he doesn’t care much for big game hunting.

Sutton:  My stint as a federal game warden soured me on big game hunting.  Today I’m involved mainly in wing-shooting and fly-fishing.  Each year I hunt chukars in Idaho, pheasants in South Dakota, and fish trout, steelhead, and salmon throughout the American west.

Now I suppose you could take that in other ways, but given the negativity and even comptempt he has shown in dealing with hunters and fishermen through discussions about the MLPA, the lead ammo ban, and the railroading of former Commissioner Dan Richards, it’s pretty obvious to me that Sutton’s negative attitude is reflected in his actions on the Commission.  When you combine this with his questionable (at best) role in the passage of the MLPA regulations and the lead ammo ban expansion, it seems clear that this man is not suited to be part of the CA Fish and Game Commission.

It’s up to you, CA hunters and fishermen.  Turn your back, get on with your own affairs, and let this fall where it may.  Hell, it’s just politics, right?  But if you take that path, you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves when you see one hunting or fishing opportunity after another stripped away.  The CA Fish and Game Commission is almost completely made up now of bureaucrats with little or no involvement in hunting or fishing (the exception being Commissioner Jim Kellogg).  They have no stake in the future of either pursuit, and as such they are subject to the constant ministrations of HSUS, Audubon, and other animal rights/anti-hunting organizations.

Or you can take an active role.  Contact Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the CA Fish and Game Commission.  Use email, phone calls, and snail mail.  And contact your state representatives in Sacramento.  Demand fair representation for hunters and fishermen on the FGC.


5 Responses to “Follow Up – Michael Sutton Issues “Apology””

  1. somsai on February 16th, 2014 11:26

    “Today I’m involved mainly in wing-shooting and fly-fishing”.

    grab the pheasant by the feet, swing it over your head a few times, set it under a bush for Mike to “hunt”.

  2. Bruce Cherry on February 16th, 2014 17:46

    The guy should be toast, in my opinion. He’ll keep his job because his superiors probably share his perspective. And he’s a weather vane, just like all the other politicians and career bureaucrats. But hunters and shooters should not tolerate this sort of behavior. If he does indeed support science-based hunting, he would realize, as do virtually all wildlife biologists, that the only thing between game animals and extinction is the money generated by hunters. How much does PETA contribute to game animal preservation? Sierra Club? Audubon? I don’t have the data but I’m willing to bet that it is less than 1% of the money contributed by hunters thru their licensing, tags, and various tax revenues generated from activities related to hunting.

    In Hawaii, science-based game management is a joke. On Mauna Kea, for example, where I hunt sheep and pigs, the Sierra Club [Earth Justice] sued Hawaii many years ago claiming the mouflon sheep were eating a bush that the endangered palila bird uses for food and nesting. The Feds agreed and now there are aerial shoots every month or so in which virtually all the sheep are killed. The scientists, however, have found that it may not be the sheep at all but that moths [caterpillars] that are part of the palila diet are dying due to a virus and that even though the sheep population has been culled down to 5% of its prior level, the palila continue to disappear. Further, scientists claim, feral cats, which hugely outnumber sheep, are preying on the palila. Now Earth Justice has changed it’s mantra, stating that other factors are causing the palila decline but that since sheep are an introduced species, they should all be killed anyway. So the aerial shoots continue. PETA opposes killing the feral cats because so many PETA members own cats and they are cuddly and cute. The feral cats are also cuddly and cute, sort of like bobcats are.

    It’s frustrating here in HI and I’m sure in CA, but when I hunt grouse in Montana in the fall, or quail in Arizona in the winter, the opposite is the case. Those states take hunting seriously and it seems that science is the dominant factor when decisions are made involving game management. This year, I’ll be making 3 trips to hunt birds in Montana. I just love it up there, at least in the fall. But I can’t gripe about Hawaii. I can hunt sheep, pigs, goat, and wild bulls 365 days a year, and on any single day’s outing, I won’t see another hunter and I have about a 50% chance of scoring, all on public land. But the politics here stink.

  3. on February 17th, 2014 14:20


    Good job covering such an important issue to hunters. President Sutton clearly does not support hunting and needs to be removed from the California Fish and Game Commission.

  4. Gary Brennan on February 17th, 2014 23:40

    No Confidence Vote, I vote NO

  5. Phillip on February 18th, 2014 23:35

    Thanks, all.

    Bruce, I agree in regards to science-based wildlife management. CA, like several states, lost track of this basic concept a long time ago. I honestly believe there are folks in the DFG (DFW) who still think it matters, but the way the laws and process work these days, science simply has no place alongside emotion and opinion.

    Overall, I just hope that CA folks who agree with what I’ve written here will take that anger and frustration to the right places, and make sure elected officials know that CA sportsmen are done with this idiocy.