High Fences Again? Really?

October 23, 2014

I know, I’m starting to sound like a broken record here.  And I know that what I’m about to write will repeat a lot of what I’ve already written.  But really, I guess it doesn’t really matter if I’m being redundant, because the thing that’s bothering me is also pretty damned repetitive.

It’s this whole, vehemently negative reaction to high fence hunting.

It’s not just the fact that a lot of people are opposed to doing it.  I’m fine with that.  We all have different appetites and tastes.

What really bugs me is the fact that so many people feel the need to disparage not only the practice, but the participants.  They not only judge total strangers (we all judge, we’re human), but they vocally denigrate them.  They want to run these strangers down and essentially take away their pleasure and happiness because that pleasure and happiness conflicts with some preconceived notions and personal ethics.

Some of this comes from the anonymity and meanness inherent to the Internet.  I get that.  It’s the place where you can say whatever you want to say with impunity… where being an asshole carries no real-life repercussions. But the sentiment that’s coming through is real enough.

And it sickens me.  It really does.  It makes my stomach tighten up, and I get a nasty taste in my mouth.  That can’t be healthy.

Maybe I’m the stupid one here, but it seems to me like people would demonstrate a little more self awareness.  Instead, what I see them demonstrate in discussions about high fence hunting is a total willingness to surrender common sense or benefit of the doubt in favor of preconceived notions.

At the very least, folks should recognize the recurrent memes that come up in conversations about high fence hunting.  The “canned hunt” trope and various stereotypes and caricatures related to high fence hunting were all initiated and perpetuated by anti-hunting organizations such as PETA and HSUS.  That so many hunters have eagerly adopted these memes as their own should be cause for alarm throughout the community.  Instead, rallying under this anti-hunting flag has become some sort of badge of honor among certain elitists, and demeaning total strangers for hunting behind a fence is tantamount to counting coup on an enemy.

How did we get here?  Why did we get here?

What kills me is that none of this behavior changes anything.  It doesn’t stop people from high fence hunting.  The industry is booming.  It certainly doesn’t address any of the real or potential problems inherent to raising captive game animals.   Instead, it shuts down debate and constructive discussion.  It turns the opportunity for learning and sharing ideas and ethics into a senseless donnybrook.

If you don’t like the idea of high fence hunting, then don’t hunt high fence.  If you feel strongly that high fence hunting is wrong and should be eliminated, then at least educate yourself and understand exactly what high fence hunting is really all about before you start spouting off ignorant myths and cliché stereotypes.  There certainly are some questionable and troubling aspects of the high fence and game farming industries, and they should be addressed (although I, personally, think they can be addressed without shutting down the industry).  There are some operations out there that fit the stereotypes, although they’re hardly the norm.

But above all else, don’t start running down people you don’t know for doing something you don’t understand.  The name-calling and intolerance is just… well, it’s moronic.



7 Responses to “High Fences Again? Really?”

  1. Mike M on October 23rd, 2014 19:00

    I agree, not necessarily with this type of hunting….I’ve not hunted for 20 years, an ankle injury put me out of that game. But the idea that people opposed to something, be it high fence hunting or whatever…let’s say abortion, make it personal…anyone opposing their views are evil, bad.
    And your solutions….’if you don’t like the idea of high-hunting…” “Then don’t do it.” are sound, and applicable to other things.
    We should not try to impose our moral values on others, unless it is against the law.

  2. Phillip on October 23rd, 2014 20:17

    Mike, I can’t argue with a thing you say here. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. High Fences Again? Really? | on October 23rd, 2014 21:18

    […] High Fences Again? Really? […]

  4. Robb on October 27th, 2014 04:07

    I was thinking about just yesterday about two of the issues you raise.

    Ever heard that expression to criticize the sin not the sinner? I think the general idea not to criticize the person but their action which you disagree with is applicable. I wrote a blog post about that NY girl that went around to national parks painting pictures on rocks and instagramming them. It’s a social media story that bled onto mainstream media. My blog post elicited a couple hundred comments, most were I thought very mean spirited towards the girl. I am not a big fan of 21 yr old blonds with the bucks to visit all the parks in the west spewing graffiti, but I sure don’t hate her, don’t even know her actually. I don’t even wish for much of the punishment suggested.

    I also read about another vilified young woman in the news, a cheerleader from texas who hunted on what is a 75 square mile high fence enclosure. It’s the only practical way to keep wildlife separate from farms in S Africa.

    I guess you could place me strongly in the anti high fence category. But I’m not so small minded as to say it’s wrong for all people in all instances. And I certainly wouldn’t criticize the people who do choose to hunt high fence in all it’s various permutations.

    One very good reason that many dislike the idea of high fence is that it diminishes one’s accomplishment in hunting free ranging wildlife on public land. Most high fence out here on the plains is a few acres where you choose your trophy from photos and conclude your successful hunt in an hour. I do wish we didn’t have it here.

    My biggest hunting gripe is the commercialization. Paying for access to land or paying for guiding. If only I were king. 😉 End of the day, though I might think less of ones hunting ability on a 200 acre hunt I don’t think less of the person.

  5. Phillip on October 27th, 2014 07:00

    Robb, thanks for chiming in. I think you generally get it, particularly the key point about hating the sin but not the sinner.

    There’s one thing that stands out in what you wrote, though, and that’s this:

    One very good reason that many dislike the idea of high fence is that it diminishes one’s accomplishment in hunting free ranging wildlife on public land. Most high fence out here on the plains is a few acres where you choose your trophy from photos and conclude your successful hunt in an hour. I do wish we didn’t have it here.

    Whose accomplishment is being diminished? If, as the individual hunter, I’m happy with the outcome of my hunt, how (and why) should someone else’s opinion diminish my own sense of accomplishment? That’s what never makes sense to me when I hear people criticizing high fence. I can see it, if you had written that hunting high fence diminishes your own sense of accomplishment… that it isn’t satisfying to your own ideas of what the hunting experience should be. But you can’t really say what it means to someone else. And, of course, the resolution for you, in order to preserve your personal ideals, is to not hunt high fence. But there’s no way that does, or should, reflect on someone else.

    I get it, of course. To you, and to a lot of people, a trophy animal taken in high fence just doesn’t mean as much as a trophy taken under more traditional circumstances. So no matter how proud someone might be of a 200″ buck, you just won’t find it as impressive as 140″ deer taken in the wilderness, on public land, and without a guide. Just like most people find that 140″ deer taken with the aid of a guide on private land to be a little less impressive than the 120″ deer taken by a DIY hunter in a national forest or BLM property.

    Having spent as much time as I have in tree stands and blinds, both on low/no fence and in high fence ranches, I can tell you that there’s just not much difference in the experience, except that someone else probably set the stand and managed the food plots and feeders in the high fence ranch. And having guided hog hunters inside a 400 acre enclosure, I can almost guarantee that most of those clients got the same experience as the hunters I guided on a 200 acre, unfenced ranch… including walking away without firing a shot, from time to time.

    I know there are operations out there where you can see from one fence to the other, and the hoofstock is insensate to human encroachment. That doesn’t sound like much fun to me, either. But my simple choice is not to patronize those operations, and that is any hunter’s prerogative.

    I also know that there are operations out there accused of some pretty sketchy behavior, such as drugging the animals. Others aren’t managed well and present a health threat to the native wildlife in the area. Some operations buy up property, bait the hell out of it, and then fence in the native game for their own profit. These are real problems, and they should be addressed through the legal and regulatory process. But for people to throw a blanket condemnation over the entire practice, simply because it doesn’t suit their personal tastes… and then using the most egregious examples to support their agenda…

    Well, whose tactic is that?

    That is the kind of thing we see from PETA, who point out a poacher, call him a hunter, and suggest that he represents all hunters and hunting should be banned. That’s what we get from HSUS, who implies that sport hunters are only taking trophies and leaving the rest to rot because, well, some people actually do that.

    My point is, and always has been, you don’t have to like it to let it be. If it’s not illegal… if it’s not harmful to the resource or habitat… if the kill is humane… if it’s not dangerous to the participants or the public… then why judge it so harshly? Why judge it at all?

    I fall back on the example of hunting with hounds. I don’t care for it. I’ve done it, and I know what it’s all about, but I just don’t derive any pleasure from hunting that way. It is not the experience that I want hunting to be. But thousands of other hunters, all over the country, love it. Should I deride those hunters because they enjoy something that I don’t? What’s more, there have been some very real cases of bad behavior associated with hound hunting. These range from mistreatment of the dogs to conflicts with landowners. As a result of individual incidents, there is an ongoing effort to ban the practice outright. Should I join this effort because I simply don’t care for the practice myself?

    Where does this end? Look around at all the contentious practices in hunting. What’s next on the block?

  6. Robb on October 27th, 2014 09:22

    I knew when I wrote it I should have expanded on the “one’s accomplishment” part.

    We often compare ourselves to others, compete if you will, and ultimately I think that’s counterproductive for motivation. Most hunting I’ve done is alone, no audience, and no cheering section. We all might be a little better off if the size of the rack weren’t measured by inches. An out of state politician who comes here to get a trophy for the office back in DC sure hurts me none at all.

    I worry a lot more about antis, access, changing migration patterns, and population pressures, than I do fences.

  7. Phillip on October 27th, 2014 18:19

    No problem, Robb. That’s the thing about commenting on these sites… it’s sort of like shooting at an animal. Once you pull the trigger, there’s no calling it back (well, technically, I’ll usually delete a comment at the request of the person who posted it… at my discretion).

    Two things you point out here that I’m in total agreement with. The first is the fixation on trophies, which I think drives a lot more unethical, or at least questionable, behavior than any number of high fences. This is also, too often, the root of disagreements about hunting tactics or practices… a sort of jealous indignation that someone got a better trophy than the next guy through means that the next guy either doesn’t like, or can’t afford.

    The other is your last sentence… there are far more pressing issues for us as hunters and conservationists than high fence hunting. It’s a fine topic for campfire discussions, but if we really want to make a difference in the future of the sport, we need to look at the real threats and challenges.