Monday, February 13, 2006

more fun than killing a barrel of monkeys

last summer and again month, a story circulated about the practice of canned hunting in indiana. basically, a "preserve" raises animals in an enclosed area of a few dozen to a couple hundred acres, and "hunters" pay big bucks to go kill some stuff there inside an enclosed area (quotes used due to orwellian language: these places do the exact opposite of "preserving"). "wild" animals are then released into the "preserve", essentially caged with nowhere to run, and these "sportsmen" go about gleefully shooting them all. it's much like hunting in your back yard...if your back yard is fenced in and you have filled it up with gentle, domesticated creatures that don't understand that they should run away from humans holding rifles.

indiana DNR director kyle hupfer wants to shut down the canned hunting grounds, which are virtually unanimously condemned by real hunters and sportsmen, who think they are a travesty. when this was announced last month, it drew a lot of attention from hoosier bloggers who were a bit stunned by the practice, which draws to mind the old phrase "easier than shooting fish in a barrel"... only here we're dealing with birds and deer, and the barrel is a little bit larger.

unfortunately, some people in the legislature don't see eye-to-eye with hupfer and want the hoosier canned hunting to continue. in fact the indiana house has already passed a bill that would undo the ban for the next seven years. today's TDW points us to an editorial in the south bend tribune:

The director, new on the job, needed to respond to the disturbing events in 2004 near Peru, when canned hunt operator Russell Bellar pled guilty to three counts of conspiracy to violate food and drug laws. In Bellar's trial, 60 witnesses, some of them celebrities, described how they paid thousands of dollars to shoot trapped, drugged trophy bucks they had selected from a catalog.

Hupfer, rather than judge the industry by the Bellar case, conducted hearings around the state and based his decision on extensive information-gathering. One concern that he addressed directly was the possible health consequences of introducing exotic species into the state, such as wild boar, sheep, elk and zebra, and the risk that they could introduce chronic wasting disease into the native deer population.

the tribune doesn't ask this directly, but the obvious question is what kind of sicko would want to shoot caged animals?

now we know the answer: sickos like dick cheney and his friends.

by now you've likely heard the story from sunday about how vp cheney shot another hunter during a hunting trip over the weekend. and perhaps you thought that the story would amount to little more than fodder for late-night talk show hosts (and i'm sure leno, conan, jon stewart, and the gang will have plenty of good ones about this in the coming days). but, like almost all stories involving the bush administration, the story gets more unsettling the more facts you turn up.

jane hamsher points out that cheney is known for going on canned hunting trips. but was this particular trip a canned hunting trip?

this 1999 piece from the corpus christi caller times has tobin armstrong, former owner of the armstrong ranch, proudly declare that he would not slice up his cattle ranch into canned hunting parcels during his lifetime, though even then he had no problem with letting high-profile hunters like the bush family hunt on his land. in 1998 tobin was bragging that he never leased out his ranch "on anything but a limited basis." see, tobin never had a problem with canned hunting per se... he just didn't want to give up his cattle ranching business. (we see that the armstrong ranch does have high fences, which makes it sound fishy to me.)

however tobin's lifetime is now over—he passed away last fall—and the ranch is now run by his daughter, katharine armstrong. there's no word on whether katharine will go against her father's wishes and shatter the ranch into smaller hunting parcels, but the evidence does suggest that she doesn't think hunting inside a big fence is a big deal. (crappy link to DOC file; html version here)

The Private Lands Advisory Board (PLAB) met on October 19th at the newly completed Canyon of the Eagles. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss deer permits among TPWD and private consultant wildlife biologists, TPW Commissioners, landowners and land managers. Much of the discussion was about public perception of special permits and hunting behind a high fence as a canned hunt. Executive Director, John Jefferson, represented the Chapter at the meeting and reported that the public sees a high fence as confinement, and has little or no concept of acreage. This segment of the population was growing exponentially, resulting in an image problem. There was a lack of understanding about the reality of hunting within high-fenced lands.

bush appointed katharine to the TPWD (texas parks and wildlife divisions) when he was governor. she is now chair of the commission.

canned hunting is technically illegal in texas, but the actual definition only includes "African or Asiatic lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, hyena, bear, elephant, wolf, or rhinoceros, or any subspecies or hybrid of these animals". the facilities that indiana is trying to shut down would not qualify as canned hunting under this definition. hell, you could put a bird in a cage and kill it by poking it with a sharp stick, and it would not qualify as a canned hunt under the texas definition. doesn't seem like a very good definition to me.

really, the question of whether this was a canned hunting trip or not is a bit of a sidenote. if it was, the whole story looks a bit slimier, but even if it wasn't, there are other, more serious questions to be thinking about.

for one thing, the shooting happened on saturday, but the story didn't hit the media until sunday. what's up with that? if it were just a simple, innocent hunting accident that cheney couldn't have prevented, which is how they're trying to spin it, then why wait 18 hours before announcing it had happened? did they actually think the story wouldn't get out? now that the story is out, that 18-hour delay starts to look suspiciously like a cover-up. and as we keep learning over and over (so why can't they?), the appearance of a cover-up is what gets you in trouble, even if there is no cover-up. so did the supposedly brilliant bush PR machine simply screw up (again), or were they actually trying to cover something up? and if it takes this long for bad news involving cheney to get out, how long would it take if something bad were to happen to him, say if he had a(nother) devastating heart attack?

furhtermore, the version of events that has been released makes zero sense. we are meant to believe a fantastical tale in which cheney is completely innocent, the victim is totally guilty, and that a man who was admitted to intensive care for his injuries (and remains there now) was hardly injured at all. as they say, that dog don't hunt. redhedd and the readers at firedoglake dig into this and conclude that whittington (the victim) is much more badly injured than anyone is letting on, and that cheney violated some major rules of hunting safety.

update: AP:

Vice President
Dick Cheney has been given a warning citation for breaking Texas hunting law by failing to buy a $7 stamp allowing him to shoot upland game birds.

The warning came from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department after it investigated Cheney's accidental shooting of a fellow quail hunter Saturday on the private Armstrong Ranch in the south part of the state.

The department found the accident was caused by a "hunter's judgment factor" when Cheney sprayed another hunter while aiming at flying birds.

in other words, it's cheney's fault.

Whittington was in stable condition at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial and was moved from intensive care to a "step-down unit" Monday. Doctors decided to leave several birdshot pellets lodged in his skin rather than try to remove them.

Katharine Armstrong, owner of the ranch where the shooting occurred, said it happened toward the end of the hunt, when it was still sunny but as darkness was encroaching and they were preparing to go inside. She said Whittington made a mistake by not announcing that he had walked up to rejoin the hunting line, and Cheney didn't see him as he tried to down a bird.

the idea that whittington should've come out of the brush yelling "olly olly oxen free" is absurd. they were hunting small birds. if you wander around yelling like a buffoon, the birds will get spooked and fly off. cheney messed up by not paying attention to where he was aiming, and ended up shooting a man in the face. those are not the actions of someone who's "safety conscious".


Anonymous said...

I hadn't even heard about cheney shooting a guy...Canned hunting is all over the place though. I saw a special on PBS about it a while back.

Anonymous said...

> Trophy hunters can write off canned hunts and big game safaris at
> expense - help end this cruelty loophole:

A.M. Freund said...

Well, the Governor has gotten some pressure (Cabela's (box hunting store) finally cut a sweet deal and agreed to come to Indiana.) Now we have to provide the store with customers on our previously illegal canned hunt farms. The Governor signed an adminsitrative rule banning these operations on May 12, 2006. AT THE SAME TIME he was negotiating an out of court (no public record) deal to give the 12 operators 12 more years to operate and besides, it is now legal to "hunt" buffalo, elk and rams, too. The public was not supposed to find out until this was a done deal and the details would not have been available...... someone leaked. The backroom deal is available for looking at. NO SHAME. The Governor says he had to backtrack to protect the citizens of Indiana from future lawsuits from operators ...... only ONE operator sued - he turned tail and gave them all million dollar (no joke) monopolies to work in this state and worse still, the 400+ small time farmers (mostly Amish) can now raise a whitetail or two, and make more money when they sell it to be "hunted" than working with all that produce, cattle, quilts and pies etc...... sweet way to make fast money. If you want to follow this on the blog, please go to