NRA wrong on hunting issuesAs a life member of the National Rifle Association since 1975, and a current Endowment member, it pains me to tell readers that the NRA is on the wrong side of two issues — one in North Dakota, the other in Montana.
By: Bernie Kuntz, Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun
As a life member of the National Rifle Association since 1975, and a current Endowment member, it pains me to tell readers that the NRA is on the wrong side of two issues — one in North Dakota, the other in Montana.
The first is The Fair Chase Initiative in North Dakota, which should be supported by anyone who cares about the ethics of hunting. While real hunters would never consider shooting a big game animal in a high fenced enclosure, the NRA is concerned about “anti-hunting radicals” who certainly will be opposed to high-fence shooting preserves. So what?
Last September, at the request of the people behind The Fair Chase Initiative, I supplied the group with my personal endorsement. I find myself in some good company with others who have endorsed the initiative — Dakota Country magazine, The Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, North Dakota Chapter of the Wildlife Society, writers Ted Kerasote, Curt Wells and others.
It distresses me to note that these high fence enclosures are scattered throughout the State of North Dakota. They should be banned, and getting this initiative on the ballot is the first step in accomplishing that.
The State of Wyoming banned game farms many years ago, and within the last decade the State of Montana prohibited the creation of new game farms and “grandfathered” in the existing ones.
Dr. Valerius Geist, noted wildlife researcher at the University of Calgary, once said that if game farms were not banned in the Canadian province of Alberta, there would not be a free-ranging elk in the province by 2050. He pointed to the danger of disease transmission — specifically chronic wasting disease — which could easily be transmitted from game farm animals to wild big game. It is a very real danger that is often ignored in the game farm controversy.
There should not even be a debate on this issue. I find it distressing that there obviously is a ready market for paying thousands of dollars to shoot big game animals behind high fences, where the animal has absolutely no chance of escape. This goes against the very grain of true hunting and fair chase.
In Montana another initiative is in the works (I-161 or the Kephart initiative), which would do away with outfitter set-aside non-resident big game licenses. See, for the last 15 years or so, the Legislature has set aside 5,500 of Montana’s 17,000 big game combination licenses for the exclusive use of outfitters and their paying clients.
The NRA is vehemently opposed to the initiative process because certain types of hunting have been banned in New Jersey and California when put on the ballot. Following my e-mail to the NRA, contesting the organization’s opposition to I-161, I received a call from the NRA in Washington, D.C. Let’s just say we “agreed to disagree.” The NRA rep’s statement was that license issuance should be based on science — not ballot initiatives. He is right, however, he ignores the fact that Montana’s license issuance is based on anything BUT biology, but largely on politics, social issues and money!
If the initiative passes, Montana may be forced to break out its licenses into individual types. As it is, and has been for decades, the non-resident big game combination includes licenses for elk, deer, upland birds and fishing. Next, Montana will have to increase the cost of its elk license to put it in line with other western states.
We hunters argue that outfitter set-aside licenses encourage leasing of private lands by outfitters. Outfitters counter that much of that land would be off limits anyway, for example, Ted Turner’s ranch near Bozeman. However, I have met a number of people living in various parts of Montana who tell me they know a lot of landowners, but all their property is leased out to outfitters.
The NRA is not familiar with the politics in Montana where more than 500 outfitters have more clout in the Legislature than almost 200,000 licensed resident hunters.
The NRA should stick to 2nd Amendment issues — something it has done very effectively over the last 130-odd years — and stay out of hunting and wildlife management issues.