Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hunting with hounds - an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee

There's a bill in California that would ban hunting bear and bobcat with hounds. I have never done either; I'm the kind of hunter who prefers quiet ambush over chase. But the bill bugs me, so I decided to write an op-ed about it for the Sacramento Bee.

There are a couple reasons the bill bugs me, the first being that hounding is simply low-hanging fruit for the Humane Society of the United States, which does not approve of any hunting. This organization's MO is to push for bans of the least popular forms of hunting. Bears are charismatic megafauna, so it's pretty easy to convince the non-hunting public that bear hunters are big fat meanies.

Source: "The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports,"
Responsive Management, 2008. (Click to enlarge.)
So, you know what happens when all the low-hanging fruit has been picked, right? Yep, there's a whole new batch of fruit that now hangs lowest on the tree.

HSUS' strategy on bills like this is to paint a picture that freaks people out: Hounds chase bear, bear takes refuge in a tree, big fat lazy hunters get out of their pickups and go shoot the treed, frightened bear. What I did in my piece for the Bee was point out that most of the animals we eat - and yes, the vast majority of Americans do eat meat - experience fear and are also trapped, with no way out of their impending death.

Of course some people may react to that knowledge by saying, "Dang, I shouldn't eat meat anymore." But most people are avowed omnivores who aren't willing to give up meat.

I know my arguments do nothing to sway vegan and vegetarian animal rights activists - my arguments are precisely why many of them gave up meat in the first place. But I'm not worried about their opinion; I seek only to sway the vast middle, the people who might be moved by HSUS propaganda, but might also be open to thinking about the other side of this debate.

There are actually a ton of reasons this bill shouldn't pass, and the level-headed California Outdoor Heritage Alliance is making all of those points to legislators.

But there's one other point I'd like to make here that wouldn't fit into the op-ed: Notice anything missing from this bill? Yep, you got it: pigs. Houndsmen and -women also hunt pigs with dogs, but this bill won't touch that, for at least two reasons.

1) Landowners with wild boar infestations would howl if any means of eliminating them were taken off the table. With pigs being an invasive species, there is broad support for getting rid of them.

2) While I'm quite fond of pigs, they are not considered charismatic megafauna. They are scraggly, dirty and mean. So you can't really generate much public pity for pigs.

At least not until they become the next low-hanging fruit.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012


  1. Hola, me ha gustado mucho su artículo, espero leer muchos más,
    mientras tanto esperamos la apertura de una nueva temporada de caza, gracias por seguir escribiendo.
    Saludos desde España.

  2. Muchas gracias, Alectorix! Lo único que se puede cazar en California ahora es pavos y cerdos. Estoy esperando con impaciencia las estaciones de otoño para el venado, paloma, pato y oso.

  3. Gracias a usted por seguir escribiendo. Creo que ustedes están de enhorabuena pues aquí en España y más concreto en Andalucía, desde algunos años hasta hoy en día, no está permitido cazar en primavera, o sea en periodos de celo o reproducción, antiguamente sí se nos permitía en concreto la caza de la perdiz con reclamo macho, la cual es una de mis pasiones.
    Un saludo.
    PD. Hoy en día las ordenes vienen de Bruselas, pero hay que comprender que el clima es distinto desde un país a otro.

  4. Glad to find your blog this afternoon. I've added you to Reader and will be back for new posts.

    I take a bit of crap for hunting bear over bait. People who don't have personal knowledge and base their opinion on lack of accurate information harp on me about how easy it is and how cowardly I must be. It's ok; I know better. If it were that easy I'd have a bear skin rug and meat in the freezer. If I didn't hunt over bait I'd have killed a show with cubs because I saw her long before the cubs appeared in the field. Bait gave me the time and information I needed to make a good decision.

    HSUS would prefer I not let my working farm dogs run loose. I'll be darned if I'm going to tie them to a leash and run in the dark with them while they tree a raccoon that's been killing my ducks.

    People personal experience before they start suggesting and creating laws. I suggest they stand in a feed lot for 24 hours then walking through the process of slaughtering and butchering, then come hunt with me.

  5. Amen, Robin! I'm looking forward to hunting bear over hounds this year because I want to experience what it's about. I've also invited a newspaper reporter - former co-worker, actually - who's written some stories using pretty loaded language to describe hunters and it'll be interesting to see how his experience compares to his assumptions.