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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cal Expo Dog Show - a story in the Sacramento Bee

                  © Holly A. Heyser
Carole Baird, owner of the
Creekside Pet Resort, and her

border collie Celine.
Most of the time if I'm writing about dogs, I'm writing about hunting dogs, but this story took me in a totally different direction: show dogs.

Of course, in the process of reporting this story, I learned it wasn't a totally different direction. Plenty of hunting dogs compete in dog shows; it's how their breeders demonstrate their quality.

Outtake: Did you know that when judges examine male dogs, they will reach between their legs to make sure the family jewels are still there? Dang, you've got to have a well-trained dog to stand still when someone's doing that to him.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Turkey hunting - a column for Shotgun Life

OK, I know the die-hard turkey hunters out there are going to hate this, but I don't love turkey hunting, and I explain why in this column for Shotgun Life.

The timing of this column is perfect: Today is the second day of spring turkey season in California, and not only have I not gone out, but I've not even tried to set anything up.

That said, if I get a chance to go out, I will, and if I get a turkey, I'll be thrilled. Well, at least until the plucking begins. Read the column, though, and you'll see what I'd rather be doing.

And while you're on the site, I strongly recommend registering to sign up for some of the Shotgun Life email lists. I know, those emails can be such a pain, but Shotgun Life has an excellent "60 Seconds with _____" daily email with concise tips about shooting. Other email lists make me hit the delete button; this one, though, I read every time.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012