This week's edition of Traplines on Cypress Creek discusses the hotly-debated topic of high-fence hunting.

    I think the grandest of conservation organizations, the Boone & Crockett Club and the Pope & Young Club, have done one of the greatest disservices to hunting since the words “political correctness” were coined. I’m sure they were well meaning in their insistence on “fair chase,” but have promulgated a lie on the hunting industry. That lie comes in two words of its own: high fence.

    Whether you want to believe it, agree with it or just simply rationalize over it, hunting as we know it has vanished. The days of pulling your truck up to a home and asking if you might hunt there left about the same time the manual typewriter disappeared. Your options today are quite simple. You can hunt your own land, private leased lands or public lands. Those relegated to the later are so frustrated over it they attempt to create ad hoc “rules” so as to protect their own little spaces within that public domain.

    Because each day we creep ever closer to the European model of wildlife conservation, we have created a market for artificial means of taking game. Farmers converted crop fields into breeding pens and assigned limited areas behind high fences for hunters to come and harvest an animal of their dreams.

    I’m sure I’ve heard it all by now. “That’s not hunting.” Well it probably isn’t in the purest sense, but when’s the last time you shot a wild pheasant, bobwhite or chukar in Delaware? How about the last wild trout or even bluegill that you caught here? How many of you have traveled to other states to shoot wild boar? Yet you’ll be the first to rationalize that it’s “not real hunting.” I suppose the current snow goose season is “real hunting.”

    Today’s lifestyle dictates most of us put in five- and six-day weeks to make ends meet. We get short spurts of vacation days and would love to hunt elk on the Jicarillo Indian Reservation in Arizona. Yet that hunt today runs about $15,000 with a 10-year waiting list. You could go on a potluck hunt in a drop camp for about $4,000, but we all know the chances are limited there. You could pick a guided hunt with a 60% to 80% success rate for $7,000, but just how good has your luck been running?

    If an elk is your dream animal and someone can “guarantee” you a 300-class animal for about $5,000, who am I to tell you if you go to a “shooting preserve” to make your dreams come true, you should be castigated by your fellow hunters for doing it? What business is it of mine these animals are bred and raised to be taken in enclosures much like the cattle that put your prime rib on the grill. So what if you can’t enter it into “the book.” “The book” wouldn’t accept a 300-class animal anyway.

    Connie took a 260-class deer off a game farm behind high fences. Why would I excuse her from doing it because she was physically handicapped? Had she not been, I can promise you it would have delighted her no less than it did. We had no misgivings about what it was or how it was taken. I, personally might get no satisfaction from hunting an animal like that, but that’s my decision. If I only had one week to deer hunt a year and it didn’t match up with the hunting season, why would anyone deprive me of what I enjoyed simply because they don’t approve of it.

    High fences serve a need of certain people. It also provides a living laboratory for the health and longevity of an animal simply because of its worth. The serendipity of that is biologists have learned some astonishing things about wild animals they’d never had discovered on the open range. The reason for that is public land hunters demand more that biologists can give. Pennsylvania fired Gary Alt for taking actions to increase trophy potential in its wild herds by imposing requirements on hunters. Hunters revolted and had politicians with no biological reasoning change those requirements to meet their demands.

    So if you don’t like high fences, don’t go there, but at least don’t impugn the character of those who do on that reason. Remember, it’s just your opinion.

    We’ve discussed the current administration’s leaning so far to the left and the possibilities of limiting gun ownership and the ability to buy ammunition. Most of them want to claim that it’s simply paranoia, but since they seem intent on telling us we don’t know what’s best for our own health and well being, I’m not the only one who’s doubtful of their intent.

    The result? A sharp increase in gun sales now, despite the weak economy. Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) shows a 24% increase in firearm purchaser background checks in December 2008 (more than 1.52 million) from December 2007 (only 1.23 million). This follows a 42% increase in November 2008 over November 2007, the highest number in NICS history.

    It doesn’t sound paranoid when you have 1.5 million others thinking like you do.