Newspapers across Canada are running stories on Eddie and Lynne Hopkins, a couple that bragged in a Texas hunting newsletter about killing five Canadian wolves using bait and snowmobiles. The couple won the trip to British Columbia at a 2009 convention of the Dallas Safari Club, went on their shooting spree in February at Dennis Beattie’s Wicked River Outfitters and wrote up the adventure for the May issue of Camp Talk newsletter:
“Steve had a bait pile that he wanted to check about a mile from the lodge. Just as we arrived at the bait pile and looked for fresh wolf tracks, Steve spotted some wolves on the ice-covered lake….Steve told me to get on his snowmobile with him. I think he used the word “Hurry” about 10 times while I was trying to get my rifle and myself onto his machine.” They drive 85-90 mph to “get to the wolves before they got to shore. We were fortunate to get to the seven-member wolf pack and turn them towards the center of the lake….Steve shouted, “What color do you want?” I said, “black,” and he headed towards a big black wolf. We actually got within 10 yards of this wolf giving me time to set up and try a shot.” He kills it on the third try. “Steve instantly said, ”Get back on and let’s try and get another one.” Steve got us up beside a huge male gray wolf and I redeemed myself by making a quick kill with one well-placed shot.” They ended up bagging five wolves, two coyotes and “a bunch of animals from the trapline,” a marten and a wolverine.
Here’s the problem: British Columbia’s hunting policy, the Dallas Safari Club and the outfitter all brag about wanting only “fairchase” hunting. Baiting is legal in B.C., though even many hunters consider it cheating. Using a motor vehicle to harass or herd a target animal is not. The guides say it was legal.
Larry Pynn of the Vancouver Sun is taking Environment Minister Barry Penner to task because he likes to claim that British Columbia is home to “fair chase” hunting. Ben Carter, executive director of Dallas Safari Club, was also quoted recently preferring a measuring standard because it was “strongly associated with fair chase. Our club wants to be a part of all that prestigious history and tradition.” The outfitter claims on its site that “We will do everything we can, within the law and fair chase, to see that you get your game. WE DO NOT OFFER ANIMALS FOR DOLLARS SPENT!!!!!!!!”
“Fair chase” is a popular hunting buzzword for a hunt where the animal has a chance and the hunter doesn’t rely too heavily on technology and tricks. But what does it really mean?
There’s no clear definition.
There is some general agreement on what’s repellent: hunting for trophies over bait. Responsive Management, a pro-hunting group survey firm, found that while 85% of Americans approve of hunting for meat, only 28% approve of trophy hunting. “Many people, hunters included, approve of hunting in general but do not approve of hunting over bait, which is perceived as not providing fair chase and is antithetical to animal welfare,” says their report on hunting attitudes.
Laws vary by state and even the group called “Hunt Fair Chase” refuses to give a definition. Instead it offers up the typical embattled hunter worldview that rich, crazed animal activists are hellbent on taking away their guns, so no hunter should criticize another hunter:
“If you hunt, you belong to a fraternity. If a hunting method is legal in another state, but not in your state, crying foul won’t help the bigger picture. If a way of hunting is under attack in another state, your way is under attack, even if you do not agree with or practice this method….As hunters and land managers, we are in the “image business” – even more so now than at the turn of the century when “fair chase” was proposed as the underlying foundation for hunter ethics. For sportsmen to continue to be the dominant force in setting wildlife resource policies we must, and foremost understand our role as conservationists.” Then they blather on about how ethical hunting goes beyond what’s legal.
If even the group that promotes fair chase won’t criticize hunting over bait (or with vehicles, headlights, dogs, or whatever the latest trick is) does “fair hunt” even mean anything? Sheesh, if the Hopkins killed five wolves and at least four other animals and this was the one episode that the Hopkins chose to brag about–and the Dallas Safari Club chose to run on its front page–I wonder how fair those other chases were?
Where to Go to See Wolves not Being Chased by Snowmobilers