We'll just come out and say it: high fence hunting is unethical.
Hunting is a sport that tests a hunter's skills against that of a wild animal in their natural environment. If you haven't realized it yet, hunters who engage in high fence hunting are missing the point.
There is not enough skill or ethicality in high fence hunting. Some argue it is simply killing livestock disguised as a hunting adventure. However, there is big money involved in this kind of 'hunting' and many fenced game farms practice smart management and culling for the sake of the herd.
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Advocates of high fence hunting will argue that their animals are fenced in on thousands of acres of land and it is just as hard to hunt these animals as it would be on a fair chase hunt. To many, this is simply not true. No matter how large a fenced in area is, it is still a cage. Wildlife is not free to move across the land naturally and is forced to exist within a specified area, with limited resources when compared to a free range animal.
I'm not trying to ruin anyone's livelihood, and I'm not criticizing folks for operating a business. I'm merely pointing out the obvious differences between fence hunting and free range hunting, and making a statement about how I feel.
Skills like scouting, setting up in the proper location, and patterning deer paths are not nearly as necessary when hunting high fence areas. When the land an animal has to roam is so limited, the guesswork and trial and error decrease.
By changing the wild animals normal travel patterns and redirecting them to a certain feeding area, their movements become easier to predict and they become easier to kill.
Hunters who pay the big money associated with high fence hunting want guaranteed success. It is up to the owners of high fence establishments to provide that success. In order to do so, they pin down the movements of every animal on their property, and typically have a far clearer vision of where wildlife is moving. By offering a food or water source in a specific place, it is fairly easy to get a good idea of which animals can be killed and where to put a gun in place to do it.
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At times, it would seem high fence hunters care less about the ethics and traditions associated with true hunting than they do about the bragging rights associated with killing the biggest buck. It doesn't matter if that giant Boone and Crockett buck was born and bred behind a high fence and patterned since he was a yearling. Hunters, who lack the understanding of why killing a fenced in animal is wrong, will never understand the true spirit of hunting.
No one who has ever spent the time and effort to successfully bag a big buck in a fair chase setting will ever see eye to eye with a hunter who used money in place of skill. Money does not make a hunter. Paying thousands of dollars to hunt a high class buck behind a fence is not the same as scouting, stalking, and bagging an equivalent buck in a fair chase setting.
True hunters will leave the money buck to those who lack the skill and dedication to get it done the right way.
Again, this issue is not an end-all, be-all situation. High fence hunting is is different in just about every situation. Though some would argue it's not about protecting or promoting a species, advocates could debate with the opposite viewpoint.
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Fair chase hunting, in my mind, is superior. The unpredictability of it all is what makes hunting the sport it is. When that unpredictability is removed, the act of hunting becomes little more than an act of killing.
The more people understand what the true differences are, the more I predict high fence hunting will see a downward trend in participation. But hunting is a multibillion dollar industry, and many will still be intrigued by the idea of bagging a buck with less and less work involved.
In the end, high fence hunting should be closely watched and monitored, as well as regulated. Though we can't tell people what to do with their private property, we can at least try to persuade them what hunting truly means, and hope they understand that.
What do you think? Is high fence hunting worth it for today's modern hunter, or is it an abomination of our heritage? Does the answer lie somewhere in between?