Vermont to Ban New Hunting Preserves

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Ben Sobieck
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Vermont to Ban New Hunting Preserves

Postby Ben Sobieck » Mon Jan 19, 2009 6:33 am

Source: Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO -- After almost 10 years of debate, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board has approved a rule that regulates "captive hunting" preserves in the state.

The new rule, which was unanimously approved by the Fish and Wildlife Board on Dec. 17, prohibits any new preserves from opening in Vermont and forces the existing preserves in the state to apply for licenses to allow them to continue to operate.

The Vermont Legislature in 1999 authorized the board to develop a rule for high-fenced hunting, where customers can pay a fee for the experience of shooting an animal within a caged area.

Once the rule is formally adopted in early January, Vermont will become the 24th state to regulate or ban game preserves.

"The board was reluctant to take this up. The board has issue with this practice but we didn't want to put anyone out of business," said Brian Ames, a Putney resident and the chairman of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board.

The board is made up of one representative from each of Vermont's 14 counties.

"But we didn't want to see an expansion in the state. Vermont hunters as a whole have a very high ethical standard when it comes to fair chase and in general there is some concern about the way these two operations perform."

There are currently two preserves in the state; one is in Derby and the second is in Fairlee.

Ames said he expects the rule to be challenged in court.

The vote earlier this month follows a very long process that stalled a few times since the Legislature triggered the board to write a rule.

In 2001, before the board was expanded to include 14 members, the board split on a 3-3 tie and the chairman refused to cast a vote to break the tie.

Also, since the issue was first raised in Vermont, chronic wasting disease has spread among deer herds in the Midwest and Northeast.

Ames said the board was compelled to write the new high fence hunting rule to protect the native animals in the state.

The new rule prohibits any new game preserves from opening.

The two existing preserves will be prohibited from stocking native species such as white tailed deer and moose and will be forced to prove that their enclosures do not allow wild animals to enter.

They will be given one year to come into compliance and apply for a permit.

Any failure to meet the letter of the rule could lead to one of the facilities losing its permit.

In the end, the full board voted in favor of the rule, Ames said even after 10 years, the board did its best to satisfy advocates on all sides of the issue.

"I think we all could agree on 85 to 90 percent of the rule," Ames said. "There are always going to be things we would never come to agreement on."

"We would have liked to see the elimination of the existing facilities as well but we are happy that the rule was strengthened to prohibit new facilities from opening in the state," said Joanne Bourbeau, New England regional director of the Humane Society of the United States. "There have been several versions of this rule and it has been a very long process."

The Humane Society has been watching the rule procedure develop in Vermont since the Legislature first started the debate more than a decade ago.

She said the group generally opposes all hunting but takes particular offense to killing animals that have no chance of escape.

The emergence of chronic wasting disease over the past few years strengthened the call for stricter regulations, Bourbeau said and during the last few public hearings the call for a new Vermont rule got louder.

"Hunters and non hunters agree that when you have animals in a fenced in area it is not the traditional type of hunting," Bourbeau said. "In reality they are commercial killing fields where customers pay to kill an animal in an enclosure. We would like to see all of them closed but this is step in the right direction."

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RE: Vermont to Ban New Hunting Preserves

Postby NEhunter » Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:47 pm

This is a tough issue to deal with.  What is considered a "high fence" operation/preserve?  Is there a limit on how many acres it has before it isn't a problem to hunt there...100...1000...20000?  Are the ranches in Texas the same as an operation in Vermont? 

In my opinion there has to be the ability for the animal to completely evade the hunter.  I prefer no high fences at all.  But when you have animals in a small enclosure just so a hunter can shoot it without it having even the slightest chance of escaping is ethically wrong (IMO).

I do know on many of the large hunting ranches in the different states that there are deer that die of old age and are never seen.  I don't know the facts about the Vermont operations.  I do know that with the threat of CWD there is going to have to be a change that keeps the cervids from massing in one area unnaturally. 

Would I rather get laws passed controlling high fence operations?  Or give the anti hunting crowd a victory and foothold that will lead to more attacks on the hunting heritage in this country?  The threat to the second amendment and hunting as a whole is real and getting worse.  There are operations out there that are giving hunters a bad name and those are what the anti crowd uses as examples to convince the uneducated public and sway opinion.  We have to work on combating the false ideas that are out there.  Are laws like this going to help us or hurt us...Without knowing the exact situation in Vermont I can't judge this situation on an article alone. 

All I know is we have to stick together, weed out the bad apples, and present the public with the true facts about hunting and the good it does for game management in this country.

MDV WI hunter
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RE: Vermont to Ban New Hunting Preserves

Postby MDV WI hunter » Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:37 am

I don't agree with the "high fence" operations, it's not hunting.  It could be argued that given enough land the animal has every chance to evade the hunter but then what's the point of the fence.  The flip side of the argument is the revenue generated and the "anti's" gaining momentum.  I'm an old fashion hunter, albiet a young one (31), take to the wild and try and kill the animal on their turf.  I've recently taken on bow hunting because I felt guilty using my rifle.  Don't confuse that statement with a bleeding heart though. 
I love hunting, I love the outdoors and learning survival techniques.  I'm teaching my children to love the outdoors as well and how to keep them healthy.  NEhunter is correct, we need to stick together, weed out the slob hunters, and present an educated, united front.

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RE: Vermont to Ban New Hunting Preserves

Postby DeanoZ » Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:28 am

She said the group generally opposes all hunting but takes particular offense to killing animals that have no chance of escape.

Hunters and non hunters agree that when you have animals in a fenced in area it is not the traditional type of hunting," Bourbeau said. "In reality they are commercial killing fields where customers pay to kill an animal in an enclosure. We would like to see all of them closed but this is step in the right direction

I think its mis-informed hunters and non-hunters alike making inaccurate statements such as these that ultimately endanger our second amendment right and hunting.  The facts (or ommission there of) are presented in such a manner as to dilute the reality. 
FACT:  Based on a nationwide average, most hunters stand a 1 in 4 chance of harvesting a deer.  Thats a 75% survival rate for deer that supposedly "have no chance of escape".
FACT:  On average a deer's home range extends roughly one square mile and deer will spend over 50% of that time in an area even smaller than that defined as their core home range.  This does not change for deer that become extremely pressured..if anything their core range will reduce in size and their movements become more nocturnal in extremely pressured areas.
I will concede that those hunting high fence areas may have a greater probablility of success, but I don't attribute this to an "enclosure"/ fence.  Good/ethical operators of these ecosystems manage the herd levels and nutrients in those systems to ensure a thriving healthy population...they have to if they want to stay in business...but they also know in any given season the number they must harvest to ensure the ecosystem stays in tact and can support the herd.  In my mind they are actually providing a service to the environment, although I'm certain some won't see it that way.  Thus I am of the opinion (and its mine alone) the probabilty of harvest in these high fenced areas is higher because the lack of pressure allows the deer to roam unencumbered and because these operators have intimate knowledge of the terrain the deer thrive in and can set their clients up for success accordingly.  In some regards this is not much different than those of us who own private acreage and manage it in a similar fashion, less the fence.
Would I hunt in a high fenced operation?  No, because for me scouting the property, looking for sign, and determining where best to situate myself to successfully harvest my quarry is a large part of the hunting experience.  This aspect alone has brought more joy and gratitude to my hunting experience.  Still there are many who have limited access or opportunity to hunt public, private, or semi-private club land.  For those less fortunate these operators provide a service which allows them to enjoy the hunting experience.
Clearly (and as the Humane Society Director implied) this is just a stepping stone for their agenda and as others have already said we need to police our own and ensure we educate ourselves on the facts so the illinformed cannot discredit them and us in the process.  The new administration brings with it the hopes and dreams of many of the Anti's and don't think for a minute they won't exploit "Hope and Change" for this very purpose.  Good Hunting All!

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