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“The science of wildlife management is premised on managing populations; you don’t manage to prevent harm to individual animals in a species. If that is what wildlife management is about, then you have just made the argument to ban hunting, which is a vital wildlife management tool and widely accepted in America even by non hunters.” The NSSFs Lawrence Keane in Guns in America: The Debate Over Lead-Based Bullets [via]

The owner of the largest hunting ranch in Texas wrote a very interesting article on hunting and conservation that’s well worth the read.

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  1. …however: the United Ststes Constitution was amended with the bill of rights to prevent this same attitude from taking hold with respect to our governance.

    • guess the dude in the pic didn’t get the memo to stuff the tongue back into the deer’s mouth before taking a picture that will be shared nationally. Gives hunters a bad name, and comedians plenty of content.

      • I must have missed that memo as well. He just killed an animal and is posing with it. The tongue hanging out isn’t exactly cluing us in on a secret.

    • I hope you’re not implying that animals should have same rights as human beings, but that’s sure what it sounds like.

    • As for the people – Historically, they have managed themselves by forming governments. Some have had more success than others.

      Wildlife will indeed manage itself. The humans may not like the way that works out, for themselves, their pets or their livestock.

      • Humans also take exception to “self-controlling” wildlife populations which decimate gardens and ornamental plants, eat household pets, and damage vehicles (animal – car collisions).

        Then, of course, we have the whole problem of out-of-control animal populations directly attacking humans for various reasons.

    • Wildlife doesn’t do a very good job of managing itself even when the presence of man doesn’t upset the balance between predators and prey. Numbers increase until food runs. Then, starvation cuts back the population. My city has, on its edge, a 1,400 acre nature preserve with more deer than the vegetation can support. They used to eat everything green they could reach and still were emaciated. The solution has been a brief archery and black powder hunting season. Hunters substitute for apex predators like bears, wolves and mountain lions whose presence the residents of the adjacent subdivisions would not tolerate.

      • Actually, the deer probably were fine until humans expropriated some of their usual feeding grounds.

        OMG, how exactly did all these animal species evolve along just fine without all the “human” intervention.

        • They evolved just fine because humans weren’t killing off the predator species, competing with them for prey, fencing off habitat or destroying habitat.

          Now that we have done all of that, we have a moral responsibility to preserve what’s left in such a way that we can coexist.

        • More “morality” from humans. That’s EXACTLY what them deer need.

          By the way, I agree with your first paragraph.

          You know, I hunt deer. I just shoot and eat them. Without all the morality, guilt and pontificating.

        • They were fine without us, and we’ve screwed up their non-human system. We can either leave entirely (not just quit hunting, but leave the continent) or we could manage the wildlife and try to restore the balance we’ve molested. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.

        • “They were fine without us, and we’ve screwed up their non-human system. We can either leave entirely (not just quit hunting, but leave the continent) or we could manage the wildlife and try to restore the balance we’ve molested. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.”

          We are doing the second. Every year the departments tasked with setting hunt quotas use data from prior years’ censuses and hunter success input to set the different hunting types (bow, black powder, muzzle loader, centerfire, etc.) to ensure enough are harvested to prevent starvation, and few enough to ensure the species continue to exist. This isn’t perfect, but it beats the alternative.

    • Indeed. There’s no need to manage wildlife. Just let them go extinct like most species that have roamed the face of the Earth. That’s nature’s way.

        • Help me out Ridge.

          How did these species evolve so successfully before humans were able to “subtract” them?

        • First of all, we’ve changed the ecosystems in which many of these animals live.

          Whitetail deer, for example, had other apex predators other than man (the Indians did hunt, after all). We’ve removed the other apex predators from highly populated zones because little Sally looks like fine eatin’ for a grizz or pack of wolves – and much easier to chase down than a whitetail.

          Second, the habitat has changed in ways that support higher, not lower, populations in some species. Whitetails, again, are actually more suited for fragmented landscapes with modern agriculture and gardens than they were for the heavily forested lands that pre-dated European settlement of the northern US. Whitetail populations today completely outstrip any population estimates from pre-European settlement times in the US. The fragmentation of land use patterns actually works in the whitetails’ favor. Other species, (eg mule deer) are the opposite.

        • Well, since over 99% of species that have existed on this planet are now extinct, they did it by trial and lots of error. The errors ended up dead, and very few of those were through human intervention.

        • Hey GP…

          Genesis 1:26
          Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

          Your inability to understand even the very simple principle of human management of wild animal populations for the benefit of all speaks volumes.

    • One of the big problems with letting wildlife manage itself is that they aren’t smart enough to do it in a way that we don’t see as animal abuse.
      While it is true that, if left totally to themselves (which means absolutely no interference from humans), they will, over time, manage to reach a stable population. Unfortunately, there are very few places on Earth where they can do that. In most places, they have to share their space with people. And people don’t like having their crops seen as food courts for wild animals.
      We, as people, also have an aversion to seeing animals starving to death, which is one of the ways, if left to themselves, animals adjust their populations to varying food levels.
      Sometimes, lofty ambitions run into reality, and this is one of those times.

      • No kidding. Asking hypotheticals to put the bullshit “nobility” of hunting into perspective does not equate to doing nothing.

        My point is, just legally hunt without all the high-minded bullshit.

    • Actually, we do, in one specific non-huntable population: “wild” horses, aka mustangs.

      In the western US, and mostly in Nevada, we have large herds of free-roaming feral horses. These are not allowed to be hunted, gathered for meat, or even harassed. Thanks to the emotions of women who have relentlessly lobbied the BLM (the land management agency responsible for most horse populations in the west), we now have only one tool to manage populations, the emergency gather.

      The “Wild Horse Annie” groups have campaigned since the big round-ups of 1999 for some non-lethal method to control horse populations on the range. Enter the birth control injection known as PZP, which works in most mammal species that aren’t swine. The BLM darts mares, either while on foot or after running the horses into a corral and then through a chute, and turns them back out on the range. The injection is supposed to prevent conception for a year, and works perhaps a little longer than that. This is done at a rather large expense and is given priority to those HMA (Horse Management Areas) where the horse population is most above AML (Adjudicated Management Limit).

      The PZP injections won’t bring a HMA that is over AML (and many of them are way over AML) back into line quickly; it’s a process that results in mares living longer, perhaps as much as 10 years longer, so it is isn’t a good management tool to get overpopulated HMA’s into compliance. The Wild Horse Annie females, however, shut down any sale of horses to packing plants (here or abroad), and as a result, the BLM is now spending 65%+ of their horse management budget on “off-range” pasturing of horses gathered up to get horse-scorched HMA’s back down near AML’s. There are about 50K horses and burros being shipped hither and yon around the CONUS area on BLM pasturing contracts every six months or so, at a cost of about $50 million/year. This cost will continue to go up in the future, as putting horses on pasture results in longer lifespans for the horses, and the PZP program cannot get the horse numbers on the range down to AML anytime soon, so gathers will continue into the future.

      So: We now cannot have horse sales to meat packers, as we had in the past, the pressure is on to prevent gathers unless and until the range conditions are collapsing to a point of starvation (and the livestock operators have long since been forced off their grazing leases), the actual wildlife (deer, elk, pronghorn, etc) are fighting over what little is left, and all along, these horse-besotted women are preaching from the Planned Parenthood hymnal on how to control horse populations and when that doesn’t work (and it won’t, because the ‘vaccine’ wears off after a year, gathers are expensive, hazardous and incomplete, and darting horse while they are on the move is a woefully incomplete process), we have a horses-on-wheels program to ship them from private pasture to pasture all over the mid-western and western US, at great taxpayer expense.

      This is the sort of lunacy you’ll see in wildlife population control if hunting is removed as a tool and women still have the right to vote. You’ve been warned. I’ve been in the BLM meetings where horse management was discussed, and there was no use of logic, reason or recognition of facts by the women advocating for this insane and expensive management of horses; their positions were driven purely and solely by emotion, and all their arguments were appeals to emotion.

        • Oh, but you’re not wrong in your rip where “wild” horses are concerned.

          Now the Wild Horse Annie types are on the BLM’s back about gathering only the pretty horses they can adopt out, and leaving the butt-ugly monsters on the range. Then the BLM caught flak for vaccinating (with PZP) only the “uglier” horses on the range. The BLM was engaged in a selective breeding program for a short while, because there are lots of mustangs that, while they might be called a ‘horse,’ look more like something from Mars that is called a horse, because we don’t quite have a word for a quadruped animal with a huge hammer head, roman nose, cannonball knees and stubby legs.

          The BLM tried to select the best looking mustangs to allow to breed, but nooooooo…. they caught hell for that idea.

          See how much madness lies down the path of removing hunting as a wildlife management tool? Complete, stark, raving madness lays down that path, I promise you.

      • I was shocked when I read that. Shocked, I tell you. Well, not that shocked.

        Halfway through I remembered conversations from the last few years of my wife finding horses for adoption on Craigslist, and asking me if we could get one and keep it in the backyard. We live in a residential neighborhood, on a 1/3 acre lot with dogs running in the yard. She’s not stupid, but when horses are involved, all rational thought disappears.

        Well, not all rational thought. She did decide that if she got a horse, I would be responsible for the cost.

        • That’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about.

          BTW, just in case you give in, let me inform you that you’re in for a world of hurt if you put a mustang in that small a pasture. They will eat fences and fencing, they will tear wood siding off buildings. I’ve seen mustangs eat the windshield wipers off of pickup trucks in a parking lot – because they got bored, and hey, what’s better for boredom than eating rubber windshield wipers?

          When put into a small confine, their tendency is to become incredibly destructive.

        • I’ve managed to hold firm by telling her how I would cook the various animals she wants to adopt. That started when in between horse listings, she started seeing pot bellied pigs. Good info though, in case she gets enthusiastic again.

          I just don’t understand horses. I mean, they only have one horsepower, you can’t measure their 0-60 time because they top out around 40, you can’t leave them on a battery tender in the garage over the winter, and the gas mileage is terrible.

        • You understand horses just fine.

          What you don’t understand is the intersection of horses and women.

      • If they’re rounding up whole herds and running them through chutes, and they don’t even castrate the stallions during that process, then it’s a level of stupidity that only government can achieve.

        • Don’t get me started on the Wild Horse Annie types and the BLM horse policy over the last 20 years. I can go on a rant for two hours without pausing to take a breath.

          One of the huge areas of deliberate stupidity is equating the grazing impact of horses to be equivalent to a cow/calf pair. Anyone who actually knows anything about horses and cows knows they’re not even close in impact. All the bureaucrats and their female nannies see are two classes of animals of approximately the same weight class and therefore, nutritional requirements.

          Not so. Look in the mouth of a cow. Then look in the mouth of a horse. What does a horse have that a cow does not have? Look at grass grazed by a cow, then look at grass grazed by a horse. There’s a difference, and you don’t need to be a wizened Indian tracking expert to be able to tell the difference a week after the grass was grazed. What’s the impact to the grass? Substantial. Grass does not store energy for regrowth in the roots; it stores it in the stubble, the 1 to 3″ of stubble left after being harvested or grazed. What don’t horses leave? Stubble. Why? Because they have two complete sets of teeth – lower and upper. Cows have only lower teeth in the front, ie, there are no upper incisor teeth in cows. I can over-graze a square mile of range with only one horse, left alone to choose what it wants to eat. It won’t all be over-grazed at once, but it will be over-grazed in a progression across the section, and the damage will be permanent without human intervention.

          Apologies – I started on a rant. As I said, I could rant for hours on this topic without taking a breath. The stupidity is absolute and mind-boggling. It was after dealing with women in BLM meetings on this issue, with impacts over millions of acres of range, hundreds of ranching families and dozens of small towns, that I first decided that maybe the 19th Amendment wasn’t such a hot idea.

  2. I’m genuinely interested DP. Why do we have an overabundance of wild horses throughout the regions of the west you are describing?

    • Because they have a reproduction rate of 17 to 22% per year, and there are no natural predators that can substantially effect a reduction in their growth rate. Not even if we re-populated the west with bears and wolves would we see a substantial reduction in numbers. The only animal that can occasionally take down a smaller horse (eg, a foal) is a mountain lion, and most of the time, the horses aren’t high enough up into the mountains to encounter such a predator.

      The reason why I put the term “wild” in quotes is that today’s “wild” horses are actually domestic horses that have been put out on the range and abandoned. This started with the Spanish in the 1700’s, and has continued up until today. After the financial implosion of 2008, there were lots of domestic horses turned out onto BLM grounds by people who could no longer afford to keep them, and which could not be sold due to age, condition, lack of training, etc. They’re not the true wild horses of North America that existed in the western CONUS area 8,000+ years ago. In that time, those truly wild horses had real predators to keep their numbers in check – saber-toothed large cats of that time were one such horse predator that is gone, never to return.

      In the 1800’s, horses were valuable animals, and horses that could work would be roped, pulled in, broken and used or sold for work, since draft horses were expensive and needed lots more feed/hay than mustangs do. After WWII, when mechanization had taken much of the demand for horse power out of the ag sector, until the early 70’s, ranchers would round up mustangs off the range, and either use them for domestic horses in their operations, or ship them to packing plants for a few bucks each. Talking to ranchers who used to use mustangs in their operations prior to 1970 described haying with horses as “well, you started in March by rounding up some mustangs and then breaking them to harness…” If the horses were injured or were too old to be useful, the ranchers would take them out into the sagebrush euthanize them with a well-placed shot (draw a “X” connecting the right ear to the left eye, and vice-versa, and put the bullet in normal to the horse’s head at the center of the “X”), and when populations got too high in a grazing allotment, ranchers would round up some horses, pull out the best ones for training/use and ship the rest of them to a packing plant for $25 to $50/head.

      Then the actual “Wild Horse Annie” out of Reno, NV, got her dander up and lobbied Congress to pass the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 that severely restricted the ability to take in wild horses for private use and/or shipping them off for meat. Successive additions to this law in the 90’s and 00’s have restricted the ability of the BLM or the private sector to do anything about “wild” horse population, and now we have what is basically a population of welfare queens roaming around the western states, with about half of them in Nevada and the rest scattered across most of the other western states. Those that are gathered and not adopted (and most horses older than three years old will not be adopted) are shipped from pasture to pasture, given great food (compared to living on the range) and have a DVM in attendance to the herd, which lengthens their lives considerably.

      And there you have the problem in a nutshell.


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