• Fair chase is true hunting
    By PETE ZIMOWSKY McClatchy Newspapers | February 04,2007
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    BOISE, Idaho — The mountains around Council, Idaho, were hidden in fog. Everything was gray and black.

    I had an elk permit for the area and thought it was going to be a sure thing. It was going to be easy meat for the freezer.

    My buddies had scouted the area a week before when the late fall weather was clear and beautiful. It changed fast, as the weather can in the mountains of Idaho.

    It was socked in. I moved slowly across an opening on a slope mixed with timber and brush and found a place to sit down where I could lean up against a ponderosa pine tree. It was a good spot to scan the mountainside where the elk had been passing through.

    You've got to love sitting up there in the woods and mountains and watching everything that's going on, whether it's listening to a squirrel chattering or just watching the dried grasses waving in the breeze. It's part of the hunt.

    Hours later, nothing. My sure thing? Ha!

    But you know, real hunting is not a sure thing. And that's fine.

    Those elk could have decided to move out and migrate miles away.

    I was hunting public national forest lands that go for hundreds of miles. The animals are free roaming.

    That's real hunting.

    That's why lots of Idaho hunters are disgusted with the idea of high-fence hunting or shooter-bull operations, where elk are raised in enclosures to be shot in the enclosures by people who just want to shoot something and forget the hunt.

    Instead of taking the chance of hunting in a general hunt and on public lands, and possibly getting skunked, the shooter plunks down big bucks to shoot a large bull elk in a fenced hunting area.

    Some do it for convenience because they don't have the time to scout areas for a real hunt.

    But that brings up the question of what is true hunting? What is fair chase? Hunting is stalking an animal that has plenty of room to give you the slip. I don't know how many times I've tracked what I thought was a big buck that was leaving huge prints in the snow, thinking at any moment that I was going to come up on him. Then, I'd come up over a ridge and the darn buck would be clear over the horizon.

    That's fair chase.

    Hunting brings no guarantees. The only guarantees we have in Idaho are that we have lots of public lands on which our deer and elk can roam and on which we can pursue them.

    I saw a TV show on hunting whitetails in Texas. I thought it was really cool at first. I watched as a hunter pulled off a shot and got a massive buck. The hunter was gleaming.

    As the camera pulled away, I almost choked. You could see that he was on a ranch and there were whitetail bucks standing around like cattle.

    That's not hunting. He could have pursued that big buck from one fence line to another. That's not fair chase.

    Idaho isn't Texas. We shouldn't condone shooter-bull operations.

    Shooter-bull operations and elk farms are a complicated subject, but one that is not going to go away.

    The Idaho Legislature is going to have to take a serious look at it this session.

    Hunting animals in enclosures, or what is called high-fence hunting, isn't hunting. It's just shooting.
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