MISSOULA, Mont. (October 24, 2017) – The Boone and Crockett Club is offering a few points of clarification in response to a recent blog post by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The post was aimed at local contests that are sometimes organized by sportsmen to manage the population of predator, varmint and pest species in their area. To support their position against the killing of these species HSUS cited a policy of the Boone and Crockett Club’s big game records program that does not support the unauthorized use of its scoring system for contests or competitions that directly place a bounty on game animals by awarding cash or expensive prizes. HSUS further went on to assert that some sportsmen’s groups like the Club opposed such contests because they disregard fair chase principles. HSUS writes, “Wildlife killing contests, which target coyotes, foxes, bobcats, or even prairie dogs and pigeons, are grisly spectacles that are about as far as one can get from ethical, fair-chase hunting.”
“They got at least this part right,” said Mark Streissguth, chairman of the Club’s committee for Hunting and Conservation Ethics. “Shooting predators is vastly different than the hunting of game species that are hunted for many more reasons that just killing to manage their numbers. Fair chase is what defines an ethical approach to the hunting of managed game species, not the removal of non-game species like predators and varmints. I can see how the two can be confused because sportsmen do hunt for game, which is governed by laws and the principles of fair chase. Sportsmen also participate in the management of predators where the same laws and a fair chase approach do not apply. This is an important distinction.”
Game species such as deer, elk, moose, and antelope are hunted under game laws established by state wildlife authorities that provide opportunities for sportsmen while staying within the limits of what is a sustainable harvest so these populations remain healthy and thriving. This comprises a science-based approach to keep their populations within the carrying capacity of their habitat, in balance with other wildlife, and in numbers that do not exceed what people will tolerate. These laws include the required hunting license and tags, stamps or permits; structured hunting seasons; bag limits; quotas, and other measures, including the tenets of fair chase. Some predator species such as bears and mountain lions are classified as game species and are afforded the same level of protection under these conservation and management laws. These same measures do not apply to non-game predator and varmint species.
“We don’t know if HSUS is uninformed or merely attempting to blur the lines to sway public opinion,” said Streissguth. “But trying to make it sound like the Club and sportsmen are against such contests because the methods used aren’t considered fair chase shows a misunderstanding of the principles of fair chase, which were initiated more than 130 years ago by the Club’s founder, Theodore Roosevelt. It is true the Club has a big game records policy of not supporting contests or the unauthorized use of its scoring system to award cash or expensive prizes, but the Club applies this policy, like our fair chase policy, only to managed game species. Our policies do not extend to the non-game wildlife species or the contests described in the HSUS post.”
Hunter-conservation organizations like the Club support the authority given to state and federal wildlife officials. This authority includes managing game, and non-game species where and when necessary. This authority also includes determining what is game and non-game and setting the rules for determining the legal methods for hunting, and those for the control or removal of other species when such activities are deemed necessary.
“All critters, including game and non-game animals, and birds have a place in healthy and balanced ecosystems,” Streissguth concluded. “Having too many can be just as harmful as having too few. We do thank HSUS for acknowledging the Club’s leadership role in promoting fair chase hunting and for recognizing that sportsmen do hold themselves to a high standard of fair chase when hunting game animals and game birds. The Club does encourage sportsmen when participating in predator and varmint reductions to do so with a humane approach.”
About the Boone and Crockett Club
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club is the oldest conservation organization in North America and helped to establish the principles of wildlife and habitat conservation, hunter ethics, as well as many of the institutions, experts agencies, science and funding mechanisms for conservation. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. For details, visit www.boone-crockett.org