Cover photo of deer hunkered in controversy

spectr17

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Cover photo of deer hunkered in controversy

(Published Sunday, August 12, 2001 12:07:31 AM)

By Catherine W. Idzerda/Gazette Staff

Maybe you've seen the buck on the cover of the August issue of Outdoor Life.

It's a big 'un, an eye-catcher, and it was shot right here in Wisconsin.

Next to a headline announcing "Deer Season Scrapbook: Stories and Photos of Your Best Bucks," a large photo shows Cecil Durrett of Eutaw, Ala., displaying a monster buck that grossed a score of 198 on an antler-measuring scale.

But there's a story behind that picture, and it's one that has editors at Outdoor Life reconsidering their photo policies.

It started two weeks ago, when Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wardens saw the magazine's cover.

Something--actually many things--bothered them about the photo.

"We were looking at it and thought, 'That's not a November gun-season deer,'" said John Welke, DNR marine and wildlife investigator. "It was snowing and cold last gun season."

Also, Wisconsin hunters must wear blaze orange during gun-deer season, and Durrett was wearing camouflage.

"There was no visible tag on it, either," Welke said.

So the wardens began to wonder--as wardens always do--where, when and how the buck was taken.

It turns out that the buck was shot at Wilderness Whitetails, a game farm and 200-acre fenced-in hunting preserve in Rosh olt.

Editors at Outdoor Life didn't know that.

"It's a feature we do every year. We invite our readers to send in pictures," said Colin Moore, executive editor of the magazine, which touts itself as "The sportsman's authority since 1898."

"We assumed that it was shot in the field," Moore said.

It's legal in Wisconsin and in most states to hunt in enclosed preserves, but the issue is a controversial one.

"It has to do with what hunters define in their own minds as fair chase," Welke said. "At what point is it fair chase when the animal is in an enclosure?

"I think everyone would agree there's a big difference between shooting a deer in a 1-acre pen and shooting a deer in a 10,000-acre pen; at some point between 1 and 10,000 acres, people would say that it's a fair-chase hunt, that the deer has an opportunity to get away from the hunter."

State Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud, R-Eastman, was more blunt about the practice--and the cover photo.

"It's just the wrong image to give people in other parts of the country about what Wisconsin deer hunting is about," Johnsrud said Thursday. "It's a magnificent buck, but it's a game farm buck. That's not about hunting--that's about killing, as far as I'm concerned."

The cost of the buck also concerned Johnsrud.

A buck like Durrett's can cost as much as $14,000 at a hunting preserve, Welke said.

"I don't want whitetail hunting to become a sport where only rich people can afford to get a deer like that and normal working people from Wisconsin or people from out of state feel like they're going to have to pay a lot of money for one," Johnsrud said.

Moore said if editors had known the deer was taken at a hunting preserve, they might not have used it as the magazine's cover photo, or at least would have told readers where it came from.

He also added that he was not willing to make judgments about a perfectly legal practice.

However, after receiving a critical letter from a DNR official and Johnsrud, the magazine plans to run a clarification in its next issue.

Meanwhile, nobody seems to know just how the magazine got the photo.

The hunter says Outdoor Life contacted him.

"They called me and asked for a picture," Durrett said. "They didn't ask me where it came from."

Durrett said he was surprised to see himself on the cover.

"My daughter was in a food mart in Tuscaloosa and was going by the magazine stand when she saw me," Durrett said. "She said, 'Good Lord, there's Daddy on the front of a magazine.'"

But Outdoor Life said it doesn't call people for its "Deer Season Scrapbook."

"We solicited readers to send photos in, but we didn't get on the phone with anybody," Moore said.

And hunting preserve operator Eugene Flees said he certainly didn't send it in.

In fact, he'd prefer to run his business without attention from the media.

"Personally, I wish they wouldn't have published the photo," Flees said. "I don't have time for people cutting my fences."

Animal rights activists have cut the fences of other game farms and hunting preserves, and Flees worries about his operation.

Flees and his sons have been in business since 1977 and do most of their work selling breeding stock. In fact, they just started the hunting preserve in 1999.

The preserve includes a large area of cedar swamp, where deer can hide from hunters, Flees explained.

Flees hopes to add another 20 acres soon.

On the Web site http://www.wildernesswhitetails.com, Wilderness Whitetails highlights the genetics of the stock.

"The preserve was initially stocked with quality bucks and does that come almost entirely from 200+ class breeding stock. It is our goal as managers of the preserve to provide hunters with the opportunity to harvest a buck of a lifetime," the Web page reads.

And at the bottom of the page, proudly holding the antlers of his buck, is Cecil Durrett of Eutaw, Ala.
 



Hntrjohn

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Does not bother me were the deer was taken. If someone wants to hunt a deer farm that is fine with me. As long as they are honest about were and how it was taken.

I know I will never hunt in hunt in a place like that. But I am not going agaist somebody who does either.

John


(Edited by Hntrjohn at 2:19 pm on Aug. 14, 2001)
 

Sporty

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My first buck (a small forked horn) I took 3 years ago is a bigger trophy to me than any buck in that pen.  200 acres isn't very big. My $.02.
Good to all this season.
Sporty
 

Whoadog

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 You beat me to the pinch Sporty I was going to say the same thing, same goes for those guaranteed 6X6 bull elk ads you see in the magazines.  

brian
 

Ponscm

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That type of hunting isn't my cup of tea either, but don't be so quick to judge those that do enjoy it.  Remember, not everyone thinks hunting with the evil Moto-duck, hounds, road hunting, or even anything other than archery equipment is ethical.  If you don't like it, then don't do it.  How is picking your deer in a fenced in area different than picking your lobster from a tank in a restaurant?  Deer farms are no different than any other livestock operation.  They are raised for a purpose.  In this case, it is for antler size or a "pretty sure thing hunt" and mostly they cater to those that feel that is the ultimate goal of their hunting trip.  Likely the truth may be stretched a bit as to where and how it was taken when the hunter talks to their buddies, but if they are happy to have their "trophy" hanging on the wall or meat in their freezer, then that is their choice.  Like I said, this type of hunt isn't my ideal outing in the woods either.  My biggest trophy is the memories I have of the little bucks that I end up working WAY too hard for.  Different strokes for different folks I guess.  Just a little food for thought.
 

Sporty

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Ponscm, for the most part I agree with you. I think people who love the outdoors tend to tear each other up because of subtle differences in ethics. on this subject though I have a problem with the term "hunt" and what it means. I know I'm setting myself up here for some flak but last semester in college I had to write a paper in college in an arguementative format. I couldn't find my final draft but here is my first draft. I took out all the work cited notes to make for easier reading.


Sporty
                                                                          English 1A
                                                                      Bailey
                                                                          Rough Draft #1


The Ethical Hunter


As darkness began to set in, his legs burned from the trek over ridges, through valleys and creek beds. The thick brush made his hands and fore arms look like they tried to take the milk bowl from a starved cat. He had been pursuing this majestic elk for almost five miles. Knowing he was running out of light, he strained his eyes, scouring the countryside. Movement, any movement could be the animal that had thus far elluded him for the past twelve days. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted movement. Slowly, he turned his head for a better look. He sees it again. It’s an ear! His heart begins to pound. He looks more, antlers, it’s Him! His heart began pounding so hard he could hear it. The elk was still too far off for a good, clean shot. The hunter must attempt a final stalk to get into shooting range. To enhance the chances for a stealth approach, he quietly took his boots off and crawled toward the magnificent animal. Hugging
the earth he felt the cool dirt in his hands and reveled in the sensation of being part of Nature’s circle. Upon reaching a quality shooting distance, he quietly set up for the shot. Trembling, he put the crosshairs on the elk and fired.

Whether the hunter missed the shot or made the shot is irrelevant. This was a great hunt, featuring predator and prey. Simply put, Mother Nature at her
primal peak.

The next morning, at a ranch across the valley, a vacationing lawyer got out of his warm bed and dressed into his camouflage clothing. He meandered
down stairs where his breakfast was already made and on the table. A ranch hand let the lawyer know he has already put a nice elk in the hundred acre
fenced enclosure for him. With a belly full of food, the man grabbed his rifle and headed for the encompassed elk. The ranch hand opened the gate to the cage, and the lawyer began the “hunt”. Ten minutes later he stepped out of the enclosure and let the ranch hand know he had killed the elk and tipped the man two hundred dollars to take care of the “field work”. The lawyer couldn’t wait to see that head on his wall.

This was not hunting! This was the mere killing of a magnificent creature in a cage.Hunting is the searching out and pursuit of wild animals for the purpose of capturing or killing the wild animals for food or sport. Note wild animals, the only way the animal should be considered wild is if it is wild,
free to roam the earth as it sees fit.  Therefore, the only way to truly hunt is through fair chase. There are people that claim to be hunters and they are not. These individuals are those who spend thousands of dollars to purchase the opportunity to shoot a trophy sized animal . The animals they are shooting are living on what is called a game reserve, which is a fenced in enclosure where an animal is taken from a game farm and subsequently released in the enclosure to be shot. To consider these individuals as hunters is a disgrace to the art of hunting.

The prestigious Boone and Crockett Club is an organization that determines the criteria for an animal to be officially considered a trophy. On the
club’s official score sheet, they define fair chase as “the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over such game animals.” Clearly, a fenced enclosure is not fair chase.

The proponents of preserve hunting argue that the animals are still difficult to hunt due to the fact that they know every inch of ground in the enclosure. This may be true, but at least they KNOW the animal is there. Those hunting free ranging animals spend countless hours scouting to determine where the best spot is and HOPE it allows them a chance to find their prey.

The proponents of preserve hunting also argue that the Native Indians used to set large fenced traps to capture their prey. This is the furthest stretch to try and justify fenced shooting. The Native Indians are no

doubt the greatest hunters this continent has ever known and some tribes did use a form of fencing to corral their prey. However, they hunted exclusively to
feed the family and tribe, not for bragging rights. If they weren’t successful, they would starve. In the modern world of frozen dinners and packaged meat,
starvation of the family due lack of hunting success is a non-issue. The issue at hand is about hunting ethics, not starvation.

Those that purchase the opportunity to shoot a trophy sized animal in an enclosure are not hunters, they are merely shooter’s with no discernable hunting skills. They do it for the social prestige that comes to a trophy hunter. If one hunts merely for glory, then that individual is hunting for entirely the wrong reason. True hunting is nourishment to the mind, body and soul. It is an experience that allows humans to break away from the monotony of our own little lives and, for a moment, absorb ourselves into Mother Nature’s big circle.

There it is, have at me. The elk hunter story is made up, but the lawyer story is true I used to work with the guy.

Good luck to all,
Sporty


(Edited by Sporty at 3:37 pm on Aug. 14, 2001)
 

lintongb

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It's hard for me to comprehend that type of hunting/shooting.  First of all I don't have that type of money to throw down to put meat on my table so it has never entered my mind.  But more importantly it doesn't sound like that much fun either.  To me there would be no sense of pride in shooting a game farm animal.  I guess if some rich guy wants to spend that kind of money to fill your freezer that's his choice.  But I sure wouldn't be bragging about it. Hell, I've got an Uncle I bet would love to have someone come down and shoot one of his "trophy" steers for that kind of money.  He'd even have it mounted too.  I have taken a number of two points over the years and everyone of them is a trophy to me.  A few years I have come home empty handed but that's why they call it hunting instead of shooting. right?
 

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