Outfitter Trouble In Manitoba

Donahue

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I recently returned from what was supposed to be the hunt of a lifetime in Canada. It had been recommended on the Keith Warren Hunting program on the Outdoor Channel by a hunter that claims, "all of his hunts are under fair chase conditions”.
Instead what we found at Bear Valley Outfitters, Swan River, Manitoba were farm raised and fed animals in pens that ranged in size from a little over 100 acres to several hundred acres. My hunting partner and I considered these to be canned hunts and asked for a refund BEFORE killing any animals. The outfitter refused any refund. After much discussion my partner and I agreed that taking the meat for our money was better than getting nothing so we completed the hunt.
What surprised us was that on the first day of the hunt only 3 of 10 hunters in the camp saw a problem with the conditions. By the 3rd day of the hunt 9 out of 10 hunters concluded that this was a canned hunt but I don’t believe that this number would have been anywhere near that high had my partner and I not made such a stink.
So here is my question. When does a high fence become a canned hunt?
The outfitter claimed to have 100,000 acres of private land to hunt. He made no mention of any high fences to either my partner or me. Had the high fence surrounded the entire 100,000 acres most people would not call that a canned hunt. Another hunter in our group was told about the fence and was told that 6,000 acres were fenced. Had that been a single plot of 6,000 acres would that have been a canned hunt? What if those 6,000 acres were sectioned off into 100, 200 or 300-acre pens with narrow openings connecting each pen so that the elk could possibly traverse between pens? What if some of the pens were less than 350 yards across so that any animal would be within rifle range even if the hunter were standing at one fence line and the animal was standing at the opposite fence?
What if the animals appear to be tame? One of the archery hunters in our group left his “assigned blind” and was able to lay with his back on the ribs of a resting cow elk in an attempt to get the shot he wanted at the herd bull. She simply pulled off his hat with her lips and licked his baldhead.
When my hunting partner and I went to retrieve his bull elk we walked right through a herd of about 100 elk. They parted like the Red Sea around us; giving us about 20 yards clear to walk through. When we cleared the herd they regrouped as before. How tame do animals need to be before it is considered a canned hunt?
Are my hunting partner and I alone in our disgust with this type of hunting? Isn’t putting the trophies from these types of hunts on your wall akin to buying a diploma on-line and claiming to have a degree?
For a more detailed account of the hunt and photos please go to http://www.donahue.tv/hobbies/hunting.html I haven’t yet been able to reduce the resolution of the photos so they may take a while to appear.
 



Donahue

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Some people were having a hard time viewing the photos from the hunt that I describe as "canned" but that the outfitter and professional hunter that promoted the hunt both claim was fair chase. I reduced the resolution of the photos to all them to load faster and added detail to the story. Check it out and see if you agree that this was a canned hunt?
Hunting Photos
 

Widux

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you don't say what you were hunting but me thinks from bow hunter tale it was elk- you sound like a yank and shoulda known that Non res can't hunt elk in MB -at least not wold ones- has been a lot of pressure to outlaw game farms like you hunted in MB and you should have done a bit more homework.
 

Donahue

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Widux,
Yeah, I'm a Yank but here is the problem with the idea that I should have checked further. The hunt was promoted by Keith Warren of the Keith warren Hunting program on the Outdoor Channel. He's been hunting this ranch for 22 years and claims that ALL of his hunts are conducted under "fair chase" conditions.
I did call the outfitter (Bear Valley Outfitters) and asked the direct question about the hunting conditions. They told me that their ranch of approximately 100,000 acres is partly in Manitoba and partly in Saskatchewan and that we would be hunting “free ranging animals” under “fair chase” conditions. Now “free ranging” by definition excludes any fence that can confine the animals. “Fair chase” is not as clearly defined but even by the most liberal definition it would require that the fenced area had enough acreage and/or cover to provide the animals with a reasonable chance of eluding the hunter. The animals were neither free ranging nor hunted under fair chase conditions.
Upon arriving at Bear Valley Outfitters, we saw a pen full of elk. Before I even unloaded my gear I went directly to Chris Switzer (the outfitter) and told him that he had promised me a guided hunt on private property. I surely had no intention of hunting elk in a pen. Again he lied right to my face and repeated the same lie about the animals that we would be hunting were free ranging and hunted under fair chase conditions. He also showed me awards from Safari Club International. His explanation for having the penned up elk was that he had c aught them to sell them and he was required by law to keep them for 5 years before they could be sold. I accepted his explanation and paid the balance owed on the hunt.
The animals that we were scheduled to hunt were elk, whitetail, bear and bison. It was the fact that a bison was included in the list of “free ranging” animals that first raised a question I my mind. I know that most opportunities to kill bison are harvest and not hunts. The chance to stalk and kill a wild bison seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity if it was real. Both Keith Warren and Chris Switzer insisted that it was a real hunt and I believed them.
If you saw the pictures then you know there was nothing ‘fair chase” about this hunt yet Keith Warren has returned to BVO since my hunt. My photos were forwarded to him while he was there and he is still publicly claiming that his hunts are all conducted under fair chase conditions. That ended the credibility that I had originally ascribed to him as a professional hunter. If this is what he calls “fair chase” hunting I guess when he selects his lobster from the tank in a restaurant then that is sport fishing.
 


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