Monday, November 14, 2011

California hunters: While you're busy hunting, who's going to bat for you and your rights?

It's easy to get discouraged in California about the state of hunting laws and regulations. Hunters are a tiny minority, the Hollywood mentality rules and the Humane Society of the United States often gets its way (not to mention obscenely fawning media coverage).

One thing I am grateful for, though, is the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance. COHA was formed by California Waterfowl in 2006 to lobby on behalf of the hunting community, and it now enjoys the support of literally dozens of the state's hunting organizations and businesses.

When I need to know what's going on with some hunting-related policy matter, I call my friends at COHA, and they never let me down - they're always on it.

A proposed ban on hunting on levees in Sutter County? Hey, that would've sharply curtailed my cottontail hunting in wildlife areas along rivers there! COHA was on it and the county agreed to modify its proposal to allow hunting on the wildlife area-side of the levees.

Teaming up to fight poaching? Hell yes. COHA sponsored a bill this year to increase penalties for serious poaching violations, including when poachers intentionally target trophy game outside of the regular season, hunt without the required tag or stamp, hunt with spotlights, hunt over bait or waste game meat. Violations like this are the scourge of hunting, and I'm proud that COHA is taking a stand against them. Now if we can just get the Legislature to go along with it - the bill is stuck in an appropriations committee.

How about water for ducks? Yep. COHA was on that, too. Another bill in the Legislature this year would've imposed a charge on water suppliers, including a charge based on each acre of land irrigated for agricultural purposes. This fee could be a strong disincentive for landowners to maintain waterfowl habitat on their land. This bill - happily, in this case - is also stuck in an appropriations committee, due in part to COHA's efforts.

COHA also lobbied against long-gun registration, which, unfortunately, was signed into law this year after previous attempts failed when they reached Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. (Yep, with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in office now, California has one-party rule again. I'm really not a fan of one-party rule, regardless of the party, and this is one reason why: Dumb things become law.)

I've got literally 14 pages of bills and proposals that COHA lobbied on - you can see details for yourself here. You know where I'm going with this, folks: Lobbying ain't free. If you hunt in California, you need to support the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, because whether you know it or not, COHA is already working for you.

Most hunters I know hate politics and I get it - it's a frustrating business. I used to cover it when I was a newspaper reporter and editor, and I really don't miss it. But if you don't want to get involved personally, please at least support the organization that's doing it for you.

And after you've clicked here to make a donation (like I just did), please send a link to this post to your friends who hunt and ask them to do the same. While we're all busy hunting ducks, turkeys, pigs, bears or whatever, COHA will be hard at work preserving our rights to keep hunting.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


Anonymous said...

Some aspects of hunting are BS, and that's why a lot of people and groups are against hunting, period! Canned hunts, which include to me the release of farm grown pheasants, after the shooters are all set, and then shooting them out of the sky, is NOT hunting. It's no more than cruelty to animals.How any shooter can take pride while participating in this type of crap is beyond belief.

As far as registering long guns: I think it is a good idea, and doesn't harm the gun owner's in any way. I've purchased 4 long guns in CA. in the past 2 years, and they all went through DROS. No big deal!
Ted C. Diamond Bar, CA

Anonymous said...

Pen-raised pheasants provide a great opportunity to get new hunters started because it's easier, it also provides young dogs training opportunities and it can enhance and take pressure off wild-bird populations. The biggest part for me, it's just a fun day with my friends or family and they are pretty tasty. Try it sometime, you may surprise yourself.

Anonymous said...

Pleas explain.... what is fun about it? Go out and shoot some clays, which is fun and doesn't harm any animals. Go out in the field and train the dog's. Pheasants are tasty?.......That's a lame excuse. Turning birds loose when they have no chance of survival is no sport. Go out into the field and tromp around and get your boots dirty. If you're lucky enough to down a pheasant in this manner...enjoy the meal.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Ted: I recognize a lot of people don't like high-fence and planted-bird hunts. I don't want to hunt that way myself, thbough I support other hunters' right to do so.

But make no mistake: HSUS opposes hunting because it is run by vegans who want to end all consumption and use of animals, period. HSUS harps on high-fence hunts because it's an easy sell, but they don't like anything we do.

Anon: I just spent the weekend helping 10 novice hunters on what was, for most of them, their first duck hunt. I advised them to take advantage of every hunting opportunity they get, including planted-bird hunts, because they NEED a lot of opportunity at this stage.

I think we'd all prefer to hunt wild birds, but sadly, most of heir habitat has been wiped out in this state.

Phillip said...

Ted C. The key to your whole argument is encapsulated in a short phrase... "to me".

To YOU, perhaps "canned hunts" don't fit your definition of "hunting". That's fine. Don't do it if you don't like it. But for an awful lot of hunters, it provides an opportunity that wouldn't otherwise exist. One of the biggest reasons hunters are leaving this sport is the lack of opportunity to hunt, and loss of access to the places where they can.

In my own experience, the largest, and most vocal contingent against hunting preserves and high fence ranches is other hunters, not anti-hunters. All the anti-hunting organizations have done is to leverage that acrimony to their own ends, prop it up with a little myth and misinformation, and turn it back against us. "Look," they say. "Even hunters are against this practice."

It's all good and well to talk about why you don't like a certain method of hunting, or even to tell anyone who'll listen why that method doesn't measure up against your own criteria. But remember that it is only YOUR opinion, informed by your own, personal values. It has no real bearing on someone else's experience or values.

I also have to address this odd (and false) dichotomy when you suggest that people who hunt preserve birds, or fenced animals don't hunt wilderness too. That's simple ignorance. The two experiences are not mutually exclusive. Don't paint everyone else with the broad brush of your personal prejudices.

The point is, just because it's different doesn't make it wrong.

Jon Roth said...

I've known Bill and Mark for 15 years since I worked with them at CWA, which was before they started COHA. They are the real deal - both are avid hunters themselves and bring that perspective to their lobbying. Everyone with a shotgun or rifle in their safe should thank COHA and send them a donation. said...

No kidding about HSUS and now their unholy alliance with CA DF&G.

There is no better, more knowledgeable and active representatives for hunters in CA than COHA. Our club's been member/partners since its inception.

Chris Lewis

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yeah, I was not happy to read about the Cal-Tip business in that story. I think Judd Hanna is mistaken if he thinks allying with HSUS is a good idea.

He's also wrong when he says the state director is "incredibly honest." She has no qualms at all about misleading the public by constantly referring to all bear hunting here as "trophy bear hunting." I have exchanged (unpleasant) emails with her about this and she bases that claim on flimsy notions including what a couple people have said on hunting forums in other states, and she relentlessly claims we hunt bears for heads and hides here when it is illegal to waste meat in California.

HSUS is NOT our friend. If we have concerns about any forms of hunting or types of hunter behavior in California, we are better off addressing it amongst ourselves than forming unholy alliances with people who slander us incessantly. I trust COHA to lobby for stricter penalties for poaching; EVERYTHING HSUS does is aimed at either restricting lawful hunting or spreading misinformation about hunting. Every campaign, to them, is just another opportunity to get quoted in the media defaming hunters.

OK, getting off my soapbox now.

Michelle S aka ladysportsman said...

Great post, Holly. Sportsman Channel has supported COHA ever since I discovered them a few years ago. Cali residents are lucky, not every state has an orgz like this. For example, we don't in Wisc. Oh sure, we have the DU and Whitetail Unlimited people, but their sole mission isn't to lobby or defeat insane anti-hunting bills. I hope your post encourages Cali hunters to support COHA.

sportingdays said...

I grew up a city kid down in Oakland, CA.

My dad died when I was a young teenager so I was mostly on my own to pursue my interests in hunting and fishing the best I could, often involving BART trips to the Orvis store in San Francisco where I would hang out for hours, watch the fly fishermen buy gear, read the outdoor books for sale and dream that someday -- somehow -- I would figure out a way to have the kind of authentic outdoor adventures described in the books and magazines. The Orvis staff, thankfully, would never kick me or my friends out and would let us hang out as long as we liked even though we almost never bought anything of any substance.

Some of my first -- and best -- early outdoor experiences involved planted pheasants and stocked trout. I couldn't yet drive -- but I could walk to the neighborhood regional park from my house and fish for the planted trout in the winter, watch the wild mallards descend over the freeway and land in the little lake at sunrise. Sometimes there would be ruddy ducks and canvasbacks there, too.

From those early experiences, a passion for hunting and fishing was kept alive and an appreciation for the outdoors developed, leading to a love of wild trout and wild pheasants and, much later into adulthood, thousands of dollars contributed to conservation organizations for those particular species -- along with others for ducks, deer, quail, etc.

Dismiss planted pheasants and trout if you like, but in this day and age, they can serve as an important gateway to the outdoors and help create future hunters, fishermen and conservationists.

Jon S said...

Hmmm... HSUS may oppose canned hunts, but that doesn't mean hunters should support them in a knee-jerk fashion. It is a damn shame more wild birds, and places to hunt them, aren't available. I am sympathetic because I'm a hunter. But scarcity of game does not excuse us from fair chase ethics. In the end poor hunting practices will do more harm to hunting than all the vegans in the world.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Sportingdays, that is precisely why I have no problem with other hunters taking advantage of those opportunities. I don't confuse my personal choices with what should be considered "right."

Jon: While I know "fair chase" is a mantra for many hunters, I don't know that I agree it should be a mandatory shared ethic.

My core reason is this: Let's be real - the animals we hunt are wounded or dead the same way, whether we raise 'em in pens and give 'em a spin in the field the day of the hunt, contain them in a 1,000 acre enclosure, or hunt them 100 percent in the wild, the way I hunt my ducks (except, of course, for the fact that "wild" is a highly managed system of wetlands that's our best approximation at restoring some of the massive amounts of habitat we've destroyed).

My core ethics are these: Clean kill, avoid harming habitat and/or species, follow laws. There are plenty of legal means to increase our odds of success: bait, food plots, planted birds, fences, powerful scopes, sophisticated compound bows, tree stands. I think it's fine for us to decide individually whether to avail ourselves of any of these advantages, where legal, and pointless to single out some for ridicule when in fact others may change the odds to the same degree.

michael said...

keep the good wor my friend

best regards

Galen Geer said...

This is a good spirited debate but Phillip nailed it when he pointed out that just because a person hunts planted birds or a fenced hunt that person will not wilderness. I've hunted some pretty remote parts of Africa and I've hunted a Texas high fence hunt. I've shot at and on occasion killed wild pheasant and I've shot at a lot of pen raised pheasant. Ditto some pen raised mallards. It is impossible to seperate the ethical high fence hunt from what might be argued as "wild" hunting because the real issue is the actions of the hunter. So long as the hunter is acting in an ethical manner then the hunt remains ethical. If the hunter is not then the action is unethical and cannot be redefined by the presence of a fence or the origin of the quarry. glg

NorCal Cazadora said...

Good point, Galen.

I think a lot of our feelings about high-fence hunts and other better-odds scenarios are what we believe to be the motives of the hunter. We hear high-fence and imagine a lazy hunter who wants a big rack without the work, and who will put that head on his wall and pretend he worked hard for it. I completely agree that such a person is an @$$hole, and I'd prefer to judge the person individually, rather than condemn the practice as a whole.

sportingdays said...

Galen makes a great point... Many of the hunters I know at my local pheasant club are hard core hunters in every respect.

They love to hunt, period, pony up money for the pheasant club, lease duck blinds as well, hunt the CA wildlife refuges when they get a good draw, take trips to Colorado for elk each year, haul their dogs to the Midwest in some cases for wild bird hunts, etc. For the most most part, these are not fair-weather hunters.

The pheasant club is just one of many outlets for their passion with its own unique benefits, including the ability to host a bunch of friends and family and show them a good time, take a young kid, a young dog or an aging parent out in the field, work the dog close-to-home before you have to head back and cut the lawn, etc.

Phillip said...

There's nothing "knee jerk" about my support for high fence and preserve hunting. Unlike a good number of folks who oppose these types of operations based on myth, hearsay, and preconceived notions, I've actually hunted at several of these places, and worked for one of them. This has given me the opportunity to not only hone my own perspective (I was once quite opposed to the whole concept), but to get the points of view of a fair number of other hunters who also utilize these facilities.

The truth is that some of these people loved the experience, and will come back and do it again. On the other hand, some didn't find it to their liking. This is exactly as it should be. It is a question of taste, and of personal values.

I've made all of the arguments before, probably several times, and I don't want to launch into a redundant diatribe here on Holly's blog again. But it boils down to what has been said here already... just because you have a problem with it or don't understand it, doesn't mean you're right and the other guy is wrong.

High fence and preserve hunting will not hurt the future of the sport. Perpetuating myths and misinformation about high fence hunts will. Segregating hunters based on an arbitrary and inconsistent sense of honor and ethics will.

Am I saying that there aren't abuses in the high fence hunting industry? No. There certainly are. But rather than attacking the industry or the individuals who work and hunt there, we'd all be much better served to attack those abuses.

The people who oppose hunting oppose ALL hunting. It doesn't matter if it's in the confines of a 500 acre fence, a stocked pheasant field, or the Alaskan wilderness. Anyone who believes that the anti-hunters can be appeased if we eliminate various "questionable" practices is sadly deluded.

I am not one of these people who believes all hunters should stand together no matter what, but I do believe we should stand together. We should address our concerns openly, but we should also deeply examine our motivations before we do.

High fence hunting, crossbows, inline muzzleloaders, bait, hounds... none of these things will harm the future of hunting unless we are the agents of that change. Unfairly criticising, passing judgement, and holding others to an unrealistic ethical standard create untenable schisms that are easily exploited by the anti-hunters, and all to often misunderstood by non-hunters.

I'm going to lunch now. Ya'll have at it.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Phillip, I know we don't agree on everything, but I'm with you 100 percent on this, particularly this line:

High fence and preserve hunting will not hurt the future of the sport. Perpetuating myths and misinformation about high fence hunts will. Segregating hunters based on an arbitrary and inconsistent sense of honor and ethics will.

Though I've said this before, it's worth repeating for new readers: It was your thoughtful arguments on this issue that caused me to change my mind about MY knee-jerk reaction to high-fence hunting.

Anonymous said...

I got my first taste of hunting and also answered the question of whether or not I could pull the trigger on a critter at a game farm.

Anti-hunters, anti-gunners and other religious fanatics will never have enough compromise. The world they would create if they had their way is true horror to me.

Keep up the good work


Michael said...

Good job congradulations!