Bear Baiting is Not Sport

Hunting wary ducks, deer and pheasants requires stealth, skill and often a significant commitment of energy which requires physical conditioning.  The chance that many of the prey might get away, coupled with the foregoing, is what many hunters consider to define sportsmanship.  I have bagged many deer and a few antelope, a few elk, a few goats and a big horn sheep, and lots of birds, and for the most part I have been proud of the sportsmanship shown by myself and my ethical companions.

Wilderness sheep and elk hunters frequently encounter grizzly bears, which sometimes leads to a mauling by the bear or a shooting by the hunter.  These encounters involve factors beyond the control of the sportsman, which, again, makes these activities somewhat sportsmanlike, sometimes more so than others.  It has been my good fortune that when I encountered grizzlies, they were smart enough to go the other way and I was smart enough to do the same.

Then there is bear baiting.  This tactic, almost always practiced in the spring, usually involves buying an old horse or mule and leading it into the woods, shooting it in the head, and leaving it there.  My father told me of practices of enhancing the bait with bacon grease, peanut butter and other stinky substances.  The hunter leaves this mess of meat and whatever to rot and stink in the sun until the bears, emerging hungrily from their winter dens, fall upon the unexpected treat to gorge themselves, whereupon the hunter, hiding in his blind, shoots them like target practice, like dogs.

This practice is actually legal.  Baiting ducks has been illegal for 80 years.  I had not thought about this for years until my editor asked “what the hell is this?” but maybe people should contact the Board of Outfitters and ask them why they allow licensed outfitters to lure bears into traps to be shot remorselessly.

This is not sportsmanlike.  This is lawn chair murder.

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