In an apparent bid to cozy up to hunters and gun lovers, presidential candidate New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson shared his adventure killing an exotic oryx on Ted Turner's ranch in 2005 with the Associated Press.
Richardson killed the long-horned African antelope with one shot from 100 yards on a "guided" outing at Turner's 360,000-acre Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico, though he didn't skin or gut it. It was his most memorable hunt he says.
Turner's operation of hunting ranches where "sportsmen" pay to kill bison, deer, African antelopes and turkeys that have no escape is the dirty little secret behind his Endangered Species Fund and other green activities.
Canned-hunting trophy ranches like Turner's usually offer "no kill, no pay" policies says the Washington Times, providing guides who know the location and habits of the animals, permitting the use of dogs, and supplying "feeding stations" that lure unsuspecting animals to food while hunters lie in wait. Animals are even drugged according to some reports. The operations are strictly legal.
"Unless there's a big problem with exotics reported to us, we don't seek out regulation," says Gary Young, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent in Texas a state known for its exotic trophy ranches.
Richardson also enjoys shooting doves, now illegal in Michigan. "You know I'm a little impatient and when you're doing oryx and elk, you tend to get one or two shots. You've got to find them," he says. "But with dove, you have a lot of opportunities."
But hunting will probably not catapult Richardson into the White House.
For one thing, hunter numbers are falling--as much as 26% in Iowa in the last decade according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and nationally by over two million since the '80s.
Numbers have also tanked in Oregon according to Harry Upton, an economist with the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. "The "baby boom generation is aging and they hunt in greater numbers than the following age groups," he says.
In Pennsylvania only 62 hunters take up the sport for every 100 hunters who retire says Governor Ed Rendell who is pushing Families Afield hunter recruitment legislation. "If this trend continues, our ability to manage wildlife will be severely affected and Pennsylvania's economy will suffer," he says.
Of course one reason for the dropping numbers is there are fewer places to hunt and they are farther away. There are lot of more appealing activities closer to home.
But another reason is: it's just not, well, cool anymore. Ask a sixteen-year-old and he's likely to say, "You want me to spend a Saturday afternoon doing WHAT?"
Then there's the problem of trying to please the gun lover lobby. As in: you can't do it. Just ask outdoor writer Jim Zumbo who after years of service was stripped of his cable show and magazine column for dissing black rifles by calling them terrorist weapons. (He later got religion on Ted Nugent's ranch.)
But finally there's public opinion. Canned hunting offends everyone who believes in a fair fight--including hunters. And it is especially offensive when celebrities do it.
Remember what happened to Country and Western musician Troy Lee Gentry when he killed a penned pet bear named Cubby on videotape last year to appear the tough guy? Pleading guilty to falsifying the hunting tag?
Music critics like Peter Grumbine had a field day describing Cubby's murder while he "rolled on his back expecting his usual belly rub that followed his afternoon nap." They're still calling Gentry a "sad pantywaist" who "shoots caged animals."
Are you listening Bill?