Mule Deer in velvet Wild Mule Deer in velvet, Antelope Island State Park, Utah – D200, f6.3, 1/100, ISO 400, 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm,  natural light, not baited and not a setup

Yesterday I was getting caught up on local, US and World news when I came across an article titled “ND Vote Could Ban Big Game Hunting On Fenced Land” on I mainly photograph birds but I also enjoy photographing other animals so I clicked on the link to read the story. I was stunned. Yes, I think I have had my head in a hole in the sand up until now about this hot topic. I’ve done some research on this and the more I read, the sicker I felt.

Measure No. 2 on the November  2, 2010  general election on the North Dakota ballot seeks to abolish fenced preserves where people pay to shoot big game such as deer and elk.

The Mule Deer above isn’t a dumb animal.

The truly dumb animals are the people who install high fences on private property to cage large game animals inside and then for enormous fees encourage and allow other dumb animals to shoot captive animals and call it hunting.

I can’t call those people “hunters”, there is NO sport in killing a captive animal. It takes NO skill to execute a deer that cannot escape. It only requires cash to end the life of a majestic Moose or Elk.

All it requires is a thick wallet. 

I’m not against hunting fairly. These are not fair hunts.

They call these places  “Game Preserves”.  Preserves?? Make no mistake, these fenced in, large game captive animals are not being preserved. They are being killed with high powered weapons with NO chance of escape. To borrow a worn out phrase this is “shooting fish in a barrel”.

The definition of “preserve” from

Definition of PRESERVE
transitive verb
1: to keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction : protect
2a : to keep alive, intact, or free from decay

2 b : maintain

These game preserves are not keeping the large game animals safe from injury. The animals are not being kept safe from harm. These animals are not being protected or kept alive.

These large game animals are being RESERVED for the rich not preserved for everyone. The wealthy take a number, select which animal they want to shoot, hand over the cash, sit on their butts, fire at their target and have the trophy mounted so they can hang it on their walls. These animals are being exploited for profit.

 Resting ElkWild Bull Elks resting, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado – D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/250, ISO 200, 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light, not baited and not a set up

A quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, a conservationist who helped to preserve public lands, the animals on those lands and the natural resources contained on and within those lands:

“We need, in the interest of the community at large, a rigid system of game-laws rigidly enforced, and it is not only admissible, but one may almost say necessary, to establish, under the control of the State, great national forests reserves which shall also be breeding-grounds and nurseries for wild game; but I should much regret to see grow up in this country a system of large private game-preserves kept for the enjoyment of the very rich. One of the chief attractions of the life of the wilderness is its rugged and stalwart democracy; there every man stands for what he actually is and can show himself to be.”

Theodore Roosevelt

I’m sorry President Roosevelt, your regret has come to fruition. I am glad you are not around to see what is happening today. It would sicken and incense you.

Prices to extinguish the lives of  large game animals varies by the size of the rack and what they call the Safari Club International (SCI) scoring system. Not only are there native large game animals these High Fence Shooting Galleries import exotics from other countries.

Pretty disgusting, isn’t it?

Some of these places call it “harvesting” which I think is laughable and sick. These are warm-blooded animals, not potatoes in a field, apples in a tree or barley growing on 2000 acres. They also claim these captive animals are as wild as any free roaming animals. Give us all a break, we don’t believe you. They may as well be shooting animals in a zoo.

Bobbing for apples would present far more of a challenge.

Many of these high fenced shooting galleries guarantee success or the “hunt” is free. It isn’t a hunt, this isn’t a sport,  this is some rich person driving a vehicle within a few yards of a captive animal to plug bullets in it. Then they can hang their “trophy” on a wall and act like a “big man”. They are not hunters, they are simply the very rich people that Theodore Roosevelt spoke of. They are too lazy to hunt the way our forefathers did. They don’t want to be cold, uncomfortable and they surely do not appear to enjoy nature or the rigors of truly being a hunter.

Some of these “hunters” never touch what they have killed except to have their picture taken, they hire someone to gut and quarter the animal. What’s the matter, are they afraid to get their hands bloody?

This is about EGO

Some of the areas where the large animals are released are no larger than 20 acres which is about the size of 16 football fields.

Whoopee! They want to call it a hunt? Let’s call it what it is. A shooting gallery for the rich. My advice for those rich trophy seekers is to go to a carnival where they have those little yellow plastic ducks mounted on the tent wall that they can shoot and get a prize.

It really isn’t any different than shooting animals trapped behind a 9 foot fence except at the carnival no blood is being spilled. No animals lives are lost.

These places also state that YOU won’t feel fenced in. How could you not with 9 foot fences surrounding the perimeter? Big freaking deal, the animals are fenced in, they are imprisoned. Where is the sport in that? They justify by saying they want a 100% chance at getting the animal they are after. I want a 100% chance of winning a huge lottery prize but to do that cheating would have to be involved. Like I feel it is 100% cheating to shoot captive wild animals.

Young male MooseYearling male Moose, High Uintas, Utah – D200, f7.1, 1/320, ISO 400, 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at  260mm, natural light, not baited and not a set up

In case you are wondering why a bird photographer is so incensed about this issue it is because I am not just a bird photographer.

I am a nature lover.  I am someone who wants to preserve, to protect and conserve wilderness areas, the flora and the fauna so that future generations can see and enjoy nature. I’m also a mother who has taught her children to enjoy, respect and cherish wildlife. I am someone who cares.

Many of these so called private “Preserves” and Game Farms offer packages where photographers can visit and for a fee photograph the animals. Unscrupulous photographers then sell or exhibit the images without disclosing that they are captive animals.

Ted Williams at has written an excellent article about game farm photography. It is a very interesting, thought provoking article. It also lists some publications who reject game farm images. I personally applaud book and magazine editors who will no longer print or publish photographs created using game farm or private preserve animals. Bravo, well done. Thanks for taking a stand.

I want NO part of  photographing on private preserves or game farms. That isn’t my definition of nature photography.


Reading Material: – This site had tons of information it has been taken down since November 2, 2010

Point of View: Game Farm Photography – by Thomas D. Mangelsen

Phony Wildlife Photography Gives a Warped View of Nature – Ted Williams

Why We Need the Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act  – The Humane Society of the United States

Canned Hunt – Wikipedia