This Mule Deer is not a “dumb animal”

/, Elk, Moose, Mule Deer, Wildlife Ethics & Etiquette/This Mule Deer is not a “dumb animal”

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, license or exhibit the images without disclosing that they are captive animals. They omit the truth, they do not offer full disclosure.

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 but 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


  1. Donna B. February 16, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    “Ethical hunting”? There’s a non sequiter for you. Unless you are hunting Chris Dorner (and I think they burned him alive), the animals aren’t shooting back at you. You are the killer or maimer, they are simply trying to stay alive. Ugh, so disgusting. And I don’t believe people who don’t know how to go to a supermarket or farm to buy food. HUNTERS LIKE TO KILL.

    Just wanted to add that the biggest killer in the country is the USDA and your local ignorant Fish & Game state Dept. 3 million animals a year, no question asked. Trapped, gassed, etc. There are links on my site so you can see the stats for your own state. You can’t believe how many birds are killed, Mia. Guess who are the biggest complainers? The sunflower seed growers in the midwest. Hundreds of thousands of birds killed by the USDA for them, so they won’t eat the sunflower seeds, so…we can buy sunflower seeds for our bird feeders. Sick.

    Last, I’ve called the USDA in Wash DC, and you mentioned the word harvested above. The USDA and Fish & Game call animals they kill, “taken”. Taken is the word in the Bible for the ascension – Enoch and Jesus…

    • Mia McPherson February 22, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Donna, the number of “non-target” birds and animals killed each year by Wildlife Services is astounding and some of those killed are endangered species. Each time I read the statistics I get angry, sad and disgusted. I have written about the “Bye bye Blackbird” program too and how non-target birds are being killed by DRC-1339 which is an avicide and it is a rather sickening story.

    • Mia McPherson February 22, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Opps, I meant to post the link to my post on Bye bye Blackbirds Donna, here it is:

  2. Ingrid February 10, 2013 at 4:04 am

    There’s another meme floating around, too, one that counters the “fair chase” ethic. It’s sometimes promoted by new hunter-chefs, or foodie hunters. The argument is that fair chase isn’t always “humane” because the shots might be forced from more precarious positions. So, they’ll say that practices like baiting, hounding, pen-released and high-fence hunts are valid, because the slayers-to-be can zero in closer on a clean kill. You know … nothing said in defense of even the most despicable practices, surprises me anymore. I can’t for the life of me get into the head of a photographer who patronizes game farms — or facilities that later sell animals to high-fenced hunting areas. The mentality there isn’t any different to me than those who patronize those places for other reasons.

    • Mia McPherson February 22, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Ingrid, I had not heard the meme that counters “fair chase” but I have to disagree with their logic. They may as well be hunting in a zoo or our fenced in backyards.

      I still see photos of animals that are taken in game farms or “preserves” post, some pros take their workshops to them so people don’t actually have to locate their subjects. Part of the reason I am so passionate about my bird, wildlife and nature photography is because I AM in nature when I am photographing and personally I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  3. Phil Hodgkins October 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Reserves of this type are scattered across the Southeast, reserved for the well to do chest beaters and desk thumpers. The rationale being they can afford it and, being busy people, have no time for hunts where the outcome depends on skill. Bullcrap! Release birds, captive deer and other large game stand no chance.

    I visited a hunting preserve in S. Carolina years ago for railroad big shots. They would get behind blinds of cross ties and shoot at released ducks, which had been trained to fly in one direction and brought back to cages. I pointed out to the manager that they could save a lot of time just shooting the ducks in the cages. I didn’t win any friends and was never invited back.

    • Mia McPherson October 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Phil, thanks for your insight about your visit to the hunting preserve in SC. I really like what you pointed out to the manager, big kudos for you! Thes “preserves” are bullcrap and I don’t think the people who uses those services should be called “hunters” as it is demeaning to those who really deserve the name. Those game “preserves” are all about EGO.

  4. Jim Hackley November 4, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Well said Mia, this is not hunting at all, these places and people that visit them should be ashamed of themselves. They are not hunters but lazy people who would not take the time, energy and effort to hunt. Unfortunately this is all about big money, exploitation and making a profit. I had read Ted Williams article months ago, liked it so much I went out and bought as many copies of the Audubon as I could find and sent them to all my family members. Excellent post.

  5. Ákos Lumnitzer October 25, 2010 at 5:57 am

    Hi Mia

    It saddens me to know how horrible many humans are. It makes me sick. Is there a way I can feed any of these people to my dogs? Oh wait a minute, just remembered that my doggies would not eat crap!

    I am so shocked. Thanks for highlighting this issue(s). Yeah, those so called wildlife photographers who shoot in the preserves. Now that’s hard work. It’s a bit like shooting the eggs of a bird calling it hunting. 🙁 🙁 🙁

    I’ve run out of words with the exception is that educating the people of this world may (or should) make a difference sooner or later. 🙂

    • Mia McPherson October 25, 2010 at 9:27 am

      Thank you Ákos. I am shocked too, sickened and incensed.

  6. Ron Dudley October 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    A despicable practice. Grieve, for them (the slaughtered animals) and for us.

    • Mia McPherson October 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm

      Thank you Ron, I do grieve for the animals and for those of us who think this is despicable. I posted some more links with information on canned hunts and I was made even sicker reading that some of these Shooting Gallery operators allow the clients to kill the animals over the Internet!

Comments are closed.