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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently returned from what was supposed to be the hunt of a lifetime in Canada. It had been recommended on a program on the Outdoor Channel by a hunter that claims, "all of his hunts are under fair chase conditions”.
Instead what we found were farm raised and fed animals in pens that ranged in size from a little over 100 acres to several hundred acres. My hunting partner and I considered these to be canned hunts and asked for a refund BEFORE killing any animals. The outfitter refused any refund. After much discussion my partner and I agreed that taking the meat for our money was better than getting nothing so we completed the hunt.
What surprised me was that on the first day of the hunt only 3 of 10 hunters in the camp saw a problem with the conditions. By the 3rd day of the hunt 9 out of 10 hunters concluded that this was a canned hunt but I don’t believe that this number would have been over 5 out of 10 had my partner and I not made such a stink.
So here is my question. When does a high fence become a canned hunt? The outfitter claimed to have 100,000 acres of private land to hunt. Had the high fence surrounded the entire 100,000 acres most people would not call that a canned hunt. Another hunter in our group was told about the fence and was told that 6,000 acres were fenced. Had that been a single plot of 6,000 acres would that have been a canned hunt? What if those 6,000 acres were sectioned off into 100, 200 or 300-acre pens with narrow openings connecting each pen so that the elk could possibly traverse between pens? What if some of the pens were less than 350 yards across so that any animal would be within rifle range even if the hunter were standing at one fence and the animal was standing at the opposite fence?
One of the archery hunters left his “assigned blind” and was able to lay with his back on the ribs of a resting cow elk in an attempt to get the shot he wanted at the herd bull. She simply pulled off his hat with her lips and licked his baldhead. When my hunting partner and I went to retrieve his bull elk we walked right through a herd of about 100 elk. They parted like the Red Sea around us, giving us about 20 yards clear to walk through. When we cleared the herd they regrouped as before. How tame do animals need to be before it is considered a canned hunt?
Are my hunting partner and I alone in our disgust with this type of hunting? Isn’t putting the trophies from these types of hunts on your wall akin to buying a diploma on-line and claiming to have a degree?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The answer to my question

I asked the question about canned hunts because my hunting partner, Charles Gile and I went on a hunt that we felt was a canned hunt but the outfitter and some other hunters claimed was fair chase. We were originally scheduled to accompany the film crew with a program on the Outdoor Channel to Bear Valley Outfitters in 2003 but the US ban on Canadian meat caused us to postpone our hunt until this year. The chance to have a guided hunt of an elk, a deer, a bear and a bison on 100,000 acres of private land under "fair chase" conditions for about $9,000 seemed like a dream come true. It was more money than I had spent on hunting in the past 10 years combined but the trip seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
My one concern was that this would actually be a hunt. I had heard of other chances to kill bison that were essentially harvests and not hunts. In these "harvests" you simply shoot the bison standing in the pasture. That is not hunting, nor is it anything remotely similar to "fair chase" conditions! Despite the program's claims that all of its hunts are under "fair chase" conditions, I called Chris Switzer of Bear Valley Outfitters to confirm that this was indeed a fair chase hunt and not a harvest. He assured me that this hunt would be under "fair chase" conditions and that we would be hunting free ranging animal on 100,000 acres of private land. Based upon that information and Keith Warren's claim that all of his hunts are under "fair chase" conditions I sent in my deposit and have anxiously awaited the hunt for almost 2 years now.
After 3 days of driving from Southern California, Charles and I arrived at Bear Valley Outfitters and the first thing that we saw was a herd of elk behind an eight-foot fence. I hadn't even unpacked when I confronted Chris Switzer about the situation, explaining that shooting farm raised elk inside pens was not hunting and that I hoped that he didn't just have us drive 39 hours to do just that. Chris assured me that we would be hunting free ranging animals under fair chase conditions. His explanation for having penned up elk was that he was planning to sell them and that he was required by law to keep them for five years before they could be sold. Upon those assurances and seeing several awards from Safari Club International on his wall, I paid Chris the balance owed on the hunts for Charles and I.
Imagine our surprise the very next morning when we were driven out to our assigned pens to shoot farm-raised elk as they grazed inside of pastures surrounded by eight-foot high fences. Charles and I didn't kill any animals on the first morning and when we returned to camp Charles confronted Chris about the situation. He explained that we hadn't signed up for a canned hunt. We were promised a guided hunt under fair chase conditions and that this was no more a fair chase hunt then shooting cattle in a pasture. We asked for our money back. Chris refused any refund despite the fact that Charles and I were enticed to book this hunt based on what we considered to be false claims that this was a fair chase hunt.
Charles was so disgusted with the prospect of killing animals in a cage that he wanted to leave immediately. I struggled with the choice. I had just spent a large sum of money on this "hunt" and to come home with nothing to show for it was hard to take. I argued that without a refund that we needed to make the best of a bad situation and at least get the meat for our money. After considerable discussion we stayed and killed the animals included in the safari package.
There were 10 hunters at Bear Valley Outfitters during the period we were there. One hunter had been to Bear Valley Outfitters four times and saw no problem with killing caged animals. The other nine men were all in agreement that this was not hunting although it took 4 of them 3-days to reach that conclusion.
I consider hunting to be an honorable sport. I understand that not everyone agrees and that there are many animal rights activists and other people that do not understand the attraction that hunting holds for hunters. However, if hunting is to be degraded down to the type of animal slaughter that I experienced at Bear Valley Outfitters then hunting will no longer be one of my hobbies. Luckily that has not been my experience in a lifetime of hunting.
I posted a few photos of the hunt on my website. There is no front door to these photos. You must either type this URL exactly into your browser or copy or paste it there. I don't need PETA stumbling onto these photos http://www.donahue.tv/Hobbies/Hunting.html
 
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WOW not cool... canned hunts...

in my opinion... if 6,000 acres had a fence... I'd be ok with it.. (can walk/stalk that much in a day anyhow...

but 100 acres?!?!?! No friggin way... thats more cannned than spam! is there anyone you could report those people to? (the rancher)?
 

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canned hunts . just awful being a avid hunter .that hunt gives
the antihunters more ammo . i guess if i was you i dont kno
if I would of shot anything . but i dont condem you for doing so.
i just think it is a unethical "appleknocker" hunt .

i hunt on public land and i work hard for my venisin .
way to many guys per mile . i see your reason to go there .
but sheesh . that guys hunt is for slobs
 

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With all due respect, we are having the same problems here in Indiana. One "deer farm" owner in the northern part of the state was very adament about his business being fair chase and everything was legal, ethical, and above board. He was recently arrested for multiple felony violations, some being charging a fee based on the point system, drugging deer so the shooter could take his shot easier. Again, with all due respect, I liken it to paying a prostitute for sex rather than going out and finding a female the hard way to satisfy your urge. It is a never ending debate that ranks right up there with gun control. For the kind of money that was spent, one could contract with any one of many reputable hinting guides out west, go on a guided hunt, experience the outdoors, and have a better than average chance of takeing a nice bull elk. Not intending to belittle anyone, just stating one individuals assesment of the situation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the input everyone. I've hunted both public and private land. I've hunted with and without a guide. Sometimes guides are required like when hunting Alaska. Many private landowners also require that you hunt with a guide. Guided elk hunts are becoming unbelievably expensive. Often they cost over $5,000. The Tejon Ranch in California offers guided Tule Elk hunts. I’ve heard that the price is $15,000 for a bull and that there is a 3-year waiting list. I make a pretty good living but that is out of my budget.
A guided hunt for 4 animals in Canada for $8,900 was almost 6 times as much as I had ever spent on a hunting trip before but I justified it by the offset that would happen with that amount of meat. My bison netted over 1200 lbs of beef. That meat retails for about $4 per lb. A big bull elk can net over 600 lbs of meat. A mature Canadian whitetail can net out 150-200 lbs of meat and a bear can net several hundred lbs of meat as well. Even if I assume an average value for the meat of $3 per lb then bagging all 4 animals could save me over $6,000 on my grocery bill. That reduced the cost of the accommodations and guide service to under $3,000. That seemed workable.
I was naïve in my belief that people like Keith Warren, who make their living, as professional hunters would love hunting enough to never intentionally promote a canned hunt. I didn’t bother checking references for Bear Valley Outfitters because I felt that someone was recommending it with credibility inside the hunting world. Sadly Keith has retuned to BVO after my return and broadcast yet another hunt from there claiming that it too was fair chase. I do give his cameraman credit though. You don’t see a fence in any of his shots but the fence is visible in the background of almost every photo I took at BVO.
I also deeply regret my decision to continue the kill once we knew what was going on. I live on a ranch so killing animals for food is not something that bothers me. I thought that it would be difficult to litigate the dispute in another country so I rationalized killing the animals and taking the meat despite the fact that I found the hunting conditions deplorable.
I was so wrong in my assumption that killing these animals would feel no different that slaughtering a cow. It felt a lot different. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it is the fact that I know that these animals should be wild. They should be allowed to roam free and use all of their instincts to avoid me as the hunter and I need to use my skills to overcome their defenses. A cow is a domestic animal and I don’t have any qualms about killing them in a pen but it takes something out of your soul when you kill a penned elk.
I had to go out boar hunting just to get the bad taste of this canned hunt out of my mouth but the memory of killing these tame animals still haunts me. Since my experience I have talked to other people that had similar experiences. One hunter went on a canned hunt in Pennsylvania over 20 years ago. He was so disgusted with what happened there that he has not hunted since. That “outfitter” took something from that hunter that is more valuable than money. He stole from him the love of hunting.
 

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These types of hunts are truely sickening. It's regretfull that you had to endure one.. :(
I myself live in an area where I don't know anyone with private land and can't realy afford to join a club, so I have hunted public land for the last 3 or 4 years. It's a real PITA at times but hearing about stories such as yours makes it all the more worth while...it's tough* but I love it just the same.



*For those that haven't hunted public lands...I say tough because by our regs you can only place your stand the day before the hunt (usualy 3 day hunts) and must be removed the day after (portables only). So it takes lots of pre-season scouting and I have to get in the woods way before daylight to insure I'm in my spot before someone else.
 

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There are a few places in the County I live in here in Mississippi providing the same service Farm & pen raised Deer & Red Stag to rich city boys that dont know thier a$$ from a hole in the ground. I dont consider it hunting or cheap meat.
JT
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
JT,
It is disgusting. I had heard rumors of places like this existing but I was not "on-guard" against it because a "professional hunter", Keith Warren was on TV signing the praises of Bear Valley Outfitters. I made the naive mistake of assuming that anyone who makes their living hunting and fishing would love the sport enough to NEVER participate in or promote this kind of garbage. That assumption has been shown to be dead wrong. Not only has Keith stuck to his story that this is "fair chase" close associates to him have gone on-line and accused me of being everything from a member of PETA to just about anything else you can imagine. But whatever, they claim; I still have the photos to prove that what I have claimed is the truth.
 

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"...recently returned from what was supposed to be the hunt of a lifetime in Canada..." No offense, but considering that there is no non-resident elk season in Manitoba I'm not surprised you were taken to a farm. Wolf, moose and bear yes, but not elk or buffalo.
http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/wildl ... ggame.html
In any case, Bear Valley says right on their web page their elk and buffalo hunts are "ranch hunts". Canned? Yep, but anything else for a non-resident would be illegal.
I hate to say it, but you didn't check anything out before you spent the deposit. I'd say you were lied to and you should send a letter to the Outdoor Channel telling them about this Keith Warren's lie, the Province of Manitoba's Conservation people(click on 'Contact us' on their page above) and you could sue, but I suspect it'd cost more than you paid for the hunt. And no, I'm not in any way connected to Bear Valley. I'm not anywhere near Manitoba.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Sunray,
It is true that I didn't check the regulations for MB. In hindsight it was pretty naive for me to give so much credibility to Keith Warren that I didn't check out the hunt further. However, it seemed reasonable to assume that any person who makes his living hunting would love the sport enough not to participate in or promote canned hunts.
The “ranch hunt” phrase didn’t raise any suspicions with me because I hunt a number of private ranches. The Jack Ranch in California is similar in size to BVO and it is a “ranch hunt”. You are provided lodging and a guide. You hunt only on private property. The big difference is that the only fences you will find on the Jack Ranch are cattle fences.
I did contact the MB Conservation Department (after the hunt). That is how I found out that Chris Switzer is skirting the law by housing hunters and conducting business in MB (which does not require an outfitter’s license) and conducting all hunting inside SK. The BVO ranch is partially located in MB and partially in SK but Chris Switzer has had his outfitter’s license in MB revoked for past violations. The regulating agencies in SK have allowed him to conduct canned hunts since currently there is no law against it in SK.
I haven’t contacted the Outdoor Channel although that might be a good idea. I wanted to believe that Chris Switzer had duped Keith Warren but sadly that isn’t the case. Keith has hunted BVO for many years. He hunted BVO within 2 weeks of my return. My photos were sent to him and one of these pens is within 100 yards of the bunkhouse. There is no way that Keith could have hunted here for this long and not seen the fences. They appear in the background of almost every photograph that I took. I made every effort to contact Keith directly. I even gave his wife and several of his employees my contact numbers. I was assured that Keith wanted to talk to me but he has never made any contact. After RogerB (the forum moderator) for Keith Warren’s BBS banned me from posting there, Keith posted a message that attempted spin the facts. A number of members of the BBS forwarded to me that message. I responded to it directly to Keith via email and still never heard a reply.
 

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If it shows up on "monster bucks" its canned. If there's feeders, its canned. If you can walk up, and pet the deer, its canned. I knew a guy who went to TX and paid alot of money to shoot a big deer, shot only an average deer, and was peeved to find while he was in TX chasing deer in a cage, his buddy (my neighbor) whacked a B&C 147 scoring buck. This thing was a friggin MONSTER.

If you have to pay for it though, its probably canned. Those ranches don't stay in business with "free-range " deer that come, and go as they please. Most people who do it are ok with it because they don't want to spend time in the field freezing their butts off to walk out empty handed. I would consider a hunt where you hunt exotic stuff you're not going to find in a "normal" woods, (like wild boar, or even a Kudu, or Eland) but not deer. And decreasingly so for wild pigs, because they're supposedly migrating north :twisted:
 

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Don't know about Canada but, the ODNR here in Ohio has very strict rules about 'Hunting-Ranches'. For example, if you include such exotics as Wild Boar or Ram the entire hunting area must be fenced and all White-Tail deer must be removed. Further, the fence must be such so a large Boar cannot escape. Most I know of are about ten feet tall and really heavy. The Boar hunt I recently went on was like that. a really large tract that was fenced to keep the Boars in.

BTW, as far as free-ranging Feral-pigs/ Boar are concerned, the ODNR says to shoot them on sight, all that's required is a valid resident or non-resident hunting license. No bag-limit, hunting allowed year-round. We're beginning to have a problem here with pigs.
 

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Late addendum; further, no DNR,either the Feds or the States, wants exotics mixing with resident populations of naturally-occuring fauna. Everytime this has happened it's been bad for the native wildlife. Monkeys running loose in the Everglades are killing birdlife off by eating their eggs, look at the four and five pound Oscars(Tropical Cichlids) loose in the Florida canals. they're decimating the forage-fish in direct competition to native fish like the Largemouth Bass and Crappie. Feral hogs are ruining crops. Now, before you say,"Well, Elk are natural inhabitants of the United states." I'll say yes, they are but, not in Ohio or any other state east of the Big-Muddy. Not for a long time. States like Montana, Wyoming, and Utah are loaded with them, hunt there. Plenty of Buffalo out west on open range. as for White-Tail, Ohio has some Monsters. We see at least ten or so every year that go over 300lbs. live-weight. Black-Bear? Tenn., W.Va.,I can go on but, there are plenty of States where you can hunt them and keep American Dollars in America.

Although I dispise the 'Canned-Hunts' you only have two choices; Put up with the fences or buy a round-trip ticket and tags to the foriegn country or State they naturally reside in.

As for paying to hunt, that doesn't necessarily mean the land's fenced in. Out in Texas, there are huge lease-hunting ranchs like Tecomote where they lease 10-20,000 acres of land and keep the Deer and such in by planting food plots to attract them. My Uncle shot a 190-class out there two years ago and hunted three days before he got a shot within 300 yards!
 
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