There used to be a place in Texas where you could hunt big game without ever setting foot near those icky woods where deer, elk, boar and other exotic animals roam.
Instead, you could sit at your computer in the confines of your mansion, in Dallas or Ladue or even Monaco, and for a hefty fee (of course), remotely direct a high-powered rifle on a swivel to shoot the “wild” animal lured into the right place by your big game guide.
The guide would then do all the messy cleanup work, including mounting your trophy, which would then be mailed to you.
“Nice rack,” the UPS guy might say upon delivery, at which point you could brag about being a crack shot, without having to mention that you never set foot within a thousand miles of the beast.
Thanks in part to the Humane Society of the United States, and real hunters who were offended by the lack of “fair chase,” such Internet hunting is now illegal in Texas and most other states, including Missouri.
But if you still would rather have a hunting experience where you don’t actually have to . . . you know, hunt . . . and when the trophy is all but guaranteed, there is a growing industry in Missouri in which captive deer, elk, buffalo and other animals are available for your "hunting" pleasure.
Wherever Daniel Boone is buried (there’s a dispute between Missouri and Kentucky on this subject), he’s rolling over in his grave.
Thanks to vetoes by Gov. Jay Nixon this week, however, those private businesses raising "captive cervids" will not be getting a free pass from Department of Conservation regulations. Since 1934, it has been a national leader in managing fish and wildlife so that future generations can continue to hunt and fish.
The experts at Conservation are trying to head off chronic wasting disease in the state’s wild populations of deer and elk by making sure the ranches offering fenced-in "hunting" opportunities don't import unhealthy animals to the state. Nor do Conservation experts want sick animals escaping and possibly infecting healthy wild animals.
Hunters and taxpayers should be grateful.
The legislature, doing the bidding of a few greedy business owners, instead tried to spin this issue into one of freedom for farmers. They passed two bills, Senate Bill 506 and House Bill 1326, turning over management of the deer, elk and other animals on captive ranches to the Department of Agriculture. Big game would have become livestock.
Had the bills become law, the folks over at High Adventure Ranch near Steelville might have had to change some of their promotional material to comply with the new law.
Changing references to "big game" to "livestock," which could have spoiled the effect:
"Whether you desire a 10-point whitetail mount for your livestock trophy room or simply the thrill and challenge of taking down one of our many fenced-in livestock, High Adventure Ranch guarantees memories of an unparalleled livestock-tracking experience that will bring you back again and again."
Lawmakers should stand down and recognize that most hunters have some pride. They want the Department of Conservation to continue to do the award-winning job protecting wildlife it has done for decades.
Let Mr. Nixon's vetoes of the captive cervid bills stand.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.