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ON A RECENT Winchester turkey hunt, I was arguing with my NRA buddy Jon Draper about the sportsmanship of this long range hunting craze, where people buy rifle shooting "systems" and snipe animals at a thousand yards.

It is just the highest evolution of the lazy-ass road hunter, I told him. "It's bad for the sport, results in wounded animals, makes us look bad, and most of all it's just not fair chase when an elk or deer are so fary away they can't see, hear or smell you," I ranted. I was working myself up.

"Bullshit," he said. "None of it's fair chase. We are humans, and they are animals. Nothing's fair. Your compound bow, that's not fair," he said. "You're a human with a human brain and they're dumb animals. It's all unfair."

"But it takes no skill," I said. "I know guys who kill elk over the seat of a four-wheeler who know nothing about the animals. How can you compare that with archery hunting pressured bulls," I groaned. "It's like shooting ducks on the water or geese with a rifle."

Jon is a smart bastard, and his point was absurd, and that was his point. I realized I was starting to split hairs and sound like waterfowlers who use dogs, elaborate blinds, skilled calling and water sets to kill ducks who disparage the field hunters as not having any skill other than to stick a Mojo in the ground. Or in turn the field hunters who attack water hunters as a bunch of selfish roost busters who scare all the birds out of an area. And how about those poor pass-shooters: We all pick on them.

That's probably just how the classic double gun guys sounded when the semi-auto was invented, or the recurve bow crowd when compounds took over ... we are such a passionate bunch it is very easy to fall into criticizing other people's methods.

Long distance shooting is fun, but it's not real hunting, it's shooting. Animals are more than targets to me. Longrange groupies will tell you it takes skill to shoot "way out there." Absolutely not true, with modern technology. Last year, I saw people at a company event who had never shot guns before sit down and hit a six inch plate at 500 yards over and over with an inexpensive gun that had been set up to do it. My buddy Mike Miller and I were banging a steel silhouette at over 1,000 yards the other day across the hood of my jeep with a base model .223 coyote gun, a terrible long range caliber, especially in wind. Mike, who actually has serious skill as a former Army recon man, shot it five times in a row standing free hand in a stiff breeze. He then threw the rifle over my hood, and a minute later, both his 7 and 11-year-old sons drilled the silhouette at over 1,000 yards on their very first try off a lousy rest ... These boys are not even rifle shooters, but archers and waterfowlers.

Yet I am learning quickly that I need to support people's right to hunt however they choose. I joined a Sportsmen's Alliance bear hunt in Idaho in June. Well-funded animal rights groups, I learned, had attacked bear hunting with hounds and bait in Maine, but lost, because baiting is fairly popular.


And so the bears-are-people-too crowd is regrouping to attack hound hunters and trappers, said SA spokesman Brian Lynn. Dog men are a much smaller group, and the antis will win on this emotional issue, as they have in so many states. If bait and hound hunters pulled together, that would not happen. But like the field- versus-water fowlers, each would like to see their "competition" go away.

We better pull together, people. Just think of the different ways animal rights groups can attack waterfowling. They could characterize any field hunting as hunting over bait. Or any water hunting as attacking birds in their refuge and resting and nesting habitat. Or that migrating birds are vulnerable. And they are already attacking the use of hunting dogs--including retrievers--as cruelty.

We all know grumpy old duck hunters who will stand up to their ears in flooded corn and rail against the use of the motion decoys that "ruined the sport."

This has to stop. While blowing away animals at 1,000 yards is not my cup of tea and I don't consider it fair chase, I need to defend another hunter's right to hunt how they want. They buy a tag, they get a crack at one animal, just like me. The same with their six ducks. If they want to do it the easy way, that's their choice.

Spirited arguing is a healthy form of self-policing. But when it comes to the front line and the future of this sport, we absolutely have to stand together, united, or we are all gonna lose.
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Title Annotation:EDITOR'S CALL
Author:Knowles, Skip
Date:Aug 26, 2016
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