Wolf Song of Alaska News

Rich Man’s Hunt, Poor Man’s Hunt - Trophy Hunting Is Now “Subsistence”

Rudy Wittshirk / AK Voices / Anchorage Daily News / May 17, 2010


To comprehend the political significance of Governor Parnell’s last two Board of Game appointees it is necessary to get the lay of the land. What I like about Nature is the reality---unfortunately, the State of Alaska‘s “management” of Nature is becoming more and more unreal.

In Alaska there are roughly two types of hunters---rich and poor. This constitutes an air war and a ground war against wildlife. The poor man’s hunt---road hunting and vehicular off-road hunting---has wiped out vast populations of wildlife within easy driving range of virtually all Alaska highway and road networks. This constant assault by ground vehicles has also chewed up large areas of wildlands.

Obviously, it would make sense to stop this frantic rooting around for the few wild animals that still remain alive and struggling to reproduce. This would give animal populations a chance to recover. It would also be political suicide. No politician or game management official would ever dare suggest anything other than minor tweaks to remedy this colossal wildlife disaster. That’s because these are sacrificial areas reserved for “poor” hunters to thrash around in with their on and off-road machines, looking for something to shoot. This vehicular frenzy keeps alive their mass delusion of “hunting opportunities.” [It is also highly profitable for the ubiquitous motor vehicle sales and services industries.] This “ground war” against wildlife will never be stopped because those “poor” hunters unwittingly form the political base for the elite, fly-in hunting establishment. Neither the Board of Game nor the Department of Fish and Game nor the Legislature nor the Governor can afford the political luxury of actually doing something about the wildlife wastelands that have spread from road networks into the wilderness like the dead zones spreading into the oceans from our shores.

The “good” Alaska hunting in remote areas is reserved for the rich---the poor, average hunters get the road-kill. The legalized poaching that is Alaska-style, drive-by, road hunting is the State’s token wildlife subsidy to retain the political support of poor hunters for a hunting system blatantly managed for rich “sports.”

An Anchorage Daily News article illustrates how road hunting is part of the rich man, poor man game management system (”Hunters kill bear as shocked wildlife viewers watch,” 10-8-09). Rod Arno, executive director of the Alaska Outdoors Council, said he doesn’t hunt along roads but ”there are other hunters who gravitate to roads because they can’t afford to travel to remote areas.”

Mr. Arno excuses drive-by hunting with the presumption that those road-killing clods on the Peninsula couldn’t afford a fly-in trip. The Alaska hunting establishment allows the poor, average sap to scavenge for road-kill in areas that have been hunted-out decades ago. Wildlife populations there will never be allowed to recover because these depleted areas are the only hunting grounds left for the poor, average Alaskan to call his own. The irony is that the regular, everyday hunter is being shafted by the elitist trophy hunting operations which have also depleted their hunting grounds but still, through air reconnaissance, picking off animals from the fringes of protected parks and areas, and various other means, achieve a nearly 100 percent success rate for their clients.

What’s wrong with Governor Parnell’s latest Board of Game appointee is what’s already wrong with the entire game management system---it’s phony from top to bottom. The newest member of the Board of Game, Nate Turner, claims on his website to be living a “subsistence lifestyle.” This sounds like a real down-to-earth addition to the Board of Game, right? Actually, Mr. Turner runs a trophy hunting business and gets to keep the meat clients don’t want to haul home with their trophies. Trophy hunting subsidizes most of his operations but he calls it a “subsistence lifestyle.” And now, as an appointee to the Board of Game, Mr. Turner is in a position to make decisions about subsistence and predator control that directly affect his own guiding business.

Mr. Turner gets paid big bucks by well-to-do “sports” to fly them into various areas of the State to dispatch trophy animals. The State further subsidizes Mr. Turner’s trophy hunting business by “controlling” large numbers of wild predators to get Nature to pump out a few more moose which are worth way more than their meat value to these trophy hunting businesses. This is critical because, if you have been listening to the advocates of killing wolves, this “predator control” thing is specifically supposed to benefit “subsistence” users; and specifically not supposed to benefit trophy hunters. So they just slap the old “subsistence lifestyle” label onto their trophy hunting operations.
Keeping the meaning of subsistence really vague and loose is just one way the professional wildlife extraction cartel diverts public awareness while it appropriates the best remnants of Alaska’s wildlife and wildlands for itself and its clients. The profits made in the trophy hunting business---and the swell “lifestyles” enjoyed by the guides---help explain why the State is going to all of the trouble, expense and agony of allowing, facilitating and carrying out the mass-killings of wolves. Just follow the money---those few extra moose that might result from wiping out large numbers of wolves can mean huge profits for the members of the professional trophy hunting cartel. It’s all to keep those airplanes flying. The meat is just a bonus leftover.

The average Joe Six-Pack hunter thinks wolves are being killed to make more moose for him. He is wrong. Killing wolves will make little difference to the average Alaskan since road hunters continue to scavenge every living thing, including predators, from their designated areas. The real reason for the costly predator control program is that each trophy moose produced is worth thousands of dollars to the professional hunting cartel. Like Nate Turner, these professionals get their money up front, get to keep the meat, get to regulate the system, and then get to claim the “subsistence lifestyle.”

Mr. Turner’s trophy hunting business subsidizes a lifestyle of aircraft, dog teams, trapping and fish wheels. It’s a great life! Naturally Mr. Turner’s fellow, professional wildlife extractionists speak highly of him---”salt of the earth” and all that. These guys have got a real sweet racket going. And now Mr. Turner gets to help his fellow cartel members decide the regulations that affect their trophy hunting businesses.

The businessmen who control the Alaska Board of Game and the Department of Fish and Game call themselves “professionals” but they are not necessarily professional wildlife biologists---they are professional extractors of wildlife. Many are in the “safari” business---including Fish and Game’s Director of Wildlife Conservation, Carlo Rossi. In fact, judging by the Rossi appointment, it looks like the Department of Fish and Game itself is beginning to phase out professional wildlife biologists, replacing them with professional pest control exterminators and trophy hunting businessmen. Governor Parnell doesn’t seem to have thought very much about any of this and basically allows these businessmen to control the entire wildlife and wildlands management system as they see fit.
The hunting and trapping establishment that controls Alaska’s wildlife and wildlands does not recognize that the natural world has a sacred dimension, an inherent worth beyond monetary value. They ruthlessly exploit Nature until the system becomes exhausted or collapses completely. Even in the remote areas of the “rich” man’s hunting grounds, wildlife seems to be dwindling. There are cheaters, poachers and wanton-wasters among all classes of hunters. But as a story in the Anchorage Daily News suggests, when guides commit wanton waste they do it big time and for big profits (“Guide shot moose to bait bears, prosecutors say,” May 15, 2010). This very serious allegation of wildlife regulation violations by a big game guide is not a rare or exceptional case. Over the years there have been quite a few similar cases where guides have had major violations despite risking loss of airplanes and their guide licenses if convicted. Guides are often the first ones to call for predator control programs. In this case, one wonders which caused the most harmful impact on the local moose population---wolf predation or illegally shooting cow moose from aircraft and leaving them lying around to rot as bear bait? Note that bulls, valuable as trophies, are not being shot for bear bait. Also note that the varmints (there almost had to be two of them) in the red Piper Cub used a shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot instead of a rifle---undoubtedly to avoid a ballistics match on a bullet to one of their fine rifles.

Alaska’s wildlife and wildlands are supposed to be owned in common. However, the Alaska Board of Game and the Department of Fish and Game have come under the control of the aforementioned professional hunting and trapping cartel. These professional wildlife extractionists are not about to recommend anyone else to join their little Board of Game but members of their own club. So, the last thing this cartel wants is a real wildlife biologist on the Board of Game to spoil their party.
Governor Parnell understands the needs of these businessmen better than he understands biology. To him, wild animals are nothing more than barrels of oil with legs. That’s why every Board of Game appointment is just like the one before---“safari” guys and professional wildlife extractionists. The game management system is thereby permanently rigged so rich clients can continue to buy wild animals from the same trophy hunting business cartel that is entrusted with regulating wildlife and wildlands for all Alaskans.

Rudy Wittshirk
[Note: The Wildlife and Wildlands series will resume in a future blog.]


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