I was up early the other day because I was keen to write about the Britannia Hotels groupâ€™s incredible achievement of being voted the UKâ€™s worst chain for the seventh year running. Imagine. Youâ€™re told youâ€™re rubbish once and then you keep on being rubbish for six straight years. I wanted to comment about such an extraordinary level of commitment to slack-jawed slovenliness.
But then I noticed that the survey had been done by Which?, an organisation that is really only interested in reaching adenoidal people in action trousers and sandals who contribute to TripAdvisor and run the neighbourhood watch scheme. As a general rule, Iâ€™ve always reckoned that if something does badly in Which?, itâ€™s probably pretty good.
As I sat, deciding which side to take in the great hotel debate, I was distracted by an annoying man on Radio 4â€™s Farming Today show. He was from the airborne wing of the Labour Party â€” also known as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds â€” and he was talking about how he thought shooting game birds might be a bad thing.
The RSPB has always been prevented by its royal charter from campaigning against the shooting industry â€” Mrs Queen likes to strangle a pheasant or two at Christmas time, as we know â€” but it has worked out that it can comment if it reckons shooting is done by rich bastards in Range Rovers.
Now, the columnist Charles Moore said recently that the actress Olivia Colman had a â€œleft-wing faceâ€. I wonâ€™t comment on that, but I will say that Martin Harper, the man the RSPB sent to Radio 4, had a left-wing voice. Chris Packham has both a left-wing voice and a left-wing face, and he wants us all to stop using fly spray.
Anyway, Martin reckoned that if you release 50m non-native game birds into the British countryside every year, itâ€™s bound to have an effect. When pressed by the interviewer for a specific effect, he said: â€œEr, climate change.â€ That was lucky for the Britannia Hotels chain, because I immediately abandoned my original plan and decided to write about shooting instead.
The first thing I did when I started a small shoot was plant several acres of so-called cover crops. Maize, sunflowers and something called kale, which can be eaten by humans if they are very deranged. These crops provide warmth, food and a place to hide from Johnny Fox, not just for my pheasants but a whole squadron of other birds too.
We keep reading about how endangered the yellowhammer is these days; well, not on my farm it isnâ€™t. Since I started my shoot, the skies are black with them. And goldcrests. And wrens. And skylarks. The dawn chorus used to be nothing but the occasional squawk of a murderous crow, whereas now itâ€™s positively philharmonic.
Research has shown that if you run through a field of crops planted by a shootist, you are 340 times more likely to encounter a songbird than if you do a Theresa May and run through a field of grass.
So, Martin, if the RSPB does manage to ban shooting, then, yes, you will be championed as a class hero throughout the vegan strongholds of Islington and Shoreditch, but you will also be responsible for the deaths of a million linnets. Which, as far as I know, isnâ€™t why the RSPB was founded.
And then there are the woods, where the pheasants are held until they are old enough to forage on their own. Woods are beautiful and still. Theyâ€™re places to shelter from the endless drone of light-aircraft enthusiasts. Mine are full of roe deer and muntjac and squirrels and badgers, and at this time of year there are many mushrooms too. I love to spend an evening down there as the leaves turn golden, giggling. Everyone likes woods, except if you are in a horror film.
But they generate no income. So if shooting were banned, Iâ€™d have to get Brazilian on their arses and turn them into farmland. Is that what you want, Martin? Because I fear that would create a damn sight more climate change than my Range Rover.
Of course, Iâ€™m well aware that some people might bridle at the sight and sound of eight hedge-fund managers in tweed shorts, braying their way through a pint of sloe gin while brandishing a pair of Â£20,000 shotguns, but what good comes from making them take up golf instead?
There are many hobbies that inflict far more pain and misery on others: light aircraft â€” Iâ€™m not giving up on that â€” the violin, motorcycling, strimming, morris dancing and so on, so why pick on one thatâ€™s good for nature and good for the way the countryside looks?
Pointedly, itâ€™s good for birds too. Not just songbirds, but the kind of stuff that makes kids point at the sky and squeak with joy. Birds of prey. Since I started a shoot, I have seen a huge increase in the number of kestrels and buzzards over my farm. I even think I spotted a peregrine falcon the other day, and that made my heart soar.
Was it here because it likes eating my pheasants and partridges? Thereâ€™s some debate about that, but the truth is I donâ€™t really care if it does take a few. Because I like having it around.
Clarkson is right in saying that the Ringneck pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) is not native to Britain, but they were actually introduced by Julius Caesar a very long time ago, you’d think they’d have been given naturalized citizenship by now.
The Yorkshire Post describes Miles Cooper’s conversion from Hunt Saboteur and League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) activist to Field Sports participant and finally Master of Hounds.
I know it would be more interesting to say I had a road to Damascus moment, but there were no blinding lights. It was much more of a gradual process. I was living in a market town in Oxfordshire and I came to know many of the farmers who lived there. I guess the more I talked to them, the more I began to question the anti-hunt stance. I spoke to sheep farmers who explained that hunts were a viable way of managing the fox population, that they were more humane than snaring and shooting. These werenâ€™t people trying to twist my mind. They were people who had the countryside and its best interests in their blood. They were simply explaining their point of view and given their wealth of experience it was right for me to listen, to think and to challenge my own views.â€
By the time a hunting ban became a serious prospect, Miles had decided that it wasnâ€™t something that he could support. In April 2002, 13 years after going on his first protest he came out publicly as pro-hunting. â€œI suppose I could have gone quietly, but I decided that I should be open and honest, especially since Iâ€™d been so publically critical of hunting in the past so a press conference was organised at Westminster. Of course I had reservations and what I had to say went down like a lead balloon with former colleagues, but Iâ€™ve never had any regrets about doing it.â€ …
Over the intervening years Milesâ€™s pro-hunting stance strengthened. So much so, he learned to ride and went out on his first hunt with the Warwickshire Hunt. He also breeds and works ferrets, shoots and hunts with his local pack of beagles.
â€œIt felt a little surreal to begin with, but for me it was a natural next step,â€ he says by way of explanation. â€œEverything I have seen being part of the hunting world has only confirmed that the Government got it wrong and the current legislation isnâ€™t fit for purpose. Take hares for instance: the law says itâ€™s wrong to hunt a healthy hare but okay to hunt one which has been wounded first. Itâ€™s ridiculous, a nonsense and just downright perverse.â€
Miles moved to Yorkshire for work â€“ heâ€™s a manager at Yorkâ€™s Askham Bryan College, the largest land-based college in England â€“ but itâ€™s also here where his conversion from hunt sab to hunt master was complete.
â€œA colleague showed me an advert in Countrymanâ€™s Weekly magazine which said that a new pack of bloodhounds was being set up in Yorkshire and that anyone interested in helping should get in contact. Not many people get to contribute to starting a hunt from scratch, so I thought what have I got to lose? The answer to that was all my spare time and some of my hair, but Iâ€™ve loved it.â€
Miles admits that when he sees pictures of himself hunting, whether that be with the bloodhounds or out beagling, he occasionally has to do a double take, but he says he hopes his experience might help dent the long-lived stereotypes.
â€œHunting isnâ€™t a sport just for toffs. We are not a bunch of lords. Most people join a hunt because they love riding and sacrifice most other things in their life to pay for the upkeep of their horse. There is a real cross section of society in any hunt that you donâ€™t get in a lot of places. I can tell you from first-hand experience that you donâ€™t get wealthy being a hunt master. In fact, you just get older, greyer and poorer a whole lot quicker, but by God I wouldnâ€™t have it any other way.â€
â€œHe pasado mi vida entre las nubes y amo todavÃa las criaturas que se defienden y huyen. (Guardo en la memoria el fantasma de una paloma inalcanzable que palpita para mÃ.) Hacia ella sigo volando, cada vez con menos brÃo. De noche, cavilo entre la rapiÃ±a y la ternura en un paisaje de rocas vacÃas.â€
“I have spent my life in the clouds and still love the creatures who defend themselves and flee. (I keep in memory the ghost of an unattainable dove that beats for me.) To keep it flying, each time with less verve. At night, I brood between the violence and tenderness in a landscape of empty rocks.”
The Wolver Beagles competing in the Beagle Pack Trials at the Institute Farm in Aldie, Virginia, November, 2010. (Photo: Karen L. Myers)
The Wolver Beagles celebrated their hundred anniversary of operation as an organized hunting pack this fall. By my count, Wolver is the fifth oldest beagle pack in the United States, preceded only by the Waldingfield Beagles (founded 1885), the Somerset Beagles (founded 1888, disbanded 1922), the Sir Sister Beagles (founded 1897), and Richard Gambrill’s Vernon Somerset Beagles (founded 1912, disbanded 1953). Only two older beagle packs still survive, and Wolver can additionally boast a more continuous operation under fewer masters than any other beagle pack in America.
Wolver’s colors, displayed on the collar, are buff with light blue piping. Wolver is a private pack, operating out of Middleburg, Virginia and hunting only bitch hounds. Wolver is recognized everywhere as a crack pack, performing typically at a superior level and winning far more than its share of competitions.
Barbara Riggs produced an article on Wolver’s history appearing this week in the Chronicle of the Horse.
In the US, falconry is so buried under a preposterous and massively burdensome regulatory regime that only an infinitesimally small community of total fanatics can participate. (There are something like 4000 licensed falconers out of an American population of 300 million.) In the United States, you can go right out there and buy a horse any time you like and take him home, but not a falcon. Unlike horses, you see, raptors are sacred and they all really belong to our federal government and various international conservancy committees. You must have special permission at both the state and federal level to borrow one of their birds. You are required to take a federal exam, sign up for a multi-year apprenticeship under a licensed falconer, and open your home to federal inspection to even possess your first hawk, and your choice of falcon is restricted to only 2 (in some regions, 3) species until you achieve a more advanced license level.
Can you imagine a dog ownership regime that would require federal licensing and then would allow you only to own a chihuahua or a Golden Retriever until you had been a licensed dog for two years? Then you become a “general dog owner” and can own two dogs at the same time, including such more interesting breeds as poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds. You would need to be licensed for five years before you could be a “master dog owner” and own three dogs at the same time or be permitted to possess the more exotic and desirable salukis, borzois, and Akitas.
It’s different in Arab countries, where falconry is a far more prominent and mainstream sporting activity.
Slate reports on an unusual and highly ironic development among the fashionista set.
[T]he evolution of the new lefty urban hunter goes something like this:
2006: Reads Michael Pollanâ€™s The Omnivoreâ€™s Dilemma, about the ickyness of the industrial food complex. Starts shopping at a farmerâ€™s market.
2008: Puts in own vegetable garden. Tries to go vegetarian but falls off the wagon.
2009: Decides to only eat â€œhappy meatâ€ that has been treated humanely.
2010: Gets a chicken coop and a flock of chickens.
2011: Dabbles in backyard butchery of chickens. Reads that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to only eat meat he killed himself for a year.
2012: Gets a hunting permit, thinking â€œhow hard can it be? I already totally dominate Big Buck Hunter at the bar.â€
Hunting is undeniably in vogue among the bearded, bicycle-riding, locavore set. The new trend might even be partly behind a recent 9 percent increase from 2006 to 2011 in the number of hunters in the United States after years of decline. Many of these new hunters are taking up the activity for ethical and environmental reasons.
â€œIt feels more responsible and ecologically sound to eat an animal that was raised wild and natural in my local habitat than to eat a cow that was fattened up on grain or even hay, which is inevitably harvested with fuel-hungry machines,â€ writes Christie Aschwanden, a self-described â€œtree-hugging former vegetarian.â€
A recent spate of books with titles like The Mindful Carnivore and Call of the Mild chronicles the exploits of these first-time hunters as they wrestle with their consciences and learn to sight in their rifles.
We are going to have to read an avalanche-load of omphallic ethicizing and isn’t-it-wonderful-that-I’m-the-first-civilized-human-to-master-the-skills-of-my-primitive-Republican-neighbors accounts, but all this is still doubtless going to turn into a positive development. Hunting puts man in direct touch with Nature and allows him to enter personally into its processes. Hunting fulfills a deeply-embedded portion of our human nature, and the activity and experience of hunting inevitably makes us healthier, mentally as well as physically.
Perhaps, Nature has actually come up with a way to seduce residents of the urban community of decadence and mental disorder back into health. One pictures the metrosexual gradually turning from reading Rolling Stone and Mother Jones to picking up Garden & Gun and Double Gun Journal.
An elephant hunting video in which the professional hunter very competently stops an unexpected charge. I’d call that a pretty good moment of excitement. It would be nice to know in what country they were hunting, what caliber rifle (probably a .458) that professional was carrying, but they never properly annotate these.
And, yes, Virginia, there are a number of African countries in which elephants can legally be hunted, in which elephant numbers are excessive, elephant populations are rising, and in which elephants create serious problems by coming into conflict with human beings. Trophy fees for elephants are extremely high, and the monies raised fund the conservation departments which control poaching.
Poor jumbo did bite the dust but, before shedding big salty tears, do take note that in the seconds prior to his demise he was advancing purposefully on the humans in the video with lethal intent. The elephant initiated hostilities against people who had every bit as much right to be walking in that African bush as he did.
Shooting a charging elephant at close range is an experience most of us will never have. In many cases, I expect just as well, because not everybody could shoot as fast and as straight as that professional hunter.
Western Outdoor News: COMMISSION PRESIDENT CELEBRATES A SUCCESSFUL HUNT â€“ California Fish and Game commissioner Dan W. Richards travelled deep into the wicked terrain of Idahoâ€™s Flying B Ranch to fulfill a long-held goal. â€œIt was the most physically exhausting hunt of my lifetime. Eight hours of cold weather hiking in very difficult terrain. I told the guides I appreciated the hard work. They were unbelievably professional, first class all the way,â€ he said. Richards said he took the big cat over iron sights using a Winchester Centennial lever action .45 carbine. Asked about Californiaâ€™s mountain lion moratorium, Richards didnâ€™t hesitate. â€œIâ€™m glad itâ€™s legal in Idaho.â€
The LA Times reports that the president of the California Fish and Game Commission has been successfully hounded out of office by the usual West Coast crowd of left-wing extremists for the outrage of legally taking a trophy mountain lion on a hunt in Idaho. Residents of California have been regularly stalked, occasionally mauled, and even killed and eaten by mountain lions in unprecedented numbers of incidents since hunting lions in the Golden State was banned by whacko-supported initiative in 1990.
The California Fish and Game Commission was created a century ago (1909) by sportsmen to manage and regulate the state’s wildlife resources. Its operations and programs are funded by license fees and taxes on sporting goods paid exclusively by hunters and fishermen.
But, in California today, the tyranny of the fruits-and-nuts supporters of the democrat party is so far-reaching, their intolerance and bigotry concerning other people’s lifestyles and convictions so great, that the president of the state Fish and Game Commission has been hounded out office by a six-month-long campaign of vilification based on his being guilty of legally hunting!
Daniel W. Richards was replaced as president of the California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday, seven months after he sparked a storm of controversy by killing a mountain lion during a hunt in Idaho.
Although the kill was legal in Idaho, California has outlawed the hunting of mountain lions for decades. More than 40 state legislators called for Richards to resign in March, saying he showed poor judgment in killing the cougar when the practice is opposed by most Californians.
At the time, Richards defiantly refused to resign from the commission, saying he had done nothing improper. Even though the commission voted to elect Commissioner Jim Kellogg as president Wednesday, Richards plans to remain on the commission until his term expires in January. …
[Michael] Sutton, an executive with the Audubon Society [who was at the same time elected Vice President of the Fish and Game Commission], said later that the killing of the lion and Richardsâ€™ comments defending it were factors in his decision to vote to replace Richards.
“It was pretty clear that Commissioner Richards had lost the confidence of the majority of the commission,” Sutton said. “Most of us feel it is inappropriate to use the presidency as a bully pulpit for your views.”
The president of the State Fish & Game Commission is supposed, in California, to be out of line when he uses his office to speak in favor of hunting.
The presidency and control of the commission will be passing out of the hands of the sportsmen who pay for it and into the hands of Environmentalist granola-crunching ideologues eager to implement new policies based on junk science, Animal Rights theories, and hostility to firearms and the field sports.
The LA Weekly describes the politics of the situation:
[A]lthough Fish and Game commissioners haven’t explained specifically why they decided to vote Richards down from his throne today, it was clearly a symbolic move to kill the human who killed the beast.
“The president of the commission should be someone who has the confidence of a majority of his peers,” Mike Sutton, vice president, told the Mercury News leading up to the vote.
Richards was playing the feisty right-wing ideologue at the beginning of this battle, but he has since became strangely resigned to his ousting.
He looked on as the commission changed its own internal election policy in May so that they might replace Richards. And today, a Fish and Game Commission spokesman tells us that Richards himself took part in the unanimous vote to elect Commissioner Jim Kellogg as his replacement.
The ex-prez, appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger (surprise, surprise) in 2008, will remain on the commission until his term ends in six months. But from there, he tells the Mercury News: “I think there is a zero chance that Jerry Brown will appoint me, so it doesn’t matter what I think. He has his hands full with shoplifters and other thugs in the Legislature.”
Pretty morbid, right? Let this be a lesson for all trigger-happy Republicans who dare to dream of swimming against California’s blue tide: We’ll eat your grin for dinner.
From Steve Bodio, a photo essay on hunting foxes with the Kazakh Tazy (or Tazi or Ñ‚Ð°Ð·Ñ‹), the local version of the saluki or Persian greyhound, a hunting dog which pursues its quarry by sight.
The tazy is regarded as a Kazakh national symbol. This essay tells us that there was an old Kazakh saying that one tazy could feed an entire village. Tazy are described as capable of running down prey at speeds up to 80 kph (49.7 mph).
According to the Russian text, there are only 300 thoroughbred Kazakh tazy left: “300 Spartans.” I’m afraid that I don’t buy into that “only 300 left” stuff. Steve Bodio and I both own Kazakh tazy.
Our Uhlan looks a lot like those “thoroughbred Spartan Kazakh” dogs to me.