Hunters and My Livestock (March 23, 2016)
I have avoided writing about hunting on this website. My personal opinion about hunting is that, when done with consideration by knowledgeable persons, it is beneficial. I suppose I should clarify what I mean...
To me "consideration" means:
- the hunt is a means to provide food for the hunter,
- the prey is not endangered and its numbers may, in fact, be too large for that area and in need of culling,
- the location allows for the hunt to take place without danger to anything else (property, animals, people).
What I mean by "knowledgeable persons" is those who have been instructed:
- in the proper use of their equipment,
- how to hunt their given prey,
- most importantly, in an understanding and practice of safety at all times.
I have no intention of ranting about gun control, for or against. My opinion is that for hunting (as in any endeavor), one should use the appropriate tool that does the job with utmost efficiency and the least adverse effects.
Why I am bringing up hunting now.
My little 20 acres of land are at the east end of a quarter section that was divided into several 5 and 10 acre lots, which is to say that all the land between mine and the road on the west have houses on them. The land to the east of mine has been in CRP (which is a conservation program) since the hubby and I purchased the original 10 acre lot I now refer to as PlayHaven West. I'll call the land to the east "the CRP" for the purposes of this writing.
I have not met the owner of the CRP, but I have met the very nice people who are living in the next house beyond the CRP and they are related to the owner.
I knew that they allow people to hunt on the CRP. Perhaps you will have read the story a couple of years ago about how there was a shooting party that scared my cattle causing me to change how I was opening their grass allotments during that time. At the time, I had expressed to everyone BUT the owner and neighbor how nice it would have been to be told ahead of time so the sound of multiple gun fire would not have caught us all off guard. In hindsight, I really SHOULD have contacted the owner. The trouble was I was angry and it is not smart for me to do anything while I am angry. Then, when I was no longer angry, I had no idea how to address the subject without sounding like a horrible neighbor especially since they stayed away from the fence line.
Since then, we occasionally hear gunshots and dogs barking, but it is distant and doesn't bother anyone (well, it always startles me). But, on February 26th I was in my office and heard several very loud reports that made me jump and look out the window to see one of the steers buck and take off at top speed away from the cattle's overwinter hay setup toward the pond (east to west) and even Fernie the bull who was lying by the pond jumped up. I looked in the direction of the hay and saw two (2) hunters walking toward my fence. Luckily, the rest of the cattle were eating grass at the south end of the pasture.
I raced downstairs, threw on a coat and my boots and headed outside where I yelled as loudly as I could to attract the hunters attention who were standing just on the other side of the fence by the hay looking (as it appeared to me) at the hay. They started walking away so I went as fast as my chubby little legs could carry me to intercept them. This time when I yelled (and I will admit that my language would have made many people blush) one of them turned around and with his dog on a tight leash headed back in my direction.
At my vulgar prompting, he told me they were hunting birds and that they had shot at one IN MY TREE LINE but, he assured me, they decided not to trespass to retrieve the bird. I told him the bird is not what concerns me, that it is my livestock that concerns me. That by firing into my tree line they could cause harm to my livestock through spooking them or even hitting them. I did not hold back and 'tore them new ones' as the saying goes. You don't want to be the verbal target of my anger.
"We have permission to hunt here" they whined. The second hunter had moved closer to support his partner. Perhaps so, but NOT to shoot into my field! They could not even tell me the name of the owner, all they knew was that the man who stocks the CRP with game birds gave them permission to hunt those birds. I told them I would be contacting the CRP owner and they said they were done hunting along my fenceline. (FYI - I never did see the bird they supposedly shot.)
My first course of action was to find out the legality of hunting on a CRP, especially when it is being stocked and hunted as a business venture. I needed to know where I stood legally so as not to make a complete fool of myself. I found conflicting information on-line in that the rules are different from one state to another. I decided to call the Farm Service Agency of the USDA in Higginsville and spoke with a very nice man. Still being in a state of agitation, and not wanting to take it out on him, I apologized up front for any unpleasant attitude on my part. I told him the story and he informed me (while commiserating with me) that yes, it is legal to hunt on a CRP in Missouri; even with the man stocking game birds on the land precisely for that purpose. We chatted for a time and he calmed me down. He agreed that I needed to tell the land owner because they would want to know that idiots were hunting on their land. After all, any damages they might cause would be the land owner's responsibility.
It took a few phone calls, but I finally spoke to the lovely woman who owns the land with her husband. I recounted the story I just told you admitting my vulgarity and anger freely. She appreciated that I called and was not happy to hear that there were idiots hunting on the land even if they did have permission. The responsibility for permission fell to the man who was stocking the CRP with game birds so she did not who these particular people were. She suggested I look for their vehicle to help in the determination, but by the time I was talking with her, they had left or had parked somewhere I could not see.
She understood my concern about how the birdshot could affect my cattle. Let me tell you my concerns as I told her.
- The sound of a distant gunshot does not startle the cattle, even the loud fireworks of our neighbor rarely startle the cattle; but a close up gunshot that sends the cattle running means panic. Panic means not looking where they are running and a gopher hole can mean a broken leg and an animal that has to be killed because of it.
- A not so obvious concern is birdshot might penentrate the hide of a cow and while not killing it outright can fester and cause infection that could kill the animal some time later without apparent reason.
- An even less obvious concern would be for the penetrating birdshot to not eventually kill the animal, but cause the meat to not pass inspection when processed.
So while my first concern is for my animal because I don't want any harm to befall them, my concern as a business person is the possible monetary loss. And since my steers belong to the people who own Cowpooling shares, it's not just me that the loss affects.
The lovely woman was very nice to me. Her family also raises cattle and she truly understands my predicament (or possible predicament, I should say). She apologized and promised to follow up on this with the game bird provider.
The following day, I had a visit from the game bird provider/hunt manager. He had heard from both the lovely lady and her relative (my neighbor) about the idiot hunters and came over to introduce himself and express his apologies. I found him to be very pleasant and while some of that could be attributed to trying to make me happy, we found we have similar attitudes on things such as energy efficiency, sustainable building, and the headache that is raising baby birds. Plus we have some mutual friends.
He assured me he would speak with the idiot hunters and make sure they are clear about the (excuse me if I express this inaccurately) caliber of their shot (the noise of the gunshot lead him to believe they were using shot that travels further than he allows), the area along the fence where they are NOT allowed to hunt, and not to fire into the fence/tree line. Basically, he will educate them.
He also offered me a 'free hunt' next year. As I understand it, that means he would donate the funds collected from a day when a group of people participating in a shooting party such as I described from a few years ago pay an amount per person (or was it per bird retrieved?) to PlayHaven Farm LLC. He said that he has raised as much as several thousand dollars at such an event. I did not give him an answer yet. I suppose I should jump at that... but I have reservations which are wholly my own issue relating to the points I made about hunting at the beginning of the article. Namely, they are game birds raised in captivity and released for the sole purpose of being shot. But is that any worse than my raising meatbirds? I think so. My meat chickens didn't have the panic of being hunted.
Oh, by the way, the hubby and I have seen a couple of game birds on the farm lately. It turns out they are probably from the game bird providers stock that escaped being shot. The picture is of one such lucky lady: a chukar. She made her way to our deck and it was lovely to see her fly away after I took the photos. Oddly, she came back later in the day. I haven't seen her since.