Pulling The Trigger Via The Internet

Imagine sitting in the comforts of your den, in your underwear, a fresh-brewed cup of coffee on your computer desk, a nice cozy office chair…and hunting via the Internet.   Yes, I said hunting with a real gun participating in the blood sports as if you were out in the briars and brambles, sort of, without really being there.   Indeed, we have reached the computer age in more ways than many folks want to imagine.

What is causing this new controversy is a website called Live-Shot.com.   Here you can join as a member, shoot a variety of guns by remote control (using your computer), and basically have fun with the shooting sports without fear of recoil, flinching or the host of other maladies that inflict a shooter when holding a firearm for real.

But that’s not exactly what has many folks up in arms.   It’s the fact that on this web site aside from just plinking you can also hunt feral hogs for a price.   That’s right, you sit at your computer much like waiting in a tree stand to waylay the prey as it wanders by.   The difference is you are doing the killing hundreds, perhaps even thousands of miles away from the actual killing scene.

Personally, I am not offended by the concept of remote controlled hunting as much as it seems to bother some folks.   Take, for instance, a disabled person who has had a life-long dream of being able to hunt.   If this person’s a quadriplegic, it would likely not have been possible for this would-be hunter to participate in any other way.   Now a hunter with great disabilities can experience the same thrill, albeit in a much sanitized way, that I as a sportsman feel out on the deer stand.

Are there definite problems with remote controlled hunting?   Absolutely.   First and foremost is the issue of state law.   Hunting in a state where you might need to be licensed to enjoy such activities…but when you aren’t physically in the state…well, it’s kind of hard to enforce the issue.   How can you begin to prosecute a hunter who might be literally hunting a world away?

And sure, there’s also the issue of wanton waste.   Sportsmen do not as a rule just go around killing, even such critters as feral hogs are used for meat.   But if you are in another country hunting on the Internet are you realistically having the meat processed and sent to you?   Probably not.

My take on remote hunting is that it will never become a popular fad.   Sure, people will hear about it in the news and be fascinated about the prospect of shooting a gun by remote control…but it will never gain widespread popularity.   Even in this age of kids being more excited by their computers and electronic games as they are to the wonders of nature…maybe hunting remotely is yet another 21st Century way to introduce youngsters and others to the sport of hunting.   Let’s face it…if a person who has never hunted has fun shooting and bagging game on the Internet…they are bound to have the urge to experience it in person.   At least one would think so.

As many of the state legislatures see bills frantically introduced to control or ban remote hunting, I have to wonder how will it be next that computers end of effecting our lives next.   When you can potentially deer hunt using a laptop computer laying in bed on a cold, snowy morning…it just goes to show you how computers have the potential to change and be applied to just about any aspect of our lives…even in the outdoors!

Good or bad, you will hear lots more about the issue of remote hunting in the months to come.   My guess is the activity will be shunned wholeheartedly by folks who pride themselves as traditionalists and think technology has gone way too far this time.   Maybe so, but I happen to believe with some proper controls and regulations in place, and once the hysteria of the whole notion of remote hunting has died down…that it could potentially have more positive effects than negative to our sport.

Maybe it isn’t right for you or for me…but let’s not forget the folks who might have some different circumstances going on in their lives…whether it be a disability or some other difficult challenge.   These people deserve the right just like you and me to experience the thrills and awe of hunting even if the method of doing so seems to be a total insult to those of us who pay the price with cold fingers and wet toes early in the morning.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Should Minnesota Hunters Be Required To Wear Back Tags?

I’m beginning to hear rumblings that some people think Minnesota should go to a system requiring hunters to wear their license on the back.   This discussion is prompted by the much publicized shooting that occurred last weekend in Northern Wisconsin.   The thinking is by displaying the number it would give other hunters a mechanism to identify and report law violators.

It was reported last Sunday that the hunters who had encountered Vang (the alleged murderer) had taken note of his back tag number by writing it in the dirt (on the ATV, I believe).   When investigators finally arrived at the scene they found this number so they knew who the likely alleged shooter was.   If Wisconsin had not used a back tag system, there would have been no positive way to so quickly identify the alleged participants in this massacre.

There are many states besides Wisconsin that do require hunting license back tags.   A few of these states would include Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Maine, as well as others.   Primarily the historic reason for the tags was not for identification, but to curb the problem of hunters simply hunting without a license.   In fact, many of these states actually used a button that would be worn on the outside of a person’s hunting clothing.   As licenses evolved, so too has the way states have required hunters to display them.   Today, most of the states that require the display of the license ask for hunters to affix it to the area between the shoulder blades worn on the outer most garment of clothing on the back.

So is it time Minnesota goes to such a system for its licensing?   Truthfully I have mixed feelings on this issue.   As a landowner who has encountered trespassers over the years it has always been my frustration how to properly identify the law violators.   Because I am not a law enforcement official, do I really have the authority to require identification in the form of a driver’s license?   I’m guessing that person has no obligation or duty to me to hand over his/her license to prove identity.   Furthermore, it gets into a very gray area if I can even take any action to detain this person on my property waiting for law enforcement to arrive.   Certainly by attempting such action could quickly escalate the situation.

So yes, indeed, if hunters were required to wear a back tag it would allow positive identification with even the most casual of contact.   The problem is trespassing doesn’t always occur just during hunting season.   Sometimes it is during the pre-season for scouting.   Maybe for the system to really work a person would be required to display this tag whenever he is out participating in activities related to hunting (when in-season or off-season).

Again, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the real reason that most of the states have this system is for the game wardens and conservation officers to do a quick license check.   In most cases these are states that have lots of hunters and taking the time to have hunters remove a license from a wallet is simply not practical.   The officers can move on quickly to check other hunters after doing a quick back check.   Still, I have not heard Minnesota Conservation Officers urging a big groundswell to go to this system…so I must assume wearing back tags is not a big enforcement issue here in Minnesota.

Oddly enough the people who want to see us move to this system are hunters themselves.   One would think that hunters would be the last group that would want to require such actions be taken.   Let’s face it, when you pin a license on your back it can get easily snagged and torn off while walking through brushy areas.   Then what do you do?   Go spend another $5 to purchase a replacement tag?   Is it necessary to suspend your hunting activities until you drive to town and find an ELS license vendor who can print one off for you?   To me this seems like the potential for much more hassle than benefit.

I’ll admit I have never hunted in a state that required back tags as part of the legal requirement.   At this point in time it would take more convincing for me to be an advocate of this change here in Minnesota.   It’s quite obvious that wearing such tags did not serve as deterrent to trespassing in Wisconsin last weekend…and I doubt it would have little effect here in Minnesota, as well.   Instead, let’s put some greater teeth into our current trespassing laws not only with monetary penalties, but perhaps with some form of community service component as punishment to those who are careless in their travels.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

What We Know (And Expect) 3 Days After The Tragedy

By now some of the initial shock is beginning to wear off and the earnest search for answers begin.   Certainly at this point we may not know many of the facts about what went wrong in the Northern Wisconsin woods last Sunday, but we do know six hunters will not be sharing Thanksgiving with their families tomorrow.   As we continue to search for the WHY…let’s take a moment to review what we do know to be true so far about this unfortunate tragedy, mixed in with a few predictions for the future:
The Act Was Senseless

No matter what was said or what actions were taken to remove the trespasser from the private property…the situation did not rise to a level where loss of life was a necessary outcome.   Killing another human being is an action “as a last resort” and it should not arise from the mere act of trespassing no matter how heated the situation may have become.

Vang Has A Documented History of Law Violations & Violence Toward Others

Police and DNR records show that Vang has had numerous contacts with law enforcement officials.   From over-harvest of crappies, to violence against his wife, the record appears to be clear that Vang has shown a certain propensity to act in a threatening manner and with disregard for proper lawful conduct.

Vang’s Demeanor After Arrest

Reports by the authorities have indicated that Vang was very calm and cooperative in the hours after arrest.   One would think that if he had acted in self-defense (having been fired upon first) this action would transfer into a more excited demeanor.   Instead, I sensed a certain calmness consistent with someone who knew their life was never being threatened.

Killing Was Execution Style

At one point one of the witnesses stated that when Vang found a victim still alive he stated something to the effect…oh, you’re not dead yet.   And shot the victim again in the back.   Others stated that Vang was actually chasing his victims before making the fatal shot.

Vang Did Not Seek Out The Authorities After The Shooting

Perhaps the biggest factor in my mind that negates a self-defense plea is the fact Vang was wearing full camouflage (by this time) and was not arrested for four hours afterwards.   A reasonable person would have attempted to notify the authorities and not acted in a manner to evade capture.

Eventually Vang Will Be Made Out To Be The Real Victim

As much as I hate to say it, the media and the Hmong community will twist the events of this horrific day and attempt to turn Vang into the real victim.   Even though six people lay dead, Vang will in time become the poster child, of sorts, for a community that feels it is disadvantaged and often threatened by the majority in this new land.   In time, I predict attitudes will shift to show Vang was a folk hero to his people because he lashed out to defend his honor.   This sort of thing has happened before with another much publicized killing that occurred over 20 years ago (read about that story here).

Conflicts Between Hmong and Whites Over Hunting Is Nothing New

The Hmong population seems to view hunting much differently as most of the rest of the sporting population.   For many Hmong, hunting is more of a subsistence hunting where game taken for the table is of paramount importance.   I remember once riding with a conservation officer in Minnesota over by Red Wing.   We stopped to check some Hmong hunters who had shot common songbirds, such a robins, for food.   I believe a successful hunt for them is bringing food back home for the family…no matter in what form it may be.   In contrast, many of us measure hunting success as spending quality social time with family and friends only to use hunting as the excuse for the get-together.   Attitudinal differences are bound to make hunting clashes between social groups somewhat inevitable.

More Bullets Likely Would Have Meant More Dead

It’s apparent that Vang only stopped the killing after he exhausted his supply of 20 rounds of ammunition.   No doubt had he carried more ammunition there likely would be more people dead or injured at the end of this tragic day.

This Event Is Not Positive For The Image of All Sportsmen

The media has had a field day trying to paint a negative picture about hunters fighting over a tree stand.   But this is not about hunting, per se.   This incident is about controlling tempers and acting with rational behavior during a disagreement.   Nevertheless, hunting will be blemished by this incident and the anti-gunners will only point to the fact that the killer carried an “assault weapon” even though we know that definitionally this is not accurate.   Had the killer used a typical rifle with superior ballistics carried by most deer hunters it may have left fewer survivors in the aftermath, but the non-hunting public will never understand this fact.

No doubt about it this horrific story will see many more blog entries in the days, weeks and months to come.   I truly believe that the incident that happened in Wisconsin’s woods last Sunday will have long-lasting and interesting consequences, many of which we cannot possibly understand at this point.   My sincere hope is that some good comes out from this tragedy, perhaps in the form of greater cultural awareness.   The more we learn and the more we discover what went wrong will only serve to better understand how tragedies such as this can be prevented in the future.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.