Nude, fair-chase bear hunting should be the real tradition

Dear Editor:

Recently I attended a fundraising event at the Broadway Theater, in Rock Springs for the Western Bear Foundation (WBF) of Cody. There were about 70 people in attendance. There were several raffles, an auction for some beautiful prints, free snacks and a cash bar.

The big issue of the event was the use of bear baiting as an aid in hunting. This is the practice of having a barrel, with a small opening and containing aromatic foods, like old donuts, preset in the wilds at the end of a clear line of fire. WBF speakers demonized environmental and animal rights groups, who have filed an intent to sue the government in order to stop this practice. The speeches, however, had an evangelical quality to them, as though WBF indisputably held the moral high ground of an aggrieved victim.

For example, speaker Joe Kondelis, WBF’s president, harped on and on about how “the public” needed to be educated — meaning they are uneducated. If we were to listen to Kondelis, however, we could become blessedly educated. According to WBF, environmentalists are spreading misinformation among “the public.” But might it be that environmentalists are also “the public,” and have a right to say what they may? Is there any value to what little education environmentalists might have?

Kondelis also seemed to take it upon himself to speak for “state wildlife agencies and their professional biologists and experts, as the rightfully intended party to make wildlife policies,” and that it is morally wrong, and maybe even unconstitutional, for the judiciary to interfere in matters of hunting. Are all individuals, who work for wildlife agencies, in agreement with WBF? Some were in attendance, but, as usual, they didn’t say anything — are they scared?

According to Kondelis, environmental extremists are inappropriately getting in the way of “the public,” now meaning WBF, and a strong tradition of bear baiting. Looked at linearly, both ends of an argument are extremes, and WBF is certainly at one of them, making WBF extremist, too. As for a bear-baiting “tradition,” WBF would have you believe that only beneficial and equitable results come about from baiting, for both bears and people. This is because, a little contrarily, the bears end up dead or maimed, and some humans can form a pretty superior image of themselves.

The huffy environmentalists, WBF complains, oppose baiting animals as contrary to the doctrine of “fair chase” and “tradition.” Here, WBF surely has two good points, so let’s have bear baiters hunt with only a sharp stick and a rock, and in the nude like our ancestors. This would put “tradition” back into things. Simply pull the bear’s head out of the bait barrel, and have a more or less equal fight. “Sportsmen” and “sportswomen” could then rightly call what they do a sport, because a sport involves opponents who have an equal chance of winning.

There was a short film showing the step-by-step drama of a bear-baited black bear hunt, though it was nothing like I’ve just proposed above. Instead, to background sounds of a breeze and mystical instrumental chords, and speaking in a hushed conspiratorial tone, the narrator, decked out in trim paramilitary clothing and expensive gear, allows us to see, using powerful optics, the bear on a distant mountainside. We drive in a spotless truck some distance to within 20 minutes easy walking of where the bear is struggling to extract goodies from a bait barrel.

The narrator slowly and methodically gets into position and aims his high-powered rifle, from which we now view the bear through an expensive scope. We concentrate hard and take deep breaths. We are dramatic, holy, and wise. The trigger is slowly, expertly, pulled, and the bear pops up in astonishment! It runs this way and that, till shortly exhausting itself and falling face forward into the grass. It heaves once or twice, then stops moving. We cautiously, yet reverentially, advance towards it. The hunter kneels before it, he reaches out to touch the great bear, he sensuously pushes his hand from the front of the bear to the back, pushing deeper and deeper into its fur and body, in a seemingly sexual show of dominance over the now submissive wild animal. Now law and order, or at least obedience, can prevail over wild and dangerous nature, as personified in the bear.

Tom Gagnon,

Rock Springs

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