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World Reports

Cheney is No Sportsman

picture of a quail

Those of you who read James Fennimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer might remember a scene in which the pioneers blast away indiscriminately at clouds of passenger pigeons, while the Deerslayer picks out one bird, shoots it, retrieves his kill for his dinner, and Deerslayer expresses disgust at the wanton slaughter committed by the pioneers.

Cheney’s hunting accident has a foul odor. Katherine Armstrong was once the chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and Cheney was reportedly hunting without proper permits. I thought real sportsmen had no qualms about buying permits because the fees support habitat and resources.

But then a little more Web-cruising and one finds that Cheney doesn’t necessarily hunt wildlife. Instead, it seems he sometimes hunts birds freshly released from the breeding pen. In Pennsylvania in 2003 Dickie apparently shot about 70 freshly-released birds in a private club in a just a few hours. The thrill of the hunt! I wonder if the club operators put monofilament on the birds’ legs so they couldn’t get away before they got blasted? The incident in Texas smells funny not only because the group didn’t have their Upland Bird Stamps, but because the ranch owner drove them out to a particular spot where they could find birds. Makes me wonder if she had let a bunch go just a few hours before.

Cheney's hunting accident has a foul odor.

Some environmental historians credit sportsmen with a lot of habitat preservation. My own experience is from my involvement with a non-profit called Trout Unlimited. TU advocates managing streams for natural reproduction of wild fish rather than a “put and take,” hatchery-dependent tame-trout fishery. If the only fish you can catch are the ones dumped out of the hatchery truck, your stream quality is probably pretty damn poor.

Though I’m not a hunter, I think everyone can see the difference between having an ecosystem that sustains natural reproduction of wild game birds versus rearing them in pens, releasing them, and going “bang bang” to your heart’s content. If the only birds you can shoot are the ones dumped out of a breeding pen, your habitat quality is probably pretty damn poor.

All of this connects directly to the Bushies’ environmental policies. Their attitude is that those with enough money can breed the animals, release them, and then have all the fun they want stalking them with rod or gun. There’s no need to protect the environment in order to be that kind of a so-called sportsman. Environmental quality is for us peons who hunt or fish for wild things – those of us who can’t afford a private hunting or fishing club. I bet Dickie feels sorry for those of us who backpack into the Wyoming mountains near his ranch to fish for wild trout. He probably thinks we do it because we can’t afford to buy our own fish and toss them into a backyard pond so we can fish them out later.

Another reason that Dickie is not my idea of a real sportsman is that he shot his hunting companion in the chest. Real sportsmen know their targets before they shoot. If you are used to shooting lots of tame pen-birds you probably don’t expect your hunting companion to stop shooting and actually go retrieve the single bird he just shot. When Mr. Whittington retrieved the bird he had killed, was he making the same kind of statement to Dick Cheney that the Deerslayer was making to the pioneers in that scene with passenger pigeons?

I smell fowl, a lot of them, and they’re probably rotting in the grass in Texas. All this is pure speculation, but maybe, just maybe, Whittington is the real sportsman.

   

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