States move to outlaw hunting over Internet
Using a computer-assisted hunting model invented by Texas entrepreneur John Lockwood, for as little as $150, people can point, click and bag a trophy black buck antelope at his remote 300-acre Texas hill country ranch from the privacy of their own homes. The online recreation has sparked legislation in several states and outrage from animal rights and hunting groups.
Employing a Remington semi-automatic rifle affixed to a camera and a high-speed Web connection, Lockwood touts his Web site — Live-shot.com — as a practical hunting alternative for nontraditional hunters such as the severely disabled. “This was never intended for the fat, lazy guy from New York City who just wants to log in and kill something,” Lockwood says. With few exceptions, he says it would be hard to imagine any able-bodied hunters paying for his service.
Dale Hagberg agrees. Paralyzed from the chin down, Hagberg made history when he became Lockwood’s first live hunt customer. While his three 3-hour hunting sessions did not net a kill, Hagberg says just watching his monitor, and seeing the leaves rustling on the trees and the animals excited him.
But the difference between being behind the trees or behind a computer screen thousands of miles away is what has angered many state legislators. “[Remote hunting] is unethical and violates fair chase principles,” says Mike Bruhn, Chief of Staff to Wisconsin Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford. Gunderson has proposed legislation that requires individuals to be in physical possession of a firearm when shooting at captive wildlife and outlaws operating Internet hunting facilities within the state.
Internet hunting opens up a very bad precedent, says Bruhn, who also questions how states could feasibly regulate the owners of such ranches from making the hunting experience as tough or as easy as they choose. “[Lockwood’s business promotion as a service for disabled hunters] is just a last-ditch effort to justify his business model,” Bruhn says.
Maine Rep. Rod Carr, R-Lincoln, limited his anti-Internet hunting bill to the prohibition of such ranches within the state’s borders. His bill, however, does not prohibit Maine residents from logging onto the Internet to hunt animals in other states.
“This is the kind of technology I associate with warfare,” says California Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach. In late April, California passed a three-part bill, which bans Internet hunting sites from operating within the state’s borders and outlaws importing animals into the state for such purposes. Bowen concedes that a third provision — to prohibit anyone from hunting over the Internet from within the state — may be the most difficult part of the bill to enforce.
In all, 15 states have introduced Internet hunting legislation, and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., recently introduced a federal bill. The legislators are backed by The Humane Society, the National Rifle Association and groups that cater to disabled hunters, all of whom have spoken out in opposition to Lockwood’s model. “[We are] opposed to all forms of Internet or remote-controlled hunting, because it is simply not hunting,” says Ken Schwartz, state governmental affairs and communications manager for Texas-based Safari Club International.
Annie Gentile is a Vernon, Conn.-based freelance writer.