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Are areas fenced for hunting and game management a good idea? Are they legitimate hunting operations or just glorified game farms?

By law all the private hunting land in South Africa must be fenced. How do people feel about this kind of hunting? Some properties are so huge they far exceed the natural home range of the animals. They would also take an entire season to walk around and hunt completely. I'm not promoting or condeming this with my post just trying to see both sides of the question and hopefully get some input from others.

I''ll use a couple examples in North America. Would anyone complain that the bear they shoot on Kuiu island in Alaska was not "free roaming" probably not but he is infact contained on an island along with all the deer and wolves there.

There is an Auction each year in Alberta Canada for big horn sheep. It's in an area closed to hunting where the sheep see people as a non-threatening life form. Not exactly like a park but some similiarities. These sheep are not fenced in. They are however not like 100% wild sheep. These permits can go for close to a 1/2 million dollars at auction.

In Oregon there is a huge game management unit which is 100% fenced and the elk are being studied for their habits and lifestyle. This is an open hunting unit with tags issued. Fair chase for elk on public land?

There are Mountain goats on many peaks throughout the western US and Canada. These goats will never leave the shear cliffs they live on. Many states and provinces relocate goats from other areas to improve the gene pool on these isolated peaks. The same is done with Big horn Sheep.

Hunting these Goats is in an enclosed, not with a fence but only natural habitat.

There are countless areas now in the USA where game is contained between a steep mountian range on one side, a river on two other sides and a highway. These animals are fully surrounded by natural or man made obstructions. Much like ngoro ngoro crater in Kenya. This huge dormant volcano is about 10 miles across and has mountian ridges so steep that the enormous heards of game cannot get out of the "bowl" they live in. They also have no reason to leave with the lush habitat.

In South Africa the oldest established park in all of Africa is Kruger Park. It is about the size of western Montana. It is completley fenced, as is the enormous Umfolozi, and Hluhlue parks. Is that game free roaming? The park is so big the animals would never leave if there was no fence. The fence is to make poaching much more difficult. It is still fenced much like the average hunting consession, and for the same reason.

This has always been an interesting topic of debate on hunting trips for many of us. I have heard a guy say fenced hunting needs to be XXX size to be real hunting. Yet many animals like Whitetail deer live their entire lives on only 500 to 1000 or so acres of land. Even Elk don't roam around enough to require a huge land mass. They have been planted on several of the islands in SE Alsaka. Is shooting one of them "unsporting" and "unethical". They are not indiginous and they are fenced by the ocean. What is the definition of a fenced game farm VS free range or free roaming game? Is it less sporting to shoot an animal with 10,000 to 100,000 acres of habitat to live on, then a bear or lion out of a tree? Does property size matter when you hunt with bait and keep the population of unfenced game in a small area until you can harvest it?

75% of the bears in the western mountians occupy only about 25% of the habitat. So what if they have countless thousands of acres to wander on! They only actually use a very tiny portion of that land. How about the bears in SE Alaska on the coast in the spring or the salmon sreams in the fall. That is a very tiny habitat to hunt on, does size matter? We know those bears will be in a berry filled meadow, or a salmon stream each September. Yet there may be a 1/4 million acres available. We only need to sit and wait in the meadow, or watch the stream the rest of the enormous habitat is worthless to the bear and he will not use it. Most wild free roaming game is in the same situation.

Ok What do you say?
 

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My feelings Jim......

I think it is just fine. Fences also mark property lines an/or boundaries. If someone is hiring out as a guide, regardless of the size of the hunt, and they have exclusive rights to use that land......it would be a real pain to get to your hunt area and find a trespasser there with a downed animal.
Now on the other hand....I had someone send me a brochure for an Elk hunt, bragging about the trophy Elk, and there were the pictures of these beautiful Elk standing at the fence 20 feet from the camera eating grain and hay from a feeder. I have to draw the line there. If they are fed animals, on a small farm, and behave as pets, I dont think it is fair. The exception of course...I do beleive in dropping feed during exceptionally hard winters whether it be for wild game OR livestock.
 

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I think it depends on the area & the game. If that animal's natural range is within the fenced area, it's fine. A sounder of boar in 3000 ac. is fine, but that would be unacceptible for caribou.

If your're hunting from a tree stand with a bow and you effective range is 20yrds. how much land do you need? Your little hunting world is only 40 yrds in diameter. :^)

Unfortunately there is less & less unfenced land in our hunting world.
 

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Can I

assume that by fenced land, that you mean high fenced? High fence being 8' tall or so where animals are unable to jump over it? I think it makes a bit of difference if we are talking 4' fence around most ranches to keep domestic livestock in, but allows deer to jump over it with ease, or an 8' or taller fence that keeps almost everything in. Then I guess size of the property would make a difference too. How big would it need to be under high fence to be fair chase hunting? Hard to say. Doesn't the B&C refuse to enter game animals into record if they were shot on a high fenced property? Your original question about whether fenced areas for game management or hunting a good idea? Define good. I am hearing some talk about CWD and some finger pointing at ranches with high fences. Not sure how that has an effect on the disease, but some ranches are loosing alot of their stock of game animals. Wonder if a study about the effect of high vs low fences when it comes to disease has been done.
markc :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Mark, Very good questions. The legal fence size used in Southern Africa to identify property and to control game movement is two meters. That is about 6.5 foot high. Because of uneven ground and other obstructions it's typically closer to 7 foot above ground but with steep ground on one side of the fence or the other it could be more or less.

Yes, as I stated B&C will not allow entry of game from a "high fence" operation regarldess of size. However as I also stated the public hunting land in Or. has a completely fenced area by the state with a limited entry open elk season within this area. Those elk would be killed on public land during open season within the law. They would be allowed into the book yet the area is fenced.

SE Alaska islands are all fenced by the ocean just as the islands in Puget sound. The animals are completely trapped on property much smaller than the property of some Texas hunting ranches which are high fenced. Consider also that a cougar or bear in a tree is captured and contained by the dogs. Yet it's allowed to be shot and entered into the books. I'm sorry but I don't see the equal ethical standard between hunting a free roaming deer on ten thousand acres in Texas being less ethical then shooting a captured animal from a tree.

Getting back to Africa. The fencing used to contain plains game is for all practical purposes a non-issue when the property is big enough. Animals will no more fight the fence to escape then they will crash into a fallen tree to get through it when they can go around it. We found many years ago that if the property is big enough a simple wire fence will contain White Rhino and Cape buffalo or even giraffe without any trouble at all. They do not fight the fence or even consider it because there are just as many good places to eat sleep and breed within their own location. These animals have also been born within the fence and see it as a natural barrier. Our property for example has been fenced this way on three sides for almost 80 years now. Two sides were fenced to keep herds of game from running across the main gravel road into possible auto and truck conflicts. The third side was fenced due to an excessive poaching threat the remainig side is open to another landowners property which is equally as large. We don't hunt that land but the game is free to move about. His property is fenced on the opposite side some 6 miles away. So even though the game is contained completely within a fenced boundry, it's a shared resource which can move about within the land as it chooses.

Kudu bulls seen in one location of the property have set up a home range like a whitetail buck will. They will be seen in the same area and will try to keep other bulls away for their whole lives. They don't wander the entire 37500 acres we hunt. Even the Nature Conservation has set limits on size of property for Elephant. They say with 50,000 acres elephants will not destroy a fence and will live content within a property that size. When the habitat can support them. Obviousley the natural feed and the amount of elephants must be balanced.

As far as the 2 meter fence. Well I have seen countless Eland and Kudu jump that fence from a stand still. Not a running start! Other game like impala, gemsbok, and red hartebeest will go under it on a regular basis during the rut. It's a visual deterant but not a really good guarantee that nothing will go over or under it. It does identify the ownership of what is inside and it's a strong deterent to the bigger less agile animals like buffalo, rhino, giraffe, and elephant. It's also a very big deterent to poaching. It's a difficult fence to climb and the wire is spring steel so its not something you are going to cut real easy.

You cannot compare the ability of game in Africa to go over a fence with the similiar sized animal in the USA. A Kudu is slightly smaller then an Elk but will jump so much further it would be like comparing a cat jumping to a dog jumping. Same with Eland. An Eland is is big and heavy as a Bull Bison but will run as fast as a whitetail deer and jump higher and further then a deer. The speed and agility of antelopes is by a margin much greater then the deer family of game. Just watching them jump over things you see quickly the different styles. Deer and elk jump and trail their extended legs behind. One reason they get hung up in fences so often. Antelopes have their back legs retract and tuck the hooves into the area behind the front legs when they jump so the lowest part of the body is the tail when they go over things.

I have a pasture here in Wa. state with a 5 foot high electric stock fence. The elk come though quite often and will knock the top rail of the fence loose when they jump it. They have difficulty cleaing a 5 foot fence. Although the F&G says they will try to jump anything they can get their chin over. Kudu and eland will jump things that are well over their heads not just what they can get their chin over!

Thanks for the input!
 

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Good point JJ

I liked the point you made about the deer in Texas and a treed animal as well as the Elk killed in Or in the fenced public hunting area. Just doesn't make sense and the standards are different all over the country it seems, or should I say double standard, maybe no standard that makes sense. Something I am seeing more of in Texas that does bug me is high fenced 100 or 200 acre pieces of property. Somehow that doesn't seem like fair chase on a parcel of land that small, yet 10,000 acres to me is a different story all together. What is the answer? Is there some way, method that all of this could be addressed and hunters and sportsmen have some input? I am not oppossed to fencing, except for those really little places, then I would be oppossed to record book entry. I really don't have an answer as to when a property becomes large enough to be ok. Could depend on the number of animals in there too I guess. Good thought provoking question, thanks :)
markc
 
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