Friday, February 12, 2021

Proxy Hunting

 

If you told Americans circa 1900 that 120 years later North America would be overrun with both whitetail

 deer and human beings, they would have thought you daft. And yet that is precisely what has occurred. 

Even as the human population of the United States, Canada, and Mexico has grown, whitetail 

populations exploded from distressingly low levels. They are probably higher now than when Europeans 

began to colonize the continent five centuries ago.


Of course deer, like people, are not evenly spread across the landscape. While humans can use

 technology and markets to cluster into dense spaces, literally living on top of each other completely 

divorced from the biological carrying capacity of the local environment, deer populations remain bound

 by the iron chains most infamously described by Thomas Malthus. In many places today, too many 

deer roam too few suitable acres of habitat.

 

When a species becomes too numerous for a local environment, natural processes typically intercede. 

Most often, predator populations increase along with their prey. Busts follow booms, sometimes quite 

dramatic ones in small-bodied species like rabbits and grouse.

 


But what happens to the members of a species when predators do not keep their numbers in check? 

They suffer in sundry ways, including dying of starvation if their weakened bodies do not succumb to 

disease first. And some get pushed into new areas where they can wreak ecological havoc.

 


In the case of whitetail deer, many invade urban parks or suburban backyards where they have 

unfortunate encounters with dogs, flower beds, and motorized vehicles. Some become habituated to 

humans and supplement their diets with bird seed or, in the case of those in Mendon Ponds Park 

outside Rochester, New York, with the french fries that well-meaning suburbanites supply them in 

distressingly large quantities.

 


Where have all the natural predators gone? The main one, wolves, were driven from the proximity of 

human habitation through a combination of hunting, trapping, and poisoning campaigns, along with 

intense competition from human hunters, of which more below. While reintroduction of wolves has 

been tolerated in parts of the North American West by paying ranchers for livestock depredation, they

 remain feared by most in the East, and rightly so. Their smaller canine cousins, coyotes, have been 

moving in but they prey less efficiently on adult whitetails than wolves do.

 


The most efficient predator of all, human hunters, greatly depleted whitetail numbers in the late 

nineteenth century. Although the percentage of the workforce engaged in extractive industries like 

farming, mining, and ranching was already trending downward, most North Americans, even those 

living in the continent’s burgeoning cities, like Chicago, New York, and Toronto, retained ties to the land.

 Most still owned firearms and many enjoyed hunting and fishing excursions. Those still living on farms 

and in small towns still hunted and fished as a matter of course, and surprising numbers trapped 

common furbearers like coon and skunk.


That generation proved particularly deadly for whitetail, turkey, and other game species for several 

reasons. The total number of hunters peaked at a time when few hunting rules were on the books and 

even fewer were effectively enforced. Transportation, via trains and wagon roads, was cheaper and 

more convenient than ever and firearms had become more effective. Unfenced private property was 

treated, whether lawfully or not, as a common pool that could be hunted by anyone without landowner 

consent. Deer and other game could be, and were, harvested at night, with dogs, on skis or horseback, 

in the dead of winter in their “yards” (restricted winter ranges), in early spring by “crusting” (corralling 

them into snow drifts that trapped them for easy slaughter), and dozens of other techniques today 

considered unethical or unsporting if not downright illegal.


But the game then was one of meat, for personal consumption or for sale in the nation’s ubiquitous 

markets for game animals. Men bragged of killing thousands of deer and hundreds of apex predators 

over their lives. By then, not even American Indians limited themselves to the bow and fair chase rules 

applied only to gentlemen hunting for diversion rather than to fill their  purses or cooking pots.


Thankfully, this toxic stew ended with the adoption of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model 

(NAWCM), which, among other things, reduced the tragedy of the commons problem by assigning 

property rights in wildlife to governments, which then had incentives to develop and enforce 

biologically-sound hunting regulations. Most importantly, the state and federal governments worked 

together to end markets for wild game meat, which induced growing numbers of sport hunters to follow 

the new rules because they no longer had to compete against commercial hunters for increasingly 

scarce game.


The NAWCM effectively reduced human predation, giving hard hit species like deer and turkeys time to 

restore their numbers and even extend their habitat into areas more densely populated by people. 

Before the NAWCM, people could, and often would, shoot deer on sight, even off the back porch. While 

some poaching occurred under the NAWCM, most people followed the rules and harvested game 

animals only in season, in permitted areas, and up to limits specified by wildlife managers in 

consultation with wildlife biologists.

 


Throughout the twentieth century, urban men like my grandfather and father filled their one buck tag, or 

didn’t, and were happy just to get out of the city for a weekend or two each year. Their lives hardly 

depended on their hunting prowess. By the time one factored in the price of the tag, the hunting 

equipment, and the gasoline, even successful day-trippers spent far more per pound for venison than 

they did for beef. Rebounding game numbers led to more frequent success and eventually to more 

tags but killing deer was no longer a paying proposition. Over the decades, the old school sport hunters 

aged out or died and not all of their children took up the hunt, much less recruited new hunters from the 

ever-growing ranks of non-hunting families.


By the twenty-first century, the number of hunters was trending downward in many states and efforts to 

retain them, and recruit new hunters, have had mixed results. Such efforts are important and demand 

the continued attention of enviropreneurs and state wildlife officials. But the fact remains that human 

predation has fallen too low in many areas, leading to increased suffering for deer, drivers, and 

gardeners.


Lots of well-meaning efforts to cull deer herds in ways other than hunting have been tried but proven 

either ineffective or, like sterilization or winter feeding, extremely costly. In many areas, paying snipers 

to harvest deer, the meat of which is then donated to food banks, is the dominant management policy.

 


Some brave enviropreneurs have suggested reopening markets for wild game meat once again would 

quickly solve overpopulation problems. Calls for commercialization have much merit once it is 

understood that the policy proposal does not involve returning to the bad old days where everyone and 

anyone could kill as many critters when, where, and how they saw fit. Culls would still be highly 

regulated, but instead of snipers receiving payment in cash and the venison being forced on 

impoverished individuals who may or may not relish it, the snipers would be compensated by allowing 

them to sell the meat (and hides and antlers) to the highest bidder, i.e., people who truly value it.

 


Commercialization of wildlife resources does not necessarily, or even often, lead to extinction unless a 

common pool problem exists. Oceanic fish that dwell in national waters can be, and increasingly are, 

sustainably harvested through “catch share” and similar programs. Apex predators like alligators are 

commercially hunted in Louisiana without endangering them. And in Europe, markets for the meat of 

wild ungulates have not led to their desolation because harvests are carefully managed.

 


In North America, however, reverence for the NAWCM has rendered such markets “repugnant,” or akin 

to the sale of human organs like kidneys. As Nobel laureate Al Roth has explained, it would be best if 

people got over their repugnance and simply allowed organs to be sold like most goods are. Until that 

happens, though, policymakers must commit themselves to second best options, ones that Roth 

ingeniously engineered.


Critics of the commercialization of wild game meat in North America fear that large corporate interests 

might be able to co-opt government wildlife managers, as the whaling and fishing industries were able 

to do in the twentieth century, and increase harvest quotas above sustainable levels. That is certainly a 

possibility but one that decreases with the size of commercial hunting firms. So a second best option, 

shy of a full-blown market in wild game meat, would be to allow a market limited by statute and its very 

nature to numerous small, competitive firms.


That is the heart of what I call proxy hunting, or hunting by proxy. The notion is to allow avid hunters to 

fill the tags of individuals too busy, squeamish, or physically immobile to fill the tags on their own. Wild 

game meat would not appear in supermarkets sold by some agribusiness by the pound. Instead, 

professional proxy hunters would provide the meat of entire animals (probably but not necessarily fully 

processed) to individuals who contracted for it and lawfully pulled a tag. Buyers would then be able to 

consume, gift, or non-commercially sell the meat as they see fit.

 


Proxy hunting entails not so much the restricted commercialization of wild game meat as it does the 

extension of guiding services. Right now, individuals can pay big money to be carted to a blind or 

elevated stand for the opportunity to shoot a big game animal, often one of “trophy” caliber. The guides 

often then field dress the animal, butcher it, and, if desired, prepare it for taxidermy. The hunter may do 

nothing more than pull the trigger. The system works well for those who want to hunt impressive 

animals on private land with minimal hassle. 

 


But what about public lands and individuals who relish organic, grass-fed wild game meat? That used 

to be the bulk of hunters, but, as noted, many have voted with their feet and left the sport. Hunting on 

public land is cheaper than a guided hunt but it remains expensive and challenging because few have 

the time or inclination to scout effectively and those who do often find the best laid plans destroyed by 

feckless fellow hunters. It can be dangerous too! I have had bullets and slugs whiz within a few feet of 

my head on at least three occasions.


In addition to providing people with the wild game meat they crave, additional income for sole 

proprietors and small businesses like guide services, more dollars for conservation, and better wildlife 

management, proxy hunting will also likely increase political support for hunting by increasing the 

number of people who benefit from it, either as suppliers or consumers of wild game meat. Hunters 

and hunting have not come under as much political pressure as trappers but recent events have 

proven that nothing in the political realm can be taken for granted anymore.

 


Like any policy proposal, proxy hunting should be implemented carefully, on a small scale at first to 

work out any kinks, and then slowly, starting with the most overpopulated species and districts first. It 

likely will never be appropriate in some contexts, like elk in South Dakota’s Black Hills, where hunters 

queue for an average of seven years to draw a tag. In Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, by contrast, it should 

have been tried decades ago, when I lived nearby and used to salivate at the sight of hundreds of deer 

that I then had neither the time nor the inclination to hunt.

 

 

SOURCE:

Wright, Robert Eric, History and Evolution of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model (August 13, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3673178 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3673178

 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Why You Should Support the 2A Even If You Don't Like Guns

 The Freedom To Own Firearms Benefits Everyone 

By Robert E. Wright 


Joe Biden has again threatened to “defeat” the NRA and pass blatantly unconstitutional gun regulations. Even if you don’t hunt and are willing, despite the events of the summer of 2020, to entrust the lives of your loved ones to law enforcement, you should still oppose gun control. 


Why? The same (il)logic used to justify gun laws was used to justify the lockdowns that locked up your family and wrecked your business or job, or at the very least destroyed your favorite small business haunts. Americans need to oppose specific bad policies but also the patterns of thought that make them possible. Specifically, Americans need to make clear to policymakers that the misdeeds of a few do not justify the punishment of all. 


The illogical train of thought runs like this: only X does bad thing Y, so all X needs is to be punished to prevent Y. So we hear arguments like: only gun owners commit gun crimes, so punish all gun owners and there will be no more shootings. Only commoners spread Covid, so punish all commoners (while elites play all night and day) and Covid will go away. Only sinners sin, so punish all sinners and sin will disappear. The same twisted logic could be employed on anyone, for anything, at any time.


That sort of “logic” used to earn first year college students a solid F but because universities have used dirty pool tactics to denude themselves of their best professors, such “reasoning” is now passed, and even applauded. Every day, Community looks less like a comedy about fictional Greendale Community College and more like a documentary about U.S. higher education. 


Thankfully, the mob that attacked the Capitol was almost completely unarmed. Only a handful of firearms were recovered and I haven’t found any reports of the rioters brandishing guns much less firing any. Apparently, there were more Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs about than firearms, likely because DC’s strict and unconstitutional gun laws made explosives more attractive alternatives. Thankfully, nobody yet wants to more fully regulate distilled liquors, rags, match heads or plumbers, or to ban Class C Motorhomes, the “assault rifle” of bombers. (Nashville on Christmas. Remember?) 


“Other” states, like Massachusetts and New Jersey, also greatly restrict gun ownership and carry. What is gained from locking down law-abiding gun owners? About as much as is gained from “quarantining” people who aren’t sick! Evidence comes from the same quarter, too.


For decades, South Dakota was a permissive “shall issue” state when it came to pistol permits. A few years ago, after people like me kept asking why any permit at all was necessary, the state adopted “Constitutional carry,” which allows anyone to carry pistols and/or long guns concealed and/or openly in public spaces without a permit. 


Constitutional carry has not turned South Dakota into the Hollywood version of the Wild West. In fact, firearm murders in the state are relatively rare. The state ranks 5th best in the country according to this study, with much lower gun homicide rates per capita than either Massachusetts or New Jersey. That’s remarkable considering that South Dakota is home to six of the 50 poorest counties (the big Indian Reservations) in the country, and according to RAND ranked ninth in the country in per capita gun ownership between 1980 and 2016.


Note the parallel to Covid lockdowns. In both cases, the eastern states push authoritarian, unconstitutional policies that do not even do what they purport to do. And why should they as they are based on the base illogical moralism laid bare above? Some citizens fulminate, and a few sue, but mostly they just obey or, seeing the writing on the wall, turn on their neighbors and become unpaid tools of their oppressive states.


South Dakota, by contrast, while far from perfect, sticks much more closely to the Constitutional baseline that ensured America’s prosperity and its once well-deserved reputation as a beacon of freedom. Adherence to the hoary lodestone of the Republic has rendered the state’s economy and society resilient in the face of shocks; its well-armed citizenry deploy reluctantly but steadfastly when threatened with violence, as they did over the Memorial Day weekend when Antifa-types tried to foment a riot in Sioux Falls. 


A friend successfully protected his fast food restaurant after a local LEO encouraged him to use his Tokarev, a Soviet-made military pistol that shoots rifle-like rounds that can pierce body armor, if necessary. Thankfully, the wannabe looters did not test my friend’s resolve or marksmanship.


While South Dakotans work with LEOs to protect themselves during crises, the mostly disarmed citizens of Massachusetts and New Jersey (they rank dead last and second last, respectively, in the RAND gun ownership study cited above) must die, capitulate, or hope local LEOs are on their side when the stinky stuff hits the fan.


So even if you don’t own a gun, you should support your neighbor’s right to own them, even military-type ones. (When the Second Amendment was ratified, people, businesses, and nonprofit corporations owned military weapons, including cannon.) People tend to behave much more civilly toward each other when they are de facto equals, and nothing equalizes an uneven playing field like grapeshot, a sniper, or a derringer. That is why the nation’s first serious gun laws were put in place after the Civil War by Democratic white supremacists to keep Republican freed slaves from being able to defend themselves from hooded cross burners. You know the ones.


Today, Americans generally deprecate violence (most have a lot to lose) but sometimes, in the course of human events, self-defense becomes necessary, even admirable. As I recently pointed out, however, what one party contends is self-defense another may consider an unwarranted breach of the peace. Look, for example, at the way that Trump supporters responded to the George Floyd protests compared to the overrunning of the Capitol. 


Intense or widespread violent protest proves one thing: current leadership is incompetent and should resign. I don’t mean just Trump, I mean any and all politicians implicated in failed lockdowns, police brutality, extended rioting and CHOP zones, or election irregularities (which definitely did occur though the extent is still disputed). After all, only politicians cause bad policies, so all politicians should be punished. (See what I did there?) Seriously, if failed politicians don’t exile themselves, others may do it for them, via recall in Gavin Newsom’s case, but perhaps more gruesomely in others, even if all guns magically disappeared tomorrow. Nay, especially if all guns magically disappeared tomorrow.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Winter Catharsis: Try Hanging Politicians In Effigy

NOTA BENE: Not long after this posted, Cuomo started backpedaling on lockdowns! I take no credit, though, as I think Trump's concession and the hatred that Bills fans showed him were enough to wake him up. News that vaccines were being trashed in New York didn't help either. Anywho ...

Maybe you once believed in lockdowns but have kept an open mind, looked at the available data and commentary, and concluded that even if lockdowns extend the lives of some of the vulnerable elderly they are killing too many young people and maiming too many small businesses to be allowed to continue. 


Or maybe you would not support lockdowns even during a Bubonic Plague or are sick of wearing a mask of dubious sterility every time you need to interact with another human being. Or maybe you figure that with asymptomatic spread less likely than a false positive Covid test (PCR or rapid), excess mortality not being terribly high and not easily parsed into Covid and lockdown deaths, and a large number of vaccination vials available but unused, the pandemic, if it ever was an event worthy of the name, is over. 


Whatever the reason, you are probably wondering what you can do to restore some semblance of 2019 in 2021.


I have urged people to sue, sue, sue but apparently few have taken that tack, perhaps because Americans believe that most judges are in cahoots with the political parties that sponsor them. I agree that the election of judges is not a good idea but suing the government would be difficult even with nonpartisan judges on the bench. 


The weight of the evidence is so far against masking and social distancing, however, that I think Private Deep Pockets could be brought to heel right quick by even the lowliest ambulance-chasing pettifogger. It’s discrimination to force the scientifically and statistically savvy to wear a formerly illegal piece of clothing into a store and the damages are the differences in price between the retailer’s everyday low prices and the next best alternative … for every item purchased since March in many locales. 


If the biggest risk for getting Covid-19 is being in a confined space for a long period of time, why did stores reduce hours and limit entry and exit points? Why do airlines schedule more flights than they can handle, virtually ensuring tarmac delays? The list goes on and on.


Go class action and some serious money, for the lawyers anyway, could be made while reminding corporations that if they concentrate solely on that which is seen (Covid-19 and Karens), that which is unseen (the costs of imposing malarkey social distancing policies on smart people when not forced to by local governments) might still nip them in the bottom, the bottom line that is.


You might also try rioting in the name of social justice, specifically on behalf of all those poor people (literally) killed by lockdowns, suffocated, as it were, by ineffective state policies. Rioting was really popular last summer and can still be comfortably done in the same general way in Hawaii and the southern states. Instead of Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police, though, riot in the name of All Deaths Matter (Whether Caused by Covid or Lockdowns) and Defund Fauci.


In colder climes, I suggest reviving the custom of hanging and burning politicians in effigy. To be clear, this entails no physical violence, just dressing up a dummy to look like another dummy, say one of those many politicians who have broken their own social distancing rules, hanging the dressed up dummy from a tree, and lighting its ass, or other convenient body part, on fire. A really big dummy made of slow burning materials, like old tires, can keep hundreds of protestors warm for hours even in northern Minnesota. Just keep the flames away from the ice fishing sheds, you betcha.


Burning effigies constituted high sport in early America, right up there with bear baiting. After bringing back his unpopular eponymous trade treaty from Britain, for instance, poor rich John Jay claimed that he was burned in effigy in so many places that he could have crossed the country at night by the light of the fires.


I don’t recommend some other early American protest tactics like tarring and feathering or pulling down houses. Even when done over the clothes instead of the naked body, tarring and feathering entails physical violence that could easily get out of hand and leave permanent scars. And most of the cost of a destroyed house will fall on the public, if a government building, or an insurer, if a private one. Plus, presumably, houses are better constructed now than in the eighteenth century and somebody might “accidentally” confuse pulling down with burning down, especially on a cold winter’s night.


A more modern way of protesting at low cost would be to join a flash mob. One protesting mask restrictions at a Target in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in September looks fun. I just turned fifty two so I have no idea how one goes about creating or joining such an event but it seems innocuous enough. Just remember to buy the costume for the dummy you intend to burn (safely of course) that night when there. 


This is all a bit cheeky, of course, but only because nonviolent alternatives are so few. Few people with much skin in the game dare to get arrested because that leads to fines, anal rape, and/or the inability to get a job, license, mortgage, etc. in the future. You might even get put on a list as a subversive whose taxes obviously stand in need of serious auditing. 


Some worry about the formation of re-education work camps but such camps are soooo, like, twentieth century, not really efficient at all in a modern knowledge economy. Best to allow the subversive, liberty-loving types to keep their jobs but to overpay their taxes out of a rational fear of invoking the horrible wrath of the IRS. Enslave people physically and you might attract unwanted attention, unless you enslave Chinese Muslims of course. Enslave people virtually and it’s all good, no matter what.


And why should the government invest in re-education camps when seemingly millions of Twitter trolls stand ready to do the work, just for the fun of it?


The root problem is that, except for one day every two, four, or six years (and even then with caveats), we apparently have no recourse against our leaders, even if they behave very badly. They are personally responsible for nothing and no court or police force will stop them from breaking the Constitution they swore an oath to uphold, so they do as they wish, when they wish, to whom they wish. Try to explain to others that the politicians’ policies are irrational and their social media minions now censor your message. 


But I would like to see Silicon Valley or New York State Troopers try to stop tens of thousands of New Yorkers from expressing their First Amendment rights by burning thousands of effigies of Governor Cuomo some night soon. Just don’t threaten to burn or hang the actual Cuomo, or anyone else, and don’t break any local ordinances and you should be able to enjoy a nice catharsis. And for goodness sake don't storm any capitol buildings! May I suggest Friday the 15th as the moon will then be a thin waxing crescent


And not to pressure any nationalists out there but did you hear what happened in France over New Year’s? A whole town held a rave while holding off cops for over a day. One world for that: EPIC! Did I mention they were French?


In any event, Google may turn its satellites away from the effigy spectacle but news of it will spread. Sure, some old clothes and ropes will be destroyed but it will be nothing compared to the lives destroyed by heedless, needless Covid lockdowns. And fear not being accused of snow-flakism, as effigy burning is not mere virtue signaling, it is anger signaling. Don’t buy a copy of Cuomo’s ridiculous book specifically for the event, but if one happens to be on hand, it would really round out his effigy’s policy clown costume. 


Finally, be sure to flash mob Facebook with your pics at midnight so we can all revel vicariously until The Fact Checkers pull them down on the pretext that New York Times staffers locked down in Manhattan claim nothing much really happened and that Cuomo is the best Duce ever.