The Menace of the Antelope Hunter
By T. L. Shepherd, West Plains, Sask.
As stockmen, can’t we do something to protect ourselves about this very real “Menace of the Antelope Hunter?” Or, are we supposed to just sit and twiddle our thumbs, while the visiting so-called Sportsmen in high-powered cars with higher-powered rifles leave our gates open, even cut our fences and shoot the odd range cow for us? I think that this is a very serious matter that should be given very careful consideration before another hunting season rolls around.
Now let’s be fair about this thing. I’m quite willing to admit that perhaps 90 per cent of the antelope hunters are very reasonable men. Some of them come back and board with the same farmers year after year, having a nice little vacation, get their fresh meat and pay their way as they go along. I don’t think that too much difficulty should be put in their way. They have certain rights, and I feel sure that most stockmen are willing to respect them.
What I want to see is some check on this other 10 per cent who do a lot of damage, cause extra work in the busy fall season, and a whole lot of hard feelings besides. I think that if each of us would write either Canadian Cattlemen or the provincial came commissioner, and list out the damage we know of personally, we could get some action in this matter.
We live 18 miles northeast of Govenlock, in the extreme southwest corner of Saskatchewan. And although we don’t get many hunters through our own place here is what one party did. They left just one gate open between us and a good neighbour, and within two hours three of his horses were down at our place and 35 head of our cattle were visiting him. In this case not a great deal of damage was done, as this gate separated two small pastures. But many gates separate much larger fields with more stock in them. Many fences are built to keep stock out of hay flats and grain fields. Even in this case our neighbour had to walk four miles after his horses, and it took two riders several hours to get our cattle back from the field. We both saw the car, but were not close enough to get the licence number. They had to stop to open the gate, and it would only have taken them about a minute extra to stop to close it, but NO, they had a hunting licence, and I suppose they figured that that allowed them the right to drive when, where and how they pleased.
One of the ranchers a few miles west of us had a range cow shot this fall. As it happened, it was a large ranch with a fair number of cattle, so the loss was not felt too keenly. But instead of a range cow it might have been a special milk cow supplying milk to a family of young children. In fact, a white Holstein cow takes her “life in her hands” every time she strays more than a few rods from the buildings during the hunting season, especially in the early-morning dusk. For many antelope hunters get out early in the morning, some before their eyes are too well open.
We always have to ride more in the hunting season in an effort to find the gates left open or the cut fences before the cattle get out. For once a bunch of cattle get really well mixed with a neighbouring herd, it takes a good long time and a lot of hard riding to sort them out again.
Here is the way I see it. Most of us own or lease land at what a good many of us feel is quite an expense. The only reason that we put up a fence with considerable labour and expense is that we want to keep cattle or horses either in or out of said land. Now if this fence is cut, or a gate left open, that reduces the value of that fence to almost zero. It also reduces the value of the land. On the other hand, we have hunters who are out to kill animals that, although they don’t carry our brand, they have lived off our grass and alfalfa most of the summer. Now I’m willing to admit that the antelope belong to all of us, including the hunter. And I’m further willing to admit that when we give them grass and sufficient protection throughout the breeding season, that the hunters should have the chance, after paying for a hunting licence, to shoot one of them. But I’m not willing to admit that a $5 hunting licence grants any man permission to tear over our land at 50 miles an hour, throw our gates down or cut our fences. And further, I think that said hunter should exercise considerable care to see that range cattle are not within his sights at the time he pulls the trigger on that high-powered rifle of his.
Here is my suggestion. That every hunting licence should carry the following in large black-faced type: Fences are built to hold cattle and horses, so don’t cut them or leave gates open. Failure to follow these instructions causes much extra work for the landowner and creates a great deal of hard feelings toward all hunters. This may lead to a closed season. I think that anyone caught in the above acts should have his licence withdrawn and further a licence should be refused to him for the following three years.
I would like to add from personal experience, that it is of little or no value to put up “No Hunting” signs. Although the considerate hunters might abide by them, the thoughtless and “smart-alec” type ignore them completely. In some cases they’ll even tear them down or shoot holes in them.
Again, I would like to say when the Games Branch sells a man a hunting licence, that man should be granted the right to hunt. But it should also be made very plain that a hunting licence doesn’t give any man the right to hunt on privately owned or leased land, cut fences or leave gates open. I think that it is up to every stockman to give this matter very careful consideration, and each one of us to put forward any suggestion that might be of some value. Now I don’t make any claim to have the solution, but maybe someone else has. If so, let’s hear from you, either through Canadian Cattlemen or at some Stock Growers meeting. We hear and read a lot about the coyote menace, and they may be troublesome in some areas, but for us, the “Menace of the Antelope Hunter” is far more important.