Critics Take Aim at Plan for "Nonfatal" Deer Hunt

Maryann Mott
for National Geographic News
August 16, 2006

The World Hunting Association (WHA) recently announced that it is moving forward with plans for "nonfatal" hunting tournaments where white-tailed deer will be shot for cash prizes with tranquilizer darts and arrows instead of bullets.

David Farbman, the real estate executive who founded the professional sports league in June, believes the competitions will enhance the image of hunters and attract more youth to the sport.

"People don't think of hunters as being skillful, tactful, respectful people," Farbman said.

"They look at hunters as guys who run up north and have a party and shoot the first thing that comes along. But in reality it's not what hunting is at all."

But the tournaments, scheduled to be held this October in Michigan, are facing fierce opposition from animal welfare groups, who say that WHA's methods might cause the deer undue suffering (related: white-tailed deer profile).

Other professional hunting associations have also publicly condemned the idea on the grounds that this manner of competitive hunting for money lessens the seriousness of the sport.

"Hunting requires, by its very nature, the taking of the life of the animal, and as such it is definitely not a game. It is not baseball or tennis or poker," Rich Walton, an editor for the online archery magazine, wrote on an Internet forum.

Possibly because of the unique nature of this tournament, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which oversees hunting regulations, has asked the state's attorney general to determine if the competitions are legal.

This week state officials are meeting with WHA representatives to gather information before reaching a verdict, says attorney general spokesperson Rusty Hills.

Thrill of the Hunt

WHA first announced its plan in June to hold two 16-day tournaments at Lost Arrow Ranch, a fully fenced 1,000-acre (405-hectare) wooded property in Gladwin, Michigan.

Eight hunters armed with tranquilizer guns and special bows and arrows that deliver tranquilizer will compete for points and $250,000 (U.S.) in prize money.

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