Facebook Twitter

Idaho may join ban on online hunts

SHARE Idaho may join ban on online hunts

BOISE — Ready, aim, click.

It's called remote-control hunting. A gun is hooked up to a webcam, placed in a field, and with a little fancy mousework, you can hunt deer in Texas from your office in Chicago.

But if some state lawmakers have their way, the Internet hunts will never reach Idaho.

Idaho is the latest state to add a bill to a rash of legislation being passed around the country to ban the remote-control hunts. Twenty-three states have already banned them, according to the Humane Society.

"That's not hunting. What hunting is about is going out, and being out in the mountains and getting calluses on your hands whether you get something or not. That's just killing, is what it is," said Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, who is co-sponsoring the bill. It was approved for a second hearing by the Senate Resources and Environment Committee on Friday.

The flurry of laws is in response to a venture set up in 2005 by a Texas entrepreneur who hooked up a gun on his 220-acre ranch to a Web site, where subscribers could pay to click — actually, shoot — antelope, wild pigs and other game. The operator would then send his customers the heads of the animals.

During a demonstration, a friend of the operator used a computer in his home office 45 miles away to shoot a wild hog but only wounded the animal in the neck. The operator, who was on site, had to finish the kill with two more shots.

The venture was quickly shut down, but not before 350 people signed up to fire from afar.

Texas was the first state to ban the operations.

It was followed by Alabama, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

"'There's nothing sporting about sitting at your computer in your pajamas and using your mouse to shoot at hogs or antelope or any other animal that's halfway across the country," said then-California state Sen. Debra Bowen, who introduced legislation to ban the bill in her state in 2005. Bowen is now California's secretary of state.

Other states have legislation to ban the operations in the works, according to Sen. David Langhorst, D-Boise, who also co-sponsored the bill.

"This doesn't compute," Langhorst said. "With anybody."

Internet hunting raises safety issues, Langhorst said: The would-be hunter has no idea where the gun he's firing is located. It also brings up liability questions: If there were an accident, who would be responsible — the person running the operation, or the shooter sitting miles away?

"It's unethical, and it's just something that we don't want here in Idaho," Schroeder said.

The bill would make it illegal in Idaho to hunt using a weapon accessed through the Internet, and would also ban "accessing, regulating access to, or regulating the control of" a remotely accessed weapon. Both would be punishable as misdemeanors.

It's based on template legislation being passed around by the National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses. Hunting groups in particular oppose the practice, saying the video-game-like experience lacks the challenge of a real hunt, is unethical and gives their sport a bad name.

"I just totally find it strange," said Idaho hunter Vance Henry. "On the Internet, there's always somebody trying to figure out a way to make a buck. I'm not sure who'd really go for doing that."

The Internet-hunting ban hasn't encountered any opposition so far, Langhorst said. But, he said, Internet hunting is a product of the same culture that supports "shooter-bull" elk-hunt ranches, where people go and pay for the opportunity to bag an elk inside an enclosed area. Langhorst's proposed bans on those operations in Idaho have drawn the ire of elk ranchers around the state.

"It's that slippery slope," he said. "When you start to accept canned hunts, if you agree to that, this is just a few steps away."