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December 15, 2003

The Great Dick Cheney Pheasant Shoot

Dick Cheney went on a hunting trip at the Rolling Rock Club and Game Preserve in Pennsylvania last week, shooting and killing over over 70 pheasants, a respectable chunk of the 417 pheasants overall that met their fate at the hands of his group.

"Hunting," my ass. That's a shooting trip, not a hunt.

Not, mind you, that there's anything wrong with a shooting trip, if the birds are intended for the table. That at least appears to have been the plan. No point in cleaning them otherwise, though I would like to see an interview with one of the down-on-their-luck recipients of a Cheney-shot pheasant, if only to read how they cooked it. I'll grant you that the whole thing smacks of nouveau aristocratic pretention. Good ole boys go hunting. Aristocrats have shooting parties.

The whole thing reminds me of the shooting scenes in Gosford Park. The swells stood around drinking while a member of the lower classes drove the birds toward them, then fired when a target presented itself. I'll leave the inevitable comparisons of Cheney with the film's fat and truculent murder victim as an execise for the more liberal reader.

But in all honesty, the birds shot that day were raised to die. What difference does it make how they died? Is what Cheney did to the pheasants more or less humane than what KFC does to chickens? Buckshot or sanitized blade, dead is dead.

If anything, Cheney's way is more humane. The pheasants at least had a chance, piss-poor as it was, and 16% of them got away. When's the last time a chicken escaped the factory floor?

If anything, one could argue that in using farm-raised birds, Dick Cheney was doing his bit for the environment by killing them rather than a more environmentally valuable group of wild birds. You would be wrong, but it could be done with a bird-ignorant audience.

In fact, the problem with what Dick Cheney and posse did has nothing to do with the 417 killed, but the 83 that got away. The ring-necked pheasants his party shot at, pretty as they may be, are an introduced species, not native to America, that compete with and even parasitize native ground dwelling bird species.

74 of 676 prairie-chicken nests had been parasitized by Ring-necked Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). Although nest success did not differ between parasitized and unparasitized nests, the productivity of prairie-chickens was reduced because of increased embryo mortality, increased nest abandonment, or because hens shortened the incubation period from the average 25 days for prairie-chickens to 23 days for pheasants, which resulted five times in near full-term prairie-chicken eggs being left in nests after pheasant eggs had hatched. Nest parasitism increased from 2 to 43% over a 14-yr period and remained high for an additional 4 yr.

Those 83 escapees are going to breed, and they and their offspring are going to compete with native American species for an increasingly short supply of food. As long as hunts like the above are allowed, some birds will escape, to the detriment of the American birds around them.

If you're a hunter, instead of an aristocratic shooter, you might consider that next time someone wonders why the quail or grouse hunting has been so bad lately.

story via Fred and TBOGG, who suspects Cheney "Thought they were peasants". Heh.

Posted by Bigwig at December 15, 2003 08:33 PM | TrackBack
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I wrote about this hunting vs. shooting thing about a week ago after reading a nasty editorial in the NYT. They had a big problem with this "canned hunting" thing. Surprised?

Posted by: Joe at December 15, 2003 09:51 PM

Well put, BW. I enjoy bird hunting myself, but have little taste for canned hunts like the one that Mr. Cheney participated in.

I gotta admit, I was a bit taken aback at the sheer scale of the hunt, canned or otherwise. I usually start to doubt my motives after killing three or four birds. At that point you've proven to everyone that you know how shoot, you've got enough food to last for weeks, and the dogs have had enough as well.

Maybe old man Cheney was just over-compensating, a victim of his own insecurity and self-doubt. After all, the VP seems to be a classic over-achieving, type-A sort of guy. I'm guessing that between the heart attacks, the pacemakers, the defib units, the surgeries and the meds his er, performance may well be less than exemplary, if you get my drift.

Hey, reckon we ought to pitch in and buy him a bottle of Viagra for Christmas?

Posted by: ronbailey at December 16, 2003 01:22 PM

Or maybe he just likes to shoot, and your doubts are symptoms of some other sort of horrible and insulting psychological problem on your part, eh?

Well, it's just as likely and as well-evidenced, right?

Posted by: Sigivald at December 16, 2003 04:04 PM

Then I'd suggest sporting clays. He gets to shoot all he wants, and the media doesn't get to portray the rest of us outdoor types as trigger-happy neanderthals.

Posted by: ronbailey at December 16, 2003 06:37 PM
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