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March 31, 2008

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A Look Over the Fence

Five years ago, I was on a hunt in a high-fence ranch in northern South Africa when a friend shot and wounded an eland. He, I, the PH and two trackers followed the animal for four days, dawn to dusk, when the blood trail finally dried up and we could see that he was eating and drinking and not hit seriously.

The point is that we were hunting inside a high fence and we never caught up. Hunting in the RSA is now a big business, and game animals are becoming extremely valuable, so a high fence makes sense because it keeps them from wandering off, and it keeps non-paying personnel from wandering in and poaching your critters.

The plain fact is, that if you have enough acreage inside the fence and enough cover, the game has all the chance it needs to stay alive. Aesthetically it is not nearly so pleasing as hunting without fences, but that is the way things are today.


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Conversely why is shot placement, premium bullets, and magnum rifles (complete with lots of practice) so popular among those of us who hunt around Yellowstone Park? The main reason is that if an animal is legally shot outside the Park and runs across the imaginary line into the Park you cannot pursue and bring him back out of the federal land onto state or private land. He is wolf and grizzley grub. I prefer to hunt away from the boundary and to use enough gun that the critter hits the ground immediately. Here is one place where fences would be good in that the feds would have kept their damn fawn and calf eating wolves in the Park and not outside of it as well. If you guys ever hunt around YNP be careful as it is patrolled from the air and they take their job very seriously. As of the delisting of the gray wolf last Friday things might change to some degree in NW Wyoming.

D E Curtiss



While I'm not a fan of high fence hunting, I guess part of it depends on how many acres are fenced.

If it's 10,000 acres, that's obviously different than it being a 100 acres.

Money is changing hunting in many ways and for many the changes aren't going to be positive.


Dr. Ralph

White tailed deer home ranges vary from around 200 to 2,000 acres according to multiple studies and depending mostly upon food availability. The average deer lives on less than 1 square mile which is 640 acres. I really don't have a problem with enclosed hunting areas or high fences as long as you're talking a couple of thousand acres minimum... definitely keeps out the poachers. I do have a problem with trail cams, four wheelers, feeders and range finders. If you're using them you're really not hunting by my way of thinking. It's not supposed to be easy!


Sure, everyone who hunts inside a fence will try to justify it. I realize that 10,000 acres is a lot of land, but the animals ARE in an enclosure no matter how you slice it. Game animals are no longer truly wild, but behind fences like cattle. I know it's big money that is driving all this these days, but the 10,000 acre fields will eventually become 1000 acres, then 500 acres and so on. I am sure someone will still try to justify it and try to call it hunting even then!

Chris H.

So Dr. Ralph, you have a problem with my using a four-wheeler to go pick up a deer I killed and bring it back to the truck. That is the only time I use a four-wheeler when hunting. Would it be ok if I used a horse to make getting the deer out easier but not a four-wheeler? Please explain. Hunting today is exponentially easier than it was in the past. I would be impressed if you have not taken advantage of any modern conveniences that make it easier.

Dr. Ralph

I drag my deer out and the land is straight up and down, but that is not what I was talking about... in rural Tennessee there is a new found love for cruising the woods in the middle of the night on an ATV with a loaded weapon. It makes me sick but THAT is what people are using these vehicles for and it is far worse than hunting 10,000 acres with a fence around it....


I've been on both sides of the fence. I hunted once with a gun who had 100 acres, high fenced on 3 sides of his property by his neighbor. I asked the guy if he was mad at his neighbor for high fencing around his property? His answer suprised me, he said "Heck no, if I had the money I'd have done the same thing." I guess those with the resourses are for it, and those without are left out.


Dr. Ralph,

I have the same tendency that you do, lumping all things in one category! Were it not for a 4-wheeler, my hunting would be much more limited! I can walk, just not long distances. Anything over about 100 yards and I'm wishing I had stayed at home! KILL a deer that far from a road and I have a REAL problem! Have to track a deer? If he runs beyond out of sight, I might as well pack a skillet and eat him where he fell! I'd never get him/her packed out. I can't carry over 20 lbs!
I find a spot, set up my blind, drive to within 30/50 yards and hunt! So far, I've been able to drive right up to everything I've killed except one. She ran up under a black locust and I had to drag her about 10 yards! Ouch!
I attempt to use my 4-wheeler responsibly and in a sporting manner!
BUT, you are right!



This has been a few years ago but I was watching a hunting show where the hunted was buffalo, somewhere in the northern plains of the US. A guide and a hunter with a high powered rifle (as well as a camera crew) were stalking the animals as if the slightest sound would spook them, crawling, whispering, etc. When the shooter dropped one of the bison, two things became evident. One was this small herd wasn't too concerned about humans because the sound of the shot didn't even raise their heads, and two, there was a fence in the background immeditately behind the herd. I couldn't believe that this was considered hunting but worse, IT WAS ON TV! We have to be careful how these things are handled and presented or they can be used as ammo by the anti-hunting crowd. Non hunters generally want to believe the worst, so there is no point in us feeding it to them.


I have more respect for someone who goes out on unfenced ground and gets a rabbit, spike buck, wood duck whatever than someone who goes on a canned "hunt" with a PH, a .338 and gets a B&C whitetail.

All it tells me about them is they have money to burn, not how good of a hunter they are.

Scott Mahl

I am afraid that I am stratling the fence on this one.(pun intended)I received all kinds of grief from an archery club because I hunted wild boar with my longbow in a huge enclosed area in TN, even though it had more acres than all of the public land we have in Northern IN. I have read from many outdoor writers that squeal with delight about the high fence hunting in Africa but then condemn the high fence hunting here in the states. That is a bit of hypocrisy isn't it? Anyway, while I do have issue with the smaller fenced properties I guess I would rather see some of the high fenced hunting areas than the subdivisions which are eating up most of our available land.


HHH quote:I guess those with the resourses are for it, and those without are left out.

John quote:All it tells me about them is they have money to burn, not how good of a hunter they are.

Money is the future of hunting. Look @ how much cash people are willing to hand over for hunts, guns, scopes, atv, scouting cameras, out of state tags, etc...

It's not going to change and the days of knocking @ the farmers door and gaining access are coming to a close. When something has value (real or perceived) people usually won't give it away.

I don't really like it either, but I sure don't see it changing.



Since I don't have to deal with the fence issue unless I hunt far from home I suppose I can't give much insight to this topic. The 4 wheeler use to hunt animals is no different than speeding along in their pickup or jeep to run the game animals down. I have seen people employ all of the above conveyances to get their antelope. It is illegal in Wyoming to hunt from any mechanized vehile but it is still done if the warden is not around. I prefer horses because I am basically lazy and don't like to hike. The wilderness regs state only horses, mules, llamas, or by foot to hunt. This makes it nice and quiet. I perfectly understand if someone is handicapped and must have a 4 wheeler to hunt. Most states make allowances for this unfortunate situation.
Dr. Ralph I will have to diagree with you on the use of rangefinders. This device has probably caused more clean kills and less wounding of game animals in the west since the invention of a flat shooting rifle and scope. It is amazing how poorly even locals can judge range. The rangefinder will make a lier out of most folks. Additionally the constant use of this device eventually teaches you how to more accurately estimate distance in the big wide open spaces. Yes you can use your scope and most work quite well as rangefinders. I realize that this is not such a big deal in the beautiful forested hills of Tennessee (another place that I hold dear to my heart, not just the hills but also the people and the whiskey).

Steve C

No different that any number of other hunting topic: where do you draw the line?

Our ethics erode in direct relation to whether it adversely effects us personally or not.


Dave Petzal:
A while back we had quite adiscussion about the horrible condition of zoo animals (specifically Tatiana).

While I would be loathe to pay money to hunt inside a fence, I can see where these fenced hunting preserves, especially the size you describe, could be invaluable in preserving endangered species in their native habitat. I recently saw or read something about Snow Leopards. I believe that there is less than 400 in the wild. While that's an Asian problem, not African, if a fenced hunting preserve could be located in that area, thespecies could be saved. The cost of this endeavor would be borne by sportsmen hunting other, more plentiful species, found within that large enclosure. If one of the goals of that establishment were to preserve the endangered species, I could be see myself booking a hunt there.


A number of years ago Dow Chemical put up high fencing around their property. In the process they fenced in a lot of deer. This was a good thing and bad at the same time. It was good because the upper management would be assured of a deer a year if they got lazy. And bad in the fact that they were now responsible for over 500 deer and would have to feed them in the winter when there was no food to eat and over populated. Dow put up a viewing are and parking lot for people to go out there and watch and feed the deer. The problem with that is that they become tame and come to rely on people to bring them food. I have been told that some of the management have their deer picked out 8 months or more in advance and all they have to do is go out with a pickup and a gun shoot the deer and drive up to it. I have mixed feelings on that because I know that thinning out the herd is necessary but I feel that they should hunt them as you and I do. And not hunt from a pickup truck. And that a portion of the meat go to feeding the needy. I guess I view hunting a tame deer from less then 100 yards on flat ground takes the fun out of it.



I think it's sad that one of our days most heralded shooting and hunting editors is using terms like "keeps them from wandering off" and "poaching your critters" while referring to something such as a high fence. I most often agree with you Dave but what happened to the the wild experience and the creatures we hunt being a beautiful natural resource available to us all. Than again, I never could find much respect for the stereotypical African hunt as it was.


While I don't do game farms, what's the difference in going to a game farm to hunt, and hiring a charter boat to take you fishing? I never read about that industry being criticized. Yet, you are taken out, the mate gives you a rod, baits the hook, and you catch a fish. What's the difference?

Jim in Mo.

Welcome to the new world.


Blaming ATV's for peoples actions is like blaming the guns for gun violence and crimes.... you can't blame objects for the way SOME people use them because chances are most people use them correctly.


Blaming ATV's for peoples actions is like blaming the guns for gun violence and crimes.... you can't blame objects for the way SOME people use them because chances are most people use them correctly.

Bernie Kuntz

High fences are indeed a touchy subject, and one writer had it spot-on--there is a big difference in whether the area fenced is 100 acres or 10,000.

I hunted in South Africa only one time on four different properties, and two of them had high fences. However, the land inside the fences encompassed several square miles of brushy, rocky country. (This was in the Limpopo country just south of the Botswana border.) On the first day of hunting I shot a good impala, then saw a very good kudu bull climbing up a brushy, rocky hill. The sun was in my eyes and scope and no matter what I did, I could not get a shot. Same day I saw a big eland bull running behind a wall of brush eight feet high. All I could see was its horns. Also saw a very good nyala but no opportunity for a shot. I hunted the property with a white hunter for three or four more days and never could get a shot at any of these animals. Also saw a nyala run through a high fence like it wasn't there. Had a hell of a time getting a gemsbok, although I saw them every day. High fences but large land area. Finally shot one 38-1/2" on the tenth and last day of my hunt.

Hope I can go back one day for the kudu and nyala.

Jack Ryan

"game animals are becoming extremely valuable, so a high fence makes sense because it keeps them from wandering off, and it keeps non-paying personnel from wandering in and poaching your critters."

You are confusing game animals with farm livestock. When they can't "wander off" to avoid getting shot then you aren't hunting any more. You are shooting live stock. When they cross over from being wild animals to being "your critters" they aren't wild any more and you aren't hunting. It may be close enough to hunting to suit you but it's not hunting. You know they are in there, they "belong" to you, they can't "wander off". Plain and simple, it's not hunting.

It's rick pretenders slaughtering farm animals, pretending to be hunters, they don't like being told they are a pack of phonies and that is the only reason it keeps coming up. They know the truth and need the constant back slapping of their fellow phonies to ward off thier own guilty conscience.

as moeggs

Sorry Dave, I thought more of you prior to this post.

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