Mountain Pursuit Urges the Mule Deer Foundation to Reconsider Its Title Sponsorship of The Western Hunting & Conservation Expo Because of Seminar Presenter Robby Denning

By Mountain Pursuit

Celebrity hunter Robby Denning is the author of a book on Mule Deer Hunting, owner of hunting forum website rokslide.com, and also the owner of wescout4u.com - a public lands scouting service.

Mr. Denning is also listed as a Seminar presenter at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, February 14-19, 2019.

The Mule Deer Foundation, one of America's largest and most venerable hunting advocacy groups, is listed as a "Title Sponsor" of the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo.

Wescout4u.com offers "Public Land Scouting Packages" for Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and which include specific animal locations, detailed mapping, camping locations, water, trailhead information, etc. Mr. Denning charges $1195 for his "Full Scouting Package" which are marketed to nonresident hunters.

"Public Land Scouting Packages," "Hunting Information Packages" or whatever the term used, are controversial in Western States, especially with resident hunters and professional, licensed outfitters. Services like Mr. Denning's wescout4u.com undercut professional outfitters and guides in the Western States.

In 2018 a bill was introduced in the Wyoming Legislature to outlaw this practice in Wyoming.

Until recently (January 2019) Mr. Denning admitted on the wescout4u.com website to aerial scouting via airplane to complete these "Public Land Scouting Packages."  This admission of aerial scouting has since been deleted from the wescout4u.com website and the practice is not addressed. The below text comes verbatim from the wescout4u.com website in December, 2018:

The Legality and Ethics of Aerial Scouting:

Let’s take a minute to discuss a sometimes heated topic: aerial scouting.  First, is it legal? In many situations it is, in certain situations it is not. It also depends on which state you’re operating in. For example, Idaho is pretty liberal while Nevada is more restrictive. There is also a Federal Law called the Airborne Hunting Act that dictates how aerial scouting can be done. Finally there’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) laws that apply to charging (FAA Part 135) for aerial scouting services (if we are charging you for aerial scouting, we are hiring pilots from local FBO’s who can charge under FAA part 135.)

Without boring you with details, I can assure you we understand all applicable laws and operate within the them while aerial scouting in each state.

Second, let’s discuss the ethics of aerial scouting. As long as you stay within the laws, it is an ethical pursuit to most people. We never fly during open big-game seasons for the target species (so please, don’t ask us to), although it is legal is some states like Idaho. We never intentionally harass wildlife from the air. We maintain no radio communications with anyone on the ground near the hunting area.  Except in the case of early archery seasons, we usually conduct any aerial surveys 30 to 60 days before hunting seasons open.  Even if we happen to locate a trophy animal from the air (unlikely), the hunter still has to find that same animal again, often months after we’ve scouted the area. It is possible, (I’ve done it about twice in my entire hunting career) but unlikely.

The real value in aerial scouting is learning a unit quickly and finding suitable habitats in the unit. After spending hundreds of hours in the air over nearly 20 years, I estimate that only 20% of the area of a given unit, especially a mountainous unit, will have suitable habitat for the target species during hunting season. We aerial scout to locate those areas faster. A hunter still has to overcome the innumerable challenges that characterize hunting, making aerial scouting an ethical tool many of the best big-game hunters in the West, and the world, use. It is just one of the many tools a hunter can use in locating big-game and big-game habitat.

 

The Fair Chase ethic is based on maintaining the balance between hunter and game. Any technology or method which tips that balance in favor of the hunter is unethical. Using aircraft to scout for and locate big game animals significantly tips the scale of fairness far in favor of the hunter and is clearly unethical. That Mr. Denning admits and conducts aerial scouting, and then sells the information to nonresident hunters is especially troubling.

In the verbiage above Mr. Denning is careful to state that his aerial scouting activity is legal. At the Boone & Crocket Club's website on hunting ethics and Fair Chase, www.huntfairchase.com, the essay "Is Legal Always Ethical" addresses the issue of legality and Fair Chase ethics head on.

"The Point is," the essay states, "there are many things in this hunting world that are legal, yet can be considered by some to be unethical. A good rule of thumb then would be; it's not only about what is legal, but also what's honorable and ethical."

In addition to being a "Title Sponsor" of the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, The Mule Deer Foundation is listed as a "Media Sponsor" of the Boone & Crocket Clubs Hunt Right: Hunt Fair Chase website and initiative.

Through its Title Sponsorship of the Western Hunting Expo, the Mule Deer Foundation is giving a tacit endorsement of Mr. Denning's wescout4u.com services, which enrages resident hunters and undercuts professional outfitters, and his unethical use of aerial scouting.

Mountain Pursuit is urging The Mule Deer Foundation to join us in to reconsider its Title Sponsorship of the Western Hunting Expo as long as Mr. Denning is given status as a Seminar presenter at Western Hunting Expo.

The Mule Deer Foundation, with its title sponsorship of the Western Hunting Expo and tacit approval of Mr. Denning as a Seminar presenter, is sending the wrong message to the general public about the American hunter's commitment to the Fair Chase ethic.

Honoring Fair Chase, and protecting big game hunting for future generations are key issues for Mountain Pursuit.

"We urge the Mule Deer Foundation to reconsider its title sponsorship of Western Hunting Expo as long as Mr. Denning is a Seminar presenter at the event," said Mountain Pursuit Founder Rob Shaul, "and join Mountain Pursuit an re-committing to the ethic of Fair Chase and working to protect the heritage and tradition of big game hunting in America for future generations."

For more information, email rob@mtnpursuit.org.

 


About Mountain Pursuit - Mountain Pursuit is a western states hunting advocacy nonprofit which champions ethical hunting, license preference for resident hunters, conservation and new hunter education and recruitment. More at www.mtnpursuit.org.

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