Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Photos: Short Hills Wildlife Alliance
I find that there is a bizarre disconnect between the public face that hunters would like to present and the disturbing findings observed after the hunt is over. Nothing calls attention to this incongruity like a wounded animal and discarded remains scattered throughout the park. I’m not sure what enrages me the most, the MNRF’s ongoing assault on wildlife or the flagrant hypocrisy of doing it under the cover of something called either a “herd reduction” or “traditional hunt.” The hunters and their supporters continue to make broad pronouncements and allegations about anti-hunt demonstrators when in fact all people should be free to express themselves without fear of being labelled in a derogatory fashion. The disconnects seen in much of the reasoning by the pro-hunt cause are so enormous that it feels like climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen. (Please note that in order to depict the visceral nature of the hunt, photos included herein are GRAPHIC and DISTURBING).
With the 2017 hunt now concluded, the MNRF has tallied up the kill numbers for this year. On at least one day their tally does not even agree with number counted by the police, so how transparent or honest/accurate is the reporting? These numbers do not include the 4 deer that were found either abandoned or wounded outside the hunt zone and found dressed on private property, awaiting delivery by the MNRF to the staging area. This year, vehicles with license plates from Quebec and even Florida were observed entering the park to kill deer. I guess we should assume that there are no raw forests in either Quebec or Florida that can host deer hunting anywhere other than in a NO HUNT park in environmentally significant area?
Day 1 (November 11) – 17 deer were killed – 8 male and 9 female, two of which were fawns
Day 2 (November 12) – 6 deer were killed – 2 male and 4 female deer were killed (The Ministry refused to tell us how many were fawns)
Day 3 (November 25) – 15 deer were killed (although protesters and police counted 21 by visual confirmation)
Day 4 (November 26) – 4 deer were killed – MNRF won’t disclose, but 6 deer were counted in a single truck
Day 5 (December 4) – MNRF won’t disclose, but 6 deer were counted in a single truck
Day 6 (December 5) – 1 deer was killed
Unpacking the hypocrisy of the hunt and its proponents:
The hunters have long maintained that hunting in the park is a food sovereignty issue and they use all parts of the deer. So why are there so many skins, heads, and gut piles strewn throughout the park well after the hunt? Why was a disembodied deer head shuttled in and out of the park over several days – why has the body apparently been abandoned in a food sustenance hunt? And why was a deer carcass abandoned at the foot of Swayze Falls, where it has remained for several days and is possibly still there? For many people, the type of sporting contest apparently taking place in Short Hills (the “Big Buck Competition”) is representative of an anthropocentric philosophical perspective – the antithesis of what we are told is indigenous hunting. Paradoxically, the taking of trophies is a product of the colonial/capitalist forces that the pro-hunt groups claim they despise. An animal trophy reminds us, on a subliminal level, of the wealthy hunters depleting the landscapes on foreign lands in order to assert their ascendancy and control.
In another ironic exchange, the (satirical but unintentionally accurate) Walking Eagle News makes the point that anyone taking hunting selfies puts ego over responsibility. The number of “selfies” taken for the Big Buck Competition held in Short Hills suggests that many participants are more interested in obtaining trophies than in adhering to “cultural traditions.” I doubt that most people who truly engage in subsistence hunting spend a lot of time on Facebook.
Once again this year, the pro-hunt camp complained that our signage is somehow racist (any kind of trigger that makes a hunt support angry or defensive is considered racist – even our last names evoke feelings of distrust, prejudice, and blame). However, unlike a person’s name or place of birth, beliefs can be argued for, tested, criticized, and changed. The more pugnacious hunt supporters turned their attention to our clothing – we should all expect a turn in the cage with someone from this group either online or IRL. On this day, the supports are affronted by a protester wearing a “skull” face shield. A complaint was received by police on the scene November 25th, asking that the protester be removed because of his attire. Why is a face shield commonly sold in outdoor stores considered to be objectionable when worn by an anti-hunt demonstrator? It seems perfectly acceptable however, when donned by a hunter.
In previous hunts it has been observed that some hunters attempted to walk into or out of the park after it commenced, with unencased bows. Joe McCambridge, former president of the Ontario Conservation Officers Associations (OCOA), stresses that: “If you are going to hunt until the end of legal shooting time, you must take a proper case with you and encase your firearm after [sundown]. This includes bows and crossbows.” I wonder what McCambridge would think of bows that are completely forgotten in the park? This bow was accidentally left in the park as-is, by a careless hunter after the sanctioned hunt in 2016, and was found by someone walking the trails the next day. It was turned over to the police.
The deer in the album below were found both in the park and well beyond the park boundary and buffer zone on private property, further evidence that the hunt is not safe and that boundaries simply aren’t respected. All images are from the current 2017 hunt. The dead deer at Swayze Falls was abandoned with an obvious hunting-related injury. The MNRF appears to frown on the killing and abandonment of deer when it occurs in provincial parks that are not Short Hills. How many other deer suffered and died on their own, undiscovered by anyone?
Some hunt supports have claimed that whenever injured deer are found, it can only be due to poachers. If so, then the poachers were hunting in the park at the same time as the Haudensaunee hunters, in which case the MNRF is unable to effectively close the park to people who are not permitted to be there.
All photos below were captured within Short Hills Park or the Hydro corridor over several hunts. The doe with the neatly assembled entrails and head was tracked by her blood trail from the park to the Hydro corridor. All the rest of the entrails and various remains were found within the park on a main hiking trail about an 8 minute hike from the Wiley Rd. parking lot, a designated entrance into the park, some heavily predated by the time they were found.
To those pro-hunters who claim the remains found in the park have been “staged” by animal rights activists, we can only ask, where would AR activists obtain the remains of deer? I suggest that the conspiracy-minded become acquainted with William of Ockham’s most famous quote: “With all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.”
The prevailing monologue we hear about the Short Hills hunt is that it’s an issue of a right to hunt and that the hunt is based on subsistence needs/food sovereignty etc., but commentary and photos by the hunters themselves suggests otherwise. Since the hunt began in 2013, almost 200 deer have been killed according to the MNRF’s own records, and even if we assume that’s accurate, it doesn’t account for deer that escaped with fatal injuries, to die later elsewhere. The rate of extermination of deer, the level of depreciative use, and damage to the park during the days of the hunt is far greater than the ability of the resource to conserve itself.
The pre-ecological thinkers at the MNRF continue to take the road of junk-science in furthering their agenda – greenwashing the hunt as a “herd reduction” of “overpopulated deer,” which coats this violence with a respectable veener for public consumption. But by the Ministry’s own account not a single deer examined by the biologist during the hunt showed signs of starvation or illness, measures of overabundance. How long do they think this NO HUNT Short Hills Game Farm park can sustain the killing of 30-50 deer each and every year? Not only that, but why should any hunter anywhere have the exclusive “right” to kill any animal that the rest of society might value alive? Killing a sentient being is the ultimate oppression, no matter what the reason or who is carrying it out.