On Guns and Poaching (July 26, 2012 post)

I bought my first gun when I was 12 by saving my summer wages swamping lug boxes of Red Malaga grapes out of my father’s and uncle’s vineyards. A few weeks before the opening of Dove Season, I sent a $109.95 money-order to Sears and Roebuck for a 20 gauge Model 12 Winchester shotgun. The box came addressed to me in the mail.

Before that, I hunted dove and quail with Stevens .410 single-shot and roamed the foothills on cow trails shooting ground squirrels with a used, J C Higgins single-shot .22 rifle that my mother’s cousin, Stanley Dickover, had given me for Christmas when I was 10. Different days and times, my parents would likely have been thrown in jail today for turning a youngster loose with a gun. But I loved it—not the killing as much as the hunting.

In those days, finding a place to hunt was not difficult. For me, there was always the ranch. But most all of my teenage friends had permission from local landowners to fish and hunt whatever was in season. Poaching happened, but was seldom an issue in this small community where everyone knew everyone else, when a young man built his reputation early in life.

In the mid-60s with the advent of affordable air conditioning, the local population began to explode, and with more people, less places to hunt. Trespass and poaching became serious problems for landowners who lost livestock, had water troughs shot full of holes and experienced a general increase in vandalism that impacted their operations. Then again, the clash of cultures after the Vietnam War when many Hmong refugees, used to living off the land, were relocated to the Central Valley.

Today, the prices of guns and ammunition, as well as license and tag fees to the California Fish and Game, continue to increase while places to hunt have decreased dramatically. It’s not surprising that poaching has become a problem, and in some instances, a business where deer, feral hogs and livestock are butchered in backyards and the meat sold locally. While budgetary restraints have wardens stretched thinly, the problem of poaching falls dangerously on landowners more than ever before. Rather than to have to sort the good guys from the bad, we are inclined not give anyone permission to hunt.

Today’s poachers seem to believe that if they have a gun, they have a right to hunt anywhere they want, indignant when caught, and blame the landowner when prosecuted. Our latest incident on July 22, 2012, a slam-dunk case for the Fish and Game and D.A.’s office with indisputable photographic evidence, has to be pursued if we expect help and support from local wardens in the future.

I’ve never been an advocate of stricter gun laws, but if the common belief that the purchase of a gun increases one’s rights while diminishing the rights of others, then something has to change.

4 responses to “On Guns and Poaching (July 26, 2012 post)

  1. Interesting post there, coming from a place where virtually nobody has a gun, reading your comment that you bought your first gun when you were 12 is quite amazing

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    • Different times, idyllic for a country kid, but nothing stays the same. I find the whole aura of guns and gun ownership a bit disturbing today. Nevertheless, they have their place on the ranch as tools to control predators and euthanize suffering livestock. Thanks for your comment and taking the time to read this post, Ross. Have a good day! 🙂

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  2. I was raised in Arizona and bought my first gun at 13. A Remington .22 I think. Since then I have owned various guns but today I have none. Moving to Chile for a year took care of that. When I return I doubt I will buy a gun since I don’t hunt and don’t feel the need for protection.

    I have become a proponent of common-sense gun control. A start would be background checks for all purchases. I’m well aware of the argument that there are so many guns it won’t do any good but we need to start somewhere. The United States now averages one shooting a week at schools. Most don’t make the news anymore unless there’s a lot of carnage.

    Yes, all law abiding Americans should have the right to gun ownership and I don’t see how forcing citizens to prove they have their sanity and aren’t felons limits that freedom. Gun registration has been a requirement for a lot of years now and nobody ever came to my door demanding I turn my guns in.

    As a rancher I doubt your gun of choice on the ranch is an AK47 or anything with large capacity clips. You are probably more sensible and efficiently choose your gun for the job at hand.

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  3. Rich & Shelby Hewitt

    John,
    Reading your comments about buying your Winchester Model 12 brings back fond memories as I did about the same thing. I earned enough money to go in to the Exeter Merc and purchase a used Winchester Model 12 which I used to hunt dove and pheasants near my folks place at Lin Cove. I don’t have an answer as to how we manage guns today in a totally different environment compared to when we were kids. All I can say is I am thankful I lived when I did. I do not know what is in store for our children and their children and so forth but I do not like what I see and hear. Hopefully it will turn out better than what I think it will given today’s events. Our best to you and Robbin.

    Rich

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