Two days before our nation’s Independence Day, California’s Assembly committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, voted to outlaw the traditional hunting of bears and bobcats with hounds. On July 2, 2012, eight Assembly Democrats voted to outlaw such hound hunting, while four Assembly Republicans voted against Senate Bill 1221. The bill has already passed the California Senate on a 22 to 15 vote and it is anticipated that Governor Jerry Brown will sign the bill if it passes a full vote of the Assembly.
Senate Bill 1221 is authored by Senator Ted Lieu of Torrance California, at the request of The Humane Society of the United States. Supporting groups include the ASPCA, Sierra Club, and numerous anti hunting groups. Opponents of the bill include: The Cattleman’s Association, The California Farm Bureau, Safari Club International, California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, California Houndsmen for Conservation, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. In the days approaching the committee vote, Assembly members were swamped with calls and demonstrations on both sides. In the end however, it was a straight party line vote with Democrats voting to outlaw hunting bears and bobcats with hounds and with Republicans voting against the bill.
Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, who voted against the hound hunting ban, is also a farmer, a dog owner and lifelong hunter. He has vowed to use every parliamentary tool available to try and prevent the loss of such a valuable hunting tradition. Other Assembly members supporting hunter’s rights are Linda Halderman, Beth Gaines, and Brian Jones.
Hunting with hounds is a tradition older than the United States itself. A few years ago, my family and I visited our nation’s capital and then toured some of the historic places in the region. We were enthralled by the palatial homes of our country’s founders like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s mansion, Monticello, and James Madison’s Montpellier. Interestingly, every one of these historic estates had kennels for the hounds owned by the founding fathers. To this day the region is known as “The Hunt Country” as a tribute to the tradition of hunting with hounds that continues there today. It is sad indeed that just before we were to celebrate our Independence Day, the California Water, Parks and Wildlife committee would vote to outlaw such an integral part of out heritage.
I began bear hunting as a teenager in the 1960s with a 7mm Mauser made in 1895 and I’m still hunting bear with it today. Because I didn’t have a hound to assist me, it took me over 10 years to finally bag a bear on our country’s bicentennial in 1976. Thirty years later, I watched my son get his first bear, because we were able to follow the cry of the hounds. I had high hopes that I would be able to watch my grandson get his first bear as well. I still hold onto hope that somehow, someway, the Legislature will not take this cherished tradition from us. I hope that some day my son will be able to watch his grandson carry on the tradition. I sincerely hope that our California legislators will show some respect for our centuries old American tradition.