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.

Image © Leung

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5 thoughts on “California Anti-Hound Hunting Bill Disregards Tradition

  1. The problem with using “tradition” as your argument for bear/cat hunting with hounds is that it’s always the argument of last resort when a person can’t figure out how to defend what he’s doing. Like when you know darn well there’s no good reason to chase bears and cats with dogs. I’m a hunter and, although I’ve never done it myself, I have several friends who have killed lions and bears using this method. Those people are still my friends. But this argument of “tradition” will not hold. As you know, it didn’t work for slavery, child labor, lobotomies or moonshine. If bear populations get out of control (which I realize is happening in many places), they can be baited in and killed, causing less or no stress to the animal in the final moments of its life. Although excessive bear-baiting can have its own negative side effect which gives bears a tastes for human food, potentially turning them into nuisance, dumpster-divers unafraid of humans. Baiting however cannot be as easily done with lions and in cases where it can be proven that lions are adversely affecting human safety or the ecological balance of a particular area then yes, I support the killing of those lions through the use of hounds, even if it puts additional stress on the lion prior to its death. This argument is different than wanting it legal just because of “tradition.” Even if it is legal to do, bear and lion hunting is not exactly an “equal opportunity” hunt, anyway. There are not enough bears or lions to give every kid a chance at his or her “first bear,” so why not just stick with deer hunting (since you can actually EAT deer meat)? And yes, I realize too many wolves or lions can mean fewer deer to shoot at, but let the biologists convince the lawmakers, not the traditionalists.

    1. Just because you have friends that have hunted over hounds doesn’t mean that you know what the experience is like. Hunting with hounds gives the hunter a better chance to judge the size and sex of the animal, allowing for mature animals to be killed. A lion or bear in the tree usually gives the hunter a cleaner shot to the vitals. Lion and bear meat is very edible, and in my opinion a lot better than deer meat.

      1. The majority of the public does not support hound hunting. Numerous states have banned hound hunting of either bobcat or bear. Montana has banned hound hunting of bear. Wyoming has banned hound hunting of bear. Colorado has been hound hunting of bear. Washington and Oregon have banned hound hunting of one species or another. It’s clear that even pro-hunting states oppose hound hunting as hound hunting violates fair chase principles. Hounds will attack and go after any wild animal they see. There are legitimate and justifiable reason to ban hound hunting. Just because something is a tradition does not mean it’s acceptable in this day in age. It is time to ban hound hunting in CA. There is a REASON why states like Colorado,Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, etc have banned hound hunting for either bear or bobcat. The voters of CA want hound hunting GONE.

  2. Had the voting been carried out by biologists I’m sure it would have gone the other way. However, once again politics and passion have decided how we are to manage wildlifepopulations. Shame on any “hunter” who sides wth the likes of the Humane Society. They only attacked hounding because it was a soft target, easier to crush. Don’t think for a minute they will stop there. Your precious deer hunting will soon follow.

  3. mike oreilly you are a pore excuse for a hunter and you are a big reason hunting will be lost. don’t bother writing on this subject you know nothing about. Hound hunted is the purest type of hunting no gun needed try it you may like it no kill still a blast

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