Not long after the last issue of “The Tracker” was put to bed, I received a postcard from my good friend “BB”. I was ecstatic to hear from him and of course in his usual cryptic style he simply wrote “Still living on the edge…see you in March, glad you are NOT here…LOL “BB””. As the days slowly came closer to March, I received another postcard, this one directing me to meet him in Forest Lakes at the Bugle Inn. He wanted to meet in the middle of the night–in the middle of the week. He also asked that I bring along my GPS unit. Puzzled, but happy, I armed myself with the necessary tools and my GPS and headed up to Forest Lakes.
The bar was of course closed for the season, but “BB” and I have a spare key to get in whenever we want. The standing rule is no droppings, no roughhousing and all libations to be paid for in cash and left in the register. As I walked through the side door, “BB” in all his bald glory was sitting at the bar reading some kind of papers. “BB” I said, “So nice to see you even if you look like a baby bull again. I can’t tell you how worried I was last December when you never showed up for our quarterly meeting. I’ve had folks looking all over for you and I even went up to Show Low to identify a rack that I thought was you.” “BB” nodded and said, “Yeah, I know. I read the article in the Tracker, but by then it was too late. I had had my fill of all your hunting brethren and I wound up going clear across a couple of units to find some peace and quiet.” I simply grinned and said, “So, we finally put a little pressure on you and your friends for once?” “BB” had that arrogant look in his eyes and responded, “Pressure? You want to talk pressure? Just try having your house bugged and see what kind of feelings you have.” I have to admit I was confused by that outburst and so I asked “Okay, what are you talking about? We don’t bug the forests, so what’s this all about?” “BB” got that angry look and said, “Did you bring the darn GPS unit?” “Of course” I answered. “I have it here in my pocket.” With that I dug the GPS unit out of my jeans and handed it over to him. “BB” rolled it over between his hooves and finally said, “This little device is going to be the downfall of us elk, this thing and that other gizmo with those damn little lights that go off in the dark.” Now I was really confused. “BB” what on earth are you talking about?” “BB” gathered himself up and started shouting “You know darn well what I’m talking about. Every time I go down to a stock tank or a pond at night these little lights go flashing off in front of my eyes.” Next thing I know during the day some guy comes down to one of the trees around the pond and takes this machine off and next thing you know I have all kinds of hunters showing up around my bedding area looking for guess who?…ME. They have 8 x 10 glossy pictures of me going for a drink at night. They have pictures of me rolling in the pond. They even have one photo of me and a certain cow I know at a very delicate moment if you know what I mean.”
I just about busted a gut laughing at his outrage. “BB, you have been the victim of some outdoor photography. They are activated by motion and take a photo when you trip the sensor.” “BB” was silent for a moment and then started in on me. “Okay mister smart guy, let’s start from the top. You have weapons that can accurately shoot out to 400 yards. You ride quads all over the woods hoping to get a look at me. You mark the spots where you see us in this little GPS thing. And now you post cameras all over the woods at our watering holes hoping to figure out when and where we have passed by so you know where I am even at night. You guys ride around at night with powerful searchlights that blind the heck out of us and I’ve even seen some hunters flying with big wings in the early mornings looking for us. You call that fair chase?”
I suddenly stopped laughing and started thinking. Yes, I own a GPS, yes I use tools to hunt that have been advanced over the years. Sure, at night I have been known to try and see some bulls prior to the season. I even have been known to look at the photos that are stored in the cameras that people have set up around the ponds and stock tanks. What is “fair chase”? When do we cross the line with our equipment and technological advances in our pursuit of the mighty Wapiti? Is it wrong to use ultralight flight equipment to spot elk? When do the elk have a chance to NOT have hunting pressure? I felt a little guilty looking across the table at my friend “BB “.“ I never thought of it that way BB. Perhaps I’ll think about it a little more and try to make some sense of it all.” “BB” just nodded his big old head and said, “You do that boy…and maybe plant the same question to your readers. As a card-carrying bull elk, I have flat out seen enough of technology. What’s going to happen in the future? Look back just 30 years ago. Hunters then had honor in the way they approached an elk hunt. It was one man against the elements. There were no quads, no GPS, no radios, no motion detectors, no range finders, no ultra-light planes–just a bow, maybe a horse, maps and a compass. What do you think the next 30 years will bring in the way of technology?” Sadly, I could not assure “BB” that the future looks bright. I guess we each have to determine what is “fair chase” and what is right and wrong for each of us. Where will technology be halted? What technological developments will there be that we don’t even know about now?
I let “BB” out the side door and promised him I would see him sometime in the summer. After he had left, I poured another class of cabernet and thought long and hard about what “BB” had said. Hopefully we all will.