Game preserves could be goneFair Chase Initiative could go before voters in Nov.
Hunting preserves like Willard Swanke’s Cedar Ridge Elk Ranch near Rhame could become a thing of the past if the Fair Chase Initiative becomes law. Supporters of the initiative want to ban fenced-in hunting across the state.
Hunting preserves like Willard Swanke’s Cedar Ridge Elk Ranch near Rhame could become a thing of the past if the Fair Chase Initiative becomes law.
Supporters of the initiative want to ban fenced-in hunting across the state.
Petitions to put the measure before voters Nov. 2 were turned into the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office on Wednesday.
To be placed on the ballot, supporters needed to gather 12,844 signatures from qualified voters across the state.
Al Webster, a Gladstone resident who is a member of the initiative’s sponsoring committee, said 13,860 signatures were submitted.
A similar effort in 2008 didn’t receive enough signatures.
Swanke has operated a hunting preserve on his ranch since 1995.
“I have a lot of reasons for opposing it,” Swanke said.
One of which is the time and money that has gone into his hunting preserve.
A rancher by trade, he said he attended a symposium to learn how to diversify his existing ranching business. One of those was starting a hunting preserve.
He said private property rights are a big issue.
“It just isn’t right for them to come in and tell me what I can do,” Swanke said.
Webster said the constitutional argument on restricting captive hunting was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in several cases, including one involving Montana where voters banned captive hunting in 2000.
“Every law infringes on a right,” Webster said of opponent’s stating that the Fair Chase Initiative restricts property rights.
Swanke hopes voters educate themselves on the issue.
“Hunters and landowners should stick together and keep all the rights we can,” Swanke said.
Webster said getting information out to the public will be the key to success.
He said close to 70 percent of the people he’s explained the issue to seem to support the Fair Chase Initiative.
A hunter since he was young, Webster said that opponents are trying to paint supporters as anti-hunting.
“That can’t be further from the truth,” he said.
He said rumors that his group supports a complete hunting ban are false as well.
“It’s not the first step on a slippery slope,” Webster said.
Nor does Webster say the sponsoring committee is connected with the Humane Society of the United States, which also supports the concept of fair chase.
“We’ve received no money from the Humane Society,” Webster said.
While Swanke said not everyone should hunt on his preserve, especially those who are physically able to go out in the wild to hunt, some just aren’t able to.
“My hunts aren’t for everyone,” he said.
Swanke said he’s provided hunting opportunities to elderly hunters and to youth with terminal illnesses to give them a shot to bag elk.
“I just don’t think I’m doing anything wrong,” he said.