company called Live-Shot.com has added a modern, controversial twist to the primal desire to kill: Internet hunting.
Now anyone with a computer and a modem can log on and fire real weapons. Howard Giles did it a few weeks ago, becoming the first known Internet hunter to bag a wild hog by remote control.
Giles was sitting behind his computer in San Antonio. The pig was munching on corn about 50 miles away in the Texas Hill country.
“He was a beast,” said Giles. “I felt like I was there.”
Though Texans wear their love of guns and hunting proudly, the idea of Internet hunting has generated plenty of criticism. A Republican representative in the Texas Legislature, Todd Smith, himself an occasional hunter, has offered a bill to ban the practice.
“I don’t think we should be able to kill God’s creatures with the click of a mouse,” Smith said. “I think hunters are offended by the concept, much less non-hunters.”
Wildlife authorities have already taken steps to ban the killing of any native species by remote control, but they cannot ban the Internet slaughter of imported exotic game, including the kind of feral hog that Giles killed.
Several other states are already moving to head off Internet hunting in the event that Internet entrepreneurs try to introduce their own remote control slaughters.
And the Humane Society of the United States is calling on Congress to make it illegal across the country.
“What started as a depraved idea has apparently become a sickening reality,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society.
“This is a snuff film scenario in which animals will be senselessly killed for the voyeuristic pleasure of someone sitting at a keyboard. It is pay-per-view slaughter. This remotely delivered cruelty should be shut down and outlawed immediately.”
John Lockwood, owner of Live-Shot.com, does not see what the fuss is all about.
He says that what his company offers is not much different from the traditional guided hunt. He notes that there is always somebody at the ranch where the remotely controlled equipment is set up. And he said the animals are not penned up.
“They’re just as free ranging as on any other ranch,” he said.
For now, most visitors to Live-shot.com have been shooting not at live animals but at paper targets and balloons.
More than 350 people from as far away as France and Australia are paying 15 dollars a month and six dollars each time they fire off 10 rounds from a .22 caliber rifle.
Hunters also have to pay 300 dollars for a two-hour session, and obtain a Texas hunting permit. That, too, can be gotten over the Internet. Shipping and processing the meat, or any taxidermy, costs extra.
The remote control hunters and target shooters can see the action through two cameras. They control the rifle with four arrows and pull the trigger by remote control by clicking on a “fire” button.
Lockwood has scheduled another hunt in early April. That’s when Dale Hagberg of Indiana, paralyzed and bed-ridden, will try to kill a wild animal for the first time since he was injured in a diving accident nearly 20 years ago.
“I was an avid hunter before I got hurt,” Hagberg said. “I’ve missed it ever since.”