The whole world pretty much knows that Cecil, a collared Zimbabwe lion, was shot by Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist. What we don't know are all the facts, though a "conservation charity" stated the lion was wounded and had to be tracked for 40 hours before being killed. There are other statements, maybe true, maybe not. Of course, the press dug into Palmer's life, and found that he was arrested for poaching a black bear, and, he was involved in a sexual harassment charge. There has been a case made that this aging lion was 13 years old, and was no doubt driven out of his pride by stronger, younger lions. He was at the end of his life. That, however, in the eyes of many, did not justify killing him. This lion was collared and photographed thousands of times by tourists in a park. He was beloved by many.
Palmer is a wealthy trophy hunter. He is now the perfect whipping post for the anti's, but unfortunately, all of us hunters are now typically included in the wrath of the antis, and, very unfortunately, this does not escape the attention of non hunters, who make up the vast majority of the American public. I have no problem with trophy hunters. I have a problem with how this whole incident will play out. I worry that this is another nail in the hunter's coffin.
But there's another aspect to this mess. Palmer said he "relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt." Whether he did or not, this is a universal problem. The key is TRUSTING the people who advise and direct you on a hunt. Human nature being what it is, we tend to believe and trust those in authority, or those who are supposed to know the laws.
Some outfitters are crooks. Some cops and clergy are crooks too. How do you identify a crooked outfitter who might sell you a bill of goods as Palmer allegedly did? That's pretty tough. But with some homework you can cut to the chase and learn who you're dealing with and if you can trust him. I'll write a detailed blog on that in the next couple weeks.
But how about trusting the word of people you believe have all the answers or even close friends? Are they always right?
Several years ago, a man walked up to my booth at a Denver Hunt Expo. He was obviously upset, and told me a sad story. He was a newcomer to Colorado, and didn't know where to hunt for elk. He went to a Walmart store and asked the clerk in Sporting Goods if he'd point out a couple locations. The clerk put an X on a spot and told him that's where he should hunt. The man thanked him profusely, found the spot, and killed a big bull. A warden showed up, and when he checked the man's license it was discovered he had been hunting in a limited entry unit where a very tough lottery draw was required to get a permit. The man had a "general" license. He was arrested and the bull was confiscated. The man sued Walmart, stating that the clerk advised him to hunt a unit where it was illegal to hunt. Walmart won. The court said the man should have known the laws. The court instructed Walmart to post signs that said the store was not responsible for hunters' actions.
I was on my odyssey to hunt all 50 states for deer, and wanted to hunt as many states as possible via DIY. (Do It Yourself). I walked into a Walmart store in the south and bought a nonresident deer tag. I asked the clerk twice if I needed any other permits or tags. He assured me I didn't. When I got to my vehicle I sat there for a few minutes and read the regs again, and realized I needed a Wildlife Management Unit tag for the area I wanted to hunt. I went back in the store and confronted the clerk. He checked and admitted he'd made a mistake. I could have been in serious trouble had I not confirmed the permits I needed.
On a bear hunt years ago, I was assured by the person I was to hunt with AND a local sporting goods store clerk that I needed only a nonresident deer license to hunt bears -- the bear tag was included. This didn't sound right to me, but the two guys I was with insisted I was okay with the deer tag. That night, before going to bed on the eve of the hunt, I read the regulations carefully. They were wrong. Indeed I was required to have a bear tag. Again, I could have been in serious trouble had I taken someone else's word and gone hunting with the wrong license.
This brings us back to the Minnesota dentist. Had he been given inaccurate information? Was he too trusting? Should he have checked on the rules before the lion hunt? And what about his arrest for poaching the black bear in a unit he wasn't supposed to hunt. Was he like the guy I just mentioned about being given wrong information by Walmart? Maybe so. But there's no gray in these situations. It's black or white. Ignorance never wins.