Rebuttal Comment from Jim Shockey
I have outfitter over 1,000 hunters over the last 12 years, and during that time, The Hunting Report, has contacted me only one time with a request to rebut ONE critical hunting report from one of those 1,000 clients.
Now I am the first to admit that I am not the perfect outfitter and that when you take so many clients, there will be those who, for whatever reason, are not happy with our efforts, as best as those efforts might be, but in a world where it is impossible to please everyone, I'd say that record of one in a thousand, speaks to the condition of (my) camp: the quality of (my) food: the ability of (my) guide/PH: the condition of (my) equipment: quality of (my) outfit.
So with that in mind, let's look closely at his "critical" hunting report to see exactly how Mr. Bonander rates my outfitting operation in the Ratings section of the hunt report he filled in and submitted to you.
1) the condition of (my) camp: Excellent 2) the quality of (my) food: Excellent 3) the ability of (my) guide/PH: Excellent 4) the condition of (my) equipment: Excellent 5) Quality of (my) outfit: Good
These are not my words; they are Mr. Bonander's words. They are exactly how he rated my outfitting operation.
Of course, the primary objective of any publication, including The Hunting Report is to sell subscriptions, and goodness knows, news is easiest sold when it's bad, especially when it's bad news about something good, but in light of the above rating, nearly as high as they could possibly be, do you honestly think Mr. Bonander's report qualified for the "controversies" section of The Hunting Report?
Mr. Bonander goes on to state in his "Hunting Trip Report Form", that "no quality bucks seen (biggest 125 SCI) and that the highlight of the hunt was "saw about 5-15 deer per day close - 40 to 50 yards" but that he wouldn't recommend the hunt to a friend because it was a "boring way to hunt, no big animals, all day in blind, daylight to dark."
Is this why you felt that Mr. Bonander's report qualified as a "controversy" in The Hunting Report?
Mr. Bonander saw deer each day, up close, actually dozens during the course of the six day hunt, but he did not see a buck big enough to satisfy his standards. Which begs the question, what size buck was he looking for? Was it realistic? And in fact, does he know how to judge the antlers on the huge-bodied deer in northern Saskatchewan?
That he considers the hunting style "boring" is not unusual for a western hunter, especially one used to the wide open, spot and stalking style hunts that are the norm in Mr. Bonander's state of Wyoming. To express his opinion in this regard, is far more closely related to being honest, than it is to being controversial.
However, since you did classify his report as being controversial, I would suggest that for every hunter who considers sitting on a stand all day watching 5-15 deer "boring," there is another hunter who would consider such an opportunity a wonderful, exciting way to spend a day. To each his own. That is not controversial and nor is it critical. It is simply one hunter's truth.
Thankfully, the majority of the hunters that we have the honor of outfitting recognize that hunting is a many facetted tradition; it is camaraderie, it is the sharing of a common love and it is a respect for nature. Broken down further, hunting is the search for, the lying in wait for, the seeking out of, and if the hunter is skilled, dedicated, disciplined and lucky enough, hunting is the "killing" of an animal. Some hunters might consider sitting on a stand all day, watching deer, to be boring, but the majority consider it a privilege.
Regarding our "kill" percentages, our long term whitetail clients/hunters seldom touch the trigger and like Mr. Bonander, they see deer but not to shoot has been their choice. These hunters take pride in our management strategy and know that if they kill a young buck they will have to pay a fine. This lowers the percentage of bucks "killed", but increases the survival rate of the young bucks with potential.
It is our long term clients who are most qualified to comment on the quality of the deer in our outfitting areas; they know we have had several mild winters in a row in Saskatchewan which has caused the deer population to rise dramatically. And they also know that we have suffered through several unseasonably warm fall hunting seasons, the single greatest negative determining factor on the percentage of world class bucks our clients see and "kill" in a given hunting season.
They know the world class bucks are there in the area and they know that when we are blessed with the right weather conditions during the Saskatchewan whitetail season, the "kill" percentage on world class bucks will rise accordingly.
Mr. Bonander stated that he "believes the area has been over hunted", a belief he can only have based on one six day period during the third week of November 2005. Is this the part that you consider to be a "controversy" or the part that is supposed to be "critical?"
With all due respect, "uninformed" or "unqualified" would be a far more appropriate description of what Mr. Bonander believes, than calling his opinion "controversial."
By stating his belief, it would appear that he does not realize that my exclusive outfitting area he hunted in is over 400 square miles in size. That's 400 square miles! Over a quarter of a million acres. Does he realize that the Saskatchewan wildlife biologists have determined that the high deer densities in my Smoothstone outfitting area justifies a quota of 45 hunters per season, and yet, in the interest of managing my area for trophy quality deer, I choose to take fewer hunters than that (not the 50 as he states)? Does he realize that this means each hunter has approximately 10 square miles or over 6,000 acres all to themselves to hunt, with zero hunting pressure?
Mr. Bonander never saw any resident hunters, but did see dozens of deer.
No, to believe an area is over-hunted is one of the quick, self-empowering justifications that hunters turn to when their hopes and dreams of killing a big animal on a hunt aren't realized. It's not their fault; it's the outfitter's fault. I've been guilty of it when I've returned home empty-handed from a hunt and I daresay we all have.
The fact is it's nobody fault.
Mr. Bonander didn't kill a buck during his six days with us last November because he turned down bucks that did not meet his standards and because hunting is hunting. He chose to be selective and to set expectations that were not realized.
Mr. Bonander does not state anywhere in his report that he was misinformed, lied to or in any way deceived about the hunt he booked with me. That would be "controversy." In fact just the opposite is true, he rated my operation as the highest possible in your ratings sheet, excellent is the four out of the five categories with one good rating.
To sum up this belated rebuttal, it is my opinion that this report hardly qualifies to be published in your "controversy" section. However you are the publisher.
Re-Rebuttal From Richard Bonander
Hello to everyone at the Hunting Report. The other day I got a call from a hunter who was checking up on Jim Shockey's Canadian White Tail Adventures Smooth Stone Camp, that I reported on last 2005 Fall.
He told me that Shockey had filed a long reply that I ought to read. After reading it, I thought I ought to respond to you. Shocky runs a well organized good hunting operation, but I think he is victim of his own success. I truly believe that he is over hunting his white tail concessions up north of Saskatoon. I talked to the guides and cooks in the camp and they told me that the success was low on the previous two hunts and what was killed was mostly small 120 to 130 range. While I was there in our camp 4 deer were killed and none would have made 140 (I would not of shot any one of them) and heard of no other big deer killed in the other camp. Jim may have 600 sq. miles of hunting, but if 100 hunters hunt it each year, I think they have an impact on the average trophy size and age. A few of his older guides mentioned that the class of animals killed on the average had decreased which was backed up by the camp photos and dates. As for my comments about the hunt being boring, it was! I sat in a tent blind by myself (no guide) all day long, six days in a row from before daylight til after dark. I know many other outfitters that pick the hunters up during the day, do some drives, check some new areas, glass some new or crossing areas and break up the day and possible increase the odds of getting a big buck.
The down side to this, it requires more equipment and more guides and of course would impact the economics of the hunt for the outfitter and make it much more difficult to handle the large volume of hunters he in now used to having. He also questioned my ability to judge a trophy Canadian deer. I have been a big game trophy hunter for over thirty five years and spent most of my life in Montana and Wyoming. In addition I have hunted Alaska, Canada and Africa on numerous occasions. I am also an official Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young, Master SCI and Roland Ward measurer. Not that I claim to be perfect on field judging game, but I do have a lot of field experience as well as all the technical skills, knowledge and training (more than most hunters). Jim shows movies of his hunts where he or another hunter kills big Whitetail bucks. You will note from his own words that these deer are all being killed in the southern agricultural areas around Saskatoon where Non Residents are not allowed to hunt. He and his friends and employees spend all of their hunting time for big trophies in this area and not the ones where he guides all of his clients. I have no ill feelings toward Jim, his staff or his operation, I just simply told the truth about the hunt from my personal experience. From reading all of Jim's advertising and promotions I expected far better than I got. Thanks!