Austrian hunter’s obsession turns to murder

skulls

[My neighbor has a skull like this hanging in his barn. Those pictured here were poached by the Austrian hunter featured below.]

http://www.sfgate.com/news/science/article/Austrian-hunter-s-obsession-turns-to-murder-4826751.php#photo-5206406

By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press

Thursday, September 19, 2013

GROSSPRIEL, Austria (AP) — In Austria, hunting deer and wild boar is a hallowed way of life [way of death, more like, but anyway], one that follows age-old codes of honor [ahem, honor among killers?] and requires a license bestowed only after passing rigorous exams. In that exalted world, Alois Huber was a brazen outlaw even before he went on a murderous rampage that left four people dead.

Not only did he poach game illegally in the middle of the night, he violated one of hunting’s most sacred rules: Kill for meat, not just the trophy of the wild animal’s head. ["Sacred"? There's nothing sacred about killing.]

Huber shot countless deer in the forests outside Vienna, sawed off their antlered heads to mount at home — and left their decapitated bodies to rot in the underbrush.

Until this week.

Police had gotten wind of Huber’s nocturnal poaching and went to confront him in the early hours of Tuesday. Enraged, Huber’s illegal hunting turned to murder: He embarked on a shooting rampage that left three officers and a paramedic dead. Then he set his farmhouse bunker full of trophies on fire, and killed himself with a gunshot to the head. It was one of the worst multiple slayings in Austria’s postwar history.

Villagers are baffled by the shocking violence — and say Huber led a double life. They describe the trucker as an upstanding neighbor, a welcome guest at birthday parties who gladly helped out when asked for a favor.

“He was a quiet, pleasant person who never did anyone any harm,” said Adelheid Wieder, just hours after Huber’s charred body was found. “Nobody imagined that he could be so without scruples and so aggressive.”

But Huber had good reason to keep his passion a secret: Poaching is severely punished in this tightly regulated country where it can draw up to three years in prison.

Hunters are licensed only after passing exams that test their knowledge of weapons, ballistics, hunting traditions, different kinds of game and their diseases — and a host of other disciplines. Police followed up on more than 300 reported hunting violations last year.

Among licensed hunters, rogues are held in the highest contempt.

Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck says that police moved in on Huber after monitoring phone calls in which he acknowledged being the illegal trophy hunter being sought in the vicinity of Annaberg, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Vienna. Additionally, said Grundboeck, a search of his farm on the outskirts of the village of Grosspriel turned up hundreds of deer antlers and other game trophies — and about 100 guns, “many taken from other hunters’ huts.”

“We have no doubt that we found our man,” he told The Associated Press.

State Prosecutor Michaela Schnell says Huber is suspected in the illegal killing of numerous stags since 2005 and is also thought to have been the masked man who attacked a hunter with a knife two years ago, in what investigators now consider attempted murder.

In past centuries, poachers in Austria were often seen as cunning Robin Hood-like figures outwitting the noble owners of lands that they illegally hunted on for food.  Now, says expert Roland Girtler, some “drive in the night with SUVs in the forest, blind the game so that it stands still and then shoot. That is pathetic.”

No one in Grosspriel or the cluster of surrounding hamlets about 70 kilometers (40 miles) west of Vienna suggests that Huber used such methods.

They describe the 55-year-old as an expert who hunted legally and whose hobby turned into an obsession after his wife died about 15 years ago, leaving the childless widower with no close family. Those willing to talk about him after the trauma left by his rampage still don’t believe that he was the man leaving the headless carcasses of deer in his wake.

“We often went hunting for rabbits and pheasant,” says innkeeper Martin Jaeger between bites of schnitzel and gulps of cloudy wheat beer. “There was never any talk of poaching.”

For experts, analyzing Huber’s motives without knowing him is difficult. Speculation runs freely. But psychiatrist Reinhard Haller says his rampage could have been linked in part to a romantic view of himself as a poacher of old on the run from repressive authorities.

From the start of his illicit hunts to his standoff with police, it was a “struggle to see who is better,” he told the Austria Press Agency, describing Huber’s suicide as “an expression of his determination not to accept defeat.”

Some of Huber’s last words as police closed in support that image of a defiant outlaw proud of his illegal shoots.

“I am the poacher of Annaberg,” he told his friend, Herbert Huthansl, by cellphone, in comments cited by the daily Kronen Zeitung.

“They’re not going to get me.”

Stop the Spread of Psychopathy—End Hunting and Trapping

In light of the rise in violent crime, many have pondered the question: “How do I know if my neighbor is a psychopathic serial killer?” Well, unfortunately, it’s not easy. Unless of course you happen to live in any number of rural areas across the country where hunters are required to wear blaze orange—then the psychopathic serial killers stand out like a bunch of sore thumbs.

Okay, so maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic to compare hunters to serial killers. Yes, they both obsess on and stalk their victims, whom they objectify and depersonalize in their single-minded quest to boost their self-esteem, and the kills made by both hunters and serial killers are followed by a cooling off period, but serial killing usually has a sexual component to it.

Let’s hope hunters aren’t literally getting off on their exploits.

Maybe a better comparison for a hunter would be to a mass murderer: the inadequate type who snipes with a hunting rifle at innocent passers-by from a clock tower, or fires an AR-15 at cars from an embankment over a freeway.

Either way, the plain fact is cruelty to animals often leads to the killing of people. The perpetrators of the Columbine mass school shooting in Colorado honed their slaying skills by practicing on woodpeckers with their hunting rifles. David Berkowitz, the self-proclaimed “Son of Sam” serial killer, who habitually took sport in shooting lovers in parked cars along the streets of New York City, began his criminal career by shooting his neighbor’s dog.

Why does the public put up with these people in their midst?

The mainstream media downplays the behavior of serial animal killers as though hunting was just another “sport” to report on; like they were covering some Boy Scout Jamboree. They repeat by rote hunter/”game” department jargon like the animals were inanimate objects, using emotionally void terms such as “crop” for deer or “wolf harvest” for the unnecessary torture and murder of sentient beings vastly more admirable than their pursuers.

Worse yet are the noxious spread of anything-goes anti-wolf/anti-wildlife websites and chat rooms now widespread in social media. Consider the following comments made in response to a hunter showing off the cougar he killed (photo below)…

February 11 at 8:34am – “Nice cat bud.”

February 11 at 8:34am via mobile – “Colter! I had no idea you were into cougars.”

February 11 at 8:39am via mobile – “Hahahaha only old hairy ones like this one!!”

February 11 at 8:51am via mobile – “Good cat man congrats.”

February 11 at 9:15am via mobile – “That’s a nice cat bud!”

February 11 at 10:25am via mobile – “Thanks! Damn fun hunt.”

February 11 at 4:39pm – “what did you do, shoot its paw off!”

February 11 at 5:25pm via mobile – “It had been stuck in a trap at some point. Either chewed it off or pulled it off.”

In other words the poor cougar suffered, possibly for days, in a trap, before being shot by a trophy hunter. “Non-target” species like cougars often end up in traps set for other undeserving animals.

The Ravalli Republic reports (in typical mainstream media passionless fashion) in their article, Montana, Idaho trappers catching more than just wolves

In the first year that wolf trapping was allowed in Idaho, trappers captured a total of 123 wolves.

But according to a survey by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Department, those same trappers in 2011-2012 also inadvertently captured 147 other animals, including white-tailed deer, elk, moose, mountain lions, skunks and ravens.

Trappers reported that 69 of those animals died as a result.

Trappers reported capturing 45 deer. Twelve of those died. They also captured 18 elk and four moose. One of the elk died.

The same number of coyotes ended up in traps as deer. Trappers reported that 38 were killed. Mountain lions also took a hit. Nine were captured and six died.

“There are a heck of a lot of people out there trapping furbearers,” said the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife management chief. “And there also are a lot of people trapping coyotes, which aren’t even regulated.”

Meanwhile, Idaho allows trappers to use wire snares that collapse around an animal’s neck as it struggles to free itself.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s state wildlife game manager vacuously adds, “No one wants to catch a deer. It costs them a lot of time.”

Any society that looks the other way when people murder animals for fun does so at its peril. Marine biologist, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, had this to say about the growing problem:

“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is—whether its victim is human or animal—we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity.”

It doesn’t get much more cruel or moronic than this…

cougar kill

Time to control gun violence—against animals

As predictable as the fact that there will be another mass shooting in this country again sometime is the inevitability that when it happens talk of controlling gun violence will crop up again. The two seem to go hand in hand. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a case in point; the media has been rife with talk of controlling gun violence—against people.

But when I saw a recent article about a handgun buyback it hit me: most mass murderers use high-powered rifles—hunting rifles—but the buyback is only for handguns. Why isn’t there a buyback on hunting rifles? Oh, that’s right, hunting is a sacred institution—perpetuated by the likes of Dick Cheney, Ted Nugent and the NRA—no one can touch it. Forget all the violence done to animals, or even to crowds of people, if it means going up against hunting.

Never do you hear a peep about stopping gun violence against non-human animals. It’s as if they are inanimate objects, living targets to practice on. But if we really want to prevent the next school shooting or mass murder of mall shoppers, isn’t it time we address the violence inspired and nurtured by hunting?

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On the Death of Hunting

Literally, figuratively and statistically, hunting is a dying sport—it just hasn’t accepted that fact yet. Over the centuries, hunting in this country has been on a slippery, downward slope. It’s gone from being an almost universally practiced, year-round method of meat-gittin’ and “varmint” eradicatin’ (during the pioneering, God-given “Manifest Destiny” days that near-completely brought an end to the continent’s biodiversity) to the desperate, “sportsmen are the best environmentalists” perjury of present day—a laughable last-ditch attempt to stay afloat if you ever saw one.

Whether consciously aware of it or not, hunters, individually and as a well-funded whole, are in the process of grieving the impending demise of their favorite pastime. The question is, which stage of grief are they currently in, and more importantly, when will they finally give up the ghost and leave the animals alone?

If we apply the Kübler-Ross model (a hypothesis introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, commonly referred to as the “five stages of grief” including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) to the death of hunting, it would appear that hunters are somewhere between the first and the middle stage in their emotional journey toward acceptance. Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to people suffering from terminal illness, later expanded this theoretical model to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss, which could include job, income, freedom or some other significant life event. To a dyed-in-the-wool nimrod, the death of hunting definitely qualifies.

Known by the acronym DABDA, the five stages of the Kübler-Ross model include:

1)    Denial — “I feel fine.” “This can’t be happening, not to me.”

Denial can be a conscious or unconscious defense mechanism; a refusal to accept facts or the reality of the situation. This feeling is generally replaced with a heightened awareness of possessions that will be left behind after the death—in this case, after the death of their blood sport. For hunters, these possessions might be their beloved weapons, which they covetously cling to with Gollum-like obsession and zeal. Whenever the specter of gun control rears up after a mass school shooting, you can hear them breathlessly whispering, “My precious, my precious.” Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual, but some can become locked into this stage…

2) Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!” “How can this happen to me?” ‘”Who is to blame?”

Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to be around due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. For hunters, it’s usually directed toward non-hunters, especially environmentalists or animal advocates, but is often also directed against species they view as competition, such as coyotes or wolves. It is important to remain detached when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief.

3)    Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.” “I will give my life savings if only…”

The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death (or the death of their favorite lethal hobby). Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…” In the case of hunting, this negotiation is with the non-hunting majority and includes reinventing their persona, trying to sell themselves as “the best environmentalists;” pitching hunting as an admirable part of our heritage and trying to get laws passed to enshrine it; or recruiting women and young children into the fold.

4)    Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?” “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?” or in the case of the hunter, “If I can’t have my beloved blood sport, why go on?”

It’s natural for the hunter to feel sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty when going through this stage. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual (or a hunting organization, such as the NRA or the Safari Club) who is in this stage, as these emotions indicate their acceptance of the situation.

5)    Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.” “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality or another tragic event, such as the loss of a loved one…or, for the hunter, the long-dreaded ceasefire in the war waged against the animals.

One of the most popular arguments for hunting is, “But humans are carnivores, we’ve always been hunters.” The fact is, human predatory behavior is killing the planet. The only way any of us are going to survive is if we lay down our weapons and return to our plant-eating origins.

Sound radical? Arthur Schopenhauer spelled out his own set of stages that undeniably applies here: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

DSC_0056

Finding the Christmas Miracle

This is the time of year when people like to find the silver lining in things. The phenomenon is especially obvious during mainstream media newscasts, as the networks are keenly aware that their viewers might abandon them and move on to a different channel if they stick too close to the reality of a given situation on this, the holiest of nights.

So, in the spirit of silver linings, I’m going to try to be positive and find the “Christmas miracle” in everything (at least until December 26th anyway). Okay, here we go…

-Although the Earth’s climate is changing faster than scientists originally predicted—due to the ongoing, rampant, anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, resulting in worsening droughts, more intense hurricane and fire seasons and a record melt-down of the Arctic ice cap—at least we survived the Mayan Apocalypse.

-Even if Ted Nugent personally poached and otherwise killed an inestimable, undisclosed number of bear, deer, elk and other undeserving victims this year, at least his silly T.V. show was cancelled.

-Though there was an increase in the number of noble, majestic elk who were senselessly yet legally “harvested” (read: murdered) by sportsmen in Montana this year, the numbers are in from hunter check stations for the final weekend of the general big game season across the state and overall it looks like 2012 saw fewer hunters taking fewer animals….(That one was easy; I just put a positive spin on the original end of the year report by the Montana game department that read, “The numbers are in from hunter check stations for the final weekend of the general big game season across Montana and overall it looks like 2011 saw fewer hunters taking fewer animals. One bright spot seemed to be a small increase in the elk harvest in several areas.”)

-Despite widespread trapping of mink, marten, otter, raccoon, beaver, muskrat, bobcat, fox and about every other “furbearer” in the state of Montana, the wolverine are off the hit-list there…for now.

-While gun sales set a record on Black Friday and spiked even higher since the Sandy Hook school massacre, at least some of this year’s crazed gunmen did the world a favor and eventually turned their weapons on themselves.

-Although 115 wolves have been sadistically slaughtered in Wisconsin (in addition to hundreds of others shot and trapped in the Lower 48 so far this year), that state has reached its “quota,” so no more wolves there can be legally killed by hunters…at least until the next hunting season (hunters there are calling for an unlimited quota next time).

-Despite the fact that we’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the planet’s history with so many species going extinct per year that no one can possibly keep track, remote cameras recently photographed both an ocelot and a jaguar in southern Arizona.

-And on a personal note: although, due to his failing health, my 87 year old father was spaced out and barely able to whisper a word or acknowledge anything the entire day yesterday, he suddenly started smiling and became animated and engaged when he found himself winning nearly every hand at poker last night (by the end of the game, he had amassed an enormous pile of chips and the rest of us were bankrupt).

Seasons Greetings and always keep an eye out for that elusive silver lining!

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Who the Hell Hunts With a Machine Gun Anyway?

While America is reeling in shock over the senseless shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and mourning those lost in a volley of peacetime machine gun fire, the papers are rehashing the same questions posed whenever a mass killing makes the news: “Why did this happen?” and “How can we prevent this kind of thing in the future?”

Predictably, politicians from both sides of the fence are weighing in on gun control or the culpability shared by violent Hollywood movies (and even cartoons like Family Guy and American Dad—both of which were preempted by Fox this week because of the tragedy). What we’re not hearing in the mainstream media is any mention of the leading role that sport hunting plays in promoting guns and perpetuating violence.

The latest school shooter, Adam Lanza, and the D.C. Beltway snipers, John Mohammad and John Malvo, all used a Bushmaster .223 hunting/assault rifle to carry out their killings. It was also the weapon used in the Colorado theater shooting, and in a host of other homicidal meltdowns.

The .223 semi-automatic can fire 6 rounds per second (okay, if you want to split hairs, it’s not technically considered a machine gun because you have to hit the hair-trigger with each shot), but what makes it so deadly is the way the bullet reacts on impact: It’s designed to bounce around inside the body once it makes contact with bone.

90641_Varminter

Why is such a lethal assault rifle legal for non-military civilians to own? According to the manufacturer, they are intended to be used for hunting animals. As the NRA well knows, hunting has been used to justify the private ownership of some of the most destructive weapons ever invented.

But who the Hell really hunts with a machine gun anyway? Unfortunately, some folks do. One thrill-killer describes his sport this way: “Prairie dog hunting is a blast, on both private and public lands. I like to start by clearing everything within 50 yards with an AR-15, then switch to my .223 Remington for anything out to about 150 and finally trade up to the bull barrel .22-250 for the longer shots.”

And those who mass murder coyotes seem to feel entitled to the deadliest of armaments as well. A recent “contest hunt” offered up a free shotgun or a pair of semi-automatic rifles to whoever murdered the most canines. The terms of the competition were simple: hunters in New Mexico had two days to shoot and kill as many coyotes as they could; the winner got their choice of a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun or two AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. (The AR-15 is the civilian version of the military’s M16 that has been in production since Vietnam.) “Nothing’s gonna stop me,” said Mark Chavez, the hunt’s sponsor, and the owner of Gunhawk Firearms “This is my right to hunt and we’re not breaking any laws.”

Bushmaster describes their .223 as a “Varmint Rifle.” Oh really? That shines new light on what some of these politicians really mean when they say they only hunt “varmints.” I’ve never been an invited guest at George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford Texas; therefore I can only guess that this is the type of weapon the self-proclaimed “varmint” hunter uses when he goes up against a family of scary ground squirrels, marmots or a town of talkative prairie dogs.

Larger caliber Bushmaster models are categorized as “Predator Rifles.”

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Ironically, it was Lanza’s mother, Nancy, who taught young Adam how to shoot. She was an avid gun enthusiast who legally owned a Sig Sauer and a Glock (both handguns commonly used by police) and a military-style Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine, according to law enforcement officials. As it turns out, it was one of her guns that her son turned on her before using them in his attack on the students and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary…

See also, “Honor Thy Father and Mother, Except When They Misbehave.”

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved