Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Big Adventure

A few days after my mother's funeral I went to stay with my dad and his wife for a couple of days. In an effort to cheer me up my dad contacted the owner of an exotic ranch in a nearby town and paid him $100 to cart me around in his ATV so I could take pictures. I hadn't shot anything in well over a month and wasn't sure I'd ever shoot again. My mind was in a bad place. If exotic animals didn't reignite my love of photography, nothing would.

A wealthy recluse, this man invented a sophisticated device for underwater drilling. His passion is hunting, so he bought hundreds of acres of land to import exotic game from Africa such as elk, axis, nilgai, black buck, antelope, bison, wildebeest, fallow deer, and oryx. 

I walked up to the ranch owner to introduce myself, carrying my camera and 400mm lens, and he says, "What the hell is that?" Then he spit a disgusting wad of tobacco juice on the ground. Mortified and speechless and happy the wad missed my shoe, my dad quickly explained that we were there for photography. "Hmph!"


With tobacco juice residing precariously on his chin like fresh oil, the Beverly Hillbillies theme song came to mind. Sitting directly behind him in the ATV I couldn't help noticing his oily, matted hair which begged me to fetch a bottle of Prell (he needs the strong stuff, y'all). Within the first few minutes I realized this would be no picnic. Forget the endearing Clampetts, scenes of Deliverance began flashing through my head. 

The man is almost deaf, so in order to stop for a photo I had to tap him on the shoulder, which meant I had to touch his filthy camouflage jacket. Further intensifying my uneasiness, he seemed to get annoyed when I'd ask him to stop. Therefore, I was forced to be frugal with my requests, vowing after each touch of his jacket to remember my antibacterial hand sanitizer. My germaphobia was on high alert.

Here's a small sampling of what I managed to get that day.











Once the safari photo shoot was over, Jed Clampett pulled the ATV next to a large rock at the edge of a pond and without a word drew his rifle out and blew a turtle to smithereens. Well, I was pretty incensed and just wanted to leave before my blood got to the boiling point. That poor turtle was innocently sunbathing, minding his own business and BOOM! Life over.

These beautiful animals, although well cared for, are basically sitting ducks for hunters that pay mega-bucks to slaughter them for trophies. At least out in the wild they'd have a chance, but here at this ranch they are accustomed to people and the sound of vehicles, lulling them into a sense of security. And it's just wrong. Too much money in the wrong hands is a travesty.

35 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

oh, i don't like that type of hunting either. big sigh. so your 'cheer up' mission ended up not being so cheerful.

Starla said...

I'm sorry that your special treat didn't turn out so special. I grew up around hunters, but, they had to track, sit, wait, wait, track and maybe get off a shot. In fact, my dad quit hunting when he accidently shot a doe. Just took it out of him.
Personally, I don't think I could ever pull the trigger on an animal just for sport. Now, to protect, yes. For sport, no.

Barbara said...

Oh my gosh, I admire your restraint when he blew that turtle away. WTH?? I can only imagine it's taken you this long to write this so you could cool off a little. Beautiful shots, but bittersweet knowing they're 'sitting ducks' as you say. Nice thought on your dad's part, though.

Cynthia Schelzig said...

Yes, you snapped some beautiful shots of these wonderful creatures but ohhhhh so sad about where they live
and die.....I was shocked to hear about the turtle,,,it must have been much worse being there...ggeeez

Tree Hugger - Suzan said...

I am sorry about the loss of your Mother. Your pictures are beautiful. I live in a bubble; to think that there are people that kill animals as trophies that are fenced in and have no sense of fear. Glad they are taken care of - but so sad!

Butterbean Row said...

Gail,

What was your father thinking? Did he not know what kind of person this guy is and what his motives are for the animals?
I hate that you didn't get the treat that you were hoping for. But you did get some nice exotic shots.

♥charlotte

Deb Crecelius said...

Well, the good...
great photos and the two photos of the spotted animals,
one llama and one long-horn...
they are gorgeous.
The bad...
I know these places exist,
and I'm assuming they fulfill a purpose,
but killing a turtle...well, why???
You showed great restraint.
[And...sorry about your mama]

Linda said...

Your father's heart was in the right place, but I'll bet he's sorry he didn't research this place a little better. You did get some wonderful pictures, but I know the memory is tainted for you.

heyBJK said...

First, your photos are fantastic, Gail! The elk shot with her tongue out is wonderful! And the like the Bighorn Sheep. Great use of DOF in lots of the photos!

A place like this is great for photography, but when you have someone taking you around who isn't interested in photography, it makes things very difficult. I hope it didn't change your mind about getting back into it.

As for the hunting part of it, I've been a hunter my entire life. I grew up in a hunting/fishing family, but I'm not going to get into that here. My feelings about a ranch like this is a discussion for another venue.

I didn't know about your mother. I'm very sorry and you have my sincerest condolences.

hootnonny said...

The good news is that he didn't shoot you! I cannot imagine the mindset of a person who'd shoot a turtle to show off.

You and your 400mm did a great job.

Shug said...

You just described a few fellas around this part of the country....Oh my, I tell my dear sweet Sam, that if anything happens to me, he better for sure keep himself CLEAN!!
I would have loved to have seen your face when you heard the BOOM!! Guess it would be safe to say that this guy lacked a lot when it came to his personality.
These are great photos...I love the spots on the deer, or maybe that is a Axis.
Big hugs..

Kathy said...

This breaks my heart!

Lisa Gordon said...

How kind of your dad, Gail, and you got great shots.
As far as I am concerned, there is very little more awful than canned hunts.

Deanna said...

Oh my, the next time you want to photograph some animals I might strongly suggest the zoo rather than live through another ordeal like this one. You captured some lovely images, but the story as to how you snapped them is rather disheartening. I know your Dad meant well, but I am sure he was as disgusted as you were. Come here I will treat you to something not quite so unnerving.

Gone Country said...

That outrages me. I can't STAND hunting for sport. I'm a huge animal lover and hunting for food is difficult for me to deal with but at least I can understand that. And you're right about too much money in wrong hands.

Love the images you were able to capture though. Stunning! I hope you were able to reignite your love of photography.

bailey-road.com said...

Although your photos are lovely, it's hard to look at them and realize these animals are sitting ducks for hunters. I'm not anti-hunting, but I don't consider this kind of hunting a sport.

Evelyn S. said...

Omigosh! Your narrative is terrific, Gail! (I was hearing "Deliverance" before you even mentioned it!) Sad to hear that it's one of those exotic hunting locations....sad that he thought the turtle was somehow undesirable, too. Other than that, the photos are great, though.

Dave said...

I share your contempt for the man and his wealth and lack of respect for his animals, Gail. I enjoyed your photos though - Dave

Rosemary Aubut said...

Gail you are just to funny how you describe this experience! Wow the tobacco juice would have sent me running! How very sweet of your dad though!

Hilary said...

Oh your poor Dad. I'm sure he was mortified that what he'd hoped was a good distraction and a treat turned out to be such a disgusting mess.

All of your readers are like-minded about this kind of place. It's vile and the guy is a bully. I'd be inclined to include the name of this place in your post so that others can know what they're in for if they should do some research.

I'm sorry for your bad experience. Those wonderful creatures which you photographed so beautifully sure do deserve better.

ladyfi said...

Oh, that poor poor turtle.

Your shots are lovely though.

Tricia Hays said...

That couldn't have been easy to deal w/ at any point, but at that particular time, it had to be devastating... I'm so sorry some people just have absolutely no care of themselves, much less anyone else...
Why are some people missing a sensitivity chip in their brains? I just don't know! =0

beth said...

omg...this is a funny yet horrific story !!

but the photos as always are great !!!

Linda R said...

That is so sad.. That poor turtle. But I do have to say your photos look amazing.

Hugs~

Nancy Claeys said...

Gail, I'm sorry this experience wasn't an especially good one for you and although I do believe hunting has its place and benefits, this type of facility is nothing more than a shooting gallery.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Lovely photos and do not try and rush yourself back into things, you will feel ready when you are ready, if that makes sense. :)

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I really hate this kind of hunting ranch...it isn't fair. I'm not sure it was a good experience for cheering you up, but you certainly got some good photos.

Nadine, Chewy and Lilibell said...

Oh my goodness Gail, that certainly was one big adventure from Hell! Sorry, but there were a few places where I had to let out a giggle as I pictured it in my mind, lol!

I was wondering, halfway through reading it, whether those animals were there just for hunting and sadly got my answer at the end. That's just so not right and just so very sad.

Vagabonde said...

Your photos are pretty good under the circumstances. My husband was a hunter, but he used a black powder rifle which gave him one shot only, so he only would use it when he was sure. Then he belong to the - I forget the name – like a mission kitchen in Atlanta where he would give the meat. In Georgia there are so many deer that many people get killed on the road and if they are not hunted, under license, then they get diseased. He does not hunt anymore – he says he can’t. What a terrible sport this is to kill animals in a ranch – this is not a sport, really, it’s a pastime for heartless rich folks.
I remember now I think it was called Deer Hunter for the Hungry.

the wild magnolia said...

as per your normal wonderfulness, stunning photos, and good words.

i would have been incensed too. i have long thought this type of "hunting" should be against the law.

thank you for sharing.

Phil said...

Gail, Thanks for the entertaining story with such a nasty and shocking sting in the tale/tail. People like that "man" should end up in the same way that they see fit for such beautiful animals. It's so sad to think that some of those creatures may now be dead at the hands of similarly minded "sportsmen"

Kittie Howard said...

OMG, I'm so sorry, Gail, about your mom. I gasped when I opened your post. Gosh, but I feel awful, caught up in my world, I didn't know you were going through such pain. I'm sorry, sorry for not being there for you. Oh, gosh, Gail. I wish I had a magic wand.

I think it was two weeks ago that Sixty Minutes had a segment on these exotic ranches. The segment presented what you blogged about but also went into the economics and jobs and so on. So, okay, I was able to decide for myself, but, there was no explanation any Texas rancher could give that minimized the brutality of what they're doing. Hunters pay Big Dog fees (as high as $50,000 to shoot an endangered animal) to these ranchers. The ranchers breed the endangered ones for these fees. But, there was nothing anyone could say to change my thinking about this useless slaughter. How a hunter could do this and call himself a hunter is beyond me. It's all sick, sick, sick!

Tricia said...

Oh my, I feel like I don't even know what to say. I'm so disgusted by what happened to that poor turtle. I really think you could be charged with animal cruelty here in Minnesota for something like that. So sad. As for the ranch, it certainly provides some wonderful opportunities for photos, but, in my mind, a person who shoots an animal in a place like that isn't really hunting.

missing moments said...

Nice of your dad ... but oh, I hate places like this. They should be outlawed! It must have been so hard to restrain yourself when he shot that turtle!

Laura Delegal - Leroy Photography said...

Had to smile, laugh, and then gasp at the end of your post. I intensely dislike those who have no humanity, whether it be for humans or turtles! Your shots are great and it sounds like it is an adventure you will always remember, but not in a good way. :(