Is Shooting Animals Behind a High Fence Hunting?

I was watching a popular hunting show (that will remain nameless) one evening.

During the show two of the pro-staff shot 180 inch whitetails and they showed encounters with at least four deer in the 140-150 range. I didn’t see any does or small bucks. That is not natural, even for the best managed properties.  So I look up the guide service they were peddling and sure enough my suspicions were correct. They were “hunting” a high fence game farm. Ethically speaking there is nothing wrong with it.  It carries the same ethics that come with butchering a cow. But it does seem a little disingenuous to pass it off as hunting.

When it comes to shooting an animal behind a high fence, I think most would agree that small enclosures offer no real comparison to true hunting. But what about larger enclosures? Just because there is a fence, does that alone preclude us from calling it hunting? Is it only the high fence that matters or are there other variables? Should we take into account population densities? These questions on the surface seem simple, but become more complicated the deeper you dig.
For a totally unrealistic example, let’s say Donald Trump gets elected and builds his wall. Then he decides he is not happy with Canada and builds another wall, making all of the lower 48 behind a big high fence. So technically any hunting would be behind a high fence. Of course this is a completely outrageous example, but it shows size does matter and bigger is better.

I truly believe there are places behind a fence that you can legitimately hunt. Population densities and age structure should be taken into account. The goal should be a natural habitat where animals are wild. Here are a few places I have found that demonstrate this.

In Africa, a majority of hunting is done on game farms that are in upwards of 1 million acres. That is an area that is way bigger than the natural range of probably all the animals inside. The animals have free range and live a natural life.  The fence is more to keep people out than keep the animals in.  I believe most people would consider it hunting to take an animal on one of these farms.

Ravenna Arsenal, a place I have personally hunted deer, is another enclosed property that fits the criteria of hunting.  It is an old ammunition plant and current National Guard training area. It encompasses over 25,000 acres with at least 95{5c20afc010e65415aecac9ea1262ea64a0924a29c29fc9ad7cafd2eeb769a435} prime whitetail habitat. In order to hunt there you need to be drawn in a lottery, so there is very little hunting pressure. This results in big deer with a natural age and population structures.

The goal with any place should be to create a natural environment. The pen should be larger than the animal’s home range.  They should be able to move freely from place to place unencumbered with a natural population density with a natural age structure. There are “high fence” operations that achieve this and should be considered hunting by a majority of people.