By STEVE LEVIN
June 12, 2005
A Remington .30-06 rifle fires the shot, but the hunter is miles away, sitting behind a computer, watching the antelope on the monitor and using the mouse to pull the trigger.
It's called computer-assisted hunting or Internet hunting, and six states already have banned it. A U.S. House member from Virginia introduced a bill in April to make Internet hunting a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
This week, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee sent a bill to the House that would ban Internet hunting in the state. Lawmakers in another 19 states are pushing like-minded legislation. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected this summer to sign into law a bill banning all aspects of Internet hunting in the state.
The focus of all this attention is Live-Shot.com, the only known cyber-hunting site in the country.
It's not cheap to hunt barbary sheep, wild hogs, red stags or blackbuck antelope from the comfort of the family room. Besides the $14.95 membership fee, there's a $1,000 animal stocking fee, $300 for each two-hour hunt and $75 for additional hours, $235 in taxidermy and meat-processing fees, and a Texas hunting license, which, as in many states, is available online. Of course, shipping and handling are extra.
Online hunting has become an issue around which normally warring parties such as the U.S. Humane Society and the National Rifle Association can rally, one that has galvanized fractiously slow state legislatures into swift action.
"We see it as pay-per-view slaughter and it has no resemblance to traditional forms of hunting," said the national Humane Society's Heide Prescott.
Live-Shot takes place on 200-plus acres of land north of San Antonio and is the idea of John Lockwood, a body-shop estimator. Lockwood did not return several calls seeking comment.
As described in published reports, Live-Shot's rifle is mounted and attached to a small motor, three video cameras and an actuator similar to ones used in car-door locks. The actuator is attached to a wire that pulls the trigger when the mouse is clicked.
In case a "hunter" only disables an animal, Lockwood is on-site to deliver the killing shot.
Live-Shot also offers target practice for the membership fee plus $5.95 per each 10 rounds of ammunition, and Lockwood has said more than 350 people have joined.
But the number of hunters is very small. One of them is Dale Hagberg, a 38-year-old quadriplegic in Ligonier, Ind., who must use a respirator.
An avid hunter before a diving accident 18 years ago left him with movement only in the center of his face, he has hunted four times at Live-Shot. Over 16 hours, however, he has yet to fire a shot, because the blackbuck he wants to bag hasn't come into view. A joystick he moves with his mouth enables him to move the camera and view the animals.
"Everybody that knows me and knows my limitations knows that I'm really exhausted after hunting," Hagberg said through the help of a nurse. "And my heart races when I see the animals. It's a lot more like hunting than people imagine.
"What's the difference if I'm 300 miles away or 300 feet away? The animal still doesn't know I'm there."
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