Current drones have pigeon-like flight qualities
GENEVA, Illinois––Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] founder Steve Hindi, gambling on video surveillance missions for more than a decade that he is a better drone pilot than pigeon shooters are anti-aircraft gunners, on October 2, 2018 formalized the contest in a video entitled Drone Challenge for Cruel, Cowardly Pigeon Shooters, posted to YouTube.
Offered Hindi, “Let’s replace the pigeons with drones flown by SHARK pilots. This won’t be the cowardly act of shooting sick birds, but rather, a competition pitting two sides against each other. Our drones will come out just like pigeons,” Hindi pledged, “only they won’t bleed if they are hit, and they won’t suffer.”
“Can’t hit the broad side of a barn”
The mention of “sick birds” referred to the tendency of pigeons used in pigeon shoots to be kept without food or water for days before use, and to have suffered rough handling that inhibits their ability to fly upon release.
“Pigeon shooters claim that they shoot live birds tossed out of boxes, or thrown up by hand, because these weak, emaciated birds somehow pose the greatest challenge for these supposed elite shooters,” Hindi scoffed, against background video taken from the SHARK drones showing pigeon shooters missing shot after shot at close range.
“This is utter nonsense,” Hindi said. “Creeps who shoot pigeons tossed out of boxes are not only cruel, cowardly, psychopaths, but most of them can’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
“Can’t shoot accurately unless target is half dead”
Stipulated Hindi, “We are most directly aiming this challenge at the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem, Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Flyers Association, which hold pigeon shoots in a few places around Pennsylvania; and the Broxton Bridge Plantation, which actually has people illegally shoot our drones while hiding in trees like the cowards they are.
“By refusing,” Hindi finished, “you can prove everything we’ve said about you for decades is true – that you can’t shoot accurately unless your target is half dead.
“To the real people out there who don’t abuse animals, stay tuned to see how our challenge is received. My guess is that no one will respond, because I believe these guys have all the backbone of a severely overcooked strand of angel hair pasta, but I do hope they will show me to be wrong.”
Hegins promoter turned down prize fight
Hindi has a long history of issuing challenges to pigeon shooters, none of which have ever been accepted.
Protests against the Labor Day pigeon shoot held from 1935 to 1999 in Hegins, Pennsylvania, for instance, began in 1984, led by Trans-Species Unlimited founders George Cave and Dana Stuchell, but had nearly petered out by 1990. Hindi, then himself a hunter, stopped to watch the 1989 Hegins pigeon shoot on his way to go shark fishing at Montauk, Long Island, and was so offended by the cruelty and lack of “fair chase” ethic he saw that a year later he challenged shoot organizer Bob Tobash to a no-holds-barred bare knuckles brawl for a winner-take-all purse of $10,000–which Hindi posted.
The prize fight was to replace the pigeon shoot as a fundraiser for the Hegins park and recreation association. While Tobash declined to fight, the offer drew media notice across the U.S., attracted multiple national organizations to revived protest at Hegins, and led indirectly to the litigation that finally stopped the shoot.
Challenged NRA execs
Hindi meanwhile gave up hunting and fishing, formed SHARK, and by late 1992 had ended pigeon shooting in Illinois, his home state.
Walking into a National Rifle Association-sponsored gun show at the Tucson Convention Center on September 17, 2000, Hindi challenged the senior NRA personnel present to a public debate on the morality and ethics of pigeon shooting. When that challenge was not accepted, Hindi repeated it in a nationally publicized YouTube video posted on February 12, 2015. The NRA has yet to respond.
Hindi has challenged targets of SHARK exposés other than pigeon shooters, with similar non-results.
On January 26, 2018, for instance, Hindi in a YouTube video bet $10,000 of his own money, counted out on camera, that PETA cofounder Alex Pacheco, not actually associated with PETA in more than 20 years, and his current organization, “600 Million Stray Dogs Need You,” cannot demonstrate to a scientifically credible third party that there is any substance to Pacheco’s longtime claim in fundraising appeals that he is developing a “spay/neuter cookie.”
Said Hindi, “All Pacheco needs to do is share the evidence, his intellectual property protected by a strong anti-disclosure agreement, with a bona fide expert in animal contraception, who can assure Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi that Pacheco has a credible idea.”
First to have drone shot down
Hindi and the SHARK team have had more mixed results at eluding pigeon shooters’ gunfire during reconnaissance flights that have produced dozens of YouTube videos demonstrating pigeon shoot cruelty.
On January 2, 2011, for instance, Hindi became the first U.S. civilian drone pilot on record to have a drone shot down. That drone, hit near the Wing Pointe Gun Club in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, for many years remained caught high in a tall tree above the gun club, and now is in possession of the Pennsylvania state police crime laboratory.
Field & Stream blogger encouraged shooting drones
This attracted the notice of Field & Stream blogger Chad Love––who has also long ignored Hindi’s challenges to debate.
“Animal rights activists, a remote-controlled helicopter, and a bunch of guys with shotguns. Now that’s a combination with some definite potential for the creation of a brand-new shooting sport,” Love mused in a February 9, 2012 web posting.
Three days later some of the fewer than two dozen participants in a pigeon shoot at Broxton Bridge, South Carolina, allegedly gunned down a SHARK drone helicopter camera platform moments after takeoff.
Three drones shot down in one day
Earlier in 2018, the SHARK presence had apparently already delayed the start of a scheduled four-day pigeon shoot by two days when on February 10, 2018 several men believed to have been associated with the Broxton Bridge Plantation hunting ranch shot down three SHARK drones with rifles.
Between those episodes, a SHARK drone was on September 11, 2015 hit by gunfire at a pigeon shoot hosted by U.S. Senator James Inhofe at Altus, Oklahoma.
Altogether, Hindi and SHARK have experienced about a third of the drone shoot-downs known to have occurred in the U.S.
Several other SHARK drones have been damaged by gunfire but returned to the launch crew under their own power.
The first pilot other than Hindi to lose a drone to gunfire was Lenny Helbig, of New Jersey, in 2014. Since then, drones flown by other pilots have been shot down in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon, and Tennessee. Shooting at drones is technically illegal under Federal Aviation Administration rules, but successful prosecutions of the shooters––even when clearly identified by drone video––have been few, if there have been any.
No one has been prosecuted for shooting at a SHARK drone.
Early drones, however, were relatively low-and-slow-flying, and difficult to maneuver. Current top-of-the-line drones now boast flight characteristics remarkably similar to pigeons: an average sustained flight speed of about 50 miles per hour, a top speed of 90 to 100 miles per hour, and about the same acceleration and turning rates as a pigeon.
Further, while the FAA officially limits drone speed to 100 miles per hour, drones modified for speed have reportedly topped 160 miles per hour in short bursts.
Ironically, in challenging pigeon shooters to take aim at harder-to-hit inanimate targets, Hindi has become part of a long tradition celebrated on several trapshooting web sites, including that of the Pennsylvania Trapshooting Hall of Fame.
Trapshooter and bird breeder James H. Harding, of Manchester, England, for instance, in 1864 substituted glass balls launched with oversized rubber bands for the use of live birds, after the local SPCA brought a criminal charge against one of the assistants who launched birds at a shooting match.
Which SPCA this was is unclear; while the London-based Royal SPCA dates to 1824, and soon inspired chapters and emulators throughout the United Kingdom, the present Manchester & Safford chapter of the RSPCA was not founded until 1963.
Cane stopped pistol
Lunchroom and oyster house owner Charles Portlock of Boston imported glass balls from England and introduced them to use by U.S. trapshooters in 1866, the same year that Henry Bergh founded the American SPCA.
Portlock and his second wife Mary won a second place ribbon for their female tortoiseshell cat at the 1880 Music Hall Cat Show in Boston, one of the first cat shows held in the U.S., but there seems to be little other record of Portlock in connection with competitive shooting.
Portlock did, however, in 1881 use his cane to swat a pistol from the hands of Thomas Hunter, 60, who pulled the trigger but missed the shot. Hunter, a bigamist and drunk, had been Mary Portlock’s first husband.
Pigeon shooter added feathers to balls
By 1872 glass target balls had come into vogue and Bergh was pushing the Long Island Shooting Club to adopt them instead of shooting live pigeons.
After Bergh arrested pigeon shooting champion Ira Paine for cruelty, leading to Paine’s temporary incarceration in the Westchester jail, Paine in retaliation sued Bergh.
But Paine then introduced an improved glass target ball launcher, together with feather-filled balls whose explosion better simulated the effect of gunfire hitting live birds. Bergh in August 1876 wrote to Field & Stream magazine to endorse it. This letter appears to be the foundation for the oft-cited myth that Bergh himself invented the clay pigeon used by most competitive shooters since his own time.
From glass balls to “sporting clays”
The Bergh endorsement, however, together with his continued efforts to prosecute live bird shooters and pass legislation against captive bird shooting, helped to stimulate innovation.
Among the few shooters to best Paine in a one-on-one match was Adam Henry Bogardus (1833-1913), previously a prolific market hunter. Responding to the increasing scarcity of passenger pigeons, however, as well as to the rise of humane opposition to live bird shoots, which had halted many of the most lucrative shooting events, Bogardus in 1877 credited Portlock, rather than Paine, with inspiring him to introduce competitive shooting at glass balls tossed in multiple directions by catapults.
This caught on briefly as a spectator event, but was superseded in 1880 by the invention of the bowl-shaped “sporting clay” as it now exists by yet another professional trapshooter, George Ligowsky, who hired Bogardus to help promote it.