Frequent model for his father’s bowhunting magazine
BOISE, Idaho––The Blake Owen Fischer baboon family killing-and-display saga did not end on October 15, 2018, when Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced that Fischer, 40, had resigned from the Idaho Fish & Game Commission.
Indeed, the most influential part of the story has yet to transpire.
What matters most about it is how the furor over the baboon family killings affects Fischer’s self-appointed role as a second generation apostle of traditional bowhunting. Traditional bowhunting means killing by the use of broadhead arrows shot with a recurve bow.
Viewed as a martyr?
Is Fischer in genuine disgrace, or merely a soon-to-be-beatified martyr for all the thousands of trophy hunters for whom he has long been a role model?
Fischer, of Meridian, Idaho, has been a leading maker of traditional bowhunting equipment for nearly 20 years. Even before founding his bowhunting equipment manufacturing company with his late father Larry Fischer’s help, Fischer was a frequent star of photo shoots for Larry Fischer’s slick magazine, Traditional Bowhunter, published since 1989.
Traditional bowhunting, the oldest common hunting method, is the method with the lowest “drop rate,” meaning the greatest chance that a wounded animal will suffer for considerable time before dying a lingering death.
Studies have long established, for example, that the “drop rate” for a deer hit with a broadhead arrow is as low as 50%, compared to 95% for a rifle shot.
Bow-shot deer 10 times more likely to suffer
In other words, the deer hit by a traditional hunter is 10 times likely to suffer for minutes, hours, days, or even weeks and months.
Why Fischer resigned from the Idaho Fish & Game Commission made worldwide headlines––but the back story about who he is, what he hoped to do as a game commission member, has made a career of doing, and will probably still be doing for many more years barely brought a mention.
Fischer resigned, reportedly at Otter’s request, three days after Idaho Statesman reporter Chad Cripe exposed a smoldering controversy among other current and former Idaho Fish & Game Commission members over gruesome photographs of 14 animals whom Fischer and his wife Elizabeth killed in Namibia during early September 2018.
Gov Otter ordered wildlife cops to ignore wolf killings
Worth noting is that Otter himself has a despicable record of kowtowing to hunters and on wildlife conservation issues generally.
In October 2010, for example, responding to trophy hunters wrongly blaming wolves for a perceived scarcity of elk, moose, and bighorn sheep––demonstrated by subsequent research showing diminished habitat quality––Otter ordered the Idaho Fish & Game Department to quit responding to reports of illegal wolf killing.
Ordering law enforcement to not investigate reported felonies has precedents in U.S. history chiefly during the era of Ku Klux Klan control of state governments in the racially segregated South.
Sells irrigation equipment
Fischer emailed the dead animal photos to more than 100 recipients on September 17, 2018, remarking “After we left all of the animals in Africa that were still alive, we were on a plane headed home!”
Otter appointed Fischer to the seven-member Idaho Fish & Game Commission in July 2014, renewing the four-year appointment in June 2018.
Fischer’s only apparent previous distinction, other than his role in promoting traditional bowhunting, was that he had served as president of the Idaho Irrigation Equipment Association, beginning in 2009, in his capacity as a third generation employee of B.A. Fischer Sales Co. Inc., of Boise, founded by his grandfather.
“Big Brother of the Year”
According to Fischer’s Idaho Fish & Game Commission official biography, no longer posted, Fischer was “the commissioner representing the Southwest Region, who “also manufactures specialty archery equipment as owner of Traditional Pursuit Inc.,” under the brand names Eclipse and Werewolf, “is the Idaho co-chair for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and [is]past president of the Idaho Traditional Bowhunters.”
Fischer’s photo and biographical information disappeared from the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers web site at about the same time it vanished from the Idaho Fish & Game Commission web site.
Fischer “also is active in Big Brothers Big Sisters and was recently named Big Brother of the Year by BBBS,” the Idaho Fish & Game Commission web page said. “Blake wants to address the decline in the number of people hunting.”
“Bowhunting was our religion”
Said Fischer himself, “We need to figure out how to turn this around by developing new and better hunter recruitment programs and get youth out in the field and transition them into lifelong hunters.”
Elaborated Fischer on his bowhunting equipment sales web site, describing his own childhood, “Bowhunting was our religion..My father took our family of six to the mountains every weekend to hunt, fish, camp, and explore. It was there we learned about bowhunting. More specifically, how we weren’t just ordinary bowhunters. We were Traditional Bowhunters. He bought me my first bow on my fifth birthday.”
Fischer went on to recount how he hunts “every chance I get to pursue animals with my recurve,” teaching his wife Beth, formerly Elizabeth Blom, 37, and their four children to hunt as he does.
He concluded by hoping that “the opportunities and the way I grew up,” recreationally killing wildlife, “will be there for my kids, and future generations.”
“She got the idea quick”
Fischer sent the email and Twitter messages that landed him in trouble to a list of friends, relatives, and others, including other current and former Idaho Fish & Game Commissioner, after his third hunting trip to Africa and his wife’s first.
“First day she wanted to watch me, and ‘get a feel’ of Africa,” he wrote. “So I shot a whole family of baboons. I think she got the idea quick.”
A photo showed Fischer grinning beside four baboons, including a baby with an evident bloody wound from a belly shot.
Unclear was what “the idea” was that Beth Fischer supposedly “got,” other than that Blake Fischer had demonstrated his ability to kill a whole family of a species sharing 91% of their DNA with humans, not classed as a “game” animal precisely because baboons are not hard to shoot.
Why baboons are not a “trophy” animal
Indeed, baboons throughout Africa typically run right up to anyone in a vehicle in hopes of cadging handouts. Frequently baboons are a nuisance, raiding crops and refuse dumps. Sometimes whole troops of baboons terrorize pedestrians, mostly seeking food, but sometimes also just for fun.
Shooting a baboon, however, is no more difficult than shooting a dog, and tends to be even less well-regarded.
Novelist and trophy hunter Ernest Hemingway shot problematic baboons in Kenya, for instance, as part of an official Kenyan colonial government delegation, but was not proud of having done it, remarking afterward that baboon hunting “has never been the Sport of Kings and I have yet to see the baboon listed as Royal game.”
Fischer shared photos of Beth Fischer beside dead antelopes, oryx and waterbuck.
Killed leopard, warthog & giraffe
“I shot a Leopard. Super cool, super lucky,” Fischer wrote of this. “The Leopard is one of the big 5, as in one of the 5 animals in Africa that will kill you before you can kill it.” But hunters kill leopards at a ratio of thousands to each human harmed by a leopard.
Fischer further boasted of killing a warthog and giraffe, shown dead in a photo.
Hemingway shot warthogs for meat, not trophies––and committed a gaffe, of which he was apparently never aware, by giving a haunch of warthog, locally considered inedible, to a Masai family.
Hemingway viewed giraffes as a species for whom one should politely wait as they crossed the road. His writings include no mention of ever shooting any.
“I think it is a pity to shoot these rather rare and very harmless creatures”
Though giraffes are listed as trophy animals in Namibia, hunting giraffes has historically not been considered good form, only partly because a mature giraffe presents a target approximately equal in size to a water tower, if not a barn.
Colonel John Henry Patterson, whose 1898-1898 pursuit of The Ghost and The Darkness in Kenya made him perhaps the most famous lion hunter of all time, wrote in The Man-Eaters of Tsavo (1907) that “I was delighted to see two beautiful giraffe feeding peacefully a little distance away and straining their long necks to get at the tops of some mimosa-like trees, while a young one was lying down in the grass quite close to me.
“They seemed on the most affectionate terms,” Patterson wrote, “occasionally entwining their great long necks and gently biting each other on the shoulders. Much as I should have liked to have added a giraffe to my collection of trophies, I left them undisturbed; as I think it a pity to shoot these rather rare and very harmless creatures, unless one is required for a special purpose.”
“If you’re an anti-hunter, that’s raw meat.”
Responded former Idaho Fish & Game Commissioner Fred Trevey to Fischer’s email and photos, “My reaction to the photo and accompanying text of you smiling and holding a ‘family’ of primates you killed dismays and disappoints me. Your poor judgement has unnecessarily put the institution’s credibility, and hunting in general, at risk in the blink of an eye. My belief is you should take responsibility and resign, sooner rather than later.”
Another former Idaho Fish & Game Commissioner, Keith Stonebraker, told the Idaho Statesman that, “They killed a whole family, including small baboons, and I think that’s revolting. It just puts a bad light on us.”
Agreed another former Idaho Fish & Game Commissioner, Keith E. Carlson, “I don’t know how you can say anything good about a photo of a guy smiling with a stack of dead baboons with a baby in front. If you’re an anti-hunter, that’s raw meat. And I’m a hunter — I’ve been a hunter forever.”
“Refrain from taking graphic photos”
Steve Alder of the pro-hunting organization Idaho for Wildlife reminded the Idaho Statesman that the Idaho hunter education manual advises hunters to, “Refrain from taking graphic photographs of the kill and from vividly describing the kill while within earshot of non-hunters.”
“The biggest thing is the baboon thing,” Alder told Statesman reporter Chad Cripe. “I was really troubled. That’s my biggest issue. He killed the whole baboon family and you’ve got little junior laying there in mom’s lap. You just don’t do that. I hate wolves as much as anyone,” Alder said, “but I’m not going to take a wolf family and put it on display and show the baby wolf.”
But Fischer initially resisted the calls for him to resign.
“I didn’t do anything immoral”
“I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t do anything unethical. I didn’t do anything immoral,” Fischer insisted to Cripe. “I look at the way Idaho’s Fish and Game statute says we’re supposed to manage all animals for Idaho, and any surplus of animals we have, we manage through hunting, fishing and trapping. Africa does the same thing.”
While the Fischers paid trophy fees for killing all of the other animals on their hit list, “Baboons are free,” he told the Statesman, adding “I get it — they’re a weird animal. It’s a primate, not a deer.”
“I was raised in a very ethical hunting family,” Blake Fischer continued. “In every picture, we try to pose the animals in a natural position, wipe the blood off the mouth, place the rifle or bow over the bullet hole. … These are normal hunting photos. You shoot an animal, you take a picture of it.”
Most bona fide “traditional bowhunters,” though, lived long before the invention of cameras.
Commented Humane Society of the U.S. president Kitty Block, “Back in July, Namibia’s Environment & Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta announced that his ministry is working to amend the nation’s conservation ordinance to prohibit, and to punish those who post, photos with dead wild animals on social media. Some of Fischer’s fellow trophy hunters know better [than he did] what is at stake,” Block observed, “with more and more trophy hunters taking the view that selfies and staged kill photos are drawing unwanted attention to their misconduct.”
Fischer belatedly acknowledged in his resignation letter that, “I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals.”
But Fischer’s statement somewhat echoed the pro forma apologies often offered by serial killers on their way to execution.
If a baboon is in effect 91% human, Blake Fischer’s actions, with his wife as witness and accomplice, might also be said to bear a 91% resemblance to the 1957-1958 rampage of Charles Raymond Starkweather, 18, and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Carill Ann Fugate, across Nebraska and Wyoming.
Starkweather, who had already killed one man, introduced Fugate to killing by shotgunning her parents, then strangling and stabbing her two-year-old sister. Fugate accompanied Starkweather for the next nine days, 523 miles of travel, and seven more murders, mostly committed with hunting weapons. They also killed two dogs.
Starkweather was executed on June 25, 1959. Fugate served 17 years in prison.