|HOUSTON - Hunters soon may be able to sit at their computers and blast away at animals on a Texas ranch via the Internet, a prospect that has state wildlife officials up in arms.|
A controversial Web site, www.live-shot.com, already offers target practice with a .22 caliber rifle and could soon let hunters shoot at deer, antelope and wild pigs, site creator John Underwood said on Tuesday.
Texas officials are not quite sure what to make of Underwood's Web site, but may tweak existing laws to make sure Internet hunting does not get out of hand.
"This is the first one I've seen," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife director Mike Berger. "The current state statutes don't cover this sort of thing."
Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio, Texas auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre (133-hectare) southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.
The idea came last year while viewing another Web site on which cameras posted in the wild are used to snap photos of animals.
"We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said 'If you just had a gun for that.' A little light bulb went off in my head," he said.
Internet hunting could be popular with disabled hunters unable to get out in the woods or distant hunters who cannot afford a trip to Texas, Underwood said.
Berger said state law only covers "regulated animals" such as native deer and birds and cannot prevent Underwood from offering Internet hunts of "unregulated" animals such as non-native deer that many ranchers have imported and wild pigs.
He has proposed a rule that will come up for public discussion in January that anyone hunting animals covered by state law must be physically on site when they shoot.
Berger expressed reservations about remote control hunting, but noted that humans have always adopted new technologies to hunt.
"First it was rocks and clubs, then we sharpened it and put it on a stick. Then there was the bow and arrow, black powder, smokeless power and optics," Berger said. "Maybe this is the next technological step out there."
Underwood, 39, said he will offer animal hunting as soon as he gets a fast Internet connection to his remote ranch that will enable hunters to aim the rifle quickly at passing animals.
He said an attendant would retrieve shot animals for the shooters, who could have the heads preserved by a taxidermist. They could also have the meat processed and shipped home, or donated to animal orphanages.
Story by Jeff Franks
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE