A Lancaster County man was fined nearly $6,000 for using the wrong baiting method on his hunt for a deer in Chester County, and LNP staff writer P.J. Reilly claims it was his investigation into Eli Matthew Stoltzfus’ YouTube video that played a part in spurring a government investigation.
After viewing a video posted by Stoltzfus showing bait simply dumped on the ground, rather than dispensed from a mechanical feeder (the “lawful” way to place corn on the ground), Reilly contacted the authorities.
In their quest for “justice,” the investigators went so far as to collect samples of deer hair from multiple locations and question a taxidermist concerning the death of the deer victim.
Eventually, a search warrant was served at Stoltzfus’ home, and government officials confiscated the antlers and some venison.
Finally, a hefty fine was levied and Stoltzfus had his “hunting privileges” rescinded for two years.
Truly, moments like this make me ashamed to be an American. The Founding Fathers definitely fought a war for independence so the civil government could punish Eli Matthew Stoltzfus for shooting a deer, right?
But this, Pennsylvania residents, is what your taxpayer money funds.
And this is also an unfortunate example of the abandonment of biblical law and the disturbing desire to talebear on one’s neighbor for non-evil acts.
Biblical Case Law
Deuteronomy 22:6-7 provides a case law regarding the harvesting of wild animals: “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.”
There is a divine regulation placed on what a man may harvest from “nature.” In Inheritance and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, Gary North summarizes what we might call the general equity of this law: “Man is not to overharvest unowned, unmanaged nature.” But North also limits it to a principle regarding production: the productive female is to be spared, but the young are fair game.
“It is considered ‘unsporting’ to shoot immature deer,” North writes. “The problem here is that civil laws should not be enacted which go beyond the meaning and intent of biblical law. The boundaries protecting young animals in the wild should not be civil.”
(We would also note that any boundaries protecting male deer in the wild – the kind Stoltzfus shot – ought not to be civil either.)
Furthermore, North also references Deuteronomy 20:19, wherein an invading army is limited to cutting down the non-fruit or non-food bearing trees. Thus, plants or animals used as food are off-limits in terms of military warfare. (This will come up again below when we consider the American bison.)
Considering the fact that the biblical case law is limited to the principle of man being a good steward of natural resources, Stoltzfus certainly committed no evil. The only problem with the deer population in Chester County is that there might be too many deer – not too few – as evidenced by the fact that baiting is allowed there (whereas in most counties it is not)!
Furthermore, we should note that the Bible gives no penal sanctions for a violation of this precept. Indeed, given the limited role of the civil government laid out in the Bible (being limited to adjudicating between disputants and punishing certain moral evils), we would not expect this precept to carry with it any civil punishment. Only a statist, gargantuan civil government – funded via the forced taxation (i.e., theft) of the people and reliant upon talebearers such as Reilly – could maintain an apparatus of investigators able to comb deer crime scenes for hair and serve search warrants for improper use of corn in baiting a deer.
Rather than authorizing the government to enforce the precept, the Deuteronomy passage provides the promise of things going well with the man who considers the value of productive wildlife – “that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.”
There is something to be said, however, for the need to preserve (certain) wild animals. But we must ask two questions here. (1) Is the civil government authorized to do so by force (as in the case of Stoltzfus)? And (2) is the civil government even competent for such a task?
I have already addressed the former in noting that the biblical case law does not provide the civil government a role in this matter. The second question brings us to the topic of taking dominion.
In addressing this issue of “unowned, ungoverned nature,” North does allow for limited civil law. However, as mentioned above, North stresses that anything which goes beyond the meaning and intent of biblical case law is verboten. No matter how you slice it, Stoltzfus’ actions should be immune from any civil penalty.
But North also reminds us that “unowned” nature is a problem that should be addressed, not by State control, but by private individuals and families taking dominion.
“Unowned nature is a challenge to man’s lawful dominion over nature,” writes North. “It testifies to the incomplete dominion of man in history. Nature under the autonomous dominion of beasts is so repulsive to God that He allowed Canaanites to remain in the land until the Israelites could either exterminate them or drive them out.”
The civil government owning or managing any land is a problem to be remedied, not a reality to be accepted. Unfortunately, the federal government “owns” 500 million surface acres – more than one-fifth of all U.S. land (not to mention land owned by state governments).
The U.S. government’s track record in managing wildlife is not overly flattering. For example, the American bison was nearly wiped out, not because of individuals looking for a nice steak, but because the federal government wanted to eradicate them.
Secretary of Interior Columbus Delano (d. 1896), in his Annual Report of the Department of the Interior, said: “The civilization of the Indian is impossible while the buffalo remains upon the plains. I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in its effect upon the Indians, regarding it as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil and their own labors.”
Delano may have claimed his desire was for the good of the Indian, but such rhetoric led to American military commanders ordering troops to kill as many bison as possible to deny the Native Americans their food – a flagrant violation of Deuteronomy 20:19-20, which forbids the destruction of resources when engaged in warfare.
Despite the federal government’s unbiblical efforts to solve our problems, bison have made a return. You can thank entrepreneurs and dominion-takers – who are willing to preserve the bison in order that it might be slaughtered to make a nice burger – for the good stewardship of the beast.
The American bison is a case-study: hunted to near extinction at the behest of the government, and conserved by dominion-takers, hunters, and meat-eaters.
At this point, why are we still under the delusion that government programs will produce anything but mismanagement and injustice?
‘A Karen of the Woods’
Unfortunately, P.J. Reilly appears to be under the sway of just such a delusion, bewitched by statist enchanters and government soothsayers.
He is a product of the statist brainwashing so common in our land. From the lowest levels of the government indoctrination centers (read: public schools), children are taught that the State is god, and whatever the State says is the highest law of the land.
I really wish it were not so in the case of Reilly, because I have heard he is a generally amicable guy. But this incident is demonstrative of a serious problem.
If Reilly threw Stoltzfus under the bus for the method of baiting a deer, what do you think he, and others like him, will do if he notices you forgot to renew your vehicle’s registration and you are one week overdue? Maybe he will call the police and give them a tip.
Or what if you failed to report that $650 private sale of a piece of furniture to the IRS? Is your terrible secret safe with Reilly?
On what principle would he overlook those “illegal” behaviors? Perhaps you would be safe because such heinous offenses wouldn’t lead to a news story in LNP, but at this point, I wouldn’t trust Reilly as far as a legal bait spreader can toss corn.
In an alleged post from Stoltzfus, we read: “You have nothing better to do but watch videos, report everything you see and become a Karen of the woods?”
We don’t know if Stoltzfus had Reilly specifically in mind, but he certainly fits the bill.
Reilly reported that, when asked if it’s right to leave up a YouTube video of an “illegal” hunt, Stoltzfus said he doesn’t care. “Whatever people are going to think, I really don’t care what they think,” Stoltzfus said, according to LNP.
A question for Reilly to consider is this: Do you think it’s right to talebear on your neighbor, as it were, about the non-evil act of placing corn on the ground?
Unfortunately, I suppose we already know the answer to that question.