In the woods and on the plains of Wyoming, one traditional hunting sound may soon be headed toward extinction.
“Blam! Blam! Blam!"
State lawmakers are set to decide whether to allow silencers on hunting guns, a move that has divided the outdoor-oriented state. Proponents say screwing a muzzle onto a firearm to catch the blast and muffle the report will prevent hearing damage and reduce noise pollution.
Many opponents insist silencers for hunting weapons gives all those Elmer Fudds in the woods an unsporting advantage with yet another high-tech gadget against game species whose only defenses have always been their alertness and ability to run away.
An interim Wyoming legislative committee recently endorsed a bill to end the state’s prohibition on hunting with silencers. The full Legislature will consider the issue in the general session starting in January. Officials say more than two dozen states already allow silencers and the number is growing, with Texas and Arizona approving their use for hunters earlier this year.
And they say, when it comes to hunting rifles, the term “silencer" is a misnomer.
The escaping blast from the gas that propels a bullet still makes a substantial noise, and there’s no way to silence the loud crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier, hunters say.
Steve Kilpatrick, a hunter who is executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, said the image of silencers on hunting guns is bad for the sport.
“There’s already a plethora of things we invest in to go hunting — night-vision goggles, ballistic scopes, GPS units, four-wheelers — so you have to ask: Are these things necessary? It just gives the image of them being snipers and not hunters," said Kilpatrick. “I don’t think hunters need that additional negative image, being in full camouflage all the time."
He said many landowners say silencers will make it easier for would-be poachers.
Richard Oblak says he’s caught in the middle of the standoff.
He’s a longtime hunter and a board member of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, which has taken a stand against the move.
Oblak said that he is wrestling with his personal stand on silencers. If he comes down against them, he said, it will be to protect other hunters, not animals.
“I don’t know whether they would give hunters any advantage," he said. “If anything, they might prevent other hunters from knowing where you are."