Canned shooting is a controversial and commonly misunderstood topic that is often confused with trophy hunting. While they may seem similar to the uninformed, they are actually two completely different activities without much in common.

Hopefully, this article will clear up some of the misconceptions about what exactly canned shooting is and show people it is not at all related to ethical hunting.

The Boone & Crockett Club has a pretty good definition of canned shooting on their website:

"A canned shoot (sometimes erroneously referred to as a canned hunt) is the practice of pursuing and killing any big game animal kept in or released from captivity to be killed in an artificial or bogus hunting situation. In canned shoots, the game lacks the fair chance to escape, virtually assuring the shooter a certain or unrealistically favorable chance of a kill. Canned shoots are of great concern to the Boone and Crockett Club because the nonhunting public may confuse ethical fair chase hunting with canned shoots, which is a gross misconception."

Canned shooting can take many forms, but most commonly involves shooting a captive-bred animal that is released into a small fenced enclosure where it may be easily shot. Regardless of the actual details of the situation, canned shooting gives the "hunter" (and I use that term loosely) an almost guaranteed chance to kill an animal that has virtually no chance of escape.

It also nearly always involves shooting a large, high-scoring animal. For this reason, it is not surprising that canned shooting is often confused with trophy hunting by the uninformed. Even though they both involve targeting a particularly large specimen for its "trophy," canned shooting and trophy hunting actually could not be more different.

Canned shooting is not hunting at all. While hunting does often involve the death of an animal, the actual kill is secondary to overall experience of the hunt. Jose Ortega y Gasset does a much better job of explaining it than I can in his book "Meditations on Hunting."

"One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted," he writes. "If one were to present the sportsman with the death of the animal as a gift, he would refuse it. What he is after is having to win it, to conquer the surly brute through his own effort and skill with all the extras that this carries with it: the immersion in the countryside, the healthfulness of the exercise, the distraction from his job."

By separating the death of an animal from the hard work, the enjoyment and appreciation of nature, and everything else that makes hunting the great activity it is, canned shooting cheapens the whole experience. Instead of putting in days, weeks, months or even years of planning, scouting and time afield that may (or may not) result in the shooting of an animal, canned shooting reduces the "hunt" to a simple pull of the trigger.

Depending on the exact circumstances of the "hunt" and where it takes place, certain types of canned shoots may actually be legal. I also wouldn't say a canned shoot is necessarily immoral or unethical either (under certain circumstances).

As long as the animal is fully utilized, treated with respect and cleanly killed, shooting a captive-bred deer in a 2-acre pen isn't much different from slaughtering a domestic cow or a pig for the table. However, it is certainly not hunting, and referring to it as such degrades the meaning of hunting.

Misrepresenting canned shooting as hunting also gives anti-hunters ammunition to use against all hunters. It doesn't take much searching to find anti-hunting propaganda on the internet showing the worst examples of canned shoots. Then, they turn around and use those images to paint all hunters as sick, bloodthirsty killers who have fun by killing caged animals.

The vast majority of nonhunters do not know any better. When they see things like that, it's easy to convince them hunting is a terrible thing and hunters are bad people.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be painted with that brush. As we've seen recently, things can get ugly when there is a major hunting scandal. Ethical hunters, wildlife and conservation in general all suffer from things that attract bad publicity to the hunting community.

Well, canned shooting is another nasty scandal just waiting to happen.

Yes, we must stand together as hunters against the attacks by anti-hunters. However, canned shooting is not hunting, and ethical hunters must clearly draw a line between fair-chase hunting and canned shooting. If we do not police ourselves, outside groups that do not have the best interests of hunters in mind will step in and do it for us.

Fortunately, some hunting groups are already taking some positive steps in this direction.

The Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young Clubs do not allow animals taken during canned shoots to be entered in their record books. The Professional Hunters' Association of South Africa also recently took a strong stance against the practice of captive-bred lion hunting and will no longer allow members of the association to guide hunts for captive-bred lions, which is helping to slowly end the practice in South Africa.

These are steps in the right direction, but they aren't enough. We as hunters must make a clear distinction between canned shooting and ethical hunting. This includes taking every opportunity to educate nonhunters as well as hunters on the differences between canned shooting and fair chase hunting.

It also means refusing to partake in a canned shoot, even if it means passing up the opportunity to take a monster "trophy." Canned shooting probably isn't going away anytime soon, but we must ensure it is never held in the same level of esteem as fair chase hunting of wild animals.