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California capped its regular deer season with a special three day inland hunt last week in which any deer was fair game—fawns and does as well as bucks. Like those in many other states, California's deer herd had out-grown its winter range. The solution was an increased deer harvest to bring the herd into balance and thus prevent the loss of thousands of animals by starvation.
Although game management officials were correct in their belief that the herd was ready for an "any sex" hunt, by last weekend it was clear that Californians were not. Some 400,000 people rushed to buy tags (at $1 each), and many of them apparently believed that the licenses entitled them to shoot not only "any sex" but anything or anybody. "It was," said James S. Eddy, Assistant U.S. District Attorney in Sacramento and a once-wounded former infantry captain, "like being in no man's land with the enemy in all directions."
Marlin H. Murchie of Martinez strode across an open patch of foot-high sagebrush and was shot dead by his companions who shouted, "There goes a bear."
Farmer Floyd Murray of Macdoel was shot for a deer as he dug potatoes in his field.
Mrs. Robert Daley of Hurleton begged three hunters not to kill her pet deer. The men killed it anyway and carted it off.
A hunter near Redding displayed more gallantry: he shot a pet fawn, then offered it to its owner. "You might as well have shot one of my children," she replied.
Four juvenile hunters were arrested for shooting Roy Ramsey's pigs near Chico.
Despite scores of arrests made for trespassing, shooting from cars and plain assault on landowners who tried to prohibit hunting, the California Fish and Game Department declared that any-sex hunting was here to stay. The herd had indeed been brought into balance. Whether this immediate gain would be canceled out by public revulsion against the human debacle was a problem the commission would have to face next year.