Dennis Dunn, an outdoor writer in Kirkland, Wash., is a longtime acquaintance of Walt Palmer, the Minnesota dentist and big-game hunter who has become the target of global wrath for hunting and killing a beloved Zimbabwe lion, Cecil.
The lion was a favorite among tourists and wildlife researchers.
Palmer reportedly killed the lion with a gun after wounding it with a bow and arrow while on a guided African hunt. His guides are facing criminal charges for illegal hunting. Zimbabwe game officials said Tuesday that they “are looking for Palmer.”
Dunn said he’s known Palmer for at least 20 years, meeting up with him every couple years at a convention for members of Pope and Young, a bowhunting and conservation organization.
“I’ve always considered him a very bright, honorable guy,” said Dunn, a Harvard graduate who majored in Romance languages, taught French in middle and senior high school, and worked as a securities broker. He has since become a writer.
Dunn said he hasn’t talked to Palmer about the incident in Africa and doesn’t know the details of the hunt there. But he said that ethical hunters who wound an animal, as reportedly happened with Cecil the lion, feel obligated to pursue it and end its life as soon as possible.
“Walt Palmer is an exceedingly accurate shot with a bow and arrow,” said Dunn, who once hunted with Palmer in Mexico.
He and Palmer are among two dozen hunters who have completed what’s known as the North American Super Slam, taking all 29 huntable big-game species recognized by the Pope and Young Club. Dunn’s book, "BAREBOW!," recounting his 40-year pursuit of the Grand Slam.
“I kid you not,” he added. “He’s taken a number of animals at 80 yards and some as much as 100 or more. He is so skilled and so trained … he can consistently …. eight or nine times out of 10 hit a grapefruit at 100 yards. So he may have very well taken a long shot on that lion. And if it was in a grassy or brushy area … it’s very likely he didn’t see the collar.”
Using bait and hunting at night is legal in Africa, said Dunn. “I would say that probably 98 percent of all leopards … taken in Africa are taken over bait and often during the nighttime hours.”
Of Palmer, Dunn said: “He’s a very driven man … He lives an intense, fast-paced life, and hunting is a great passion.
“He’s taken all five of the dangerous Big Five of African game, including a rhinoceros, and that’s one of the most dangerous animals to take with a bow and arrow.”
Dunn knows some people are incensed by trophy hunters.
“When you get down to the matter of the chase as a sport, the challenge is pitting man, as a predator, against other predators. You’re subjecting yourself to significant risk,” he said. “The polar bear is … actually hunting you while you’re hunting him. When you’re hunting a grizzly bear you have to get very, very close and it often doesn’t go well. Many guides and hunters have been maimed or killed.”
The trophy hunter is in search of game with large sets of horns, antlers or skull size in hopes of getting into the record books, Dunn said. To do that, they are hunting animals that are near the end of their lives.
Man often flatters himself by thinking he can outwit these animals, he said. “The old trophy animals that the hunter is seeking didn’t get old by being dumb but got old by being extremely expert at evading all predators.”
MARY LYNN SMITH