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Virtual white hunter, black heart

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Texas wildlife officials are up in arms over a plan to offer live hunting of real animals via the internet, Reuters reports. John Underwood's live-shot.com already gives virtual sharpshooters the chance to pop .22 rounds at paper targets, but he reckons that having a crack at the real thing could prove a real blast for trigger-happy surfers.

Underwood has already forked out $10k to construct a platform-mounted gun and camera on his southwest Texas ranch. The gun can be remotely aimed and fired and the results posted to the shooter as a DVD recording or in the form of the original target. Fair enough. This being Texas, however, it's natural that the entrepreneur's ambitions for the system extend to the possibility of live quarry. Underwood explains how the moment of inspiration came to him while perusing a website featuring snaps of animals in the wild: "We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said 'If you just had a gun for that.' A little light bulb went off in my head," he said.

We think he means "A little light bulb went on", but we get the general idea.

While Underwood is enthusiastic that the scheme would appeal to "disabled hunters unable to get out in the woods or distant hunters who cannot afford a trip to Texas", the authorities are not so keen. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife director Mike Berger wants a change in state law to require hunters to be physically present at a kill. He notes that under current legislation Berger is prevented from allowing punters to pop a cap in native species such as deer and birds, but this does not extend to non-native deer and wild pigs. He's worried that internet hunting could quickly get out of hand.

Underwood dismisses these concerns. He reckons that online hunting is the next logical step in the sport's technological evolution: "First it was rocks and clubs, then we sharpened it and put it on a stick. Then there was the bow and arrow, black powder, smokeless power and optics. Maybe this is the next technological step out there."

Agreed. And might we suggest that there is another, even more lucrative, extension of the concept: Fallujah Live!, whereby rich wannabe John Waynes control Apache helicopter gunships from the comfort of their own homes, or use VoIP connections to guide platoons of Marine grunts into bombed-out mosques in search of wounded insurgents before dispatching them to paradise with a well-aimed burst of automatic fire.

Of course, you'd need a pretty fast connection for that kind of real-time play - something which is currently impeding Underwood's grand plan. He says he'll have to wait for a broadband connection to his ranch before hunters will be able to "aim the rifle quickly at passing animals". We believe this is the first time that Bambi's fate has hinged on the deployment of ADSL. ®

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