By John McAdams, Big Game Hunting Blog
As responsible sportsmen (and women), it is essential that we behave in an ethical manner at all times. Unfortunately, the news is full of the actions of unethical hunters these days, which only gives anti-hunters even more ammunition to use against us. For this reason, we must “self-police” our ranks, while at the same time ensure that all new hunters have a good ethical foundation. Here are 6 hunting ethics that every new hunter should know.
OBEY ALL LAWS
First and foremost, we must ensure that we are behaving in compliance with all current hunting rules and regulations. Hunting out of season, on another person’s property without permission, and exceeding bag limits are all examples of behavior that are both illegal and unethical. This sort of behavior has no place in the outdoor community and should not be tolerated by ethical hunters.
Yes, it is true that there are some things that are legal, but not necessarily ethical. However, I submit that you cannot be behaving ethically while at the same time breaking the law. So, while merely obeying the law is not enough to be ethical, it is the foundation of ethical behavior for hunters.
FULLY USE THE ANIMAL
Contrary to what many anti-hunters believe, there is nothing wrong with “trophy hunting.” However, this is true only if you use of as much of the animal as possible. At a minimum, you should be taking all edible portions of meat from your trophy. I’ve got a few trophies hanging on my wall that I’m particularly proud of, but I also ate every single one of those animals. This ethical practice also extends to making every effort to find and recover a wounded animal.
This tenant of ethical hunting may be especially tempting to let slide when hunting in the back country. For instance, if a hunter shoots a really big deer, but has to pack it out on his or her back for several miles, it is very tempting to take the trophy, but leave some (or all) of the meat out in the woods. Nobody else may ever find out about it, but it is still unethical behavior and should not be tolerated.
USE A POWERFUL ENOUGH WEAPON
As a responsible hunter, you owe it to the animal, and yourself, to use a weapon powerful enough to cleanly kill whatever species that you are pursuing. This also includes using ammunition or arrows that is appropriate for the animal and goes above and beyond doing what is legal. You must do everything in your power to ensure that you quickly kill your target with as little pain and suffering as possible, and that begins with using a tool that is powerful enough for the task at hand.
KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR WEAPON
This goes hand in hand with the previous point about using a weapons that is powerful enough. Not only must your tools be up to the task, but so do you as a hunter. It does no good to be using an extremely powerful rifle if you cannot reliably hit your target with it. In fact, as long as it is powerful enough to cleanly kill the animal you are hunting, it may actually be best to use a slightly less powerful weapon in order to ensure that you can place your shots properly and reliably.
PRACTICE THE PRINCIPLES OF FAIR CHASE
Practicing fair chase hunting is a key tenant of being an ethical hunter. Put broadly, fair chase is the pursuit of an animal in such a way that does not give the hunter an unfair advantage. In his book Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting, Jim Posewitz describes fair chase as:
Fundamental to ethical hunting is the idea of fair chase. This concept addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.
In practice, this can mean a number of different things and like all ethical questions, what is fair chase and what is not can vary from hunter to hunter. However, there are a number of different activities that even though they may be legal in some places, would probably not be considered fair chase by most responsible hunters.
For instance, most hunters would agree that shooting a caged, tied up, or drugged animal are examples of hunting practices that violate the principles of fair chase. However, judging fair chase is not always that simple. What about shooting a deer in a 5,000 acre enclosure? Depending on the area, it is very possible to hunt a 5,000 piece of land and never see a single deer, even if the whole property is high fenced.
When trying to decide if a specific hunting practice is fair chase, ask yourself the following questions: Does the animal have a reasonable chance of escaping? Is this practice respectful to the animal? Is this practice in line with established local norms? If the answer to those questions is “yes”, then it is probably in line with the principles of fair chase.
TAKE SHOTS AT A REASONABLE RANGE
As technology has advanced, it has become much easier to successfully hit targets at long range. However, even if you are a skilled marksman using a premium gun or bow, I caution against taking long range shots. “Long range” is a flexible term that really depends on the weapon and the conditions it is used under, so I’m not going to say that shooting past any particular range is unethical.
However, I will say that it is your duty as an ethical hunter to get as close to your target as possible before shooting. Not only does that line up with the tenant of fair chase described above, but it also increases your chances of making a good shot. The further you are from the animal when you shoot, the higher the odds are of something out of your control (such as the wind or even the animal moving) causing your shot to miss, or worse, wound the animal, even if the shot was otherwise perfect.
Read the original article at The Big Game Hunting Blog: