Over the last few months, you have read several postings from me on hunting everything from Javelina to Oryx. I realized there is a hunting topic that perhaps I should have discussed early on, but have not …hunter ethics and responsibility.
If you are reading this, perhaps you are new to the sport and are looking for some thoughts and guidelines for being a responsible and ethical hunter.
After all, hunting is more than a sport. It is a calling. Once it’s in your blood you soon realize it’s much more than making a kill, it’s a connection to an ancient past where hunting was a means of survival.
Let’s look at a few solid principles for taking you down the path of be a responsible and ethical hunter.
How to be a responsible hunter
Training and education are the first thoughts that come to mind for anyone to be responsible in the hunting field. Most states require young hunters to take a “Hunter Education/Safety” course before even purchasing a license to hunt much less venturing into the field to hunt.
These courses are designed to develop safe gun handling and to develop knowledge of the game laws along with a basic code of conduct when it comes to hunting.
For example, driving around with your kill on the hood of the car is practice that has outlived its time. Both hunters and non-hunters alike are often offended by this tactic and in all honesty, it shows a disrespect for the animal itself.
While it is appropriate to take photos of your harvest in the field, and to be proud of your kill, it is important to remember that not everyone shares your enthusiasm.
Aside from the aforementioned hunter education course, finding a mentor, someone to show you the ropes who is experienced, is a great starting point for education. Often times this person is your father, grandfather, older sibling, close friend, or in some cases all of the above.
Hunters are conservationists
Although it’s unbeknownst to many licensed hunters, each one of us pays an 11% excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition they purchase under what is known as the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937.
Since its inception, more than 12 billion dollars have been raised for state conservation incentives through this program. These funds are then distributed to the states for wildlife management and conservation projects. When you hear the phrase, “hunters pay for wildlife conservation” it is literally true!
Additionally, many hunters are involved with conservation groups such as Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Quail Unlimited, to mention only a few. These groups are dedicated to the future of wildlife populations and their habitat.
I would encourage any dedicated and responsible hunter to become involved in one or more of these organizations.
A Game Warden and lifelong hunter’s point of view
My background includes having served as a state game warden for about two decades. Over those years combined with a lifelong hunting background, I have seen more than my share of good hunters and then the few that have made things bad for everyone.
Interestingly enough, at times people who’d never consider pushing legalities in their day to day lives are willing to stretch their luck with game laws. There seems to be a few game laws that are consistently a challenge for some hunters to adhere to and that I feel are worth mentioning here.
After all, we are discussing being responsible hunters and following the rules is a critical part of that responsibility.
The following are the legal areas I see hunters stumble with the most, and of course these can vary from state to state as to legality:
- Inadvertent trespass
- Shooting from the roadway and from a vehicle
- Driving off road while hunting
- Hunting without the proper license or related stamps
- Hunting in the wrong region
Many times, these violations are a simple oversight or reading a map wrong or getting carried away in the moment.
And then there are those violations that true poachers and criminals are willing to commit:
- Intentional Trespass
- Hunting without a license
- Exceeding the bag limit
- Killing for the head or trophy only and allowing meat to go to waste (a most serious violation in my book and one that warrants an immediate arrest if caught)
- Using the license of another
- Littering (no excuse)
- Drinking while hunting and being in possession of a firearm while under the influence (drinking and hunting do not mix and is a serious violation in all states)
Remember, as hunters we must go the extra mile to be responsible, ethical, courteous, and vigilant. It is on our shoulders to understand the law and strive to make clean, ethical kills.
We should make every effort to find and recover any game animal that is wounded, and make use of that animal to the fullest extent.
Hunters must take the lead and police their own as we a under constant scrutiny. There are those that will be considered “slob hunters” and poachers. Not a title you ever want to wear.
And then there are those that will be considered true sportsmen and worthy of being welcomed back on any private farm, ranch, public land, or around the campfires of those that came before us.
Be an ethical and responsible hunter, we owe it to our ancestors and to future generations.
Next, read about a recent deer hunt with a Henry Long Ranger.