Whether you’ve just picked up hunting as a new hobby, or you’ve been doing it for years, there’s one aspect of it that is equally important.
Ethical hunting should be both a subject that’s covered in depth in your hunter education course, and a vital part of your hunting trips.
This concept of ethical hunting is nothing new and it's here to stay. The future and the general perception about hunting rely on all hunters' understanding of the ethical principles of hunting. They should always practice them when out in the open.
Are you asking yourself what do hunter ethics preserve?
In order to answer that question, you must first understand the meaning of ethical hunting. It’s not only about following the law (although that’s a big part of the equation!). It's also about being fair, responsible, and respecting other hunters & the animals.
Ask yourself: what is your motivation behind your desire to hunt?
It’s important to hunt based on a set of rules accepted by society. While laws and regulations help preserve wildlife, ethics preserve the hunters right to hunt.
Ethical Hunting 101
In the words of Aldo Leopold, American author and the "father of wildlife management",
“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching—even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”
Now that’s some food for thought!
Since societal expectations can change periodically, that means that the notion of ethical hunting can also change during the years.
Many stories around Daniel Boone, the famous frontiersman, portray him as an avid hunter who would have hunted almost 100 bears in one season. During his time, such a massive hunt would not have been frowned upon. Nowadays, it is highly unethical.
To hunt ethically, you must know the hunting laws in your area. They are the first step to knowing what you can and cannot do. Beyond that, you must respect the animals, the environment, and also the people.
You should be aware of your surroundings and understand the consequences of your actions.
Does Ethics Apply To The Land?
Aldo Leopold also set forth the idea of land ethics. All people have a moral responsibility towards the natural world.
The relationship between people and land is intertwined. People shouldn’t care only about themselves and other people, they should also care about the land and the environment.
When it comes to hunting, this translates into respecting the natural habitat.
If you camp during your hunting trip, make sure to set up your camp at least 65 feet away from rivers or lakes. Do not cut trees or shrubs for firewood. Bring your own firewood from home instead.
Don’t leave any garbage behind. Clean up after yourself and take the waste or trash back home, where you can dispose of it properly.
If the natural habitat is clean and taken care of, the animals will also be healthy.
How Can Hunters Show That They Are Responsible?
Being a good hunter doesn’t only come from experience, it also comes from responsibility and accountability. A good hunter will always make the ethical choice.
We are born hunters. Whether we practice it or not, it is in our DNA.
It’s how we survived and evolved as a species. It’s how all species survive.
If hunting is written in our genetic code, then doing it ethically is something we need to learn and practice.
Here are some essential steps we should all follow:
- Make sure you know the laws and regulations of your state. That’s how your hunting trips will always be safe and responsible.
- Shoot to kill. An ethical hunter will always take the best shot, making sure they go for a quick and painless kill. They will never shoot if the prey is out of range.
- Fully use the animal. Responsible hunting implies that no meat will be wasted.
- Protect the land you’re hunting on. A good hunter will always get familiar with the land and do everything possible to preserve the wildlife from that area.
- Be fair. The "Fair Chase" principle relates to balancing the skills and equipment of the hunter with the ability of the game to escape. An ethical hunter will have no unfair advantage over its prey.
- Be well-behaved. It’s not only your attitude towards the game that counts. You must also be respectful towards other hunters, landowners, and non-hunters. The way you behave while on a hunting trip can influence how people feel about hunting as a whole.
- Pass on your knowledge and ethical code. It’s in your hands to teach the newbies how to be responsible hunters.
Not Sure How You Can Show Respect For Other Hunters?
- Follow safe firearm handling practices. Make sure your hunting buddies do, too.
- Don't meddle in another person's hunt.
- Don't drink and hunt! Alcohol can make you a liability, both to yourself and others.
- Share your experience, knowledge, and tips with fellow hunters.
How Can You Show Respect For Non-Hunters?
- Be careful when you carry your firearms. Keep them out of sight, as many non-hunters might get distressed upon seeing them.
- Practice caution when transporting dead animals.
- Don’t take explicit pictures of the dead prey. It can be disrespectful both towards the animal, and other people that are not into hunting.
- After hunting, make sure to clean yourself properly before going out in public.
- Do not engage with anti-hunter protestors. Be polite to them, even if they are confronting you.
How To Show Respect To Landowners?
- Always get permission from the landowner to hunt on his land.
- Be respectful when speaking to them, even if they don’t grant you access to their land.
- Ask them what areas to avoid and where to park your car. Let them know exactly the timeframe of your hunting trip.
- Close the gates to the property after you enter or leave the place.
- Leave the property just as you found it. Don’t leave any debris, waste, or trash behind.
The Most Common Complaints That Landowners Have Are:
- Hunters that hunt on their land without permission.
- Hunters don’t respect the hunting season.
- They do not let the landowner know their arrival time beforehand.
- They leave open fires unattended.
- They shoot too close to livestock or neighbouring houses.
- They drink alcohol during their hunting trips.
- They leave a lot of trash behind.
- They disobey the laws and regulations of the area.
- They are rude and loud.
Right Or Privilege?
Any ethical hunter has thought about this question at least once.
Is hunting our right, or is it a privilege we have?
The answer comes from Jack Ward Thomas, 13th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service:
“In the United States, while the right to keep and bear arms is constitutionally assured, hunting is a privilege to be repeatedly earned, year after year, by those who hunt. It is well for hunters to remember that in a democracy, privileges, which include hunting, are maintained through the approval of the public at large. Hunting must be conducted under both laws and ethical guidelines in order to ensure this approval.”
So you see, the public’s perspective is crucial to the future of hunting. It’s every hunter’s duty to act responsibly and preserve a positive public opinion, or else this tradition, passed down from one generation to the next, might one day disappear.
While we are born hunters, nobody is born a good hunter. It takes practice, determination and a good set of moral values.
You will make mistakes, and that’s normal. How you improve yourself in the light of those mistakes is what really matters.
What will your legacy as a hunter be? What will your kids learn about hunting from you?
These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself.
Being an ethical hunter is not hard. As a matter of fact, with a little practice, it becomes second nature.
If this is just the beginning of the road for you as a hunter, these tips and tricks will do you good.
Happy hunting grounds!