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Thrill of the hunt should not overshadow ethics

From the Field

Posted: Friday, August 04, 2006

On Aug. 10 dozens bow hunters will take to the woods, followed by a horde of gun hunters 10 days later when rifle season opens Aug. 20.

Some of these hunters will be with friends, others with family members and a few folks like to be alone in the woods, but what they all will share is their desire to come home with that largest member of the deer family — a moose.

While on the quest for this or any other species of game, I hope hunters remember to hunt safely, legally and ethically.

Hunting safely is pretty clear, but some people may think these latter two terms are the same, that you can’t be doing one without doing the other, but that’s not the case.

Hunting legally means more than just purchasing a hunting license. It also means picking up a copy of the 2006-07 hunting regulations, reading and learning the laws are before going to the field and following them once in the field.

Hunting ethically includes hunting legally, but goes beyond simply following the letter of the law. Hunting ethically also means making the right choice even when there is no law that governs you.

In a way, it’s a moral code that dictates doing what is right because it’s the right thing to do, not because a wildlife officer may be around the next bend or hiding in the bushes.

For example, the law can’t tell a hunter not to take a shot from more than 200 yards away, but an ethical hunter, unless they are one heck of a proven marksman, won’t take that shot.

An ethical hunter is aware of their abilities and the probabilities of making clean and accurate heart/lung shots, and if 200 yards is not within their effective kill range, they won’t take it.

Ethical hunters don’t need to be told when to shoot and when not to; they know when not to because it is the right thing to do. This is important because as a seasoned sportsman will tell you, in many situations in the field there can be only one right choice.

Hunting ethically also is setting an example. There are many organizations and individuals that believe hunting should be banned because, with the option of buying steak at the grocery store, there is no longer any reason for people to kill a wild moose for a meal.

Anti-hunting folks think hunting should be banned because, through their eyes hunters are cruel, barbaric and hunt only to satisfy some primitive blood lust or to feel personal gratification from bragging to their buddies about conquering nature.

They don’t see hunters as being conservationists like many early hunters were. They see modern hunters as only wanting to conserve wild land so they will have a place to go kill animals.

Each time a hunter gets caught taking a bull that isn’t legal, is out of season or in a closed area or on private land, they prove these folks right.

Each time a hunter takes a shot without being sure of a clean kill or takes a risky shot by not checking their line of fire, they prove these folks right.

Each time a hunter takes a trophy but leaves the meat in the field to waste, or leaves camp with a fire still smoldering, they are proving these folks right.

Hunting ethically means, at heart, having respect for the animal, the animal’s environment, fellow hunters, land-owners and the law.

As a hunter, don’t view yourself as some kind of overlord that is all powerful over the natural world. Instead, become one with the natural world. Be a part of it.

Feel the exhilaration that comes from learning all you can about an animal and then putting that knowledge to the test.

Feel sadness for its demise at your hand. Be thankful for the bounty you reap from it and for being afforded the privilege of this contest of life and death.

Don’t fool yourself, either. Hunting is a privilege, and doing things wrong is the fastest way to loose that privilege. Hunting safely, legally and ethically is not only appreciating the sport for the privilege it is, but also is way to better ensure that it will be there to pass on to future generations.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter at the Clarion.



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