HUNTERS KNOW BEST
Sportsmen took on larger responsibilities for land conservation in all its forms. They sought, and were deemed worthy to be appointed, directly and indirectly, as stewards over land and wildlife resources. Our predecessors fought to ensure that sportsmen were appointed as stewards - a huge responsibility.
Today, as it has been throughout the past 100 years, State sponsored conservation, enhancement, management, and wildlife law enforcement systems are almost entirely guided and funded by sportsmen and the money they spend on hunting.
TODAY, THE WORLD IS WATCHING
The North American system of conservation is admired around the world because of its continued success. Public and private stewardship works because those who use and manage the resources are the heart and soul
of the system. Other countries are trying to find ways to copy what we have
done to try and find a better way to save what they have left of their natural resources. While some envy, others still don't understand it.
Activist groups who distain and oppose our hunting heritage are
watching for chinks in our armor. How sportsmen and land stewards
act and conduct themselves (individually and as a group) is being
closely monitored. These groups would like nothing better than
to dethrone sportsmen as the guardians over wildlife - particularly
those species that are legally hunted. Why they spend millions
to cut off the hand that feeds wildlife conservation instead of
joining those who fight for wildlife defies logic, yet this is
"In a civilized and cultured country wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination."
FAIR CHASE SQUIRREL HUNTING?
The concept of Fair Chase is the cornerstone of hunting ethics and is not only applicable in the pursuit of big game. How sportsmen conduct themselves and the image projected is just as important when you are hunting squirrels, rabbits, waterfowl, and turkeys as when pursuing big game. It also does not matter if hunting is done with a bow, rifle, crossbow, shotgun, or muzzleloader - the code of fair chase defines an honorable pastime.
WHAT ABOUT RECORDS BOOKS?
Some record books do not recognize trophies taken behind a high fence. Others do. Some recognize exotic species of big game. Others recognize only native North American species. Some accept both. Some record African and European trophies. Regardless of the rules for entry into these record books, they are more than just a listing of trophies and hunters' names. They are, by and large, history books on big game hunting. They are also biological records used by game and habitat managers to track the success or failure of game management programs and policies. They are also engaging. With an interest in mature, trophy game comes an increased awareness about conservation, and stewardship, and badly needed funding to support management and enhancement of specific species. But, more importantly, these records reflect the successful hard work and dedication of those responsible for wildlife resources - game managers, biologists, lawmakers, private land stewards, conservationists, and, perhaps most important you, the sportsman.
When the first record books were published, intensive management
techniques such as game proof fencing, selective culling, extensive
supplemental feeding, and highly focused habitat management did
not exist or were quite rare. Neither did artificial insemination,
breeder bucks, and cloning exist to produce trophy-class animals
and improve hunting success. Today, entrepreneurs grow trophies
and guarantee success. Whether or not they are entered, accepted,
and recognized in a record book is a matter of the rules for each
keeper of records. Record books and the entries in those books
are incidental relative to the much larger picture of overall
wildlife welfare and the future of hunting.
LEGAL VERSUS ETHICAL
Hunting is an intensely personal experience fraught with personal choices. Consider the contrast between what is legal and what is ethical. It is difficult to conceive of a situation in hunting where the commission of an illegal act could be considered ethical. But, the inverse is not only possible, but also common. In short, legality describes the outside boundaries within which ethical choices are made.
For example, some hunters take shots at deer in excess of 300 yards. They have rifles and ammunition capable of accuracy at such ranges. They practice at those ranges and are capable and confident of almost certain clean kills. Other hunters would never think of taking a shot at this distance. It's legal. There is nothing in the game regulations about maximum allowable distances yet many will not take that shot. Why? Some do not have experience with this type of shooting. Others feel the risk is too high for wounding and therefore the practice is unethical. Others might consider that shooting at such ranges, even with a high probability of success, is simply too great an advantage over the prey and would choose to stalk in closer.
The point is, there are many things in the hunting and habitat
management world that are legal, yet can be considered by some
to be unethical. Again, it is left for each individual to set
his or her own ethical standards. Hopefully, all of our collective
decisions will shine positively on hunting, management and its
DIVIDED WE FALL
Hunting is a personal experience filled with personal choices taking place in many areas with varying traditions and rules. The concept of "fair chase" is a noble one and something that is meant to be a unifying, governing force. The concept was not created as a test to divide ethical hunters.
One of the reasons why our wildlife and habitat conservation
system works is because individual states regulate what goes on
within that state. Can you imagine the train wreck that would
occur if the same rules applied for all states regardless of traditions,
the diverse species of game, and various habitats found in different
regions? Deer hunting with a crossbows is legal in Ohio, but not
in some other states. Baiting deer is legal in some states, yet
frowned upon by hunters in other states. You can run bear and
cougar with hounds in some western states, but only spot and stalk
hunt in others. Steel shot, lead shot, plugged shotguns, expandable
broadheads, inline muzzleloaders - the list goes on and on. The
bottom line - we are too small of a group not to support each
other. If you hunt, you belong to a fraternity. If a hunting method
is legal in another state, but not in your state, crying foul
won't help the bigger picture. If a way of hunting is under attack
in another state, your way is under attack, even if you do not
agree with or practice this method.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
As hunters and land managers, we are in the "image business" - even more so now than at the turn of the century when "fair chase" was proposed as the underlying foundation for hunter ethics. For sportsmen to continue to be the dominant force in setting wildlife resource policies we must, and foremost understand our role as conservationists. We should take pride in accomplishments and recognize, and assume the responsibilities that have been passed to us by our hunting forefathers. If we don't stand up for wildlife and its habitats, who will? We are, in the end, a "band of brothers and sisters" in that what we do individually affects us all. We must continue to make the passing on of our traditions to young hunters a priority. And we must get involved in the political process - opportunities are lost through inactivity. Thinking, "it won't happen to me," or "it will never happen here" is a mistake we cannot afford to make. There are many ways you can contribute and be heard on both local and national levels.
The sponsors of this website care deeply about hunting, land stewardship, and our wildlife and offer quality products for the outdoorsmen. Please consider supporting them with your next purchases. Other sponsors include conservation organizations that have been and continue to do tremendous things to protect our right to hunt and to conserve and manage our natural resources. Most are non-profit, volunteer organizations. Your membership and support are needed now more than ever. Lastly, introduce someone to the hunting and shooting sports. Sharing the experiences that make our sporting way of life a special privilege is quite possibly the most important thing we can do. Seeing to it that others understand our history and role as conservationists is the only sure way that what hunters have fought for over 100 years will continue to be in good hands.
"We need, in the interest of the community at large, a rigid system of game-laws rigidly enforced, and it is not only admissible, but one may almost say necessary, to establish, under the control of the State, great national forests reserves which shall also be breeding-grounds and nurseries for wild game; but I should much regret to see grow up in this country a system of large private game-preserves kept for the enjoyment of the very rich. One of the chief attractions of the life of the wilderness is its rugged and stalwart democracy; there every man stands for what he actually is and can show himself to be."