Are all Hunters Brothers and Sisters?

There is no question that as a small segment of society, hunters should stick together. There is enough outside pressures and criticism on hunting for hunters to be divided among ourselves. Hunters have a long history of sticking together, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for differences within our camp. But it also doesn’t mean that bad behavior should get a free pass.

Traditions and customs in hunting are important. This includes local traditions and how people choose to hunt, be it with gun or bow; rifle or shotgun, recurve or compound; ground blind or treestand; still-hunting or calling, and even with dogs or over bait where legal. In most instances, the majority of hunters understand and accept these differences. The real rub with sticking together comes from poor choices and bad behavior. No one likes to be the cop policing the behavior of others, but one of the things that has made hunting a special, time-honored tradition and socially acceptable is hunters policing themselves.

How we conduct ourselves individually reflects either positively or negatively on all hunters as a group, and hunting in general. People make mistakes, which is why our society is forgiving. And we’re keen on second chances as long as the governing body and the participants in any activity are seen proactively trying to correct mistakes. It may not be written anywhere on your hunting license, but you have a responsibility to ensure hunting is both safe and done in a respectful and ethical manner. Sometimes this means calling out those things you believe to be either unsafe or not in the spirit of the hunt. Claiming that “anything goes” as long as it is legal is not always the right call.

Yes, hunters should all be in the same boat and stick together, but if someone is shooting holes in that boat, sooner or later we’re all going to get wet.


Our Shield Against the Antis

It would be tough for anyone who hunts not to be disturbed by the rhetoric being put forth by anti-hunting groups. They’re among that 10 percent of the population who not only does not hunt, but they are trying to make a living out of ending all hunting.

This vocal minority never seems to let the facts get in the way of a good argument, which is frustrating to watch. They can no doubt stir up trouble; but they are also just that, a minority—no different in the sense that hunters are a minority. This vocal minority is partly responsible for non-hunters turning away their support for hunting. The question is, what to do about them?

One solution is support and practice fair chase hunting. Hunting being conducted under laws guided by science that are established to ensure the well-being of game species is an inconvenient truth for the anti-hunting agenda. Their workaround to this is to ignore this fact or bring their own junk science to the table to refute real science. But what they can’t work around is this truth: beyond game laws, the majority of hunters limit themselves for the benefit of game populations by choosing to hunt under the highest of ethical standards.

The code of fair chase is the anti-hunting boogey man. It says hunters are not the uncaring, blood sport thugs with no honor or values they often try and portray hunters to be. Fair chase is the shield their arrows bounce off of. Each one of us has this shield. If we all use it, that’s the best thing we can do to drown out anti-hunting noise.


Anti-Hunter, Now It's Personal

Hunting is not for everyone, which means some people will oppose it. Anti-hunting sentiment is nothing new, nor are the attempts by some groups to end all hunting by smearing hunting in order to enlist more non-hunters to support their anti-hunting agenda. What is new is “anti-hunting” has become “anti-hunter.”

If you’re having a difficult time getting other people to object to an activity, you might try something more personal, like getting people to object to the actions of other people. This is what anti-hunting has evolved into—people objecting to the motivations and actions of hunters.

Why should we care? The anti-hunter atmosphere is far more dangerous because it welcomes aboard many more people who would otherwise not have given hunting a second thought. These people are not originally opposed to someone else hunting even though they choose not to hunt themselves.

The anti-hunter approach is also tailor-made for social media trolls and keyboard terrorists. Personal attacks on social media, where one can hide behind a pen name with no accountability for what they say, is on the rise everywhere, and hunters are becoming prime targets. It would be “sticks and stones” if it were not for the Internet being the global avenue through which the majority of people get their information and form their opinions.

There is no simple solution to this. All we can do as hunters is walk a straight path and hunt fair chase.


Hunters and Poachers are not Brothers

The lines between hunting and poaching are being blurred.

What this means is the non-hunting public is increasingly not making a clear distinction between hunting and poaching. Increasingly, the two are being used interchangeably. Even the media is getting it wrong.

Sportsmen know hunting is not poaching, and poachers are not hunters. Poachers are thieves. But this is an image and public-perception problem, and perceptions can become reality. This is what must be addressed.

By circumventing the laws and regulations, poachers act in complete disregard of the well-being of wildlife populations by placing profits above all else. Poachers are acting outside of the conservation measures established by science and our society. Arguably, they cause even greater harm by destroying public trust and tarnishing the reputation of law-abiding and conservation-minded hunters, most of whom feel a very personal responsibility toward the protection of wildlife and wilderness.

Something else is often missing from this picture. The fact is, sportsmen are the ones reporting poachers to authorities and willingly contribute financially to anti-poaching enforcements.

There are three things we can do to correct this wrongful association between hunting and poaching:

  • Distance hunting from poaching at every opportunity by being vocal, calling out and coming down hard on poachers.
  • Continue our boots-on-the-ground vigilance in reporting on poaching activities.
  • Hunting has an ethical code of fair chase at its core. Poaching has no code and no honor. People will not learn this on their own. We must teach them.

Also see Illegal Hunting

I Hunt, So @#&! Off!

Maybe it’s because the media has long taken potshots at hunters. Maybe it’s because social media invites inflammatory, soundbite headlines and unfiltered keyboard terrorists. Maybe it’s because animal rights and anti-hunting groups never seem to let the facts get in the way of a good argument. Maybe it’s all of the above and more.

It’s frustrating and a gross disservice to sportsmen who have given so much to wildlife over the past century. Regardless, our collective response to misinformation, lies, and attacks says a lot about us as hunters.

Where we have seemed to have landed is a place where far too many hunters are digging their heels in and sending the message, “If you don’t like the fact that I hunt, you can shove it.” While this could be a justifiable response considering the nonsense and the attacks, it’s not getting us anywhere.

The next time you’re in a situation to explain or defend your hunting and feel the need to fire back, don’t swing at pitches low and in the dirt. Thoughtful and courteous responses still win the day. As Mom always said, “There’s never an excuse to be impolite.” As for the “antis”—like a famous lawyer once said, “Never get into an argument with someone whose living depends on disagreeing with you.”


Our Permission to Speak

All significant human activities, sooner or later, are conducted under a code, or set of guidelines, that direct appropriate behavior. Without this order there would simply be chaos and the activity would become unacceptable.

This website presents many aspects of hunting ethics and fair chase, including what an overall code of ethics says about hunters being principled men and women committed to something greater than themselves.

It’s a fact that not everyone hunts or understands hunting. It is also true that hunters are a minority. Combined, this means hunting has and is repeatedly under question and often criticized and debated in a now-global forum.

There is one rule in an open public debate about anything. To have your points of view heard and listened to, whether they are accepted or not, you must first have earned the permission to speak. This means you have the experience and credibility to be a part of a productive debate to be taken seriously and not dismissed. In the broader public debates about hunting’s modern relevance and personal and conservation benefits, fair chase is our permission to speak.

The concept of fair chase dictates that hunting has a code, and there are guidelines, principles, values, and standards being practiced and met. It validates that hunting is not random, lawless, and without purpose.

People may not participate in an activity themselves, but they have proven they do not oppose others who participate when there is proof that good behavior is celebrated and bad behavior is not tolerated.


Is Legal Always Ethical?

“Personal choice” is mentioned many times throughout this website. There is no escaping the fact that hunting itself is a personal experience, preceded by personal choices. The issue of legal versus ethical raises another very important personal choice question.

Certainly if something is illegal, the choice has already been made. It's not ethical. This doesn’t mean however if something is legal that it is always ethical, but there are exceptions.

A good example today of something that is in illegal, but many consider unethical is extreme long-range shooting. Some hunters are secure in taking a rifle shot at a deer from 500 yards away. They practice at these distances and are confident in their equipment and ability to make a clean, accurate shot. They know their maximum-effective range across all hunting conditions. Still, 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 and all the variables that can come into play. Others feel the risk is too high for wounding and therefore, the practice is unethical. Others with the skill and confidence for the shot will choose to test their other skills and want to engage the animal by way of a closer stalk.

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching—even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”Aldo Leopold

One exception to the question of legal versus ethical has to do with where we hunt. In different states, provinces, and countries there are different traditional hunting methods that are legal and acceptable, but the same method can be illegal elsewhere. Baiting is one example. The use of hounds is another.  Traditions differ, and traditions in hunting are important. It is essential, and hunters are too few, to waste our energy and resources fighting among ourselves over such differences. It is essential then that we accept these different traditions.

The point is, there are many things in the hunting world that are legal, yet can be considered by some to be unethical. A good rule of thumb then would be; it's not only about just what is legal, but also what's honorable and ethical.


Man-made in the USA

Man-made; adj. Made by humans rather than occurring in nature; artificial or synthetic.

A conversation about hunting and fair chase would be incomplete without talking about the pursuit of “game” that has been genetically manipulated to produce abnormally large antlers, which are then sold as “trophies” in artificial hunting situations. Why is this an important conversation to have? Because for the hunting community to allow this practice to continue unchecked is “whistling past the graveyard” for the future of hunting.

Let’s set aside for the moment the question of the impact on the species being altered by genetic engineering, including the use of hormones, blood thinners, excessive minerals and protein. Let’s set aside what the introduction of a false product means for the value of the real thing, and the value we place on nature. Let’s also set aside the issue of wildlife health and diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) that can be spread from the transport of these captive animals from one state or province to another and then from captive to wild populations. These are all legitimate concerns that drive the distaste the majority of sportsmen have for this practice. As ethical hunters what should be our focus is no longer ignoring the fact that this type of “hunting” has and continues to foster a perception among the non-hunting public that “this is what hunting has become.” There are already signs where hunting is being rejected over this wrongful association, and the lid isn’t really off this can yet. Fake news is a dime a dozen these days, and this is not fake news. This will get picked up more than it already has and fed to the public creating more brush fires against all hunting.

This type of commercial enterprise has been made legal in some states, so these businesses are established. It will take legislative action and restrictions to undo what’s been done. This very well could be an expensive, and long drawn out process, but there is another solution.

A case can be made that the breeders and operators of these businesses are just providing a service to willing buyers, and they currently have a legal right to do so. Businesses rely on customersno customers, no business. It is therefore up to the customer to decide if this is the type of hunting or product for them, or whether they consider it legitimate hunting at all. Thankfully we’re already seeing a trend coming from a handful of people who are saying, “been there, done that, not a hunt, not booking again.” As sportsmen concerned about the future and traditions of hunting we need not only nurture this trend, but also do everything in our power to distance hunting from these activities for when the ax does fall, and it will fall. The non-hunting public will see to that, if we don’t.

What About Fences?

High-fence hunting is one of the most complex issues faced by our wildlife conservation community. It is a multi-faceted conundrum that includes aspects such as private property rights, public ownership versus privatization of wildlife, the spread of wildlife diseases, wildlife and hunting ethics, and the public perception of hunting.

How and where we hunt is a choice each of us makes as an individual hunter. It is also a matter of personal choice whether you believe hunting within a game-proof fence (where legal) is an acceptable practice, acceptable under certain conditions, unacceptable, fair chase, or should not be considered hunting at all. But, like all choices, there are consequences that must be considered.

Fair chase is more a matter of the spirit of the hunt rather than a set of written rules. It can however be interpreted by intent, practice, and perception. With regard to high-fence hunting, not all high-fenced properties are created equal. For one, not all high-fence situations are commercial operations. Many are private hunting properties. Some are small acreages; some larger; some have adequate cover; others are more open with less cover for game to elude the hunter; some have purposely concentrated a high number of animals within a given space to ensure game will be seen; some let the available habitat dictate population density; some artificially manipulate the quality of game for maximum trophy potential; and others rely on natural breeding and available food. In short, this is not a one-size-fits-all issue.

If the intent of the landowner or operator is to present an unrealistically high chance of success for the hunter/customer, reducing the experience to more of a shoot than a hunt, it is understandable why many feel this is not hunting. If the intent of the customer/hunter is to forego a hunt in a wild setting for a wild animal in favor of an assured and/or quick kill, where does one draw the line between hunting and shooting?

The answer to this complex question may just lie at a higher level than individual choice and personal hunter ethics. It may just be that the litmus test should be what is in the best interest of wildlife and the message this type of hunting sends to non-hunters, who can, as we have seen, impose great influence on the future of hunting.

An overall conservation ethic is doing the right thing by wildlife. In order for sportsmen to maintain any credible claim we care about wildlife and are a significant mechanism for conservation, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Is genetically engineering deer and elk, and intensively feeding and handling them for the purpose of growing unnaturally large antlers only to be shot within enclosures (commercial or private) demonstrating concern and respect for wildlife? With the connection that has been made between the spread of diseases like CWD and the transfer of captive animals between these properties, and the documented spread of this disease to wild populations, does standing by and supporting this activity demonstrate our commitment to the health of these species?  Will the non-hunting public be able to make the distinction that some high-fence hunting situations may offer an ethical approach to hunting and wildlife conservation and some do not? It is highly unlikely the public will take the time to draw such fine distinctions and instead reach the conclusion that none of this is acceptable behavior.

Hunting is very complex and, like many fundamental human engagements, it is greater than the sum of its parts. We must acknowledge that we live in a world in which the public is sensitized to making instantaneous judgments based on emotion, Google Searches, skimming headlines, and with the fewest of facts. The one countermeasure we can control is to hunt responsibly, respectfully, and ultimately defensibly—and ensure others do as well—to maintain the support of society at large. If we succeed, we will ensure hunting exists for as many people in North America for as many years to come as possible.

The Boone and Crockett Club defines fair chase as the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals. In 1983, the Club adopted a policy that made whitetail deer and other species taken in escape-proof enclosures ineligible for its records books.


Lessons From Coaching

Hunting is not a sport like basketball, football, or soccer, but there are lessons that can apply to hunting from the coaching of these sports.

Coaches are taught to identify two different personality types in their athletes so they can adjust their coaching style to best benefit both the athlete and the team. The two personality types include task-involved and ego-involved.


  • Measure success by personal improvements
  • Focus on what they are doing to get better at the task
  • Perform to the best of their ability
  • Feel confident and successful when they get better
  • Values the process and the experience
  • Looks to make other teammates better and celebrates their successes
  • Has a fairly even attitude and self-confidence when things are going good and not so good
  • Understands that to get better they must try harder, choosing challenging tasks, and persist in the face of adversity

  • Winning is the measure of success
  • Pre-occupied with their ability compared to others
  • If winning can be achieved with less preparation and effort, all the better
  • Avoids challenging tasks that might expose a weakness
  • If self-confidence is low, is preoccupied with whether they are good enough
  • If self-confidence is high, is preoccupied with how to prove rather than improve their ability
  • Are more likely to engage in unsportsmanlike behavior
  • When winning is everything, ego-involved will likely do anything to win

Using a basketball as an example, a task-involved point guard who misses two or three shots at the beginning of a game will continue to try hard to get open, work within the flow of the offense, and shoot when given the chance. If an ego-involved point guard misses their first few shots they are more likely to hide their inability and pass up shots, not try as hard, not execute their role, look for excuses, and blame teammates or the offensive game plan. If he or she makes their first few shots they are more likely to keep shooting—sometimes too much—without regard for their teammates or the game plan.

When winning is everything, it defines the person and the activity, and what each person gets from participating. It is no different in hunting. When a kill defines success, that’s all there is. This places more value on the result than the process or the experience. This is especially dangerous for young hunters who will not always be successful every time out. It can make them question their abilities, look for shortcuts or the easy way out—or even quit hunting altogether.