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Booking Hunts and Buying Animals

The guiding and outfitting industry has been in existence since man first had an interest in exploring and hunting new lands and for different species of game than one could hunt locally. In North America, the exploration and opening of the West primarily rode on the backs of three things: the fur trade, the gold rush, and big game hunting. The profession of guide and outfitter is therefore an old one made up of men, women, and families who are respected for being tough as nails backcountry woodsmen with a special knowledge of the game and country they inhabit.

If you spend any time speaking with some of the old guard—the multi-generational guiding and outfitting families—about how times have changed, the number one answer you’ll get is, “our clients.” More specifically, the increasing percentage of those who are no longer looking to book hunts and adventure, but whose number one interest is more along the lines of “buying animals.” By any measure, this is not a good trend.

“Where’s my trophy,” says a lot about the evolution of the hunting community, or at least a segment of it. It also raises the question, if this is the sole purpose, will it lead to ethical choices being compromised? Granted, few people have the time today in our fast-paced society for the 10, 14, and 21-day expeditions that were commonplace when guiding and outfitting first got going. But “fly me in, point out my animal, and fly me out” is the type of client that more and more outfitters are getting these days. If you ask the outfitters, they’ll say they’re glad to see them come and happier when they leave. They also work harder and become long-time friends with those who appreciate the entire experience and the effort, whether they take game or not.

This website is dedicated to bringing back those conversations that are still out there, but not as front and center as they used to be. These include such things as the old notion of hunting the experience and not the animal, celebrating the great game animals we hunt, earning it, and the memories that burn the brightest and last the longest being those that are in direct proportion to the effort involved and who we were with.

 


A False Product

The opinions as to the true origins of the term “the real McCoy” vary throughout history, but it is commonly held to mean “the real thing” or “the genuine article.”

Our society embraces the real thing over a lesser or fake imitation. “Real” therefore carries the most value. Imitations do have their place in commerce. Take a cubic zirconia for example. People who cannot afford or do not want a real diamond do have an option. But commerce in nature is a different story.

The hunting community today is faced with a false product challenge. Whitetail deer and elk can be artificially grown to dimensions beyond what nature is capable of. This is not for science or research, or even for the betterment of the species. It’s for ego, status and commerce. This raises many interesting and troubling questions.

Does this intense manipulation add value or does it devalue the real thing? Just because we can, should we? What does this say about the direction the hunting community is taking itself—or being led? Is this defining the value we place on nature, these species and the opportunity to hunt? Will the non-hunting public understand and accept or reject wildlife being subject to this type of handling for ego, status and commerce? They’re all good questions and ones we best be prepared to answer.

Keep in mind that any activity in our society that comes to be viewed in a harsh and unfavorable light faces a bleak future. We have another saying: “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”

And perception is reality.


Does Talking About Ethics Only Divide Hunters?

Whether you have seen it before or not, it’s been prevalent through this Hunt Right; Hunt Fair Chase initiative. Some folks feel that any talk about hunting ethics or hunter behavior only divides hunters when we should be united. Others think we do need to talk more about ethics to get more people pointed on the right path to protect the image of hunting. This “divide” belief warrants a closer look.

A conversation about ethics in any human activity can spark controversy because someone inevitably is going to be offended if they find themselves swimming against the current. Others will be offended by those acting inappropriately, giving everyone a bad rap.

The most common viewpoints in opposition to a conversation on ethics, hunter behavior, and fair chase have been:
• hunters are too few to be divided among ourselves over something as trivial as how someone else chooses to hunt;
• that such debates provide anti-hunters with ammunition to use against hunters and hunting;
• fair chase is nothing more than making apologies, and we should never apologize for hunting, and
• if it’s legal, why should anyone care who is doing what?

It’s true, hunters are in the minority, and we do live in a country where the opinion of the majority matters. Concern over being divided shows we have already accepted the fact that others are watching what we do and can have an influence on the future of hunting, good and bad. This is a good thing because it accepts a reality that is one of the primary purposes of the Hunt Right effort; that our image matters and some things are tarnishing this image. Since we are concerned with what others think about hunting and the influence they can have, an obvious question is what the better approach is? Is it better to be keeping our heads down or looking the other way, or be seen talking about our ethics and proactively policing our image and ourselves?

The next question is, are we leaving any ammunition behind for anti-hunters to use against us by talking about our ethics and what guides hunting beyond the laws? The anti-hunter establishment already has a full magazine of ammo to choose from among the headlines some hunters and hunting is making, both real and contrived. Why wouldn’t we want to get more of our own people on board with a positive image and putting our best foot forward? Nobody likes to be judged unless you end up smelling like a rose, but that’s the nature of ethics. Once you get out of your lane, people will let you know about it. If anything the ammunition we should not be leaving behind is proof of hunters behaving poorly, which unfortunately in today’s world of instant access and social media are not hard to find. Hunters following the law and a code of ethics, and policing themselves is not something the antis are running around putting on billboards, but maybe we should.

There is something to be said for standing our ground over an activity that has done so much for wildlife conservation and so many people. But ethics and fair chase as some sort of an apology, guilt trip, or cave-in? It's hard to imagine anyone viewing what the NFL is doing about domestic violence among its players as being an apology, guilt trip, or cave-in. It’s just the right thing to do, and they are protecting their brand in the process.

We know that something may be legal in one state and not another, but that’s not the argument behind, “if it’s legal, why should anyone care?” What is and what isn’t legal is determined by local traditions, the type of game being hunted and under what conditions, and state wildlife officials needing to increase success rates or limit harvest. Using what’s legal or not legal in different states as pushback against a discussion about ethics misses the bigger picture: our game laws are not solely based on ethics, which would dismiss the fact that wildlife sciences and management are involved. Case in point; it is illegal to hunt mountain lions in California, but that does not mean ethically hunting them in another state is now impossible or should be illegal as well. This was a decision not based on science or what was necessarily the best for lions or their prey base. The voters in this state considered hunters’ being allowed to kill mountain lions as socially unacceptable, and they made it illegal. What we should be more concerned with is how others are intentionally misrepresenting illegal (as always about ethics, not about science or management goals) to sway public opinion. In other words, “If lion hunting in California is illegal, it should be illegal everywhere, right?”

“All you’re doing is dividing hunters when hunters should be united.” An interesting position, but one that doesn’t hold much water, especially if you understand the reasons for having ethics in the first place. In any human activity, ethics are the guiding principles people agree upon that are the right approach. Talking about them actually does the exact opposite—it unites like-minded people behind a common belief or practice. Our ethics and principles like fair chase are what makes hunting a fulfilling, honorable, credible, and defensible experience, which also makes hunting acceptable and good for everyone, even to those who might questions its legitimacy. The answer to the thought behind this position might just lie elsewhere. Either people don’t believe the image of hunters, and therefore hunting is at risk, or it's a cover for unethical behavior itself.

Updated: 12/20/17


Our Wild Harvest

How many pounds of meat do we get, on average, from a processed whitetail deer, an elk, or a moose? What about caribou, black bear, mule deer, or antelope? How many pounds come from a limit of mallards, a wild turkey, or a brace of quail? How many whitetail deer will be harvested to feed families in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan this year? How many people will this meat feed? How much of this food will be shared with people who do not hunt?

If you stop to think about the number of hunters and anglers, and the number of species of game and fish, the amount of food procured through recreational hunting and angling must be staggering. While pondering the magnitude of this wild harvest, consider also that this food is naturally grown and is usually locally harvested, year after year, with minimal impact to the land. Take it one step further; how much would it cost to replace this food through agriculture and aquaculture, in terms of acreage, crops, fuel, irrigation water, fertilizer, pesticides, harvesting, processing, packaging, and transportation? And this is just game species. What about sport-caught fish?

The reality is we do not know the answer to these questions, but a groundbreaking study called The Wild Harvest Initiative is underway by the research institute, Conservation Visions, based in Newfoundland, Canada. Its purpose is to quantify for the first time the total biomass of wild, healthy, organically grown wild protein harvested by sportsmen in the U.S. and Canada on an annual basis.

Humans have been living off the land since inhabiting this Earth, and hunting and angling are not our only wild harvest activities. We pick mushrooms, berries, tap maple trees for syrup, put up firewood for the winter, and cut our own Christmas trees for the holidays.

These activities matter. Hunting and fishing matter. Therefore, conservation of the natural world matters, which matters to the health and well-being of millions of people.

A hunting ethic? A conservation ethic? They’re one in the same, and they matter.


No Guarantees

In 2017 the big game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was the most watched television program in U.S. history (111.5 million). The experts, analysts, and prognosticators had everything dissected and dialed. Yet with all angles covered, no one could predict who would win. When the final whistle blew and the New England Patriots had completed their unbelievable comeback, the resounding response from the experts was, “Well, that’s why you play the game.”

Those things where the outcome is uncertain are what stand the test of time. It’s human nature to be drawn to such things, and keep coming back. Why? Because when the outcome is already known things are less interesting.

There is uncertainty to hunting. That’s the nature of it. It is this “no guarantees” that is one of hunting’s most appealing attributes. Another attraction is that we spend more time thinking about going hunting and preparing than actually hunting. We’ve all done it. Run scenarios over in our minds; “Will I see a buck? Will I see a big buck? Will I get a good shot? Will I be successful? What will the scene be like back at camp or at home when I return with my prize—or my story?”

If we think about it, an uncertain outcome defines hunting. Not knowing, combined with the capabilities of the game we pursue requires us to develop skills, which is also a cherished part of the hunt. “No Guarantees” is also at the core of what we call, fair chase.

We covet the uncertainty of hunting and what we’ve earned honestly, fair and square. Taking the easy route or shortcuts might be considered by some to be just stacking the odds in your favor, but success at any price does come with a cost. If we ever lose the no-guarantees nature of hunting, something very special will be lost. At a minimum, if hunting were a sure thing, it would be hard to still call it hunting.

 

 


A Billboard in a Forest

As you can see, Hunt Right promotes the values and supports the ethical standards that have long been at the heart of our hunting heritage. It's effectiveness in influencing a better future for hunting rest upon the number of people who visit this site. The best action you can take is to share this website with your friends, thereby helping to make this site a billboard along a highway.

We ask that when you see one of our social media memes floating around out there that you share it, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Thank you for supporting hunting's future!


A Right or a Privilege?

"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."Jack Ward Thomas, 13th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

Fourteen states have passed amendments to their constitutions making it a right for their citizens to hunt, fish and trap. It seems unnecessary that it would come to legislative action to protect these age-old outdoor traditions, but it has. Even the voters in a rural, hunting, fishing and trapping state like Montana are considering taking this same action. Why?

The game has changed. More people are making it known that they don’t like other people using, killing, or managing wildlife. These beliefs have been making their way onto state voter ballot initiatives to ban activities such as trapping on public land, the use of bait and dogs in bear and cougar hunting, or the outright ban of the hunting of these and other species altogether. A big question that remains is, will these constitutional amendments end these attacks on hunting and wildlife management, or are they just speed bumps for those looking to do away with hunting and trapping? The danger lies in believing hunting is a right that is constitutionally assured. If this were true, anti-hunting groups would have been out of business long ago.

Whether a right or a privilege where you live, we should all keep in mind that public perceptions in respect to hunting and hunters will continue to play a critical role in our future. If we—and our traditions—are viewed in a positive light, we can expect approval from others. Just as importantly, when someone is asked to vote for or against hunting or trapping, we should have our best foot forward.

 


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.

 


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.

 


Fair?

The literal meaning of “fair chase” is often confused because the word “fair” has many meanings and uses. For example, we go to the fair, there is fair ball, fair weather, fair skin, fair chance, fair play, and the fairway in golf. When the word “fair” is paired with “chase,” it implies hunting is fair or equal. It is not. “Fair” does however, underscore that there are restrictions or limitations we place on the methods and means of hunting designed to prevent the defenses of game animals from being overwhelmed.

A good example of such a restriction occurred in the early days using hounds to drive deer into lakes or ponds where they were easily slaughtered by men in boats. This practice was deemed to be both unsporting and more than what deer populations could bear, and it was outlawed. A more modern example involves banning the use of aircraft to spot or herd game and land in the vicinity to hunt them. Today, we have laws that set the time period from which hunters can fly and hunt the same day.

The use of “fair” in fair chase is actually based on the alternative definition of fair that means legitimate, honorable, genuine, or appropriate in the circumstances. In this context and beyond the laws that are established to maintain a sustainable harvest, it is up to the hunter to apply what fair means to them.

When we do try to apply the literal meaning of fair to hunting, two things happen. One, we squabble among ourselves. Have you ever been in a debate with someone who prefers to hunt on the ground and who thinks tree stands are not fair? The second thing that happens is we play right into the anti-hunters’ hands who constantly misuse and misrepresent fair chase because they believe all hunting is unfair. You can't shoot holes in legitimate, honorable, genuine, or appropriate circumstances.