A Good Hunter and an Ethical Hunter
There are many qualities and skills that can make someone a good hunter, but it takes some special qualities and skills to make someone both a good and ethical hunter. Not everyone strives to be an ethical hunter, but not everyone is aware of the importance of being one either. So what makes someone an ethical hunter over simply being a good hunter?
In this blogpost, we have highlighted some key practices that would make any good hunter into an ethical one.
Leave the Wilderness as You Found It
Two practices fall under this category. The first is cleaning up after yourself while hunting just as you would anywhere else. And the second is not altering or damaging the wilderness to your benefit (or enjoyment) while hunting.
We have all learned the life lesson and importance of cleaning up after ourselves. This lesson is extremely important while we are out in nature, as it matters what we leave behind when we venture into the great outdoors. This is as simple as leaving the woods without it looking like you had even been there. No litter, no unnecessary damage to plants, and so on.
A potential example that falls in this category are illegal bait piles. Bait piles can effect both the wilderness you are in and how you are as a hunter. You should always come by your kill honestly and without cutting corners. Some bait piles can be used prior to hunting to bring wildlife into the view of a trail camera, and some can be used for hunting, the laws depend on the state or county. But depending on the bait pile in question, most are illegal and unethical, and many bait piles cause more damage than they do good. Animals in the area may depend on the bait pile for food, it could cause dietary issues in some animals, or cause damage to the surrounding area from all the animal traffic. If bait piles are used legally, cleaning them up afterwards is something the hunter should take the time to do.
However, a truly ethical hunter may take the time to scout, set up trail cameras, investigate properties, and practice animal calls in order to have a successful hunt without using any bait piles. Target practice is also important.
Speaking of target practice, that brings us to our next highlight.
Take a Breath, Then Take the Shot
When you’re out hunting in the wilderness, patiently waiting for the big moment to happen, the feelings of anticipation and anxiousness can build up. You may sit there for hours before anything shows up in front of you. Long before your target comes into view, you likely had been preparing for the moment that matters most: when you take the shot.
Anything can happen in that moment when you pull the trigger (or release the arrow). Any animal you are hunting can make any sort of maneuver so that the shot you intended is not followed through, or other factors can get in the way. Some of these factors can be avoided, while others cannot. It takes patience to sit and wait for your intended target to come along, and you should bring that patience into the moment you take the shot on your target to steer clear of making any avoidable mistakes. All your time and effort has lead up to that moment, causing adrenaline and eagerness to take over you, potentially clouding your judgement.
The action of aiming and shooting always goes by quicker than expected, regardless of how many times you’ve done it. The moment especially goes by quicker when a limited window is involved, or if the target is a skittish, easily frightened prey animal. Target practice is important and can significantly help, although it only helps so much.
Being patient and taking careful calculations truly matters in a moment such as this, even if that moment is done by simply taking a second to take in a breath. Make the decision, focus, breathe, and then take the shot.
Say if you were to take a shot at a deer, and in the moment of excitement and eagerness, your shot wasn’t aimed properly, hitting the deer awkwardly in the shoulder, not being a vital hit. The deer darts away through the woods, only losing a little blood along its escape. Was it worth it?
Mistakes do happen, there is no denying that. Many good hunters do everything they can to take the shot in the exact right moment they are supposed to, but it is impossible to control all factors. However, lots of hunters have yet to learn that rushing a shot is a worse mistake than just missing out on one completely. A deer, or any animal, that is poorly shot and has the opportunity to run away begs to question, what happens to the animal if it isn’t found? Some hunters may brush it off, only bothering to search for a blood trail for a short period of time and then letting it go. But the deer is left to suffer the consequences of such actions.
Any living being can experience pain or suffering, and many also experience fear. If the deer you shot is never found, it would be natural to feel some form of sadness or remorse. Feeling this sadness and remorse is a sign that you are an ethical hunter, regardless of the fact you made an honest mistake.
Respect the Animal
This is one ethical point that is quite straight-forward. Respect the animal you are hunting, whether it is dead or alive. Some may wonder how you can disrespect an animal, and in truth there are many ways to do so. Disrespecting a wild animal could range from something minor such as taking a picture with the carcass that reflects an attitude or a pose that is in poor taste, or doing something serious like intentionally hurting an animal with no further intention of actually killing it for meat and resources. There has also been many reports over time of wild animal abuse and harassment.
Another way to disrespect an animal is by not harvesting it properly, causing parts or the entire animal to go to waste. Whether the gutting was done wrong, or the meat was left sitting too long and began to rot, there are also ways you can disrespect the animal after it is already dead. Taking the necessary steps to care for the animal after it is dead is just as important as the effort it took to get it in the first place. Learn and observe how to properly harvest an animal after hunting to avoid any potential mistakes or wasted meat.
Be Proud, Be Thankful
We are taught at a young age to be thankful for what we have, and to be proud of the things we accomplish. Both of these are a huge part of being an ethical hunter. Expressing gratitude during and after a hunt, even when it is unsuccessful, is something all hunters should do. And being proud of your efforts, even if you return with nothing.
Taking a moment to reflect on your hunt, especially if it was successful, is always a good behavior to practice. What brought you to where you are? Whether you are hunting on public or private land, being thankful for the spot you have access to is always important. Many hunters face the difficulty of only having access to public land for hunting, and with that being the case, can limit availability and the odds are increased that the land is heavily shared. If you find your perfect spot, or a spot that is ideal enough for your hunt, feel grateful for it, for not all hunters are so lucky.
Expressing gratitude does not have to be done in a literal sense. Even reflecting internal gratitude for what you have or have accomplished is great! But if you feel like sharing more, you can always spread your thankfulness to others by thanking anyone that has helped make your hunt possible, or share your successes with others who would benefit. Hunting on a plot of private land? Be sure to thank the landowner. Successfully kill a big deer? Share the meat with others as a way to celebrate the feast and enjoy the meal with more than just yourself.
Now go out there and be ethical hunters!