It’s fall. If you are a hunter, this is your time. Your time to enjoy crisp mornings on a ridge as dawn breaks, to take in evenings at camp around a fire under a shimmering night sky, to put meat on the table.
The behavior of hunters now may determine the future of hunting for the next generation. Photo by FWP.
This is your time to shine, to use the privilege that allows us to hunt. It’s also the season when we wear our ethics on our sleeve for the world to see.
Ethics? What, you might say, does ethics have to do with hunting.
Ethics is our moral compass to what’s right and what’s wrong; even if something is legal it can sometimes be wrong.
For example, take fair chase, the idea that we give animals a chance, that in fair chase there’s a fair chance the hunter sometimes kills his prey but often doesn’t. If you doubt that, you are either lucky or a nonhunter.
Each generation of hunters has developed greater technology and, as a result, had to recalibrate their ethical compass.
Once upon time it wasn’t considered fair to use scopes on rifles. Now, not only does nearly everyone, but there are scopes that project lasers and read out the distance to the target.
We also have trail cameras, range finders, and global positioning satellite (GPS) systems to help one find prey. They are all advantages and legal. But each hunter must decide what is too much of an advantage.
Our pockets fill with gadgets as our pocketbooks empty. And to what purpose? Does the venison taste better?
Hunters need to be able to look at themselves in the mirror each morning without hesitation.
Of course if something is illegal, we don’t even have to cross the Bridge Ethical.
Remember that property that was open last year, now closed this year? Maybe, as the Bard once wrote, the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves.
Sometimes posted land comes from problems like gates left open and cattle out. Other times land is closed because of bullet holes in irrigation pivots or water tanks.
It doesn’t happen everywhere or with every landowner but it does happen occasionally. And as grandma said, a few bad apples ruin everything.
We hunters need to remember that we have been given a great gift by our ancestors; publicly entrusted wildlife that often inhabits private property. How we use, or abuse, that gift will say a lot about whether our grandchildren continue to enjoy our hunting tradition.
And speaking of gifts, we are taught to say thank you when someone gives us something. If it’s been awhile since you thanked a landowner, perhaps this is the year.
How about thanking the spirit of that animal laying at your feet for giving up its life so you may have something to eat?
Think about this as fall deepens and we enjoy the privileges of an American hunter. What will you do as a member of our collective hunting community to encourage the future of hunting?
(Written by Bruce Auchley – Montana FWP-R4; Photo: Bruce Auchly)