Who Wants To Talk About Hunting Ethics And Fair Chase?

Evidently, a lot of sportsmen do.

Cecil Lion Protestors
Cecil Lion Protestors

Boone and Crockett Club

MISSOULA, Mont.--(Ammoland.com)- Social media lights up with debates about a host of topics that seemingly just keep coming.

Whether it’s: how far is too far; hunters getting grilled for posting their photos on their Facebook pages; or I’ll never hunt behind a high fence, to shooting hogs with an AR from a helicopter and calling it hunting, or baiting bears is for cowards, how we hunt, or how someone else hunts must matter.

The truth is, it should matter.

We’re hunting today, not solely because of sportsmen’s efforts to restore game populations from dismal to robust, but because in a democratic society hunting is still supported by the majority of citizens.

All significant human activities are sooner or later 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. Consequently, ethics apply in everything we do, including hunting. Our game laws direct ethical behavior in many cases, but just because something is legal does that mean it is ethical? Beyond the laws established by society, ethics become a matter of personal choice left to each individual.

Personal ethics are personal, but individual actions, good and bad represent the entire group. (The recent Cecil Lion Death has sparked a social media fire on the topic)

Because of the personal nature of ethics, they can be divisive topic. Some would say talking ethics only divides hunters. Others say ethics unites like-mined hunters under a common banner. Then there’s fair chase.

The ethics of fair chase are not as clearly defined as people would like them to be. Beliefs about what is and what is not fair chase, like all personal values, fall on a continuum. Fair chase is more a matter of the “spirit of the hunt” than a strict code. Hunting beliefs and practices may change over time, but the process of analyzing a situation and properly evaluating the options that will lead to a well-reasoned determination of what fair chase is (and is not) stays constant.

An understanding of fair chase is complicated by the fact that “fair” has many meanings and uses in the English language, i.e., fair ball, fair weather, fair skin, fair chance, fair play. When the word “fair” is paired with “chase,” it implies hunting is fair or equal – the literal meaning of fair.

Hunting is not fair.

It is not a field sport like baseball or football where the participants agree to the rules of engagement beforehand. In hunting, the prey has not agreed to anything, nor does it have an equal chance in most cases to kill the human hunter. For most species, escape is the only option. Therefore, the meaning of fair chase is based on the definition of “fair” that relates to legitimate, honorable, genuine, or appropriate in the circumstances. To complicate matters further, fair chase is associated with the notion of “sport hunting” in the minds of many hunters even though it does not resemble any sport played on a field or court. The term “sport,” in hunting, means only a sporting approach. That approach recognizes the advantage of human capabilities, including technologies, and represents a desire to constrain so as to give the animals pursued a legitimate chance to escape. It also recognizes that humans are the alpha predator and there is a need to limit our advantage, which is one of the underpinnings of sustainable use conservation.

There is no denying the fact that what was once unacceptable is now increasingly becoming acceptable. Will there be a price to pay for the end justifies the means? Will hunting’s public approval rating be affected? Are we turning anti-hunting into anti-hunter, or has this always been the case? It’s a good conversation to have.

About Boone and Crockett Club

The Boone and Crockett Club was founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887 as North America’s first hunting and conservation organization. Its mission is to promote and encourage hunting, and to maintain the highest ethical standards of fair chase and sportsmanship in North America.

Join us at www.Boone-Crockett.org.

  • 10 thoughts on “Who Wants To Talk About Hunting Ethics And Fair Chase?

    1. Ethics are subjective and one person’s ethics are no better than another’s. As long as the activity is legal it is up to the individual to decide what is ethical. The key is education as to the benefits of game management and hunting. This pitting one group of hunters against is the fastest way to eliminate our right to hunt. High fence hunting may not be considered hunting by some but it is not less ethical that harvesting livestock, and in certain places like South Africa has actually helped take animals off the endangered list. Whether it be meat vs trophy, fair chase vs. high fence, archery vs. rifle, predator vs ungulate, long range vs spot and stalk, baiting vs not ,we need to support one another and simply educate the public to analyze the benefits of hunting rationally and not get caught up in emotion. Can can try to convince other hunters to hunt a certain way, but when you start demonizing other hunters’ legal activities you are playing the same emotional game anti-hunters play.

    2. The term “sport hunting ” started with the early laws regarding hunting . Pittman- Robertson ,and Wallops-Breau acts defined the difference between “sport ” and “market ” hunting setting ethical standards that governed the taking of game as opposed to market “hunting” that killed as much game as possible for sale resulting in the declines of game species to or near to extinction . non hunters and anti-hunting people don’t understand the concept of how this came about or how the funding from sportsmen allowed this to become successful ,so successful that New Zealand is modelling their game laws and hunting on the US model.

    3. While I firmly believe in fair chase hunting, I have no issue w the shooting if feral hogs from helicopters. Feral hogs are an agricultural disaster whose numbers can’t be effectively controlled through normal sport hunting techniques. When a population such as feral hogs becomes so large to become an economic and environmental disaster all means and technology need to be employed. We just need to be able to articulate the difference between hunting and population control.

    4. The above article is well written and poses a question. It however offers no solution. I have written against the slaughter of feral hogs from aircraft. I also do not support the guide services as most operate. Hunting is not just shooting. If a farmer wants to sit on his back porch and shoot a deer in his yard, that is OK but it is harvesting not hunting. A person pays several thousand dollars to an outfitter or guide, The guide scouts, stalks and directs the shooter, that is not hunting. That is commercial harvesting. Hunting is where a person uses innate and learned skills to seek and find and kill his quarry. Many people who do not hunt do not care to understand the difference, after all dead is dead. It is up to us hunters to police our ranks with laws, and regulations and personal contact with poachers and outfitters to improve the image of hunting as a sport. I fear that human population encroachment on game populations and competition for space due to human over population we are rapidly approaching the end of most hunting. I propose a stoppage of commercial sport hunting. I personally do not bait or use commercial calls and do not buy into all the absurdly marketed apparel and equipment shown on media today, Blue jeans and a coat and boots seem to be OK with deer and ducks and squirrels and turkeys when used in conjunction with a little natural camouflage. Let us hunters help our image as well as help game populations thrive.

      1. I so agreed with you on your comment. Hunting (even when I don’t hunt since the market is full of meat) it should be something ethical and not just shooting, it should be a set of skills putting to work in order to put wild meat on your table….but with ethics. I had seen in Wyoming or here in Utah those fat bastards chasing elk or deer on their ATV’s on an open space…. That is NOT HUNTING!!! Thanks for you smart comment on the subject. After all our rights on guns were giving to us mostly to defend ourselves and not so much for hunting. But if one hunt, yes, it should be in an ethical way, not just for the the FUN to kill an animal……

        1. Some of us “fat bastards on Atv’s” are disabled in some ways that prohibit walking or carrying gear far.
          Personally I have been run over by a drunk cop , breaking both legs fracturing my skull . Years later I broke my back at L1 . Now I have DDD , stenosis , spondylolisthesis, hardened ligament flavum at L5 . I still try to get out harvest anything as I eat what I kill. Fair chase for me is being able to get there.
          I know many will disagree with my means , as my friends fair chase is walking in , stalking and killing with a bow. He deems all firearms unfair.
          Well welcome to 1st Admendment and your own views.

          1. Really sorry about your condition, specially when someone supposed to protect you ran over you…

            1. However, and backing again to the chasing an animal (I hate the “name” game.. an.animal is not a computer or sport event) on an ATV, there are some things one have to give up in life.. I, since my eyes are aging at the same rhythm I do, don’t do long shooting anymore. In the same way, if you sir, with all due respect, have all those health problems, you should not be chasing animals on an ATV…at least you live from the wealth fare and don’t have money to buy meat at the market….what then is topic for a different kind of discussion!!!

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