Hunting Ethics is a very worthwhile topic of discussion for hunters. With the current state of turmoil in the hunting and shooting communities, it is essential that we act ethically. Improper behavior will only weaken our ranks, making us more vulnerable to the anti’s. The problem is, how do we define what is and isn’t ethical behavior?

Like many morality issues, this is up to the individual. What do you see as being a problem area among hunter ethics? For me, the ethical hunter is one who can, at the moment of truth, virtually guarantee a clean shot. If they can’t, they pass it up. Nothing is 100 percent, but the ethical hunter will come very close and they will practice as much as necessary to ensure they do.
Hunting is a test of practical, freestyle, field marksmanship. You need to gain your marksmanship experience on the range before the hunt if you want success in the field. The truly ethical hunter practices regularly. The hunter has to know what their equipment can do, establish a careful zero, and run drills to simulate shots taken at game in various scenarios so they know what is and isn’t possible.

Ethical hunters don’t have to be national champion shooters, but they must have a full, honest appraisal of their skills. They know when the animal is shootable and when it is not, within their personal skill and equipment limitations. This requires careful practice and should be tested again and again in a formalized forum using realistic silhouette targets requiring proper shot placement and applied pressure to simulate “buck fever.”
Predatory animals practice constantly. Do you think when kittens “play” it is merely for diversion? No, they are practicing the basics of pouncing, learning to use their claws and teeth to fight and hunt. Humans are no different. When they don’t prepare properly, the results are disappointing.

I have seen too many deer hung up with legs broken from slugs or bullets. A party of “hunters” brought down the animal by spraying ammo to compensate for lousy marksmanship. They didn’t have the skill to fire one effective shot. To me, this is the worst kind of unethical behavior and demonstrates a total lack of respect for hunting and natural resources. Due to improper training and practice they forced a healthy animal to suffer needlessly. Such a despicable act can only be attributed to ignorance, laziness, or both.

I’ve heard other hunters claim that certain activities such as baiting or hunting from a vehicle is unethical, even when legal. I can respect this, but bait by itself never injured an animal and caused it to die painfully. Shooting from a road is not necessarily unsafe. Heck, in many cases “poaching” is violating some local law (i.e. shooting out of season), not the laws of nature. Animals in the wild hunt when they need to, but they select one target, take it, and eat it. They don’t destroy needlessly or wound.

Now, I am not saying you should violate game laws! I’m merely making the point that taking an animal clean and safe is the ultimate test of ethical behavior. To me, a hunter who brings down the animal cleanly and humanely with a minimum of shots (preferably one) and can virtually guarantee safety to other critters, hunters and themselves is ethical. It is the responsibility of hunters to train themselves in order to live up to this standard.