Monday, May 28, 2018

To Shoot or not to Shoot - how ethical hunting builds character

To Shoot or not to Shoot - how ethical hunting builds character
by Eric Nuse

Time: Dark, early and cold
Date: Last days of goose season
Hunter: Just me
Witnesses: None for miles

The truck is hidden a half mile away, the decoys are set and a brisk east wind is at my back. Legal light is still 10 minutes away and life is good.  Yesterday morning I head the murmur of geese from my deer stand a good hour after sunrise so plenty of time to sip some coffee, stretch out and enjoy the solitude.
The good thing about Canada Geese is they usually announce their arrival with a honk or two. So I figured a little shut eye wouldn’t hurt. I’d been up early deer hunting for a week and the old body was starting to feel it.
By the time my brain registered the sound of wings and my eyes focused, the ducks were landing in the corn stubble on the far side of my decoys. With a slight tilt of my head from the layout blind I could see three beautiful greenheads. I love to eat mallard and hadn’t had any time to hunt them this fall.
Shoot or don’t shoot?
My stomach said go for it. But a little voice in my head said not so fast buddy.
Whatever I decide, I know it’s legal and it’s safe – OK so far.
Can I make a clean kill? I’ve got double Bs in the gun, full and modified chokes. I’m guessing they are out 35 yards. I’ve killed plenty of geese at this range, but ducks are smaller and even cripples are hard to swat on the ground with #4s. Flush them? They would be at least 5 yards further away before I could shoot and that is the edge of my ability and range for a clean kill.
They are moving further away - it’s decision time.
As hunters we face tough ambiguous decisions all the time. Most of the time we are going to be the only ones who know what we do - no witnesses and no referees. Every thing you have experienced, read, talked about and thought about coalesces into a little voice that whispers the answer. For me it was a clear – don’t shoot.
As they walked away, I rethought my decision and came up with two bottom line reasons not to shoot; 1) marginal odds for a clean kill, 2) poor fit with why I hunt.
I hunt waterfowl as a way to immerse myself in the wild, for the enjoyment and satisfaction of bringing them in close and hopefully making a skillful wing-shot. The eating is important but only a tasty bonus.
“The true test of character is when you do the right thing even though you know no one will ever know.” (From an old hunter education16mm movie)
An hour later the goose Gods smile on me when 23 beautiful Canadas worked my decoys and on the third pass came right in. Two shots and two geese were dead in the air. Preparedness and skill, met with opportunity and challenge.
Now that’s hunting!
Made all the sweeter by doing it right.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Conservation Ethic of Hunter’s

Jim Posewitz, Founder of Orion

            As hunters, our relationship with the animals we pursue in fair chase is experimental.  In looking across human history it is hard to find anything like the association between hunters and the hunted that has developed in North America.  In most places, and through most of recent human history, wildlife belonged to those of privilege or property.  Hunting was, and in most places on earth today remains, the sport of kings.

            Before we address the ethics of hunting we need to look at why most of us can even aspire to be a hunter.  When America was colonized it was common practice for the royalty of Europe to grant land to relatives.  Some of those land grants here in America included, in the language of the times, “…the fishings, hawkings huntings, and fowlings.”  

            The American Revolution separated us from the king and produced a system of free people governing themselves.  Fish and wildlife were not mentioned in any of our founding documents.  The void was filled by court decisions that established water, fish and wildlife as public resources held in trust by the states for the benefit of all the people.  Their words at the time were “When the revolution took place, the people … became themselves sovereign…”  In short, since you and I are sovereign, the king’s deer became the people’s game.  America would have a democracy of the wild.

            When that initial court decision was issued in 1842 Montana had a wildlife resource that “… for variety and abundance exceeded anything the eye of man had ever looked upon.” Forty-one years later a young Theodore Roosevelt (TR) came west to hunt buffalo.  He borrowed a gun, hired a guide and hunted for nine days through the rotting carcasses of the last commercial slaughter before finding and shooting a lone, wandering bull.  He found that lone buffalo on Little Cannon Ball Creek, Montana Territory.  Two years later TR would write of a ranchman who made a journey of 1,000 miles across Northern Montana and was, “… never out of sight of a dead buffalo and never in sight of a live one.”  Montana was the wildlife bone-yard of a continent.

            These experiences contributed to a conservation epiphany among a handful of visionary hunters.  In 1887 they formed a citizen based hunting club to introduce the fair chase sporting code and restore big game to America.  Four years later they lobbied a provision through Congress allowing presidents to set aside unclaimed lands for conservation purposes.  When TR became president he used that authority to set aside almost ten percent of America for wildlife restoration along with public forest conservation.  A generation later, when an economic depression and the dust bowl had our country on its knees, hunters championed an excise tax on firearms and ammunition to fund the struggling wildlife restoration.

            Today we take to the field in pursuit of a wonderfully restored wild abundance in a relationship with nature perhaps unique in human history.  When we take rifle in hand and head for the outdoors it is essential that we also carry the conservation ethic that put both you and the game pursued in the field.  We as hunters need to embrace the truth that we and the antelope, deer, elk, goose and duck we pursue, sprouted from the same diamond buried in our American heritage.  Once we accept and remember that exceptional reality, the decisions made afield will be easy.  We will: respect the animals; honor the relationship we share with them; afford them fair chase; and measure up to the conservation ethic generations of hunters passed to our custody.  

            As a minority, hunters are often asked, “Why do you hunt?”  Once you learn of the power and beauty in the North American hunting heritage, you can simply answer, “Because it matters.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Blind Men and the Elephant of Conservation:

From the Aldo Leopold Foundation:

Blind Men and the Elephant of Conservation: Toward Ideological Diversity

As conservationists, we take it for granted that diversity is good. Biological diversity, at least.
We know that diverse, intact ecosystems are adaptable and resilient, benefiting not only us but all members of what Leopold called “the land community.” We take it on faith that all community members should be respected and that they have, as he put it, an inherent “right to continued existence.”