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.”

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Trophy hunting may imperil species already at risk

From The Wildlife Society:

Trophy hunting may imperil species already at risk

By Julia John

Cape buffalo, which are trophy-hunted for their massive horns, gather on the African savanna. ©markjordahl
A group of researchers is calling for “extreme care” in managing trophy hunting after finding that the harvest of males that hunters worldwide choose could contribute to extinction in some species if not properly managed.
By targeting animals with large horns and other prized features, researchers found, trophy hunting can “lead to extinction” by removing the fittest genes in populations trying to adapt to increasing environmental pressures.


Friday, August 19, 2016

WSB study: How do you study elusive bobcats? Ask hunters

By Nala Rogers

A bobcat creeps across a snowy backyard in Sutton, N.H. This photo is one of many submitted by the public while the researchers were collecting bobcat sightings. ©Robin Gray
When it comes to monitoring elusive wildlife, the simple approach is sometimes best. Researchers in New Hampshire have found that hunter surveys are a reliable tool for studying bobcats (Lynx rufus), yielding solid data even when high-tech approaches fail.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Of bears and biases

From the Huffington Post - Very interesting section on the intersection of ethics and science - Eric

Of bears and biases: scientific judgment and the fate of Yellowstone’s grizzlies

 06/21/2016 01:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2016
In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced its intent to remove protections afforded by the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) to grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).
Citing four decades of growth in the bear population, the USFWS Director Dan Ashe heralded the decision as “a historic success for partnership-driven wildlife conservation.”
However, conservation organizations oppose “delisting” GYE grizzlies. They citepersistent threats to grizzlies, public opposition to delisting and ongoing scientific uncertainty regarding the population’s viability. Indeed, scientific uncertainty, especially threats posed by a changing climate, is one reason a federal courtreversed a similar decision back in 2009, returning federal protections to GYE grizzlies.
...A second source of underappreciated insights is from the academic discipline of conservation ethics. A broadly applicable insight from that discipline is that robust conservation decisions result from sound and valid arguments that are necessarily comprised both of scientific premises and ethical premises.
The implication is that in many instances the best an expert can do is explain their judgment fully. That is, to lay bare all of the premises (scientific and otherwise) necessary to arrive at the judgment being proffered; and in so doing, demonstrate the robustness of the judgment (or reveal its flaws).
So an expert judgment is not merely a judgment made within the area of one’s expertise. Rather, an expert judgment is one whose underlying argument can be laid bare and demonstrated to be sound and valid for an audience of nonexperts. Importantly, this includes both scientific assessments as well as value judgments. Sadly, courses that convey skills in analyzing ethical arguments (i.e., courses in critical thinking and environmental ethics) are not typically part of the curricula that produce conservation professionals.
The grizzly, or brown, bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is posed to lose protections under the Endangered Species Act. Jim Peaco, Yellowstone National Park via flickr

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hunting and Environmentalism: Conflict or Misperceptions

Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 14:12–20, 2009
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

Joint Graduate Program in Communication and Culture, York University/
Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This work examined some assumptions that underpin the conflict between hunters and
anti-hunting movement. The moral contradictions of anti-hunting activism are positioned
in the complex context of consumer culture, managed environmental protection,
and industrial food production. The assumption that environmental groups are by definition
opposed to hunting is investigated. Given that both hunters and environmental
groups are interested in land conservation, and given the rapid habitat loss around the
globe, the question is asked whether joint conservation efforts would prove beneficial
not only to both groups’ interests, but also to the fragile North American ecosystems
and the species that reside in them.

There are two billion chickens that are being slaughtered. Why is the fuzzy
seal photo-op the important one? Why aren’t you down in a slaughterhouse
where cows are being killed or calves are being killed or lambs are being
killed or chickens are being killed? (Williams, 2006, p. 10)
Danny Williams, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador faced off with Paul and
Heather McCartney on Larry King Live in March of 2006. The McCartneys were visiting
to protest the annual harp seal hunt that for several years has been a favourite among activist
celebrities. Photos of red pools of seal blood on white snow and celebrities posing with
baby seals are usually meant to present the hunt as a practice of obtaining seal fur,
frequently obscuring the fact that many residents of the Canadian east coast and the north
consume seal meat on regular basis and that seal oil has a variety of medicinal and other
uses, to say nothing of the local cultural and economic significance of the annual hunt.
Harp seals are not endangered, and if anything they have in recent years seen higher
competition for food due to the shrinking habitat that has resulted from global warming.

...Violence and death associated with hunting is so overt and immediate that it makes
hunting an easy target for criticism. That criticism in turn ignores the “great paradox of
eating” (Kass, 1994). Death of living creatures is fundamental to continuation of life. Pete
Dunne, the director of Cape May Bird Observatory and as avid a hunter as he is a birdwatcher
writes, “Today, most people fail to recognize death as a natural part of life, to
view hunting as a mechanism that makes people an integral part of that natural process”
(2005, p. 662). Our detachment from our food sources has made it possible for us to eat
meat and somehow pretend that killing is not a part of the process. Aldo Leopold noted
that there are dangers in not owning a farm, one being “the danger of supposing that
breakfast comes from the grocery” (1968, p. 6).

...Culture creates an atmosphere where: “Nature is viewed by the mechanism of social domination
as a healthy contrast to society, and it is therefore denatured” (Adorno & Horkheimer,
1944, p. 19). These understandings of nature misdirect energy and resources into a conflict
rather than cooperation. Questioning our relationship with nature as well as our food system
is more productive than the persistent questioning, by both hunters and environmentalists,
of each other’s motives. That process can only benefit the population segment profits from
stalled conservation efforts (i.e., land developers and corporate polluters).
Our general understanding of and relationship to nature needs to be re-examined lest
our nostalgia continues to justify the commercial, utilitarian attitude that has become so
essential to how we treat our environment. For that task to be performed properly, prejudices
against hunting must be re-examined. To critique hunting without comprehensively
critiquing the larger context within which hunting exist is to gloss over more pressing
social and environmental issues by picking an easy scapegoat issue.

Read full paper -Human Dimensions of Wildlife
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Blind Men and the Elephant of Conservation

Blind Men and the Elephant of Conservation: Toward Ideological Diversity

By Tovar Cerulli, 2015 Mi Casita Writer-in-Residence
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.”
When I walk down to the beaver pond near home and look out at the water and surrounding land, I know that each plant, fungus, insect, amphibian, reptile, fish, bird, and mammal—even each unseen microbe in the soil—is part of that community, part of a larger, dynamic, evolving organism. As such, each deserves my respect: pine and alder, mayfly and jewelwing, salamander and turtle, minnow and trout, heron and mallard, mouse and coyote.
A snapping turtle lays its eggs near the Leopold Center.
Concerning ideological and cultural diversity, we are ambivalent at best.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Beaver Dams Control Nitrogen Flow in Northeastern Rivers

And I thought beaver dams were just great wildlife and fish habitat! Eric

Beaver Dams Control Nitrogen Flow in Northeastern Rivers

By Joshua Rapp Learn

Image Credit: David Smith, licensed by cc 2.0
Beavers may be providing watersheds a service by removing some of the agricultural nitrogen runoff in northeast rivers.
“There’s a huge concern about the amount of nutrients of our lands that get into coastal waters,” said Arthur Gold, a professor and chair of the Department of Natural Resources Science at the University of Rhode Island and coauthor of a study published recently in theJournal of Environmental Quality.
Read more at the TWS web site

Friday, November 13, 2015

Global Anti-Poaching Act Passed by House

Global Anti-Poaching Act Passed by House

By Zachary Sheldon

Poaching of black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in South Africa increased by 21% from 2013 to 2014.
Image Credit: Ray Morris, licensed by cc 2.0
On 2 November the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2494, the “Global Anti-Poaching Act”. The bill passed by voice vote after 23 minutes of speeches in favor of the act.
Describing the importance of the bill, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said, “The very disturbing reality is that some of the world’s most majestic animals have become ‘blood currency’ for rebel groups and terrorist organizations in Africa,” adding, “Time isn’t on our side. Each day of inaction means more animals poached and more cash for terrorists.”
The legislation seeks action against wildlife trafficking through three main avenues: strengthening and expanding wildlife enforcement networks; punishing countries failing to make efforts to combat wildlife trafficking; and increasing the penalties of wildlife trafficking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

This Week on "Randy Newberg Unfiltered"

From the Outdoor Wire
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Bookmark and Share
BOZEMAN, Mont. – On the latest episode of "Randy Newberg Unfiltered"radio show, host Randy Newberg chats with Jim Pozewitz, long time friend, conservationist and founder of Orion – the Hunter's Institute.

The show is available now on RandyNewberg.Com, iTunes and Stitcher,
"We referred to this podcast as the Poz-cast since Jim and I go way back and talk, unfiltered, on hunter responsibilities and how conservation is led by hunters and their success," said Newberg. "Jim is a leader in the conservation field as many of his books and papers on conservation are still used today by state wildlife agencies, schools and more."

Newberg talks with Pozewitz on the "Dirty Thirties," which is the start of the conservation movement with key leader, President Theodore Roosevelt. The duo dissects Roosevelt's legacy, beginning with his start in forming a relationship with government and society to better land and wildlife.

Learn more at RandyNewberg.Com, http://Instagram.Com/RandyNewbergHunter

About Randy Newberg, Hunter: Randy Newberg is the voice of the public land hunter in America. Decades of hunting all species across public lands has provided both the experience and perspective that has allowed him to become the leading advocate for the self-guided hunter; hunters dependent upon public lands for hunting access. With his popular TV show, Leupold's Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg airing on Sportsman Channel, accompanied by the long-standing Hunt Talk web forum, Newberg is looked to for advocacy and leadership as hunting and access issues become politicized. Now added to those platforms is the Hunt Talk Podcast where Newberg discusses relevant issues to hunters - unfiltered. Visit RandyNewberg.Com to download the bi-weekly podcast, information to download the weekly TV show and log in to the Hunt Talk forum. Subscribe to Randy Newberg's YouTube channel to get tips, behind the scenes, and ideas for the western big game hunter. Learn more at RandyNewberg.Com, and http://Instagram.Com/RandyNewbergHunter

Michelle Scheuermann, BulletProof Communications LLC, 651.964.0264;

Monday, August 31, 2015

A hunter's elevator speech

If you had less than a minute to tell a stranger what drives your love of hunting, fishing and wild places, what would you say?
Here is what a small group of us in the Eastern Chapter of the Backcountry Hunter's and Angler's came up with.

We unite avid outdoors people who enjoy getting off the trail, and who hunt and fish following strong conservation ethics.

Grounded in the views of Aldo Leopold and Theodore Roosevelt, we value the full range of wild flora and fauna, from apex predators to invertebrates. We believe that what we do as hunters and anglers must put  the good of the environment first. We are vocal about conservation policy, speaking up for wildlife and wild places. We look for common ground where hunters, anglers, and environmentalists can work together.

Whether we hunt and fish in the West, the East, or both, we value the “backcountry ideal”—the quiet and solitude of wild places near and far, large and small. We see ourselves as full participants in the natural world and enjoy being immersed in it.

Firmly embracing ethical hunting and fishing practices, we honor the animals and fish we pursue. We voluntarily limit our use of off-road vehicles and other gadgets, and also limit our take.
From wild places across the nation to Washington, DC, we are boots-on-the-ground people. We make a difference by caring and by being involved.

Monday, July 13, 2015

New ethics campaign

The new hunter ethics campaign being launched by one group of Montana volunteers is simply the latest step in what will likely be a long process to educate hunters and nonhunters alike.

Last week the Citizen Advisory Committee for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ region 3 announced the official plan for its Hunt Right campaign. The goal is to promote ethical hunting and educate nonhunters to the fact that the vast majority of sportsmen and women keep ethics at the forefront of their mind while out in the field.

Note: Orion board member Thomas Baumeister is involved with this effort with other Orion member input.

To find out more information about the Hunt Right campaign, look at their Facebook page at or go to a website set up for them by the Montana’s Outdoor Legacy Foundation at

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Final 'Waters of the U.S.' Rule Represents Victory for Sportsmen, Fish and Wildlife, Clean Water

Thank you EPA and Army Corps for your 3 2WASHINGTON - A highly anticipated rule that would enhance critical fish and wildlife habitat, improve the nation's supply of drinking water and restore clarity to the federal Clean Water Act was finalized this morning, eliciting praise from business owners and sportsmen's groups, including Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
Today's announcement by the administration concludes a multi-stakeholder process aimed at eliminating confusion surrounding the scope of the Clean Water Act. The resulting "Waters of the U.S." rule reflects a lengthy and comprehensive vetting process, including more than 1 million public comments. Widely supported by citizens, sportsmen and outdoor-focused businesses, it represents a practical approach that addresses the needs of both industry and the general populace.
"The release by the administration of the final Waters of the U.S. rule culminates an unprecedented effort to restore clarity to a bedrock natural resources law, the federal Clean Water Act," said BHA Executive Director Land Tawney. "The rule will conserve resources important to our fish, our wildlife, our citizens - and to the waters and wetlands that are central to our national identity.
"A chorus of ducks can be heard quacking from the wetlands where waterfowl are busy nesting and rearing their young, and fishtail slap high-fives are surfacing on the headwaters of our nation's most precious trout and salmon streams," continued Tawney, an avid waterfowler and angler. "These are some of the key habitats protected via the Waters of the U.S. rule. We thank the administration for persevering in the face of unrelenting opposition to sustain these places - and the outdoor opportunities they provide - for future generations to experience and enjoy."