Ethical Hunting: A Beginner's Guide to Knowing the Moral Rules of the Game

Posted by Land Legacy on Thursday, June 4th, 2020 at 8:47am.

When it comes to hunting, the ethics debate rages hot and heavy – and will likely continue ad infinitum. The fact is, hunting is a major sport all over the world, and in many cases, the industry contributes massively to the economy of a large number of third-world countries.

For example, hunting tourism is big business across the African continent. It brings in plenty of people from across the globe who are looking to take down one of the Big Five. The money they bring with them goes to the country’s GDP and to the conservation parks that organize the hunts. In addition, that money and the act of hunting helps the conservation parks to control the number of animals they have.

If you would like to get into hunting we can assist by taking a look at how you can do so ethically.  For many, hunting is about understanding, caring for and loving nature in all its forms. For them, there is something of a code to the sport that everyone should obey. This code or list of principles includes the following

photo of Brittany Spaniel retrieving a duck

1. Have Respect

When you go hunting it’s essential that you respect your surroundings, the other hunters (whether they’re with your group or not), and the animal you’re targeting. Firstly, you need to know your equipment well and have practiced with it so that you are proficient. 

The ideal situation is that you kill with one shot and the animal drops where it stands. This means that the animal did not suffer. If you only wound your target, you should track it down and finish the job as quickly as possible

2. Know The Laws

Most countries, states, and conservation parks will have their own specific laws that govern hunting. It’s up to you to ensure that you know what those regulations are and that you adhere to them. If you've traveled somewhere to go on a hunt, you need to ensure you’ve booked through a reputable organization and that your hunt is legal in the country. It’s also important that you’ve read and understood the laws so that you can refuse anything you believe is wrong, just in case you are encouraged to commit an illegal or unlawful act.

The laws usually pertain to season and under what circumstances you are allowed to hunt. These regulations are there to protect the animals and ensure their species do not get over hunted. You may also need a permit before you can begin your hunt. If the land is privately owned and you have a hunting lease, the lessor may have their own regulations on top of the state or country laws

photo of whitetail deer at sunset

3. Get As Close As Possible

This comes back to proficiency with your weapon of choice. A long-range shot is far more likely to go off target and wound rather than kill your prey. It’s always the ethical choice to get as close as possible without frightening the animal so that you know you have a far higher chance of killing it quickly with a single shot. Additionally, it’s good practice to know exactly what your limits are, so you know how close you need to get to feel comfortable that you can make the shot.

There is no specific distance in the ethical code. This is because there are so many factors in play with each hunt. It comes down to your abilities with the weapon you’re using, the weather conditions, the terrain you’re on, and other extenuating factors. This is why it’s so important to know your weapon and your skill level with it. If you don’t think you can make the shot, don’t take it.

4. Practice Fair Chase

Fair chase is a major consideration when it comes to ethical hunting. It’s essentially the practice of ensuring your prey has as much chance, if not more, of getting away from you, as you do of killing it. The hunter must not have an unfair advantage over the animal. The most obvious example of this is canned hunting, where the animal is in a small, enclosed area so you need to do a little tracking. However, there is no real possibility of the animal getting away.

There are also many countries where it is legal for you to “hunt” an animal that’s been tied up, put in a cage, or drugged. This is entirely unethical and completely against the notion of fair chase. In these cases, the animal has absolutely no chance of getting away and is probably already stressed, hurt, and being poorly treated. All of this goes against the ideals you should be trying to uphold.

5. Use The Entire Animal

This point comes back to the notion of respect for the animal you have hunted. If all you want is the trophy – the animals head or horns to mount on your wall, for example – that’s fine. However, it is good practice to make sure that as much of the rest of the animal gets used, even if it’s not by you.

The first thing you should do once you’ve downed your prey is to remove all of the edible meat. This can be stored and eaten, sold, or given away – it’s up to you. However, this is the responsible thing to do. You can also see if the fur or skin can be utilized, or if any element of the animal is used locally for something else. Just don’t sell items on the black market if they are used for fake medicine.

Remember, even if you have a long way to go with your felled prey, it’s expected that you bring it back to civilization and ensure as much of the animal gets used as possible. It’s about respect for the hunt and the animal’s life. This mutual respect perfectly sums up the principles of ethical hunting.

photo of German short hair pointer on point

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