How hard you hunt, or how often you go, doesn’t define the type of hunter you are. It’s much more than that. As hunters, we are truly a blessed lot. I cannot even imagine what my life would be like had my daddy not raised me to be a hunter who appreciates and spends so much time in the outdoors. Some people will point to me and say, “Well, sure, Michael, I bet you do feel that way since you get to hunt as part of your job.” In truth, the bottom line is when my life was as simple as walking out behind my family’s house and calling a turkey or barking up a squirrel, I knew there was something truly special about this tradition of hunting.
Every single one of us who puts on the camouflage, whether it is only once or twice a season or every day, should be thankful that we were raised among this brotherhood. Like Ol’ Ted Nugent likes to say, that is exactly what it is. However, as an equal member of this brotherhood, I have to say there’s one thing that has me a little worried these days, and that is how it seems some hunters are so quick to condemn or be critical of a fellow hunter’s methods or preference of hunting. You see it more and more in news articles from around the country as bowhunters square off against crossbow hunters, still, hunters rail against hunters who use dogs or sportsmen who legally bait in their state are criticized by those who hail from places where such practices have never been permitted.
It’s not that I don’t think we, as sportsmen and women, shouldn’t question the reasons behind new game laws or what makes for proper hunting ethics. We should. However, we need to do it in a way that doesn’t automatically make an enemy of the hunter who doesn’t agree with us or who chooses to hunt a different way because it is legal and that is his preference. It has been said before, but if we hunters get caught up in bickering and fighting amongst ourselves, it is a fact that it will only make anti-hunters’ jobs that much easier in putting an end to our lifestyle.
Ultimately, it’s about showing respect for each other and trying to understand where the other guy is coming from. To do this, first, you have to understand what it is that truly defines a hunter.
HOW A GOOD HUNTER LOOKS LIKE?
We’ve all seen it happen in camp at one time or another. A hunter comes in proudly toting a buck that maybe isn’t as big as somebody else would have chosen to take. In the midst of reveling in his good fortune and sharing his story with the others, the hunter is disparaged by another, who says how he wouldn’t have shot that buck because he only kills the bigger trophies. Such comments can be hurtful, particularly when aimed at a younger hunter.
What the critical hunter is really trying to say is he’s a better hunter than the guy with an animal on the ground, because he wouldn’t have even thought of shooting such a creature. I would have to disagree.
I think a good hunter is not the person in camp who kills the biggest deer, elk or turkey or who takes the most game in a season. I think a good hunter is a person who sets goals for himself, whatever they may be, then goes out and achieves those goals. In the end, it’s about doing what it is that you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if a hunter’s goal is to kill a giant bull elk or shoot a few does or a brace of squirrels; he is a good hunter in my book when he consistently finds success as measured by his goals. The person who regularly closes the coffin on the game he is pursuing is a good hunter.
Every hunter has the right to determine what type of hunter he wants to be. There are a lot of different types of hunting, a lot of different game to hunt and a lot of ways to approach hunting a certain species. You can be a serious hunter who is out there every day you get the chance, you can be a weekend hunter who approaches hunting a little more casually, or you can be the guy who just likes to hang in camp and cook chili or play cards. Whatever it is about hunting that you enjoy, you should be able to decide that for yourself and then just do it without worrying about other people being so critical. The biggest mistake hunters can make is to push their way of hunting on others and belittle somebody else’s methods or level of enjoyment.
DON’T PRACTICE SITUATIONAL ETHICS
As a true hunter, be cautious about not judging hunters who do things a little differently than you, as long as they are still operating within the game laws and what I call reasonable ethics. While a lot of folks will be quick to argue that ethics are as inflexible as laws, I would disagree. In fact, quite often our sense of ethics will be situational to where we are hunting or who we are hunting with. Here’s an example.
I was giving a seminar at a show, and I asked the audience if they would rather go on a Midwestern hunt where they had to grunt or rattle up a buck or a south Texas-style hunt over feeders. Virtually everyone raised his hand going with the Midwestern hunt “where you’d have to earn it.” They all seemed to agree that while baiting was allowed in Texas, the practice was beneath them. They would not want to hunt that way themselves.
You could have heard a pin drop when I informed the crowd that I had two free hunts to give away for a Texas hunt where feeders would be used, but since everyone felt that way, I wasn’t going to give them away.
“Aw, man, well that’s different. You didn’t say that” the crowd groaned. Faced with the opportunity to go on a Texas-style hunt, most of the people in the crowd suddenly changed their tune and said they would certainly give that type of hunting a try. Suddenly, they weren’t so critical of baiting.
That’s the way it works in most of these disagreements among hunters. We’re quick to judge without thinking about what it is the other guy enjoys and trying to look at things from his perspective. Take the time to put yourself in the other person’s hunting boots and find that common ground. Avoid putting yourself into a box that prevents you from enjoying all that this great sport has to offer.
It’s really no different than a guy saying he is only going to date blondes because that’s what he likes. All of a sudden, a pretty brunette walks by and smiles at the guy like she’s interested. Is that guy going to stand his ground or go over and talk to that brunette? He’s a fool if he doesn’t go say hello.