Legal vs. Ethical

“Personal choice” is mentioned many times throughout this website. There is no escaping the fact that hunting itself is a personal experience, preceded by personal choices. The issue of legal versus ethical raises another very important personal choice question.

Certainly if something is illegal, the choice has already been made. It’s not ethical. This doesn’t mean however if something is legal that it is always ethical, but there are exceptions.

A good example today of something that is in illegal, but many consider unethical is extreme long-range shooting. Some hunters are secure in taking a rifle shot at a deer from 500 yards away. They practice at these distances and are confident in their equipment and ability to make a clean, accurate shot. They know their maximum-effective range across all hunting conditions. Still, other hunters would never think of taking a shot at this distance. It’s legal. There is nothing in the game regulations about maximum-allowable distances, yet many will not take that shot. Why? Some do not have experience with this type of shooting and all the variables that can come into play. Others feel the risk is too high for wounding and therefore, the practice is unethical. Others with the skill and confidence for the shot will choose to test their other skills and want to engage the animal by way of a closer stalk.

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching—even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”Aldo Leopold

One exception to the question of legal versus ethical has to do with where we hunt. In different states, provinces, and countries there are different traditional hunting methods that are legal and acceptable, but the same method can be illegal elsewhere. Baiting is one example. The use of hounds is another.  Traditions differ, and traditions in hunting are important. It is essential, and hunters are too few, to waste our energy and resources fighting among ourselves over such differences. It is essential then that we accept these different traditions.

The point is, there are many things in the hunting world that are legal, yet can be considered by some to be unethical. A good rule of thumb then would be; it’s not only about just what is legal, but also what’s honorable and ethical.