Referees

“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

While professional sports leagues continue making tweaks to their refereeing system and booth-review processes, it makes one wonder if hunting has had it right all along: We police ourselves and call our own shots.

To be fair, hunting is not a field or a team sport with a long list of participant rules that need enforcement administered by impartial referees or umpires to keep the play safe and fair. Hunting has game laws of course, but the rest of the rules in hunting are either personal or part of a group to which we belong.

A group of friends who share a hunting lease may decide everyone must shoot a doe before taking their buck, or that bucks under 2½ years are off-limits. If you break one of these rules, you might be looking for anew place to hunt next year. On the personal side, we have our own standards by which we live and hunt. These are not written down, and we don’t hand this book to someone and say, “Watch me.” We referee ourselves. It’s one of the special natures of hunting. We’re the ones who have to live with the consequences of taking a shortcut or making a bad call; that is, until this reflects negatively on all hunters and hunting. That’s when we are called upon to be a referee.

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