Hunt Fair Chase Essay/Video Contest


What does Fair Chase mean to you, and how is Fair Chase important to the future of hunting?

Submit a short essay up to 450 words or a video up to 3 minutes long, and you could win one of the many prizes listed below donated by our sponsors!

A good talking-head video could do well!


Everyone submitting an essay or video will receive a Free Hunt Fair Chase window decal.


1st place video: Sitka Gear Package (approx $2000 value)

2nd place video: Under Armour Head to Toe Hunting Kit (approx $500 value)

3rd place video: Buck Knives Skinners (approx $395 value)

4th place video: Boyt Harness Hard Case (approx $200 value)


1st place essay: Sig Sauer Zulu 9 Binoculars (approx $1500 value)

2nd place essay: Under Armour Head to Toe Hunting Kit (approx $500 value)

3rd place essay: B&C Yeti Cooler (approx $299 value)

4th place essay: Yeti Fully-loaded Bucket (approx $129 value)

All submissions must be received by midnight December 31, 2018.


By uploading your file, you agree to our rules. (Download Rules Here)

Winners will be announced on or before 1/30/19

– Email submissions to:
– Send entry by mail along with name and phone number to: Hunt Right Essay Contest: 250 Station Drive, Missoula, MT 59801

Fair Chase
Fair Chase is a principle that has guided the ethical conduct of sportsmen in the field for over a century. It was first promoted by the Boone and Crockett Club as a way to separate legitimate sportsmen from being wrongfully associated with commercial market hunters, where ethics and a level of respect for the game did not apply. Fair chase became the code of the sportsmen and closely tied to the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife natural resources. Over time, and where necessary, many game laws were established based on this same principle.

Beyond the laws established to protect game, private property, and human safety, ethics in hunting are very personal. How an individual chooses to hunt and conduct himself or herself is personal. These choices are important, however, in that they collectively reflect the public image of all hunters and hunting.

Fundamental to all hunting is the conservation of wildlife, game species in particular, and the habitats that support them. Hunting in today’s world involves the regulated harvest of individual animals in a manner that conserves, protects, perpetuates and does not threaten the hunted population. The hunter engages in a one-to-one relationship with the quarry, and his or her hunting should be guided by a hierarchy of ethics related to hunting, which includes the following principles:

• Knows and obeys the law, and insists others do as well
• Understands that it is not only about just what is legal, but also what is honorable and ethical
• Defines “unfair advantage” as when the game does not have reasonable chance of escape
• Cares about and respects all wildlife and the ecosystems that support them, which includes making full use of game animals taken
• Measures success not in the quantity of game taken, but by the quality of the chase
• Embraces the “no guarantees” nature of hunting
• Uses technology in a way that does not diminish the importance of developing skills as a hunter or reduces hunting to just shooting
• Knows his or her limitations, and stretches the stalk not the shot
• Takes pride in the decisions he or she makes in the field and takes full responsibility for his or her actions

About Hunt Right, Hunt Fair Chase

Hunt Right, Hunt Fair Chase is an outreach and awareness effort presented by the Boone and Crockett Club and supported by industry, conservation, and media partners. It is intended to:

• Highlight the special nature of hunting and to share what it means both personally to sportsmen and women, as well as the responsibilities that go with being a hunter
• Help promote the values and supports the ethical standards that have long been at the heart of our hunting heritage
• Offer perspectives on hunting past and present, including the concept of fair chase as it relates to an overall conservation ethic
• To have the conversation on why how we hunt matters


Hunt Fair Chase Contest Rules 10-15-2018:

Please read Official Rules before entering the Hunt Fair Chase Contest (the Contest), sponsored by the Boone and Crockett Club (Sponsor). By entering the Contest, you agree to be bound by Official Rules and represent that you satisfy all of the eligibility requirements below.  No Purchase Necessary to Enter or Win.  A purchase will not increase your chances of winning.

  1. Eligibility. Contest is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States who currently reside in the US and who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. ALL APPLICABLE FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY.To be eligible to win a prize, entries must be completed and received by Boone and Crockett Club in the manner and format described. Directors, officers and employees of Sponsor and any of their respective parent companies, affiliate companies, subsidiaries, agents, professional advisors, advertising and promotional agencies, and immediate families of each are not eligible to win any prizes. Limit one entry per person. Any person found to be using multiple entries will be disqualified. The prize winner for the Contest will be determined by selection from all eligible entries. The winner will be notified via Boone and Crockett Club Facebook Page and website ( within 30 days of the end of the promotion period. If a prize is returned as undeliverable or otherwise not claimed within 5 days after delivery of notification, it will be forfeited and may be awarded to an alternate winner. Prizes are non-transferable. No substitutions or exchanges (including for cash) for the prize will be permitted.
  2. Promotion Period. Contest starts 12:00 am (MST) on October 15, 2018, and ends 11:59 pm on December 31, 2018. All entries must be received during this time and meet other requirements in Official Rules to be eligible to win prizes.
  3. How to Enter.Option #1: Post a maximum of 450 words or up to a 3-minute video describing “What Fair Chase Means to You, and How Fair Chase is Important to the Future of Hunting through Boone and Crockett Club’s Hunt Fair Chase website: Entries must be received by 11:59 PM (MST) December 31, 2018. Prizes will be announced on January 30, 2019 on the Hunt Fair Chase website, Option #2: Email a maximum of 450 words or a 3 minute video on What Fair Chase Means to You to Email entries must be received by 11:59 PM (MST) on January 14, 2019. Option #3: Send via U.S. Postal service or other a maximum of 450 words printed or 3 minutes of video on a USB stick or DVD to Boone and Crockett Club detailing What Fair Chase Means to You to; Hunt Fair Chase Contest, 250 Station Drive, Missoula, MT  Mail-in entries must be postmarked by 11:59 PM (MST) on December 31, 2018 and received by 7 days thereafter.By submitting your entry, you are acknowledging and agreeing that Sponsor has the right to stream your video or post your essay through Facebook or other online platforms, and or publish your entry in Boone and Crockett Club print and electronic publications.
  4. Prizes. Everyone submitting an essay or video will receive a Hunt Fair Chase window decal. Prizes are subject to change based on manufacturer availability. Additional prizes may be awarded at the discretion of Contest Sponsor.


1st place video: Sitka Gear Package (Approximate $2000 Retail Value)

2nd place video: Under Armour Head to Toe Hunting Kit (approx $500 value)

3rd place video: Buck Knives Skinners (Approximate $395 Retail Value)

4th place video: Boyt Harness Hard Case (Approximate $200 Retail Value)


1st place essay: Sig Sauer Zulu 9 Binoculars (Approximate $1500 Value)

2nd place essay: Under Armour Head to Toe Hunting Kit (approx $500 value)

3rd place essay: B&C Yeti Cooler (Approximate $299 Value)

4th place essay: Yeti Fully-loaded Bucket (Approximate $129 Value)

  1. Entrants and Winner’s Responsibilities. To receive the Hunt Fair Chase decal, or any of the Contest prizes entrants must supply the name, address, city, state, zip code, and email address. Contest Winners are solely responsible for all taxes on prize & other expenses not specifically set forth herein, including but not limited to registration, title, license fees, insurance, & optional equipment (except where prohibited by law), and all other unspecified costs associated with claiming, registering and/or using any prize.
  2. Use of Winners Name, Likeness, etc.Except where prohibited by law, entry in the Contest grants Sponsor a worldwide, royalty free, sublicenseable, fully paid up license to use any and all components of the entry submitted by entrant and entrants’ information, including entrant’s name, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter name, picture, voice, hometown, persona, likeness, written or oral statements and/or prize information, for any and all purposes including, without limitation, for all advertising and promotional purposes in any media.
  3. Disclaimer. Sponsor, Facebook, Twitter, all participating sponsors and any of their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, professional advisors, employees and agencies will not be responsible for: (a) any late, lost, misrouted, garbled or distorted or damaged transmissions or entries; (b) telephone, electronic, hardware, software, network, Internet, or other computer- or communications-related malfunctions or failures; (c) any Contest disruptions, injuries, losses or damages caused by events beyond the control of Sponsor or by non-authorized human intervention; or (d) any printing or typographical errors in any materials associated with the Contest.
  4. Identity of Entrant. Sponsor reserves the right to verify the validity of any entry and/or entrant (including an entrant’s identity and address) and to disqualify any entrant who submits an entry that is not in accordance with these Official Rules or who tampers with the entry process. In the event of a dispute about the identity of the entrant, entries made online will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at time of entry. An authorized account holder is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address, Facebook or Twitter account by an Internet access provider, online service provider or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address. The potential winner may be required to provide Sponsor with proof that the potential winner is the authorized account holder of the e-mail address, Facebook or Twitter account associated with the winning entry.
  5. No Facebook, Instagram or Twitter Endorsement. This Promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Inc. or Twitter, Inc. You understand that by participating, you are providing your information to Sponsor, not to Facebook or Twitter. You understand that by using and interacting with, and, you are subject to the terms, conditions, and policies that govern the use of, and You should therefore review the applicable terms and policies for and, including privacy and data gathering practices, before using or interacting with Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
  6. General Release. By entering the Hunt Fair Chase Essay Contest, participants assume sole liability for and agree to indemnify and hold Contest Sponsor, prize sponsors, their affiliates, officers, directors, employees and agents, harmless from and against any and all claims from any liability whatsoever. And waive any and all causes of action, related to any claims, costs, injuries, losses, or damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the Contest or delivery, mis-delivery, acceptance, possession, use of or inability to use any prize (including, without limitation, claims, costs, injuries, losses and damages related to personal injuries, death, damage to or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, defamation or portrayal in a false light, whether intentional or unintentional), whether under a theory of contract, tort (including negligence), warranty or other theory.
  7. Selection of Prize. Actual model, color, size and features of the items in the prize awarded will be selected by Sponsor in its sole discretion and may vary from photos used in print, electronic, or online advertising.
  8. Miscellaneous. In the event a new law or legislation goes into effect that will make this contest illegal, Sponsor will stop the contest early prior to it going into effect and draw a winner. Entrants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and by the decisions of Sponsor, which are final and binding in all respects. Sponsor reserve the right to change Official Rules at any time and to suspend or cancel the Contest or any entrant’s participation in the Contest should viruses, bugs, unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond Sponsor control affect the administration, security or proper play of the Contest, or Sponsor otherwise become incapable of running the Contest as planned. If terminated, Sponsor may determine a winner from among all non-suspect, eligible entries received up to time of such action.
  9. Sponsor. The Boone and Crockett Club, 250 Station Drive, Missoula, MT 59801

Could Fair Chase be Your Ticket to Private Land?

While all the buzz lately has been about public land access, let’s not overlook the undeniable reality that many of us will be seeking to obtain or maintain permission to hunt private land this fall. It’s simply a matter of logistics and percentages.

If you’ve been at this game for a while you know the game has gotten tougher. There is less private land available to hunt for a number of reasons beyond our control. What we can control is ourselves.

A guy who has uncanny ability to gain access to some of the best hunting ranches in Montana, finally divulged his secret. He had a bumper sticker made that read, “Eat Montana Beef.”  Clever, but we’re all not hunting, or trying to hunt prime grazing country and asking ranchers who made their living selling beef. How about a bumper sticker that reads, “Fair Chase Hunter?”

Asking and getting permission to hunt someone’s land is about respect. The owner must like and respect you. You must be able to project that you respect their land and the privilege to hunt there, respect its wildlife, and his or her rules. That’s a lot of ground to cover talking through a screen door, and actions speak louder than words. But, I’m a Fair Chase Hunter says a lot in few words.

It means you carry with you the respect they seek in how you go about your business. It says you’re the least likely of anyone knocking at the door to shoot up the place, leave trash or gates open. It says you respect yourself and the game, and they should respect you as well.

We seal deals with a handshake. Try speaking Fair Chase the next time you go to make a deal.

Booking Hunts and Buying Animals

The guiding and outfitting industry has been in existence since man first had an interest in exploring and hunting new lands and for different species of game than one could hunt locally. In North America, the exploration and opening of the West primarily rode on the backs of three things: the fur trade, the gold rush, and big game hunting. The profession of guide and outfitter is therefore an old one made up of men, women, and families who are respected for being tough as nails backcountry woodsmen with a special knowledge of the game and country they inhabit.

If you spend any time speaking with some of the old guard—the multi-generational guiding and outfitting families—about how times have changed, the number one answer you’ll get is, “our clients.” More specifically, the increasing percentage of those who are no longer looking to book hunts and adventure, but whose number one interest is more along the lines of “buying animals.” By any measure, this is not a good trend.

“Where’s my trophy,” says a lot about the evolution of the hunting community, or at least a segment of it. It also raises the question, if this is the sole purpose, will it lead to ethical choices being compromised? Granted, few people have the time today in our fast-paced society for the 10, 14, and 21-day expeditions that were commonplace when guiding and outfitting first got going. But “fly me in, point out my animal, and fly me out” is the type of client that more and more outfitters are getting these days. If you ask the outfitters, they’ll say they’re glad to see them come and happier when they leave. They also work harder and become long-time friends with those who appreciate the entire experience and the effort, whether they take game or not.

This website is dedicated to bringing back those conversations that are still out there, but not as front and center as they used to be. These include such things as the old notion of hunting the experience and not the animal, celebrating the great game animals we hunt, earning it, and the memories that burn the brightest and last the longest being those that are in direct proportion to the effort involved and who we were with.



We've all seen it—a group of hunters sitting around a table for a meal or afterward around a fire back at camp or maybe after opening morning in a local café, gathered at a deer check station or at the taxidermist. Mood is jovial and expectations high. The expressions, the jokes and poking fun; the laughter; the talk about the high hopes for tomorrow, the ones that got away, or the deeds of the day fill the air.

These are just some of the sights and sounds of hunting season, but how often do we step back and put these scenes into perspective? How often do we ask ourselves, what do these people have in common. Of course they all hunt, but how often to we think, these are all freemen?

There is nothing more personal than freedom, and everyone understands what freedom means, or should. One of the greatest benefits compelling us as hunters is exercising this freedom through hunting, which is not a freedom for everyone in many countries. Just as game species may be the truest indicators of quality natural environments, hunting is an indicator of quality natural freedoms. In a very real sense, public hunting is a very American way of viewing natural resources like wildlife.

As hunters, we are probably as free as it’s possible to be in this fast-paced, instant information overload, techno-society of ours. Free, not because we abandon civilized codes and restraints when we go afield, but because we can transport out of and beyond the commonplace, and insert ourselves into a quieter, deeper, wilder and older world from whence we came.

Our freedom has arched the trajectory of human existence across all time. It was freedom from oppression and servitude that loaded the ships destined for the New World and a new life. It was freedom that endured the hardships of carving a new nation out of the wilderness. It was the belief that all men are created equal and should be free that eliminated slavery. It is freedom that sends our troops into combat. Freedom is not only an American ideal, but a human one.

Next time someone asks you why you hunt tell them, “Hunting exercises, expands, and enhances my freedom.”

The Principles of Fair Chase

Fair chase is a commonly used term within the hunting community. It’s been around for well over 100 years, and many sportsmen practice and live by it, yet may not know it by name or its significance.

In large part, fair chase is more a matter of the “spirit of a hunt” than a set of written rules. However, because fair chase is a morally grounding principle affecting the choices we make, it's a good idea to have them written down.

Fair chase is an ethical way of hunting that enriches human character and virtues, both emotionally and intellectually, with the purpose of fostering the essential relationship between the human hunter and the life/death continuum in a way where hunting is not only in support of sustainable use conservation, but enhances the well-being of the species being hunted.

Although hunting ethics are both a matter of personal choice and those deemed appropriate by the hunting community at large, the actions of individuals do represent all hunters, which can affect the way hunting is either publicly supported or opposed. It’s therefore important for us, and those who do not hunt, to know that fair chase hunters share these important principles.

The Fair Chase hunter:

  • Knows and obeys the law, and insists others do as well
  • Understands that it is not only about just what is legal, but also what is honorable and ethical
  • Defines “unfair advantage” as when the game does not have reasonable chance of escape
  • Cares about and respects all wildlife and the ecosystems that support them, which includes making full use of game animals taken
  • Measures success not in the quantity of game taken, but by the quality of the chase
  • Embraces the “no guarantees” nature of hunting
  • Uses technology in a way that does not diminish the importance of developing skills as a hunter or reduces hunting to just shooting
  • Knows his or her limitations, and stretches the stalk not the shot
  • Takes pride in the decisions he or she makes in the field and takes full responsibility for his or her actions

A False Product

The opinions as to the true origins of the term “the real McCoy” vary throughout history, but it is commonly held to mean “the real thing” or “the genuine article.”

Our society embraces the real thing over a lesser or fake imitation. “Real” therefore carries the most value. Imitations do have their place in commerce. Take a cubic zirconia for example. People who cannot afford or do not want a real diamond do have an option. But commerce in nature is a different story.

The hunting community today is faced with a false product challenge. Whitetail deer and elk can be artificially grown to dimensions beyond what nature is capable of. This is not for science or research, or even for the betterment of the species. It’s for ego, status and commerce. This raises many interesting and troubling questions.

Does this intense manipulation add value or does it devalue the real thing? Just because we can, should we? What does this say about the direction the hunting community is taking itself—or being led? Is this defining the value we place on nature, these species and the opportunity to hunt? Will the non-hunting public understand and accept or reject wildlife being subject to this type of handling for ego, status and commerce? They’re all good questions and ones we best be prepared to answer.

Keep in mind that any activity in our society that comes to be viewed in a harsh and unfavorable light faces a bleak future. We have another saying: “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”

And perception is reality.

As Seen on TV

“I just can't bring myself to watch the hunting shows on television anymore.”

Who hasn’t heard this?

One of the best and worst things that has happened to hunting in the last 20 years has been hunting shows on television. On the best side, having shows about hunting on television started out as a vindication and validation after hunting on TV went dark when the American Sportsmen show left the air in 1967. Hunting shows being aired on television again was viewed as hunting’s coming out party. After all, everything else was making it to television, why not hunting? On the worst side, well that’s a can of worms subject to differing opinions and evolution.

Hunting on television started out harmless enough, but quickly evolved into a competition for viewers, ratings and sponsors. This resulted in a race for the next best thing, which led us to the kill—more specifically how many ways can we show game being taken, how many kills can we fit into a thirty-minute show, and how big. Left over from the video and DVD days that preceded hunting television was the reality that producers faced, a video wouldn’t sell well unless it had the maximum number of kills on it. The story of the people, game, and the hunt was cut short to make room for more results, i.e. “let’s skip this fluff and get to the kill.” It could be argued producers were just providing the product that would sell. It could also be argued they were selling us the kill, and the unintended consequence of the kill is now defining hunters and hunting.

As years passed more producers jumped into the TV game. But with competition reigning supreme and still not much of a governing body like an FCC setting standards, anything goes still rules the day. The networks did have quality standards, but they were not enough to hold back a free market still vying for shrinking sponsorship dollars and viewership now diluted with over 400 shows on multiple outdoor networks. Enter more “all about the kill” and acting, bad acting, fist pumping and dancing over a kill. Who could out do whom, and come up with their own brand of hunting proficiency followed by excitement and celebration over a kill seemed to be the only thing that distinguished one show or hunting personality from another. A good question is, so what? Why should anyone care?

For one there is the very nature of television itself, which means it’s available to anyone who lands on a channel. For the curious non-hunter what are we telling them about hunting and ourselves while dancing over a lifeless deer? Hunters get it. Success is sweet, worth feeling good about, and celebrating. But anyone who has spent much time watching the body of work on television has to admit lines have been crossed. What about the parent trying to teach his kids about the right way to hunt? Are his or her teachings being supported by what they’re seeing played out on the screen? And not just TV screens. Anyone can post anything to YouTube or his or her Facebook page – no filters, no guidelines. Is a compilation of my favorite kill shots something we all feel is fit for public consumption? Some folks must think so.

On the good news side, this “all about me and the kill” has started to fall by the wayside. Independent video producers showing their videos on other mediums than television were among the first to push forward telling stories of the hunting experience, talking about the great game we hunt, how a hunting tradition has shaped their lives and that of their families, and yes, talking about their approach and ethics. Some television producers have been following suit. We’re seeing more story telling, more human interest and the special nature of hunting, more use of the great game meat we acquire, more coverage of a hunter’s role and contributions to conservation, including anti-poaching efforts and funding. The end result is there are more “watchable,” interesting, balanced and wholesome shows on television now, and hopefully more on the way.

In the final analysis there are ethical standards in every meaningful human activity, including hunting. It’s not unreasonable to expect these standards to be even higher for television shows and videos that depict hunting that are available for anyone to watch. Why? These products speak for all hunters and hunting. Hunting is personal. Killing an animal is personal. It just may be one of those things that is just not made for a public mediums like television or YouTube, or at least not without some common sense sideboards that put hunting’s best foot forward.



Updated: 12/17/2017

Over 1 million views on YouTube in the first 10 days.

Does Talking About Ethics Only Divide Hunters?

Whether you have seen it before or not, it’s been prevalent through this Hunt Right; Hunt Fair Chase initiative. Some folks feel that any talk about hunting ethics or hunter behavior only divides hunters when we should be united. Others think we do need to talk more about ethics to get more people pointed on the right path to protect the image of hunting. This “divide” belief warrants a closer look.

A conversation about ethics in any human activity can spark controversy because someone inevitably is going to be offended if they find themselves swimming against the current. Others will be offended by those acting inappropriately, giving everyone a bad rap.

The most common viewpoints in opposition to a conversation on ethics, hunter behavior, and fair chase have been:
• hunters are too few to be divided among ourselves over something as trivial as how someone else chooses to hunt;
• that such debates provide anti-hunters with ammunition to use against hunters and hunting;
• fair chase is nothing more than making apologies, and we should never apologize for hunting, and
• if it’s legal, why should anyone care who is doing what?

It’s true, hunters are in the minority, and we do live in a country where the opinion of the majority matters. Concern over being divided shows we have already accepted the fact that others are watching what we do and can have an influence on the future of hunting, good and bad. This is a good thing because it accepts a reality that is one of the primary purposes of the Hunt Right effort; that our image matters and some things are tarnishing this image. Since we are concerned with what others think about hunting and the influence they can have, an obvious question is what the better approach is? Is it better to be keeping our heads down or looking the other way, or be seen talking about our ethics and proactively policing our image and ourselves?

The next question is, are we leaving any ammunition behind for anti-hunters to use against us by talking about our ethics and what guides hunting beyond the laws? The anti-hunter establishment already has a full magazine of ammo to choose from among the headlines some hunters and hunting is making, both real and contrived. Why wouldn’t we want to get more of our own people on board with a positive image and putting our best foot forward? Nobody likes to be judged unless you end up smelling like a rose, but that’s the nature of ethics. Once you get out of your lane, people will let you know about it. If anything the ammunition we should not be leaving behind is proof of hunters behaving poorly, which unfortunately in today’s world of instant access and social media are not hard to find. Hunters following the law and a code of ethics, and policing themselves is not something the antis are running around putting on billboards, but maybe we should.

There is something to be said for standing our ground over an activity that has done so much for wildlife conservation and so many people. But ethics and fair chase as some sort of an apology, guilt trip, or cave-in? It's hard to imagine anyone viewing what the NFL is doing about domestic violence among its players as being an apology, guilt trip, or cave-in. It’s just the right thing to do, and they are protecting their brand in the process.

We know that something may be legal in one state and not another, but that’s not the argument behind, “if it’s legal, why should anyone care?” What is and what isn’t legal is determined by local traditions, the type of game being hunted and under what conditions, and state wildlife officials needing to increase success rates or limit harvest. Using what’s legal or not legal in different states as pushback against a discussion about ethics misses the bigger picture: our game laws are not solely based on ethics, which would dismiss the fact that wildlife sciences and management are involved. Case in point; it is illegal to hunt mountain lions in California, but that does not mean ethically hunting them in another state is now impossible or should be illegal as well. This was a decision not based on science or what was necessarily the best for lions or their prey base. The voters in this state considered hunters’ being allowed to kill mountain lions as socially unacceptable, and they made it illegal. What we should be more concerned with is how others are intentionally misrepresenting illegal (as always about ethics, not about science or management goals) to sway public opinion. In other words, “If lion hunting in California is illegal, it should be illegal everywhere, right?”

“All you’re doing is dividing hunters when hunters should be united.” An interesting position, but one that doesn’t hold much water, especially if you understand the reasons for having ethics in the first place. In any human activity, ethics are the guiding principles people agree upon that are the right approach. Talking about them actually does the exact opposite—it unites like-minded people behind a common belief or practice. Our ethics and principles like fair chase are what makes hunting a fulfilling, honorable, credible, and defensible experience, which also makes hunting acceptable and good for everyone, even to those who might questions its legitimacy. The answer to the thought behind this position might just lie elsewhere. Either people don’t believe the image of hunters, and therefore hunting is at risk, or it's a cover for unethical behavior itself.

Updated: 12/20/17

Our Wild Harvest

How many pounds of meat do we get, on average, from a processed whitetail deer, an elk, or a moose? What about caribou, black bear, mule deer, or antelope? How many pounds come from a limit of mallards, a wild turkey, or a brace of quail? How many whitetail deer will be harvested to feed families in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan this year? How many people will this meat feed? How much of this food will be shared with people who do not hunt?

If you stop to think about the number of hunters and anglers, and the number of species of game and fish, the amount of food procured through recreational hunting and angling must be staggering. While pondering the magnitude of this wild harvest, consider also that this food is naturally grown and is usually locally harvested, year after year, with minimal impact to the land. Take it one step further; how much would it cost to replace this food through agriculture and aquaculture, in terms of acreage, crops, fuel, irrigation water, fertilizer, pesticides, harvesting, processing, packaging, and transportation? And this is just game species. What about sport-caught fish?

The reality is we do not know the answer to these questions, but a groundbreaking study called The Wild Harvest Initiative is underway by the research institute, Conservation Visions, based in Newfoundland, Canada. Its purpose is to quantify for the first time the total biomass of wild, healthy, organically grown wild protein harvested by sportsmen in the U.S. and Canada on an annual basis.

Humans have been living off the land since inhabiting this Earth, and hunting and angling are not our only wild harvest activities. We pick mushrooms, berries, tap maple trees for syrup, put up firewood for the winter, and cut our own Christmas trees for the holidays.

These activities matter. Hunting and fishing matter. Therefore, conservation of the natural world matters, which matters to the health and well-being of millions of people.

A hunting ethic? A conservation ethic? They’re one in the same, and they matter.

No Guarantees

In 2017 the big game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was the most watched television program in U.S. history (111.5 million). The experts, analysts, and prognosticators had everything dissected and dialed. Yet with all angles covered, no one could predict who would win. When the final whistle blew and the New England Patriots had completed their unbelievable comeback, the resounding response from the experts was, “Well, that’s why you play the game.”

Those things where the outcome is uncertain are what stand the test of time. It’s human nature to be drawn to such things, and keep coming back. Why? Because when the outcome is already known things are less interesting.

There is uncertainty to hunting. That’s the nature of it. It is this “no guarantees” that is one of hunting’s most appealing attributes. Another attraction is that we spend more time thinking about going hunting and preparing than actually hunting. We’ve all done it. Run scenarios over in our minds; “Will I see a buck? Will I see a big buck? Will I get a good shot? Will I be successful? What will the scene be like back at camp or at home when I return with my prize—or my story?”

If we think about it, an uncertain outcome defines hunting. Not knowing, combined with the capabilities of the game we pursue requires us to develop skills, which is also a cherished part of the hunt. “No Guarantees” is also at the core of what we call, fair chase.

We covet the uncertainty of hunting and what we’ve earned honestly, fair and square. Taking the easy route or shortcuts might be considered by some to be just stacking the odds in your favor, but success at any price does come with a cost. If we ever lose the no-guarantees nature of hunting, something very special will be lost. At a minimum, if hunting were a sure thing, it would be hard to still call it hunting.