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Freemen

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.”


Five Stages of the Hunter

Regardless of our motivations for hunting, studies show that all sportsmen evolve through, or are currently in one of five identified stages in their hunting careers. As we age and our experiences accumulate, what we give and get back from hunting changes over time. What defined success or accomplishment at age 14 can be very different at ages 24, 34, and 54. As careers in hunting evolve, so too are the hunter’s attitudes and commitments to conservation.

SHOOTER STAGE

For many who are introduced to hunting at an early age, our satisfaction can be as simple as just being able to see game and get a shot. Our skills in the woods, recognizing and interpreting sign, and knowing game behavior, when and where are just developing. Seeing game and getting shots are what matters most, and misses are of little concern. Our skills are being tested and refined, including field shooting skills and whether or not to take a shot. The number of shots taken or opportunities missed can be the measure of a good day.

LIMITING OUT STAGE

The satisfaction of just seeing game and getting a shot is now not enough reward. These are replaced with the need to bring home game, and not just one, but a limit of birds or filling a tag. Limiting out is in the conversation as hunt stories are told. This stage is very much more than just being a hunter, and more about proving oneself as a skilled hunter who get his or her game every time out.

TROPHY STAGE

Shooting opportunity and quantity of game are replaced by a self-imposed selectivity in the pursuit, and the quality of game taken begins to trump quantity. Prior successes tell us we can get game, but what kind of game has become more important. Mature male specimens—“trophies”—are fewer in number and harder to come by. More planning, preparation, skill, patience, and persistence are required to be successful.

The notion of conservation enters one’s thinking. We have seen enough and hunted enough to now realize wildlife, and quality-hunting experiences don’t happen by chance. Trophies in particular are a result of age, good genetics, and a life spent on quality habitat. Finding a trophy therefore begins with hunting where proper wildlife and land management are taking place—where older age-class animals exist. This takes purpose, and being part of this purpose is now also important to the hunter. Getting involved with conservation organizations and being vocal about issues offers it own rewards, as giving back and caring for the resource now adds to the hunting experience. Thought is now given to, “If I take this animal, how will he be replaced so I can hunt here again next year?”

METHOD STAGE

While a trophy may still be the benchmark, “how taken” has become more important than “what taken.” With all the technology at a hunter’s disposal, what is really necessary to be successful is employed, and what is not necessary is left behind. Self-restriction now adds to the challenge and rewarding aspects of the hunt. An example of a hunter within this stage is the handicapping of his or her affective range by hunting with short-range weapons such as a handgun, muzzleloader, or bow and arrow. In some instances the mechanical advantage of a compound bow is left behind for the simplicity of a recurve or longbow. These methods take practice and discipline, and both are cherished as part of the process.

The chase and a lasting experience move to the forefront over just taking game or only a trophy. The easy route to a quick kill means much less than a hard-fought, tough pursuit. Going home without game increases in frequency and is understood and accepted. The reward now becomes very much proportionate to the challenge and effort expended. An animal taken by more skill than a technological advantage becomes a memorable trophy, regardless of size.

SPORTSMAN STAGE

All stages are remembered fondly, but the urgency to take game or a trophy fades to the background as the total hunting experience now offers its highest rewards. Planning, practicing, and honing skills are still important, but just being outdoors, reconnecting with family and friends, and taking the time to “soak it all in” happen more and more. Filling a limit or a tag means the hunt is over, as is the experience. Photo memories now include more than just that of game taken. Camp, scenery, old buildings, and other wildlife now appear in the portfolio. Macro becomes micro as every aspect of the hunt is cherished. Trophies taken in the past mean more and are converted from a prize for the wall into memories for a lifetime.

By now, activity in conservation is at its peak. Mentoring young sportsmen, seeing that they enjoy and experience what you have experienced, can replace even your own opportunity at taking game. For many, this the greatest reward in hunting.

Not all hunters experience each stage completely or necessarily in this order. Some may enter motivated by the trophy stage. Some are completely satisfied stopping at any one of these stages, and some progress all the way through. There is no right or wrong.

It is also true that many sportsmen seek to experience the hunting of different species in different locations and habitats. This can either lead to reverting back or jumping forward in stages depending on the species or hunt itself. For example, knowing that a hunter may only have the chance to hunt for one particular species in their lifetime, a trophy stage hunter may choose to take a younger animal he or she might not have taken otherwise, or a bowhunter might opt for a rifle for a particular hunt.

Regardless of the hunting stages, what originally brings most hunters to hunting remains a constant—an appreciation and fascination for wildlife. Even within the earliest of these stages, all sportsmen are participating in conservation because of their participation in hunting. Thankfully, for many the minimal commitment to conservation from the purchase of licenses, tags, and supplies extends much further.

 

Which stage are you?


If Only Antis Told The Truth

It would be tough for anyone who hunts not to be disturbed by the rhetoric being put forth by anti-hunting groups. They’re that 10% of the population who not only does not hunt, but are busy trying to make a living out of ending all hunting by getting others to drink their Kool-Aid.

This vocal minority can no doubt stir up trouble by never seeming to let the facts get in the way of a good argument. They are also just that, a minority no different in the sense that hunters are a minority. This vocal minority is partly responsible for non-hunters turning away their support for hunting. The question is, what to do about them?

One solution has been right there in front of us all the time—fair chase. Hunting being conducted under laws and game management guided by science that are established to ensure the well-being of game species is an inconvenient truth for the anti-hunting agenda. Their work around is to ignore this fact, or bring their own junk science to the table to refute real science. But what they can’t work around is this truth, that beyond game laws, the overwhelming majority of hunters limit themselves for the benefit of wildlife by choosing to hunt under the highest of ethical standards, working with and not against the principles of conservation.

Fair chase is the anti-hunting boogey man. It says hunters are not the uncaring, blood sport thugs with no honor or values they often try and portray hunters to be. Fair Chase is the shield their anti-hunting arrows bounce off of. Each one of us has this shield. If we all use it, that’s what to do about the anti-hunting noise.

 


Hunters and Poachers are not Brothers

The lines between hunting and poaching are being blurred.

What this means is the non-hunting public is increasingly not making a clear distinction between hunting and poaching. Increasingly, the two are being used interchangeably. Even the media is getting it wrong.

Sportsmen know hunting is not poaching, and poachers are not hunters. Poachers are thieves. But this is an image and public-perception problem, and perceptions can become reality. This is what must be addressed.

By circumventing the laws and regulations, poachers act in complete disregard of the well-being of wildlife populations by placing profits above all else. Poachers are acting outside of the conservation measures established by science and our society. Arguably, they cause even greater harm by destroying public trust and tarnishing the reputation of law-abiding and conservation-minded hunters, most of whom feel a very personal responsibility toward the protection of wildlife and wilderness.

Something else is often missing from this picture. The fact is, sportsmen are the ones reporting poachers to authorities and willingly contribute financially to anti-poaching enforcements.

There are three things we can do to correct this wrongful association between hunting and poaching:

  • Distance hunting from poaching at every opportunity by being vocal, calling out and coming down hard on poachers.
  • Continue our boots-on-the-ground vigilance in reporting on poaching activities.
  • Hunting has an ethical code of fair chase at its core. Poaching has no code and no honor. People will not learn this on their own. We must teach them.

Also see Illegal Hunting


I Hunt, So @#&! Off!

Maybe it’s because the media has long taken potshots at hunters. Maybe it’s because social media invites inflammatory, soundbite headlines and unfiltered keyboard terrorists. Maybe it’s because animal rights and anti-hunting groups never seem to let the facts get in the way of a good argument. Maybe it’s all of the above and more.

It’s frustrating and a gross disservice to sportsmen who have given so much to wildlife over the past century. Regardless, our collective response to misinformation, lies, and attacks says a lot about us as hunters.

Where we have seemed to have landed is a place where far too many hunters are digging their heels in and sending the message, “If you don’t like the fact that I hunt, you can shove it.” While this could be a justifiable response considering the nonsense and the attacks, it’s not getting us anywhere.

The next time you’re in a situation to explain or defend your hunting and feel the need to fire back, don’t swing at pitches low and in the dirt. Thoughtful and courteous responses still win the day. As Mom always said, “There’s never an excuse to be impolite.” As for the “antis”—like a famous lawyer once said, “Never get into an argument with someone whose living depends on disagreeing with you.”

 


Your Photos are Antis' Ammunition

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a bad picture might be worth a million.

Those of us who care about hunting can no longer afford to dismiss the fact that some of the images we share and post on social media are, at a minimum, having a negative effect on the public image of hunting, if not providing animal rights and anti-hunting groups ample cannon fodder with which to fire back at us.

Our hunting and our images used to be contained to our magazines, photo albums, camps and gatherings. Now they are on television and posted everywhere with no story and no context. Blaming the Internet for this misfortune is like blaming a fork for our expanding waistline.

We’re hunters. We get it. Animals die in hunting. But to a global audience of non-hunters who may gain access to our photos, hunting images have proven offensive. Then there are the anti-hunting trolls just looking for anything they can use to turn people against hunting.

The reality today is ethical hunting encompasses more; it now extends to what we do on social media. Another old saying applies here: Look before you leap.

Here are some helpful tips for not getting bloodied and personally attacked on social media from posting images and stories about your hunting adventures online:

  • Make sure your privacy settings are set so only the people you want to have access to your social media accounts have access. Read more about privacy settings at this link.
  • Avoid images showing blood and tongue; bullet entry or exit; arrows; standing or sitting on the animal; posing with your animal or birds as if they are a prop and you are the conquering hero; or hanging from the back of a truck or backhoe, etc.
  • Try to include images that tell the whole story of a memorable experience, not just the end result.

As hunters, we need never apologize for all that we do and what sportsmen have done for wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation. We do however have an obligation to demonstrate respect for the hunted and the sensitivity of others who also care about wildlife.

Hunting and Social Media
Hunting and Social Media
Please watch before you comment, and share if you agree.
Posted by Boone and Crockett Club on Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Link:  How Social Media Helped Take Down British Columbia’s Grizzly Hunt

Here's a few more examples out of hundreds, in which hunter's images are being used to garner support against hunting:

https://www.facebook.com/animalfreedomfighter/photos/a.1421599038058963.1073741830.1420305824854951/2048162922069235/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/ProtectAllWildlife/photos/a.310416022461681.1073741828.310360402467243/830523047117640/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/ProtectAllWildlife/photos/a.310416022461681.1073741828.310360402467243/823600244476587/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/ProtectAllWildlife/photos/a.310416022461681.1073741828.310360402467243/836094033227208/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/ProtectAllWildlife/photos/a.310416022461681.1073741828.310360402467243/841902585979686/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/ProtectAllWildlife/photos/a.310416022461681.1073741828.310360402467243/838958249607453/?type=3&theater

In the news recently:

https://www.indy100.com/article/tim-brent-hunting-criticised-grizzly-bear-yukon-canada-moose-8540206

http://www.foxnews.com/great-outdoors/2018/09/20/big-game-hunter-and-former-beauty-queen-faces-backlash-after-claiming-hobby-helps-with-conservation.html

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Illegal Hunting

Yes, people do make mistakes, but there is no such thing as illegal hunting; only poaching.

Poaching is the illegal take of wildlife by kill or capture. Poaching is often defined as unlawful hunting, as if some kind of subset of hunting, which it is not. Poaching is a crime. Poachers are not hunters, nor conservationists. They are thieves.

There are four things that govern or direct hunting:

  • Laws which define legal and illegal
  • Personal ethics such as fair chase
  • Our peers and the standards of a group to which we belong, and
  • The expectations of society

Game laws have been established to protect game from over-harvest, and to an extent, to protect public safety and property. These laws can be knowingly or accidentally broken, but calling these actions “illegal hunting” is a disservice to hunting.

Our wildlife laws are not arbitrary. They are grounded in principles of conservation and social well-being. Modern hunting regulations safeguard sustainable use, fair chase, fair access, and appropriate use of species designated and managed as game. Quotas, limits, and conditions are heavily informed by science to ensure the human influence on hunted species does not adversely affect their populations in the wild. Legal and regulatory decisions, though they vary in specifics throughout the world, are the basis of an important social contract which defines the technical aspects of legal, respectful, and sustainable hunting.

By circumventing the laws and regulations, poachers act in complete disregard of the well-being of wildlife populations, placing “thrill killing” or profits above all else. Poachers are acting outside of the conservation measures established by science and our society. Arguably, they cause an even greater harm by destroying public trust and tarnishing the reputation of law-abiding and conservation-minded hunters, most of whom feel a very personal responsibility toward the protection of wildlife and wilderness.

 


Fresh (wild) or Canned?

"Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance."Theodore Roosevelt, founder Boone and Crockett Club

Throughout history, hunting has meant the pursuit of wild game. Over time, artificial barriers, such as high fences, began to be used to restrict the movements of game in and out of properties. In some extreme cases wild game were domesticated and offered for “hunting” in private or commercial hunting operations. The term “Free ranging” began to be used to differentiate wild game from captive or domesticated animals. In order to cast a negative light on hunters and chip away at the public support for hunting the term “canned hunt” began to be used by animal rights and anti-hunting groups. Because the majority of sportsmen oppose this style of hunting the hunting community began using the term “canned shoot” to better define this practice and distance it from actual hunting.

A canned hunt is the practice of pursuing any big game animal kept in or released from captivity to be killed in an artificial or bogus hunting situation where a kill is virtually guaranteed. In a canned hunt, the game lacks the equivalent chance afforded free-ranging animals to escape. In some cases, over-handling wild game domesticates these animals making them dependent on their handlers, and removing their natural instincts to avoid detection and their fear of man. The intent of a canned hunt is to set up a certain or unrealistically favorable chance of a kill.

At a minimum, canned shoots are an affront to fair-chase hunting, if not the traditions of hunting wild game in general. Hunting has always been more and has meant more than just killing. When success is unrealistically assured because the game is confined and/or tame, its no longer hunting.

As sportsmen we should be concerned with canned shoots. Their acceptance says a lot about what our community thinks of itself and hunting. Outside of our community, the non-hunting public often mistakenly believes that this practice is representative of all hunting, which is a gross misconception proven to be costly to the future of hunting and the conservation of wildlife that hunting supports.


Honoring the Hunted

The overwhelming majority of hunters truly care about and respect wildlife and the game animals and birds we hunt. The question is, where does this respect come from, and more importantly is this the image we are projecting?

For most hunters it was an early fascination and curiosity for wildlife in our youth that drove us to learn more, get close, and eventually take up the hunt. Unlike the prairie, trees, or mountains, animals are mobile; they interact, they are curious and they are unpredictable. Most of us have been attracted to wildlife from an early age. We like seeing, learning about, and being with wildlife. We are drawn to them, and the places they live—and for good reason.

How could they be that smart and elusive, hard to see, find, and get close to? Their speed, eyesight and hearing is vastly superior to ours, developed over centuries as being both predator and prey. Game animals in particular are both predicable and unpredictable—and tough; survivors, yet fragile if overly pressured. It is our appreciation and respect for wildlife that ultimately lead to the need for conservation and an ethical approach to hunting them.

The more we know about, respect, and appreciate wildlife, our ethical decisions come naturally. Why? Because we care enough to hunt humanely and not inflict undo suffering. We see them as something more than targets to shoot, which is as it should be. When we are successful and the animal has fallen, our respect continues. The tasty, healthy organic protein is properly cared for, secured, and never wasted.

There is something only a hunter can understand that drives us to pack a hind quarter back to the rig, only to turn right around for another load—even if it’s by headlamp. The horns, antlers, skulls, and pelts, packed out as well, preserved as mementos of a great adventure and animal remembered, not forgotten. But when we communicate with others, especially with those who do not hunt, is this image of respect being projected?

It’s natural to share our experiences, and quick and easy for us to post images of our hunt. But the question remains: When we do, what message are we sending to our fellow hunters—and to non-hunters?

Hunting and Social Media
Hunting and Social Media
Please watch before you comment, and share if you agree.
Posted by Boone and Crockett Club on Wednesday, October 3, 2018

 


Hunt Right

Why a Website on Hunter Ethics and Fair Chase?

Because hunting is too important to be lost over misconceptions and a poor public image due to the unethical behavior of a few.

Today’s hunter, especially our younger generation, are being exposed to a carousel of negativism aimed at hunting. There was a time when sportsmen were respected within our society for their skills, character, ethics and commitments to wildlife and conservation. It’s time to remind ourselves of those things that make hunting special, so we can show others what we have known all along.CJ Buck vice president of communications, Boone and Crockett Club

Over 100 years have passed since sportsmen first adopted a new approach to hunting called “fair chase” that changed hunting forever. We have changed. Technology has changed. Our society has changed. What was once a predominately rural society that hunted and understood the benefits of hunting is now predominantly an urban one, where fewer people have any real contact with the land and its wildlife. We also live in a democracy where the voice of the majority rules. Today, the majority of people that do not hunt or understand hunting, thankfully still do not oppose hunting. This too, can and is changing. If the hunting traditions we cherish, and our systems of wildlife conservation and management that depend on hunting are to remain, what we do now and the image we project will either positively or negatively affect this future.

North American sportsmen were the original conservationists and are credited with the most successful wildlife recovery and conservation system in the history of mankind. Pubic stewardship works because those closest to our natural resources have taken responsibility for these resources. This website is intended to celebrate these successes, as well as be a resource for all hunters 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

“When he was young, I told Dale Jr. that hunting and racing are a lot alike. Holding that steering wheel and holding that rifle both mean you better be responsible.”Dale Earnhardt

Welcome to Hunt Fair Chase.