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.

What Would Roosevelt Say?

A Moral Connection To Game

If you’re still wondering where hunting ethics come from and why they have been passed from one generation to the next, the man’s name is Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was more than just a president who was a hunter. He not only got it, he is credited in history for inventing it and popularizing it. Roosevelt saw conservation as a duty of citizenship, on the same plain as a commitment to one’s family, religion, career and country. In riding, shooting, hunting and exploration he saw the character in what it meant to be a man; a fair man, a free man, an honest man, a straight shooter and a hard worker who commanded respect and deserved a square deal.

In the game we hunted he saw value and respect – tough survivalist that he aspired to be, yet fragile, worthy of conserving, never exploited and deserving of only an honorable death with a purpose.

His conservation, and therefore hunting ethic, arose out of an early fascination for birds and the rigors of living the hardly life of the wilderness. This was further nurtured on a buffalo hunt in Montana in 1883. TR borrowed a gun, hired a guide and for nine days rode through the rotting carcasses of commercially slaughter buffalo. He would later write, “we were never out of sight of a dead buffalo, and never in sight if a live one.”

Roosevelt formed a coalition of sportsmen in 1887 to, among other things bring and end to the commercial slaughter of wildlife, introduce a fair-chase sporting code, and nominate sportsmen as ambassadors of a new concept called conservation, with hunting as its foundation. The citizen group he founded was the Boone and Crockett Club.

We take to the woods, fields and mountains with this legacy tucked into our pouch and hunt the abundance of game we have today that is the result of a moral connection to wildlife.

Roosevelt would say, Bully for us.

There Has To Be An Enemy

It’s hard not to be preoccupied with the siege against hunters and hunting being put forth by the anti-hunter establishment. Their rhetoric and outright lies have gone on unchecked for too long. But lets be realistic about two things.

Just as we, the hunting community, need to up our game and not stand idly by while these groups vie for social change with their lies, misinformation, and junk science, we should also not stand idly by thinking they are our only problem. How much ammunition are we as sportsmen leaving around for them to pick up and use against us?

The anti-hunter agenda is to portray hunters as social outcast, bloodsport thugs looking for thrills at the expense of defenseless animals and who celebrate over a lifeless carcass with chest-thumping, dancing and high-fives. Have you seen anything on television or the Internet lately that would support such ridiculous claims? It could be that putting something as personal as hunting on televisions and making it appear to be only about who kills what is the worst thing we could have done for hunting, especially when it seems the entertainment factor is who can do the best death dance for the camera, something our youth now emulate as being the norm.

As hunters, we are respectful on many levels, with the game, the land we hunt on, and each other. This includes operating under the notion of, “Don’t mess with the other guy.” Our nature of just going about our own business and shying away from calling out how others go about their business may just be our own Achilles’ heal.

If we must believe there has to be an enemy, then we must too believe that these marauders will pick up what scraps we leave for them. We best stop making their job any easier.

Related News: Public opinion ends grizzly hunt


What About Trophies?

The first rule in solving any problem is admitting you have one.

If the conversation is about the public image and perception of hunters, which is a conversation about continuance, we can no long ignore the fact that the word “trophy” now plays a significant role in what people think about hunting.

Simply put, the notion of trophy hunting carries a negative stigma of killing and wasting wildlife solely for ego embellishment—a head for the wall. Consequently, without the ability to discern one “form” of hunting from another, more people are criticizing and rejecting big game hunting in general. We don’t need more public opinion surveys to tell us this. They have already been done and the results are disturbing. The question is, is their any truth to this and what can be done about this growing PR mess?

It would be a shortsighted if we tried to hang this situation solely on anti-hunter and animal rights groups who are doing nothing more than cashing in on an opportunity. Their own surveys have them zeroed in on the fact that the thought of killing wildlife for their head is a huge turnoff for the same people they are trying to bring on board to support their attempts to end all hunting. All they have to do is put the word “trophy” in front of any animal and they have the knife to twist. You never see their headlines read bear, grizzly, elk or deer hunting. It’s now always “Stop Trophy Bear, Grizzly, Elk and Deer Hunting.”

It will be equally costly to just dismiss the whole thing because we know there are laws against just taking the head and leaving the meat to waste; that we still hunt for the meat regardless; that a trophy is in the eye of the beholder; that a trophy is a cherished memory and a tribute to an animal respected and not wasted; or that keeping mementos from the hunt is a cherished tradition, not unlike bringing home a piece of driftwood for the yard from a family vacation to the beach. The question remains, what can be done?

The answer is there is no easy answer. Trophy is burned into our culture. It's a part of our language. It’s used to sell product, hunts, and property. It’s what many work hard for, spend big dollars for, hold out for, and aspire to obtain. It’s what many of us cherish and what dreams are made of. Trophy drives the hunting economy and pushed critical conservation funding to the remotest places on the planet where no other sustaining source of funding exists. It pays for species-specific enhancement and management programs and helps keep the cost of general season licenses low.

The answer might be we just need to talk more about our values and what drives us to hunt and the rewarding personal experience we get from hunting, and a little less, “I smoked that sucker.” It would also go a long way to talk more about a wild harvest of healthy, organic protein and share our favorite recipes. The same surveys that show trophy hunting lowest on the approval scale shows hunting for food ranking the highest. Use it. The next time you post a field photo, follow up with an image of back straps on the grill. No one can mount a reasonable argument against food.

"The true trophy hunter is a self-disciplined perfectionist seeking a single animal, the ancient patriarch well past his prime that is often an outcast from his own kind... If successful, he will enshrine the trophy in a place of honor. This is a more noble and fitting end than dying on some lost and lonely ledge where the scavengers will pick his bones, and his magnificent horns will weather away and be lost forever."Elgin Gates

Another option is to start replacing the word trophy with “selective.” Selective hunting is the foundation of conservation and wildlife management, which also ranks high in public approval. We selectively hunt the male of a species for a reason. Our game laws and the principles of conservation, sustainable use, and hunting the surplus is based on this selectivity and has been for a century. It is responsible for game populations recovering to the abundance we have today. In those places now where game is too abundant, we selectively harvest females as well.

Bottom line is, we do the same, we’ll get the same and the same hasn’t been working.

Is Legal Always 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.


What About Fences?

High-fence hunting is one of the most complex issues faced by our wildlife conservation community. It is a multi-faceted conundrum that includes aspects such as private property rights, public ownership versus privatization of wildlife, the spread of wildlife diseases, wildlife and hunting ethics, and the public perception of hunting.

How and where we hunt is a choice each of us makes as an individual hunter. It is also a matter of personal choice whether you believe hunting within a game-proof fence (where legal) is an acceptable practice, acceptable under certain conditions, unacceptable, fair chase, or should not be considered hunting at all. But, like all choices, there are consequences that must be considered.

Fair chase is more a matter of the spirit of the hunt rather than a set of written rules. It can however be interpreted by intent, practice, and perception. With regard to high-fence hunting, not all high-fenced properties are created equal. For one, not all high-fence situations are commercial operations. Many are private hunting properties. Some are small acreages; some larger; some have adequate cover; others are more open with less cover for game to elude the hunter; some have purposely concentrated a high number of animals within a given space to ensure game will be seen; some let the available habitat dictate population density; some artificially manipulate the quality of game for maximum trophy potential; and others rely on natural breeding and available food. In short, this is not a one-size-fits-all issue.

If the intent of the landowner or operator is to present an unrealistically high chance of success for the hunter/customer, reducing the experience to more of a shoot than a hunt, it is understandable why many feel this is not hunting. If the intent of the customer/hunter is to forego a hunt in a wild setting for a wild animal in favor of an assured and/or quick kill, where does one draw the line between hunting and shooting?

The answer to this complex question may just lie at a higher level than individual choice and personal hunter ethics. It may just be that the litmus test should be what is in the best interest of wildlife and the message this type of hunting sends to non-hunters, who can, as we have seen, impose great influence on the future of hunting.

An overall conservation ethic is doing the right thing by wildlife. In order for sportsmen to maintain any credible claim we care about wildlife and are a significant mechanism for conservation, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Is genetically engineering deer and elk, and intensively feeding and handling them for the purpose of growing unnaturally large antlers only to be shot within enclosures (commercial or private) demonstrating concern and respect for wildlife? With the connection that has been made between the spread of diseases like CWD and the transfer of captive animals between these properties, and the documented spread of this disease to wild populations, does standing by and supporting this activity demonstrate our commitment to the health of these species?  Will the non-hunting public be able to make the distinction that some high-fence hunting situations may offer an ethical approach to hunting and wildlife conservation and some do not? It is highly unlikely the public will take the time to draw such fine distinctions and instead reach the conclusion that none of this is acceptable behavior.

Hunting is very complex and, like many fundamental human engagements, it is greater than the sum of its parts. We must acknowledge that we live in a world in which the public is sensitized to making instantaneous judgments based on emotion, Google Searches, skimming headlines, and with the fewest of facts. The one countermeasure we can control is to hunt responsibly, respectfully, and ultimately defensibly—and ensure others do as well—to maintain the support of society at large. If we succeed, we will ensure hunting exists for as many people in North America for as many years to come as possible.

The Boone and Crockett Club defines fair chase as the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals. In 1983, the Club adopted a policy that made whitetail deer and other species taken in escape-proof enclosures ineligible for its records books.


Waste Not

“How, given the canine teeth and close-set eyes that declare the human animal to be a predator, had we come up with the notion that oat bran is more natural to eat than chicken?”―Valerie Martin, The Great Divorce

The old saying, “waste not, want not” means if you don’t waste anything you will always have enough. In the context of hunting ethics and public perception, it means far too many people have the wrong impression of hunters and hunting. There is a growing belief that hunters waste the game they harvest.

Several things are driving this misperception:

  • The prevailing belief that hunters only seek a trophy for the wall and the rest of the animal is wasted;
  • The images they see, particularly on the Internet, in videos and on television is at times only that of hunters posing with dead animals. Little is shown of how we take care of and use the meat;
  • An overall lack of understanding that a primary motivation for the majority of hunters is securing healthy, wild, organic protein to feed their families and share with friends and neighbors;
  • A lack of understanding that even if this wasn’t the case, there are laws against the wasting of game and that this is an ethical responsibility of all hunters taught at an early age;
  • The fact that not all game that is hunted is edible, combined with the confusion over hunters participating in predator management where the object is not food.

Misperceptions are the result of low information, and in some cases bad or false information. Animal rights and anti-hunting groups make their living circulating false information and half-truths and hunters wasting game is a favorite topic.

The best thing we can do is get the correct information out there at every opportunity.

  • Show that you take great pride in packing out your game;
  • Talk about and share your favorite recipes online;
  • Share your game with others;
  • Introduce non-hunters to wild game and bring them to wild game events;
  • Donate to local food banks;
  • Be truthful when asked why you hunt: for drug-free, wild protein and knowing where the food you feed your family comes from;
  • That trophy on the wall is to remind you of a memorable experience and an animal you respected—plus he provided many delicious meals.


The Most Important Piece of Equipment is You

Of all the things we take into the field, the most important is our own attitude. That’s because fair chase is defined by values we believe in and are committed to uphold.

The great conservationist Aldo Leopold reminds us that, “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching—even when doing the wrong thing is legal.” Leopold also made the point that, in the field, you are your own referee. There is no one else to “call the shot.” At the end of the day, the measure of the hunt is a measure of oneself.

It’s human nature to do what we personally feel good about, and to not repeat doing those things we do not feel good about. It is never a good feeling to have to end an animal’s suffering because of a poor choice we made in forcing a risky shot.

We hunt for many reasons, including the enjoyment and the memories. A fair chase approach ensures that we never feel the need to leave out parts of the story of a hunt, either in reliving the experience ourselves or telling others. The alternative is rarely enjoyable or memorable.


Why a website on hunter ethics and fair chase?


(podcast below)


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

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 understanding 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:

  • Bring forward the special nature of hunting, share what it means both personally and the responsibilities that go with being a hunter
  • Offer perspectives on hunting and the concept of fair chase as it relates to an overall conservation ethic
  • To have the conversation on why how we hunt matters

Welcome to Hunt Fair Chase.

Please listen and give us your opinion below.
Randy Newberg interviews B&C.