Hunting is a time-honored tradition practiced in this country since its earliest days. However, not everyone in society hunts, or approves of it. While sportsmen should never apologize for their pursuits, as long as they’re legal and ethical, those same laws and ethics dictate that we should make an effort to be considerate of both our nonhunting neighbors and fellow hunters alike. Hunting is already under attack by those who don’t understand it. Heck, some hunters even spend a great deal of energy fighting against other’s types of hunting. Committing the following acts will just give our enemies another log to throw on the fire.
Trespassing This remains one of the biggest complaints to law enforcement from nonhunting landowners and hunters alike—somebody is hunting on their land that doesn’t belong there. People spend a lot of money to own and keep up their land and no matter the rationale or desire of the trespasser, they have no right to be there. The perception of hunters as law-breaking heathens is only supported when a person catches people hunting on their land without permission or the legal right to be there. And while it’s almost human nature to want to push the boundaries of your property, resist the urge to cross that property line. In fact, even border sitting and shooting game across the line where you have to retrieve it from another property is unethical and illegal unless you have an express agreement with your neighbor.
Driving Around with Exposed Game When a hunter shot a remarkable buck in the old days, the natural urge was to load it on the tailgate and drive it around the county, showing the trophy off to all who were willing to gawk. The problem is that not everyone wanted to see it. As awesome as a fellow hunter may find your success, the little old lady who rehabs lost cats or the little girl who just watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” won’t be so enthused. “To heck with them,” you say. Yeah, maybe. But better yet, how about just being considerate? I’m sure there are some things that go on in society that you don’t care to see or hear. Think about that the next time you feel the urge to parade your trophy around. Such behavior can work against you, too. Hunters are inherently jealous, and if your property gets a reputation for producing local monsters, you might find others outbidding you for the right to hunt there.
Bragging About Your Exploits Along the same lines as the hunter who drives around with his game is the guy who strolls into the neighborhood store or PTA meeting and brags loudly about all the deer he’s shot. You know the guy. He’s the one talking loud enough for everyone to hear, just certain they’ll be impressed by his hunting prowess. Unless they hunt, you can bet they aren’t. Even among fellow sportsmen, many will be put off if the story comes off as being told by a braggart. Hunters love to share stories and that’s great. Just share them with who you’re talking to and not everyone else within earshot. And when you’re done telling your story, remember to give your audience a chance to share theirs as well before you ramble into your next epic tale.
Breaking Game Laws This one isn’t even close to optional or up for discussion. It’s wrong, plain and simple. And while there are certainly people in every walk of life who just flagrantly ignore the law and do as they please, when it comes to hunters, most game laws are not so blatantly broken as they are bent. Not tagging game before it is moved, using a buddy’s tag, shooting one bird over the limit—you can try to rationalize all of these things. The problem is, you’re still breaking the law and if you get caught, you’re lumped in the same pile as the guy who shoots game out of season or doesn’t bother to get a license. Make every effort to understand the laws where you hunt and follow them.
Hunting Roads It may be legal to hunt on or along the roads where you live, but unless you are in extremely remote country, avoid it. It’s a frightening sight for a family—even a hunting one—to round a corner and find a gun-toting person they don’t know aiming a gun across the roadway or even in their direction. I remember when a buddy and I drove around a bend one day as a hunter shot at a deer crossing the road between us. The gun’s blast was sent right in our direction. Despite the fact that the hunter had just technically broken the law by shooting across a roadway, he looked at me with disgust because we had just interrupted his shot. It was unfortunate timing for him, but the roadway was public and had I had the inclination at the time and wanted to waste the rest of my morning (I was on the way to a hunting spot myself), I could have called the sheriff or game warden on the guy and really ruined his day.
Shooting Near Homes Most states have laws that require hunters to stay a certain distance from an occupied dwelling when they hunt, but even if they don’t, it’s just basic courtesy to not set up next to somebody’s home and start shooting. Unless it is your home or the people there really know you, folks aren’t often comfortable with it. When you are hunting an area near homes, be careful to know exactly where people are apt to be and never shoot in their direction. If you have an early spot away from a house and one near, go to the far one in early hunts so you don’t unnecessarily wake up landowners or tenants who might be sleeping. Again, it just comes down to basic courtesy.
Reckless Behavior Avoid shooting near or toward farmer’s livestock as well. This is another quick way to lose the right to hunt a property. Along those lines, don’t rut up farm and logging paths unnecessarily, don’t race up and down roads trying to cut off game or get to another location, don’t drive through fields or leave gates open or litter or anything that you wouldn’t want somebody to do on a place that you owned. These actions can impact how you are viewed by your fellow hunters every bit as much how you are viewed by nonhunters. Be a model citizen, especially in the field.
Harassing Hunters Yep. You read it right. Oddly, more harassment of hunters comes from other sportsmen than the classic image of the protesting anti walking through the woods banging pans together. Hunters can be very jealous, and I’ve seen them drive back and forth along a property line or roadway to disturb or turn game from a hunter, run boats right past a guy’s decoy spread and fire guns nearby to ruin another hunter’s outdoor experience. Usually it is because they are worried game they want to shoot will wander over to the neighboring property or a property they used to or want to hunt. Don’t be a jerk. Remember the golden rule your kindergarten teacher taught: Treat others as you would have them treat you. Hunt your own land and be a good neighbor. Celebrate their achievements as you would have them celebrate yours. Only then do we all really win.