I spent 2012 traveling to many types of hunting destinations, pursuing many different types of animals and meeting a range of wonderful people who are passionate about the outdoors. I also observed behaviors and habits that I think hunters could improve upon, especially because those of us who own guns are in the spotlight more than ever now. What better time to better ourselves than a new year? Here are the top five things that I think we can do better in 2013.
Be More Ethical Be much more ethical when we are in the field. Ethics are a very personal and can be subjective. Sometimes there is no one to witness the choices we make when we are in the wild, but the best outdoorsmen and women will tell you that sitting and observing nature is endlessly satisfying to them—taking in the great mystery of animal behavior, while leaving as little of a footprint as possible when they leave. I witnessed “party hunting” this year, with hunters that seemed immune to the nuances of their environment. If hunters want to improve their reputation, they must be stewards of the land and the animals they harvest, just as much as they are gun owners.
Pass It On We should encourage the women we know to hunt. I regularly host Girl Hunter Weekends across the country and have been struck by the number of women who attend whose husbands aren’t very supportive. I believe the key to getting more young people to hunt, the future of hunting, lies with the mothers and wives, and we should be encouraging not discouraging.
Be a Better Teacher And while we are on the subject of teaching women to hunt, if we are given the responsibility of teaching others, we should all be more conscious that the guns we use fit the size of the person shooting. I have been in numerous professional situations this year where I have been asked to shoot a gun that was far too large. I have learned to say no, but those who are new to hunting don’t always know that they have a choice. At one recent Girl Hunter Weekend, when women were given a gun to shoot that fit them, they were exhilarated at the experience, which for some of them was a first. When they were given a gun that was too large, they wanted to stop shooting. The right size gun makes a big difference in whether you will convert a new hunter or turn them off forever.
Find a Better Fit Get truly fit for your gun. I had the privilege of spending several hours shooting with a professional gunsmith. He watched me shoot, coached me and then custom fit the gun to me accordingly. Having a gun that fits you not only improves your technique and encourages good habits, but it also enhances accuracy in the field.
Be More Patient Shoot less so as to wait for that perfect shot. I have seen a lot of shooting this year but not a lot of accurate shooting, and far too many crippled birds. I am a hunter, but I have great respect for the animals I harvest. We should take great care that we kill cleanly, without suffering, and resist the urge to simply shoot. A clean harvest not only improves the flavor of the meat, but is a more ethical way to take part in the cycle of life.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions as a hunter? Share yours with us in the comments section below.