I haven’t hunted my whole life. It’s actually a pretty recent hobby I’ve taken up. My husband is an outdoorsman and would rather be out on a ranch than almost anywhere else in the world. I am very blessed that I was taught the sport by a man who has strong ethics and the utmost respect for animals and land.
Every hunter is not respectful. Every hunter is not ethical. We all know there are always bad seeds – bad teachers, bad policemen, bad bosses. I’m fortunate I was taught respectful hunting by a respectful hunter.
If you are new to hunting or may be teaching your children or grandkids, here are four tips to keep in mind.
- Always take a clean shot. The ultimate goal is to kill an animal with one clean shot. It definitely doesn’t happen every time but taking a bad shot can be traumatic. If you are unsure, skip the shot or wait. If you don’t practice at 400 yards, don’t take a shot at 400 yards. If your gun is zeroed in at 200 yards, a lot of rifles will have a 5-7 inch drop at 300 yards, so some people feel comfortable at that range. But after that, you start walking a thin line of ethical hunting. Also, you should avoid shooting through anything more than a single blade of grass. When you shoot through brush, you run the risk of missing or injuring the animal.
- Eat or donate the meat. At least be respectful enough to have the meat processed for either you or another family to enjoy. Call me snobby, but I’ve harvested a few gnarly, old, fat bucks that I personally don’t want to eat. We have a place close to where we hunt that will take the animal (for free), process it and then donate to the poorer families around town. When the freezer is already full, I want the meat to find a good home. Donating meat is hard; there aren’t always locations convenient for drop off. Do your research before harvesting an animal in where you can drop it off post-hunt. There are also usually processing fees to drop-off/donate. It’s worth your time.
- Use terms such as harvest and cull. By using these words, you are showing that you understand the reasoning behind certain kills. You cull a deer to selectively remove it from the herd. You harvest an animal because you’ll use the animal parts and meat. A lot of the thinking behind culling in some circles is starting to change. Culling is based on the belief of you being able to clean up the genetics of your herd by removing the less desirable animals. It is impossible to improve genetics of a naturally occurring population, so to speak. Especially in areas where you have to manage population, if you have a good buck to doe ratio, you can focus on culling the less desirable animals in order to have a better opportunity of seeing the animals with more desirable characteristics as they age. In high fenced ranches, you can change genetics by bringing in new bucks etc. Harvesting is killing, let’s be honest. It is the term you should use when talking to non-hunters, kids or new hunters in certain circumstances. With a child or new hunter, you will have to tell them to shoot the deer and tell them the deer will be dead but by using the term harvest, you are telling them you are doing it for food and conservation purposes. Unfortunately, the terms do have to be used around people who don’t agree with what we do.
- Leave the land better than how you found it. Pick up trash. Don’t litter. When I had first started hunting, my husband and I had finished a long weekend. We were packed up, worn out and pulling out on the highway when he stopped the truck, got out and walked 50 yards to pick up a plastic bag. As with anything, there are different levels of taking care of the land. A higher level applies to land owners and managers. If you inherit or start off with land in bad shape, you can take steps to improve the property on behalf of the wildlife. Significant ways to do this prescribed burning and grubbing. There are tons of less expensive yet beneficial ways to manage a property that will help the wildlife. Always do your research.