Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hunter Accountability

There is nothing like the first flush of the year or the last second before you let an arrow fly towards a Whitetail. These are the moments that keep us coming back for years and what also keeps us so passionate about our respected hunting sports. We as hunters also have the responsibility of upholding an ethical image for our sport. As hunting becomes more popular with each passing day, keep in mind the traditions and ethics you must pass on or keep to in order to keep hunting the rich tradition and ethical sport that has made us the hunting enthusiasts we are today.
                                Your Hunt
          If you’ve ever heard the story: “I would have let him walk, but it was the last day of the season.” You probably know that this is in reference to a hunter giving an excuse as to why he harvested an animal that he or she fears others may not approve of. Well I’m here to tell you that we as hunters should not fear what other hunters may think or say. I’ve always told hunters that came to my camp; we do not have any expectations or size minimum. As long as the deer is legal and the hunter harvesting the animal is happy with their harvest, it’s no one’s business as to what another hunters sees fit to harvest?
               I firmly believe in that a hunter’s choice is his own. Like I said, given that the law or rules approve of the harvest, a hunter should be happy with any kill regardless of what others may say. I am a meat hunter first. I will harvest a doe before I shoot a first year buck. Then I am a trophy hunter, but not by any other hunters trophy standards. My personal standards are judged by me and only me. That means when I shoot a Deer, Bear or Turkey, you can bet I am absolutely thrilled with that harvest.
              You owe it to yourself to harvest what you want as long as it’s by your own standards. If you know you are capable of passing on a younger deer or bear, than do so. Don’t shoot an animal you will not be absolutely thrilled about. Your hunting experience will be far better when you can leave the woods with or without your quarry, knowing your standards were met by your own choice.

Respect other Hunters
              We as hunters have the opportunity to share our beloved sports with many others like us. That doesn’t mean that these interactions are all positive. However, there’s no reason they should be anything but sincere. It goes back to elementary school when we were all taught not to treat others any different than the way we would like to be treated. I’ve seen other hunters spot another hunter’s harvest and without hesitating, mention something negative: “Why would you shoot that?” “That’s small!” “Who told you too shoot that!” I can honestly say this makes me sick to my stomach.
Tommy with his first spike horn in the 2013
 youth hunt. Shot with a crossbow!!!!
                When I was in the sixth grade, my father and I participated in the opening day of Michigan’s rifle season. We hunted all morning. Around 3:00 pm I was awoken from a nap by a loud gun shot. My father had shot a spike horn. I cannot tell you how blessed I was to share that experience with him.  My father had gone at least four years without shooting a deer, not hard to do in Michigan where the deer herd isn’t exactly up to par. But my father is also a paraplegic. So getting to good areas to hunt is rather hard with his limited accessibility.   
Are we to expect that every hunter meet the same trophy standards as others? As long as a harvest is legal and the hunter is happy with his or her quarry, shouldn’t we be happy for them? After all, that’s what hunting is supposed to be about. The measure of joyful moments and memories go far beyond the weight or size on an animal.

                                                   Pass it on
             Could you imagine if your father or grandpa had never taken you hunting? I am forever grateful that my father, even being restricted to a wheelchair, still made the effort and time to teach my brother and me how to hunt. We spent many hours staring out the peek hole in the front of the blind that our dad made for us. Maybe once every five times we went hunting did we actually see a deer. That was the best thing that ever happened for my hunting career. It taught my brother and me that hunting was far more than just shooting trophy deer. It was about bonding and spending time together.
             We as hunters not only owe it to the future generation, but also to the sport of hunting to pass on the ethics and traditions that make hunting great. In our lives, we will work hard to harvest our game. We cannot replace those animals, but we can give back to the sport by passing it on. It’s very important that we start and continue to get new hunters involved with sport that we love so much, but to also get them started off the right way. Ultimately, the next generations of hunter’s are the most important for they will carry on the sport we love dearly.
             We as hunters love our respected hunting activities. We spend a lot of money to enjoy the pursuit of the many different game animals of our choosing. We owe it to ourselves, to other hunters and to first time hunters to show this sport the respect it deserves. Whether you are a Deer hunter, Turkey hunter or upland bird hunter, we all have the responsibility of not only being an ethical and respectful hunter, but to also pass the traditions of hunting to following generations. We must put into hunting what we take from it. That is the true goal.