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Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Hunter’s Random Thoughts

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA, March 1, 2008.)
As ethical hunters we should have a short list
of things we’ll never do, lines we’ll never cross.
It’s Spring: Deer season doesn’t seem very long ago, and now we’re thinking and planning for spring gobbler season. The turkeys are gobbling. It’s time to begin scouting. When you have a couple of hours, get out in the woods to look for those three-toed tracks. Get out early to listen for those glorious, thunderous sounds.

Shed Antler Hunting: Don’t forget the other woods-wandering early spring activity – hunting for shed antlers. It won’t be long before this snow melts, and that’s the time to look for those clues that some bucks made it through the hunting season and escaped old man winter. But, you’re not likely to find antlers if you approach it randomly, or by scouring the open woods. Deer limit their movement during winter and spend very little time in the open woods. You need to concentrate your search on bedding areas, feeding areas, and the trails between.

Holier-Than-Thou: Lots of people think of a holier-than-thou attitude and religious nuts in the same thought. But lots of non-religious people have a holier-than-thou attitude. We find it in politics all the time – and even in the politics of hunting. “You should eat everything you kill” is one example. On the surface, it sounds right. And often people hold up Native Americans as the model. It feels good to think of Native Americans in that idealistic way. But Native Americans killed lots of animals they didn’t eat – even animals that they didn’t use. Sometimes they burned the habitat to encourage new growth, increasing the food supply for their game animals. In doing that, they killed non-game animals by destroying their habitat. This is merely a fact, not a criticism. None of us eat everything we kill.

An Anti-Hunter Strategy: The “eat everything you kill” attitude sounds like it’s a pro-hunting attitude, but it isn’t based on sound game management principles. It fails to recognize that the role of hunters is to be stewards of all wildlife – both game and non-game species. It actually divides sportsmen. It allows a few of us to feel righteous while anti-hunters attack us on the flank. And it's part of the anti-hunter divide and conquer strategy.

Hunting Is a Paradox: People have a hard time with the idea of paradox, and lots of wrong thinking results from trying to resolve paradoxes. Hunting is a paradox. Call it a blood sport if you want. Someone has said that hunting would just be hiking without the killing. Yes, it’s about killing, but it’s also not about killing. I’ve hunted plenty of days without killing, and I wasn’t just hiking. On almost every one of those days, the hunting was worth it. On many of those days, I’ve even been glad I didn’t kill something. If hunting is nothing more than primitive bloodlust, how do you explain that?

The Orange Rule: Since 1993, spring gobbler hunters in Pennsylvania have had to wear "A hat containing a minimum of 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange material, visible 360 degrees,… at all times when moving." That rule was recently lifted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Members of the PGC were reluctant to make the change, but Pennsylvania was the only state with that rule and we had no clear evidence that the rule added to our safety. Bear in mind that the PGC took a risk in making this change. The risk is that if hunters get careless and accidental shooting incidents increase, we have only ourselves to blame.

Never, Ever: To those who say, “Never say never,” I say “Hogwash.” As ethical hunters we should have a short list of things we’ll never do, lines we’ll never cross. And at the top of that list should be five short, simple words: NEVER TAKE A RISKY SHOT. Never. Ever. Not one.


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