When discussing hunting ethics, the number of questions is limitless:
· How far of a shot is ethical?
· How much technology is acceptable, if any?
· Is baiting ethical?
· If baiting isn’t ethical, what’s the definition of baiting?
· Is urban or suburban killing of nuisance animals hunting?
· Is shooting an animal on a fenced game farm hunting?
These are just a few of the number of things that can come up when the topic of ethics and fair chase is discussed. Eventually, I plan to post on all of these questions and more individually, but to open the discussion I want to point out the inevitable conflicts, contradictions and conundrums. This isn’t exclusive to hunting, life is complicated. As Thomas McIntyre writes in What the Hunter Knows, “The neohunter understands that the natural world, the real world, the realest world we can have in this life, is chock-full of conflicts and conundrums and that between the moment of our birth and that of death there are no absolute truths out there, at least none that we can claim full comprehension of, because this system we call the wild is forever changing, as all vital systems do. And so we are obliged always to be on our toes.”
As I’ve mentioned recently, we all want to be “back to nature” but we use modern technology like GPS map programs on our smart phones. Some use more cutting-edge technology than that, but where do we draw the line? What’s ethical? What’s fair chase? And conversely, those who are anti-technology out there shooting traditional bows, why didn’t you carve your own shafts and make your own arrowheads? What about using an atlatl? Why not go out in a loin cloth with nothing more than a rock and try to kill a wooly mammoth? One extreme is fair chase but doesn’t make much sense in the 21st century, the other extreme is not fair chase, and quite frankly, in my opinion, not even hunting. So we’re all stuck in the middle somewhere arguing over where the middle should be.
Again, this isn’t limited to hunting, it is something that permeates all of our culture. I don’t want to get into politics or even anything that can be construed to be political outside of conservation issues, but I bet if you think hard enough you can come up with a handful of examples pretty easily. We’re uncomfortable in these gray areas. We like things to be simple, black and white. We like our ethics to fit on a bumper sticker. Sorry, but that’s not reality.
The difficult part is trying to live in between the two main veins of hunting philosophy: “all hunters should stand in solidarity, no matter what they do” and “what I do is better than what you do”. I feel solidarity with other hunters, but I can also be a judgmental ass sometimes. It’s difficult, but we need to discuss these things if we want to protect the future of hunting. It is important to ask questions and to consider that just because things have always been done one way doesn’t mean it’s still the right way. Sometimes a tradition still holds true, but sometimes it doesn’t. Some things are obvious, some are less so, but the key is to be questioning things. Always be trying to do what’s right. Accept that sometimes you’ll be right, sometimes you’ll be wrong, and sometimes you’ll change your mind about what’s right and wrong.
I know, easier said than done.