Moral Relativism and the Outdoors

The last couple days I’ve been following the story of a white, female Huffington Post contributor tweeting about her response to a black man, driving a BMW that has an NRA and “Tea Party” bumper sticker on it and how he didn’t fit her idea of what a black man should be. While some people are getting pretty worked up about it, I’m more interested in seeing the interactions themselves because it tells an interesting story about where our culture, or at least a significant segment of our culture, is today. People who do not have an underlying code of ethics will decide each situation based on the outcome that they desire rather than making a decision on what is right or wrong based on a code of ethics. This leads to a significant amount of contradiction and a vacuum of logic and reasoning.  

This type of thought process, or moral relativism, has not yet infiltrated the outdoors world in any significant way, but I see it on the horizon. Why? Because we are members of this “subculture” of hunters and outdoorsman, but we’re also members of the culture-at-large. We also have some folks who are willing to set themselves apart from the rest of us because they do not share our methods of take, our traditions or our other values. Some of you may say, “but dude, you have written against baiting!” I have, and I still believe we should be having an on-going conversation about ethics. However, I will never join a campaign to outlaw baiting or ever speak in favor of outlawing baiting. I view that as an internal conversation amongst hunters, but if you bait and the Humane Society is after you, I am on your side. If it comes on the ballot in Colorado, I will vote against outlawing baiting and if it’s in the legislature, I’ll write my congress people on your behalf. The need to police ourselves is the exact reason for the conversation I want to have. You’re welcome to disagree with me, I’m open to changing my mind, but my goal is to make sure we are always trying to do the right thing in the woods.

As the saying goes, if you lie down with dogs, you will get fleas -- and I am baffled by the hunters that the Humane Society and other groups dig up for their campaigns. It comes from the idea that “whatever I do is good and moral and whatever other people do is not as just as what I do.” Similar to the recent gun control protests where you’d see “Hunters Against the NRA.” These guys I saw were saying, “you don’t need a high-powered rifle to hunt, all you need are shotguns.” The average, urban, non-hunter sees this and they say, “well, look, even these hunters say you don’t need rifles” and they take these guys as an authority. Come to find out, these guys were duck hunters, of course all they needed were shotguns. They’re not taking a 300-yard shot on a bull elk in Colorado this fall, so they don’t care. The question I would ask these fellas is, if rifles are outlawed, do you think us western big game hunters will have your back when they come for your shotguns next? 

Over the last one hundred plus years, most fish and game laws have been pushed for and supported by hunters, including self-imposed excise taxes like Pittman-Robertson. State wildlife biologists and conservation organizations (hunters) have done an amazing job over the years at fine tuning our laws and bringing us into, for many species, “the good ol’ days” of hunting.  I urge you all to have faith in a process that has always worked and treat the hunting community as a brotherhood. We can pick on our own, but when the outside comes picking a fight, we stand up for one another.