Hunting Ethics and Fair Chase

With a lot of focus on the gun control debate these days, hunters could be forgiven for not realising that hunting itself is – and probably always will be – under attack from anti-hunting groups. It is a constant surprise, therefore, to find hunters not behaving in an ethical way. The general public will very quickly turn into the anti-hunting general public and we will lose the privilege of hunting in South Africa. Botswana is to ban hunting from 2014, Kenya has been hunter free since 1977 (to the animals detriment, but that is for another discussion). Zambia has also recently banned sport hunting.

Is hunting in South Africa a privilege that could be lost? Well hunting brings in billions of Rand in foreign currency every year, but that does not guarantee it’s future. What could damage the future of hunting in this country quicker than any detractor is the damage to the reputation of hunting.

This is easy to do. There are many ways to damage the reputation of hunting and there seem to be many unethical hunters who are oblivious to the fact that they are slowly but certainly destroying it.

Not too long ago a series of posts were made to a popular forum where people were openly admitting that they have hunted from vehicles. Unless you have a serious physical disability, there should never be an excuse for this abhorrent practice. This is killing and has nothing to do with hunting.

Just in case you are one of these deluded individuals let me carefully explain what the rules of fair chase are:

Here are some of the basic rules of ethics that fair chase hunters live by:

  • When hunting, obey all laws and regulations.
  • When away from home, respect the land and customs of the locals.
  • Adapt and follow a specific personal code that will bring out favorable abilities and sensibilities as a hunter.
  • Never draw out the death of prey. Try to attain the best shot to make the kill as quick and precise as possible.
  • Keep the personal code in mind and let it dictate behavior. It is the responsibility of the hunter not to dishonor the hunter, the hunted or the envir­onm­ent [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

The ethical approach also states that a hunter may not take an animal if:

  • The hunter herded or spotted the animal from air and then quickly landed to pursue.
  • It was herded or chased by a motorized vehicle.
  • Electronic communication devices are being used.
  • It is confined by artificial barriers or transplanted for commercial shooting.
  • It is trapped or drugged.
  • It’s swimming, trapped in snow or helpless in any nature.
  • The hunter is using another hunter’s license.
  • Laws or regulations are being broken [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

A few others you can add to your personal code. If you are a consistent and accurate shot at 200m but not beyond, then you should limit yourself to 200m no matter what your rifle is capable of. I use the following rule. If you can get closer, get closer – even if it means there is a risk the animal may bolt. If you can get steadier, get steadier – by using sticks or natural features.

Have respect for the animal, both before and after death. Do not sit on it or pose is in an unnatural way. Many hunting cultures have an elaborate ritual for honoring the animal. As a person of Scottish descent -I say the Gralloch prayer. The German Jager will place grass in the mouth of the animal. The point is one of respect for an animal and the life it has given so that you can stock your freezer.

If we ignore these basic principles we will soon found ourselves without the noble sport of hunting.

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