Hunting Ethics: What Would You Do?

When it comes to hunting regulations, do you pick and choose which ones to follow? Do circumstances dictate your behavior in the field?
Hunting Ethics: What Would You Do?

As a father of two youth hunters, ages 13 and 15, I’m careful to follow the various hunting regulations in those places we pursue game. Laws on the land we frequent in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin aren’t identical, that’s for sure, but they’re certainly similar. I hope I’m leading by example when it comes to proper hunting ethics.

Recently while watching one of my favorite online outdoor series, The Hunting Public, I had to pause and ask myself: What would I have done in this situation?

Let me set the scene:

Two bowhunters are in the field on public land. Much of the content on The Hunting Public focuses on public land, which is why I enjoy their episodes so much. One guy is filming while the other is carrying his bow. They set up on the ground after seeing two bucks move in the distance from their hang-on treestands, and eventually the bowhunter gets a close-range shot at a massive buck.

Rather than take up the blood trail immediately, the hunters slip out of the woods to regroup. Air temps are cool enough to prevent any meat spoilage. Looking back at the footage with their friends, the hunters determine that the arrow clipped weeds or brush during its flight toward the buck, possibly deflecting the arrow. But the shot still appears to be pretty good. The group returns to the woods a few hours later, now 11 p.m., and begins searching for blood and the buck.

With decent amounts of blood to follow, the group eventually comes to a public/private land boundary. Shining their lights onto the private land side, they spot the dead buck only 30 yards away. They are deep in the woods, and the time is now 1:45 a.m.

Important notes: The guys don’t have permission to hunt this private land, nor do they have permission to walk on it, either. According to The Hunting Public hosts, state law in Missouri requires landowner permission to recover a shot animal on private property. Make sure to check the regs in your state.

The guys eventually find out who owns the land and then track down his phone number. They send him a text at 2:30 a.m., knowing that it’s not in their best interest to call him during the middle of the night. They don’t receive a reply. At 7 a.m., they call the phone number and explain the situation to the landowner, who thankfully grants them permission to recover the dead deer.

Had the landowner said “no,” which is certainly within his rights, I assume the hunters would have reached out to a local conservation officer to see if he’d intervene on their behalf.

Hunting Ethics

What Would You Do?

As I watched this drama unfold, I certainly admired the guys from The Hunting Public for how they handled the situation. Think about it: They certainly could have walked over the boundary (no fence in place) and then dragged the buck back onto public property. It would have taken them less than a minute to do so. They could have filmed the recovery of the big buck on public ground and never said a word about being close to the private land boundary. They could have made a middle-of-the-night promise to never discuss that the buck actually died on private land.

The chances of them getting caught? Close to zero. Unless, of course, someone was running a trail cam near the spot and took pics or video of them on the private land. Turns out someone was running a trail cam nearby; more on that in a moment.

In any case, the guys did the right thing and played the hand they were dealt. And in the end, the landowner not only gave them permission to retrieve the deer, but his grandson, who is an avid deer hunter, had several trail cam pics of the buck. The grandson shared the images with the guys from The Hunting Public, and his pics ended up being showcased near the end of the episode.

Hunting Ethics

The following morning after recovering the big Missouri buck, the hosts of The Hunting Public discuss the twists and turns of this memorable hunt.

What would I do? What would you do? It’s something to discuss with your buddies around the dinner table at deer camp. As I think about hunting ethics, I remember a quote from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Kudos to the guys from The Hunting Public for reminding us that character matters — even in the middle of the forest at 2:30 a.m.

You can watch the amazing 36-minute episode below.


Images courtesy of The Hunting Public


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