Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ethics, Responsibility, and Common Courtesy in The Woods.

Whether you hunt public or private land, you either have had, or will have, a bad encounter with another "hunter". There's that moment when you are just dumbfounded by the lack of respect for others and their efforts. I'm pretty sure that the longest chapter in Hunter Education courses covers ethics, responsibility, and courtesy. Private land hunters don't typically have much to worry about unless a trespasser is involved. However open leases and public land is all a matter of time before you run into that individual who will almost purposefully wreck your experience in the woods and not think twice.

I have had several experiences where I couldn't believe what was happening. Here's a few. I found a perfect funnel during the summer with plenty of sign, however it was not far from a parking area, so I knew it was going to get pressure. The first 2-3 weeks of the season were hot, and I saw a lot of deer movement including a spike that came in directly behind me at 3 yards, however I wasn't able to get a clear shot through the vines that I had against my back. The first time I sat in the location I noticed that someone had placed a make-shift feeder on a tree 15 yards in front of my chosen ground blind location. 20 yards from that, a hanging stand had been placed.

One morning I started walking into the funnel only to get whistled at. I promptly turned around and found another location several hundred downwind. Several days later, I arrived at 3:00pm to try and catch early deer movement. Around 5pm, I see movement to my 10 o'clock. I see two hunters about 150 yards away walking toward me. I notice it is a guy and his roughly 8-year old son. The guy stops at the edge of the field and sits down. His son then proceeds to continue my direction being as stealthy as a heard of elephants. I whistle. He doesn't react. I whistle again, this time louder and more drawn out. Nothing. I keep whistling but he ignores it. I start waving, he stares directly at me but does not stop. He gets within 20 yards and I finally stand up and yell "Hey, I'm over here." The kid shuffles around, walks 20 yards back toward his dad and relieves himself, then goes and sits with his dad. It's 5:30 by now and I know the hunt is blown. Big deal, it's public land, it's bound to happen right?

I pack up my gear and decide I should inform this gentleman that his son is unaware of what whistling means when moving through the woods while hunting. I make plenty of noise on my way so I do not catch them by surprise. I approach them cautiously and the guy says "hi". I ask him if he has taught his son about hunting etiquette and whistling. He said "yes". I then ask his son if he heard me whistling and saw me waving at him. He says "yes". I then ask why he didn't stop and turn around. His dad chimes in "Because I told him to go check my stand and see who was sitting in it." I told him thanks for ruining my hunt intentionally, and that I was on the ground, not in his stand. I then proceed to head toward my truck.

After about 150 yards, I began to build a rage inside. I turned and confronted the guy again. I asked how on earth he could send his own son into the woods to check as to where another hunter, with a weapon, was at. I told him that he was a pathetic excuse for a father for putting his own son at risk like that and he should be more respectful of other's space, time, and efforts. I told him that he was lucky that it was me in the woods and not someone who shoots at movements and sounds.

As a father, I cannot imagine knowingly sending my child into harms way "just to see who is sitting in my stand". Have hunters, and people as a whole, really become that self-centered and inconsiderate? It's no wonder those who hunt have acquired a bad name if this is more of the norm than the exception.

Another instance occurred last year as well. Matt and I made our way toward our stands. We were just walking into the wood-line as another hunter pulled up. We made sure that he saw us and then continued walking in. There was a north wind that day. The other hunter stops 75 yards north of us, walks into the woods and starts yelling asking us if we planned to hunt there. We replied yes, trying to get him to quiet down, he continued yelling about how he needed to check a stand of his which is conveniently due north of my stand location, thus he was dropping a scent line which would surely screw up and deer movement from the north. Sure enough, not a single deer was seen that night.

Per the Oklahoma Hunter's Education handbook:
"The greatest threat to hunting in North America is not anti-hunters. It is the negative hunter image created by poor hunter behavior in the field."

"All hunters have a personal code of conduct dictating how they act. There are many different personal codes of conduct. People hunt differently in different parts of the country. Individuals place personal limits on how they pursue game based on their skills and abilities. One thing is universal. A good code of conduct includes actions and attitudes that show responsibility and respect."

"Respect for other people including yourself, landowners, other hunters and non-hunters: Before you hunt, ask "Is this safe?" and "Is this sporting?" 

What are your thoughts and personal experiences? Let us know in the comments.