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. 


  1. Very good article. Your example with the boy is a good example of a true slob. Public hunting has a lot of challenges and unexpected events. Many times on stand have guys come thru on 4 wheelers or walking to check on their stand etc right at prime shooting time. Most times I just stay quiet and they usually dont notice me.I had taken my 16 yo nephew out deer hunting his first time, he had his hunter safety that year. He was raised in the city with no hunting experience. He had moved up by me. He loved going fishing and out in the woods and going along. Well this time he was hunting and was enjoying it and I was glad I was introducing a new hunter to the sport. Any how when set out and get up on a big long running ridge, nice ambush spot. We get to our spot and get settled in. About 400 yds away we could see a speck of orange every now and then. About 20 min. later we notice this orange is getting closer, so we watch and sure enough he's coming along the top toward us. When he finally gets to us he starts swearing and complaining that we are sitting on "his" ridge. I said to him I didnt know someone had a stand here cause I've hunted it plenty of times. There was no treestand or ground blind etc.But he kept ranting, then said in a huff well I'll just sit over here then, he walks about 15 yds and sits on the ground. I thought well fine, and thought oh well we'll sit here anyway, atleast for a little while. Well the guy starts talking nonesense loud enough for us to hear him, he was saying things like gee, I hope my gun doesnt accidently go off and shoot someone, and I hope I dont fall asleep and drop my gun and shoot someone, etc. By that point I told my nephew lets go. My nephew was both scared and furious. I told him not to let it get to him, the guy is just an inconsiderate slob. Trying to keep this whole story short. For my nephew, he hunted the next couple years with me, then went into the service and is out now and lives in Texas. I've asked him if he's done any hunting down there, he said no, he doesnt know anyone that hunts and doesn't want to go alone but cant wait to come up and go with me adain. But the short of it is, he said he doesn't want to go in the woods alone and run into a guy like we did that morning.Thats sad to me, we have less hunters every year, and guys like the slob making threats like that just discourages young hunters. Nobody wants conflicts like that when trying to enjoy the outdoors.My self, I've seen a father and his young son come along one time while I was on stand,the dad acted fairly new to hunting and wanting to share an experience with his son, they were looking for a place to sit, and apologized for interrupting my hunt. I got up and told him this was a good spot to see deer and if he and his son would like to sit here I will go find another spot. He said sure if it wasnt a problem. I said no problem theres plenty of places to hunt that I know of, so they took the spot. Dont know if they got anything, but felt good to set an example in the woods to a fellow hunter and a future hunter. Anyway, I wrote long enough. Excellent blog and keep it up.


  2. It amazes me just how little respect is given/received in the woods. People act like they own the land and have no patience for others being in what obviously is their spot (sarcasm intended). Sadly your nephew took the encounter very personal, and it has forever changed his outlook on hunting.

    Where did the days of respect and courtesy go?