by Leon Archer
Two weeks ago, I wrote the first of what will be several articles exploring my thoughts or views on hunting.
It may already have appeared to some that I am in the process of writing a defense of hunting. While that might be an understandable translation of the last hunting column, let me assure you it was not my purpose, nor will it be in the following columns, because I do not believe hunting needs any defense, but if it does, there are better men than myself to write it.
One of the terms that hunters, as well as fish and game departments, use to describe hunting (and fishing) is “sport,” and this has innocently spawned immeasurable damage and ongoing controversy due to the application and interpretation of that word.
The folks who oppose hunting in all its forms have focused in on that one word because it creates a mental picture conducive to their cause; they have accused hunters of making a sport out of killing. Sport hunting and fishing could more properly be labeled as “non-commercial hunting and fishing” for that was its original meaning.
Hunting and fishing to put fish or game on the family table is a non-commercial venture; enjoying the pursuit is as old as man himself, but unfortunately that is where it morphs into “sport” for the person who hates it. The fact that a person takes a certain amount of pleasure in the non-commercial taking of fish and game should not make it suddenly reprehensible, any more than enjoying one’s job suddenly makes it playtime.
Then this must be further broken down, because sport hunting requires the adherents to follow a host of mandatory legal regulations put in place for the successful continuation of each species, while in addition, there are a few nonbinding voluntary codes of hunting morality.
Those voluntary codes can be lumped together under the term, “fair chase.” Actually, many laws regarding sport hunting and fishing started as fair chase code items. I have to say here that it has been my observation that in a high percentage of cases, the longer a hunter and fisherman lives, the stronger his adherence to the codes of fair chase becomes.
For the non-hunter, I will list a few items that illustrate what fair chase means. Obeying all fish and game laws is part of fair chase in spite of the fact that it is required by law. Fish and animals should be treated with respect and not made to suffer any more than is necessary when they are killed. A hunter should not take a poor shot at a big game animal. It is better to let the animal escape when a poor shot is presented than to take the chance of just wounding the animal. Ducks should not be shot sitting on the water nor game birds on the ground or on their roost.
All animals should have a reasonable chance to escape. And the list goes on. Sometimes miniscule rules of conduct crop up that find favor in a small group of hunters and fishermen, but for the most part, the basic codes are widespread and well recognized. If an action is not sporting, then it is not part of sport hunting and fishing. Breaking the laws governing hunting and fishing definitely takes one out of the realm of sport; flouting the precepts of fair chase can do the same.
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