Trail Cam’s, Ethics, Fair Chase and A Hunter’s Journey
I’m a bit of an old fogy with a touch of German stubbornness and a shortness on patience. So with that I usually try to avoid political conversations. But hunting is a different animal and certain things tend to annoy me.
I recently made a comment on a facebook group that gave my opinion that I wouldn’t mind seeing trail cam’s banned. That of course roused some feathers.
When I was a kid, we raised chickens on the farm. When it was time to butcher the chickens, my Dad would let me dispatch those critters with my bow and arrow. The requirement however was I had to hit them in the head so as to not ruin the meat. It was better practice than the bale of hay, and as a kid, I thought it was fun.
I never even thought to consider that “hunting” and I doubt anyone would. However, add some substantial acreage and have the chickens become deer, and we start to see some pretty scary similarities to some of the hunting stories we accept as “hunting”.
OK, maybe I’m stretching to an extreme (or maybe not) but it’s far to common to think it’s ok to teach our young hunters that the way of the world is to climb into a tree stand, sit for hours and hours, and kill something (a post not long ago mentioned the use of video games on their cell phone to avoid the boredom, think about that for a moment!) If it’s a teaching tool, used to start the process that’s one thing, but if it’s a teaching tool that the most important part is the kill, which is becoming far to common, then we know why the anti hunters may be winning the race.
I admit there is an impossible line that would have to be drawn in the sand, somehow, by somebody. But by Who? What is ethical? What is traditional, or primitive? And most of all,
What is Fair chase?
The challenge of a hunting journey is a personal thing, but the trend seems to be making it easier and easier to take the game. The challenge dwindles as the technology increases. When I was a kid a scope became the advantage. High powered rifles were already a “thing”. When firearm technology was advancing, folks were typically hunting for a different reason than today, and the technology wasn’t so great that fair chase was an issue.
But history shows we will, if left unchecked drive animals to extinction. Like when Buffalo Bill Cody killed more than 4,000 buffalo in one eight-month period, and once killed 48 buffalo in 30 minutes. Despite supporting conservation measures like implementing a hunting season, Cody’s over-hunting and that of American soldiers joining in the kill contributed to the near-extinction of buffalo. Just one of many many examples of bad hunting choices. Again, an extreme example destined to be repeated if we don’t all start to think about what we are doing with the future in mind.
So where do we draw the line? Where do we stop the ability to kill animals for sport easier and easier? I ask this question not to wish to outlaw hunting, it’s actually just the opposite. I haven’t missed a deer season in 50 years, so sustainability is the goal, but there is a point, where the human technology will surpass the wild kingdom.
And we’re getting pretty close. Think about the trail cam. A digital trail cam gives a hunter a distinct advantage over deer, but add cellular to that and we change the game.
Let’s say you’re in a stand, you get a mid-morning picture of a buck working a scrape on the other side of the farm, and you have a good idea of where he’s headed. You climb down, make a move to a different stand, and kill that buck a half hour later. No, you’re not walking up and shooting the buck where the picture was taken. Yes, good hunting skills are still required. But did the camera elicit a real-time response? (Scenario from https://www.fieldandstream.com/story/hunting/are-wireless-trail-cameras-cheating/)
Imagine this scenario. A chocolate-antlered, 10-point buck steps into an emerald green field of clover to feed. A hunter, sitting in his home office not far away, sees the buck emerge on his computer screen where a live-stream video feed of the food plot plays 24/7. He jumps up, grabs a gun in and sneaks out towards the clover plot.
Or, what about this? It’s Nov. 15 and at 8:30 a.m. a mature buck starts working a scrape along a cut corn field. At that exact moment a notification rings on a hunter’s phone. He clicks the notification and up pops a photo of this buck, standing in front of a scrape that he knows is only 200 yards away. He climbs down out of his ladder stand and begins to stalk towards the scrape location. (Scenarios from https://www.themeateater.com/wired-to-hunt/whitetail-hunting-gear/ask-wired-to-hunt-are-wireless-trail-cameras-fair-chase)
But this debate isn’t new. It’s been debated for a long time for past advancements like long range rifles, crossbows, and even compound bows. Even tree stands were illegal. If you go to https://forums.bowsite.com/ you’ll read statements like “Got my first archery kill from the ground and it took quite awhile, however the legalization of treestands made it a sure thing for me every year”. Today, tree stands are so common, it’s just considered “fair chase” and not even debated much anymore.
Boone and Crockett’s fair chase statement goes on to say that the fair chase hunter “defines ‘unfair advantage’ as when the game does not have reasonable chance of escape,” and that he or she “uses technology in a way that does not diminish the importance of developing skills as a hunter or reduces hunting to just shooting.”
There are those who think the line becomes overly blurred at real time trail cam information. But I would still not have an issue with a total ban on trail cams. It’s just a start to define a line.
Again, the discussion of where should that line be? And it’s not always cut and dried. As the technology piles on, so do the advantages. In other words, a tree stand is an advantage to a bow hunter, but is it less of an advantage to a bow hunter than it is for a rifle hunter? And is real time information more of an advantage to a rifle hunter? And is it important that it’s more of an advantage. An advantage is still an advantage, so when does it become beyond fair chase?
And what about tree stands. They obviously give a hunter a distinct advantage. It’s another technological advance giving one more advantage to the hunter and even more so to one with the patience to just sit for long extended periods of time.
So there are pluses and minuses to all of this. A primitive bow can probably be considered the first technological advancement. The improvement over the spear and atlatl, but part of this change also came as game sizes decreased. But lets not go back 15,000 years. The advent of gun powder gave us humans the edge. But this is still when hunting meant survival, it wasn’t just a hobby.
Then came airplanes, two way radios, cell phones, bionic ears, high powered binoculars, high powered rifles, high powered scopes, etc, etc, etc.
But the primary change happened when hunting was no longer a primary means to feeding ourselves. Now it’s a pastime tied to big business. If you want to hunt in Texas, shoot a B&C whitetail, all it takes is disposable income.
There are so many questions, and to a lot of questions there are multiple answers depending on the side you are on. I hunt from the ground, but not because it gives the deer a better chance, but because I enjoy it more. I hunt with a self bow because it’s a challenge, both in making them, shooting them and getting close enough to the deer, especially on the ground to make a clean shot. But I also hunt with a rifle (this one usually) with a scope, but still from the ground.
As a hunter, Trail Cam’s, Ethics, Fair Chase and A Hunter’s Journey should be on your mind as well. There will be more to the conversation. The next time you head for the woods keep in mind carrying a traditional bow doesn’t make it traditional hunting, it just makes it hunting with a traditional bow, carrying a primitive bow doesn’t make it primitive hunting, it just makes it hunting with a primitive bow. It’s about the Trail Cam’s, Ethics, Fair Chase and A Hunter’s Journey. Your journey, and your kids journey, and your grand kids journey.