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Making Better Hunters
Posted by Michael Strahan on May 03 2006
Hi folks,

I've been thinking lately about some of the ethics debates we've had here, finding balance, and related matters and thought some of you might appreciate a discussion of this.  

Today I read a quote from the late Hal Waugh, Alaska’s first Master Guide, that really expressed something I’ve been trying to say for a long time.  In a 1972 letter to Frank Jones, then Director of the Division of Game in Juneau, Alaska, and I think it bears repeating here.  Hal wrote,

“I believe I sincerely feel that the proper and better way to save our game and worldwide reputation is to educate and train people to ‘Fair Chase’ ethics rather than a change in legislation.  Legislation has never been able to curb drugs, excessive drinking on the job, illegal and unsporting acts in the game fields.  Rather, it just builds up a hodgepodge of legal maneuvering that leaves us startled, short of cash- and the legal profession wealthy.”

I heartily agree.  While I support in principle the efforts of some (a precious few, really) who have been willing to step up to the thankless and exhausting task of crafting good game laws, ultimately I don’t believe the problems we face as sportsmen and women are fundamentally legislative in nature.  They are personal. Therefore, a legislative solution will fall far short of a real solution and will only have to be legislated, tweaked and refined over and over again as new expressions of illegal and unsporting activity develop. Because ethics are personal, whenever such principles are discussed, an argument often ensues.  These are issues that every man and woman needs to work out on their own.  As a body of hunters, our ethics hopefully find an expression in law, but I maintain that these ethics are the foundations of the law and as such have implications and expressions that flow beyond law itself.  Past attempts to codify every possible aspect of a situation have usually resulted in regulations so confusing, unmanageable, and absurdly complex as to be nearly useless by those attempting to follow them.

In this country we are living in a generation of fatherless children.  Kids are growing up without good role models.  Rare is the son or daughter who has the opportunity to share a campfire with dad and grandpa; learning the values of a previous generation.  Instead, we have traded those good things for the pursuit of self-interests on nearly all levels of society.  The pace is so fast that we have little to give at the end of the day.  No time for our families, no time to take a day hunting with our kids.  What sort of future will we have without our personal engagement with those close to us?  Will we have to settle for continued efforts to corral the behavior of rude individuals with more restrictive laws that penalize the good guys and provide loopholes for unsporting behavior to continue?

Someone wrote not long ago that we don’t need more hunters; we need better hunters.  I agree, and believe that the keys for raising those hunters lie in good training and quality time spent in the field together.  Folks don’t become ethical hunters by reading about it in a forum like this; they catch it by choosing men and women “better” than themselves, who are willing to be role models; people who perhaps don’t see themselves as role models but who are just quietly doing the right thing.  Yes, we need good laws, and I applaud the efforts of those working toward that end.  But even more, we need people willing to invest in other hunters, whether it be a son or daughter, serving as a surrogate father / mother to a child without a role model, or befriending a stranger who just wants to learn.  I know there are a lot of you reading these words, who are doing exactly that.  My hat is off to you; when all the shouting is done, you are the folks who will carry the day.

If you’re interested in reading more of what Hal had to say, you might pick up Charles Keim’s “Game Trails with a Master Guide”.  It may be out of print presently, so you might check used book stores.  It’s well worth the trouble to locate.  The publisher is Alaska Northwest Publishing Company.


Next: legislating wildlife management and ethics bushrat May 03 2006

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