I am a Christian. That may cause hatred, love or indifference in those who read it but no matter your stance on Christianity I think we can all agree that we have a bad reputation for being judgmental. It has been well earned, but strangely I have felt those same condescending looks come from a completely different source these days. I have found that equally judgmental are the very people who share my other passion in life, hunting. Why must passionate people be so hard on others? I don’t think we need to be.
The hunter is a special breed. We share a passion for experiencing the outdoors in all it’s splendor and derive as much happiness from a beautiful sunset as we do from the notching of a tag. It is the whole experience that we live for…that keeps us coming back for more. Just as it is not the Christian’s place to judge another human being, it is not the archer’s place to judge the rifleman, the meat hunter’s place to judge the predator hunter and so on. There are some basic principles that are in place to ensure the future of our hunting privilege and heritage remains. As long as our fellow outdoorsman stays within the bounds of the law, treats his fellow hunter, land and animals with respect then I feel we have no less than a responsibility to cheer him on in his endeavors. We won’t all hunt the same way and thank God for that. We need diversity in our field the same as anywhere else. Each one goes about his hunt in his own way. There are stand hunters, spot and stalk and blind hunters. We hunt with rifles, bows and pistols. Some hunt birds others hunt big game and some predators. No matter your quarry and no matter your weapon if your goal is to experience the amazing world around you while filling your freezer with organic wild game, all within the constrains of the law, then inside you beats the simple heart of the hunter.
Within our sphere of expertise we often find ourselves comparing our choice of method, quarry or style to another. For some reason, we seem to feel a need to make our method more important or somehow more ethical than the others. I don’t know why this is, possibly some hardwired trait within us to prostrate ourselves before others as the bigger and badder within our species as a way to elevate our status and therefor have a greater chance of ‘survival’. But whatever the reason, I find fault with it. I find it nauseating simply because of its consequences and whom it ends up hurting in the long run. Be passionate about your specialty and follow your dreams while giving unhindered freedom to others to do the same. Does it make our path more rewarding when we place stones of division in others? If we find it hard to allow our fellow hunters to enjoy their passion, within the constrains of the law, then we need to take a step back and evaluate why we are hunting. If we are out there pursuing our passion for the simple joy of doing it, then it should not matter how old Joe down the street is hunting. When we become narrow minded it cuts off our own foot when it comes to the resources available to protect our hunting.
A true hunter is all of these, ethical, law abiding and a lover of the experience as a whole. If a hunter lacks in one of these areas then they are a poor representation of what the vast majority of hunters feel is the core of who we are. Ethical and law abiding are two separate parts because sometimes the law provides for something that you personally might not feel right about doing. That is where there is a difference between the two. If you don’t feel right about an animal that you lost and decide to notch your tag instead of hunting another animal then that is your personal ethical code that you must live by even though the law does not require it of you. The tricky part about ethics is that we often times try to enforce our personal ethics onto others. I feel when we do this we are out of line. Ethics are important and many laws line up with the majority of them but if you feel strongly about something, it is proper for you to go above and beyond the law in your own personal actions. It is not appropriate to hold others to your standard of ethics though. It does not mean you are better than them or a higher form of human. Do we do what we do to elevate ourselves or are we doing it for the betterment of nature? If we are doing it to elevate ourselves then we might as well just go home. The benefit is lost and we are only harming the sport and passion that we so love. The harm enters in when we pose these personal regulations on others and it causes division and unproductive friction between two passionate hunter hearts. These hunters could be working together to further their cause as a whole but instead both hunters are rendered useless and cancel out each other’s effectiveness by wasting their energies on unproductive argument. Can we all come together in support of the hunting experience as a whole? I think we can.