ONLY $7.00

(includes shipping)

 with Rob Miskosky

On the Ethical Fence

I generally hesitate to join in on debates regarding hunting ethics.   These debates are usually less than productive and quite often pit hunter against hunter. Whether or not you would hunt over bait, shoot a duck on water, take a 300-yard plus shot at a running deer or simply shoot gophers for sport, as long as it is legal, that is your business and yours alone. If you are comfortable with what you do while afield and know your capabilities, then you should feel fine about who you are as a hunter.

Each of us has our own personal set of ethics and they can be very different from our neighbours’s. In fact, having your own set of ethics is the very fabric that distinguishes each of us from the other and allows us to consciously feel good about what we do when hunting. Just because you wouldn’t hunt over bait doesn’t mean that hunting over bait is wrong; it just means that your personal set of ethics won’t allow you to do so. If you hunt within the law and to the best of your capabilities, then you should be fine with who you are as a hunter.

If you hunt outside of the law, then you should re-evaluate who you are, period.

I believe that for the most part hunters are far better trained and much more conscientious about what they do today than they were when I first began hunting some 25 years ago. I also believe that the reasons for this are because of outside, and in some cases, inside pressures that forced the general hunting community to clean up its act, to improve upon all aspects of the pursuit of wild game, and to especially remain within the law during this pursuit.

An error in our hunting regulations could be exploited by hunters lacking in ethical practices.
For the past eight years or so I have played a small part in the publishing of Alberta’s hunting regulations. Because of the diverse landscape in which we live, and because of the many species of big game, bird game and waterfowl that can be hunted in Alberta, our regulations have become fairly complex. While not difficult to understand, they have to be read each year as they are constantly under change. And, unfortunately, because of this constant change, mistakes can take place. While these errors are rare and usually quite minor in nature, they can and do happen.

Having worked as closely as I have with our Fish and Wildlife Department, you would understand the difficulty in setting our regulations and developing them to the public stage each year. It is a difficult task that consumes thousands of man-hours, so it is inevitable that mistakes will happen. And this year has been no different than year’s past. However, in this year’s regulations, we have an error that it seems many are willing to exploit.

For the past several years WMUs 359 and 360 have been successfully managed to create a quality mule deer buck herd through the draw process. And, according to area fish and wildlife biologist Dave Stepnisky, this management plan has worked, with both WMUs boasting some great mule deer bucks. While this herd has yet to equal those of our southern WMUs, it is starting to become comparable.

But in one fell swoop this may all change, or at least, the mule deer management plan for these units, could be set back.

Inadvertently, WMUs 359 and 360 were given a General Season listing as opposed to the special draw status they were meant to have in this year’s regulations. And, or so it appears, many hunters who have discovered this are willing to cross over their legal obligation to remain within the rules and hunt outside of them.

Over the past few weeks I have received several emails and telephone calls from concerned shop owners, taxidermists and other hunters who are telling me that many so-called hunters are willing to plead ignorance and plan to hunt mule deer in these two units on a general tag.

And this has Dave Stepnisky concerned.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Stepnisky, noting that a serious education program will take place in the areas of both units. “I’ll be the eternal optimist though and say that this is when our hunter’s true colours come out,” added Stepnisky.

But for Spirit River Fish and Wildlife officer Norm Backer, his job may have just become a whole lot tougher.

“We haven’t set down our regional planning programs yet but we will be discussing the situation, and manpower requirements,” said Backer, adding that his office will be hoping to maintain a 95-98% compliance rate.

“As cases are identified to us we will be investigating,” sighed Backer. “And you can certainly expect to see an increase in road checks, camp checks and night patrols.”

And, according to Fish and Wildlife Recreational Services Coordinator, Sally MacSephney, information will also be supplied to all point-of-sale licence vendors so that upon purchase of a mule deer licence hunters can be informed of the requirements regarding WMUs 359 and 360.

It should also be noted that on page 12 of the hunting regulations it clearly states that the regulations are not a legal document, but rather a summary of the regulations, therefore placing the onus back on the hunter to know what he or she is doing while afield is within the law.

“It will be a big part of our PR up here,” stated Backer, when asked if he thought a public education program would be enough to curtail the borderline hunter/outlaw.
“It will be a challenge.”

But you can bet it is a challenge that he is up for and one that won’t be taken lightly.

Would you cross that ethical borderline for the chance at a trophy mule deer buck and hope to plead ignorance should Norm Backer or others stop you, just because of an honest error in the hunting regulations?

Hunting ethics are an important issue that all hunters must consider. Because it is the unethical hunter who tarnishes the image of the ethical hunter in the general public’s eye.

As Aldo Leopold wrote: “Voluntary adherence to an ethical code elevates the self-respect of the sportsman, but it should not be forgotten that voluntary disregard of the code degenerates and depraves him.”

Which side of the ethical fence do you sit on? ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

Sports Scene Publications Inc.
10450 - 174 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5S 2G9
Phone: 780-413-0331 • Fax: 780-413-0388

Privacy Policy

© 2016 Sports Scene Publications Inc. All Rights Reserved