Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good Article On Hunting Ethics

If you have hunted whitetail deer in Pennsylvania for very long chances are you have encountered one of the following situations or know somebody who has. Please feel free to leave your comments below (they can be anonymous)

The is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette written by John Hayes:

Conflicted Hunting

On busy hunting grounds safety, courtesy and common sense resolve disputes
Sunday, December 05, 2010

A busy day in the field. Conflict resolution among hunters is easiest when they avoid awkward situations in the first place.I was in a good spot on a weedy cut dipping into a saddle where I expected deer to cross about 100 yards from my position. After about an hour, another hunter stopped at the crest of the facing hill, facing me. I signaled my presence with my hat, but he didn't reply. I thought he'd move on when he saw me but he stayed, watching for deer in the same shallow valley that I was hunting.

I put a range finder on the guy -- he was 265 yards from my spot. Each of us was using a shotgun firing heavy rifled slugs likely to drop within that distance. But taking a shot would have meant intentionally firing in the direction of another hunter. I had signaled, he didn't signal back. I got there first, but neither of us owned the property.

Who was right?

It can get crowded in parts of Penn's Woods, where more than 750,000 license holders share a shrinking space that's open to hunting, With that kind of traffic conflicts are inevitable. But there's no rule book, no Ten Commandments of Hunting Etiquette, dictating ways to prevent and resolve conflicts in the field.

"You can't do it with 'Thou shall' and 'Thou shalt not,' " said Jim Posewitz of Orion: The Hunter's Institute, a hunting ethics leadership group. "There's got to be a courtesy that goes both ways."

Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said it's "rare, very rare," for hunting disputes to escalate to violence, and when they do it's a police matter. Most conflicts, he said, can be preempted by putting an emphasis on safety, courtesy and common sense.

"It's about situational awareness, knowing what lies between you and your intended target and beyond," said Feaser. "The Game Commission doesn't have stipulations on how far hunters are to be apart, things like that. There's nothing in the regulations or laws."

Some common conflicts:

• You shoot once and the buck goes down, but you discover it has taken two shots. Another hunter approaches saying he hit it first and has been tracking. Whose gets the deer?

This one is clearly defined in the state Game Code: "The carcass of game or wildlife lawfully killed or taken shall be the property of the person who inflicts a mortal wound which enables that person to take possession of the carcass." Paragraph B seems particularly wise: "No [Game Commission officer] shall be called upon to arbitrate any dispute concerning the ownership of game or wildlife or to testify concerning any such dispute."

• You're part of an organized drive, standing on post as members of your party push deer your way. A stranger posts himself in position to intercept those deer. What do you do?

"I'd have no problem going up to someone and telling him there's a drive going on in this area," said Buddy Savage, long-time owner of Braverman Arms in Wilkinsburg. "It's for his safety also, because the guys driving don't know he's there."

If the interloper won't budge, Savage said the smart thing to do is back down.

"You don't know who you're dealing with, and a deer is simply not worth getting aggressive about," he said. "You meet someone like that, just walk away."

• You legally shoot a deer that runs onto private property and dies. The landowner denies you access to the property. Do you have a right to retrieve that deer?

No. Private property is, well, private and criminal trespass is a civil violation. The landowner, however, doesn't have a right to claim that deer.

"Our officers have authority to take possession of game in situations where the animal died on someone's property," said Feaser. "But they're not obligated to do it, either. It's up to the officer's discretion."

• You arrive at your tree stand and find someone hunting at the base of the tree. Who gets that spot?

Hanging a tree stand does not entitle a hunter the exclusive right to hunt that spot. That said, it's considered a courtesy to move along when the stand owner arrives. In all cases, property owners have the final say.

• In my hunting-zone quandary, with another hunter hunting the same spot from a relatively safe distance, who's right?

"With some of the new slugs on the market you can shoot proficiently at 100 yards," said Savage. "That slug may travel 200 to 300 yards total without much velocity at distance, but it's a weighty slug -- enough to injure a person even that far out. Rule of thumb: If anybody is in view, don't shoot. No shot is acceptable that's even the slightest bit risky -- hunting just isn't that important."

Posewitz, whose 2001 book "Beyond Fair Chase" (Falcon) dealt with ethical hunting, said it all goes back to the hunter's mantra.

"Be sure of your background," he said. "I handle everything the same way, that is to appreciate the privilege of hunting in a democracy and the North American model of wildlife conservation, which holds that wildlife belongs to the people and conflicts can be resolved in a democratic fashion.

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