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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Considerations for the ethical deer hunter

Ethics is defined as a system of right and wrong. In some cases these behaviors are defined by law. In most cases, however, they are simply a matter of conscience and generally accepted behavior.
When it comes to hunting, especially deer hunting, there are lots of questions of ethics. Some might involve so-called “canned hunts” where animals are confined. Others might involve baiting, which is illegal, or the use of food plots which some people consider to be akin to baiting even though they are legal.
Many of the questions that are not a legal issue but involve deeply held beliefs are about what weapons are used for shooting deer, what types of shots hunters take and following up on their shots. The law only says that rimfire cartridges (.22 caliber) may not be used for deer hunting. However there are a considerable number of people that opt for light calibers for deer hunting because the high velocity cartridges have a flat trajectory and the guns are light to carry.
Although it does not take a huge bullet to kill a deer, many hunters question the ethics of using some of the light calibers. They claim that these bullets are not effective and will not produce quick, clean kills. Without getting into the specifics of foot-pounds of energy and the characteristics of some these smaller caliber bullets, it is safe to say that an ethical hunter should be sure to use a gun that has enough knock-down power to kill quickly and cleanly.
Maybe even more important is the fact that the ethical hunter will not take shots that he or she is not sure of. Don’t shoot beyond the effective range of the gun. Don’t shoot beyond the range of your own ability. Don’t shoot at impossible angles or try difficult shots when the animal is moving at high speeds. Needlessly wounding an animal is showing lack of respect for your quarry and very likely letting that animal die a slow death. It also wastes valuable game if you can’t recover it.
A third closely related issue is following up every shot, including an apparent miss. The ethical hunter will make sure that an apparent miss really was a miss. If it was wounded game, the ethics demand that a hunter make every effort to recover it.
Follow up even an apparent miss or bloodless trail for at least 200 yards. Not all deer will drop quickly when shot, even in a vital organ. Many will not show any signs of being hit. Many years ago I shot a buck through the heart at close range and it turned and ran without showing any signs of being hit. There was no blood sign for 100 yards, yet I found the deer dead 200 yards away. Many hunters can tell of similar tales.
Learn the skills of following wounded game. Look for signs of blood, not only on the ground, but on brush or weeds that an animal may be passing through. Search in widening circles or use the grid method. Bow hunters are usually adept at this skill but all hunters should use this. Too often gun hunters expect to see an animal drop and when it does not, they assume that it was a miss.
With northern gun season getting into high swing and the southern zone season set to open in a little over a week, this becomes an important issue. Know your gun and what it is capable of and certainly know what you are capable of. Practice with your gun is not only a practical matter; it is a matter of ethics.
Don’t take foolish shots. When you do shoot and the deer runs away, make sure that it really was a miss. Make every effort to recover wounded game.
These are already key ethics of most hunters but they need to be standard behavior for all hunters. The success of your hunt, the image of the sport to outsiders and respect for a noble animal like the whitetail deer demand it.
CWD IN Ohio and Pennsylvania: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has recently been detected in a deer in Ohio. New York State recently enacted stricter laws about the importation of deer from states or areas where CWD has been found.
CWD is a highly contagious, fatal disease that affects the brain, spine and nervous system. It can be sprad through a variety of ways as the prions live in these tissues and fluids.
Any deer imported must have these organs removed and essentially only the meat processed and packaged. The bigger problem involves bringing back a skull for mounting. Complete specific directions and regulations can be found on the DEC website – Anyone planning on hunting in these sates or other areas where CWD is detected should check all of these regulations.
Emerald Ash Borer: The invasive species of Emerald Ash Borer has recently been detected near Peekskill in Westchester County and south of Binghamton in Broome County. There have been special regulations about the transfer of firewood, lumber, etc. to try and stop the spread of this destructive insect.
Essentially this will cause the death of ash trees, and the spread of this to many counties so far is not good news. But for the time being 98 percent of our forests are not yet affected. To familiarize yourself with the regulations and the issues, check out the DEC website – You can also ask the DEC for assistance if you have ash tree on your property and a forester will come and give you advice.
Last of the Mohicans: Earlier this week Tuesday was a beautiful day to be afield, although not a great day for hunting. Warm dry weather made it too nice to stay home and work but the dry crunchy leaves in the woods made it impossible to still hunt and the warm weather meant that the deer were not moving on their own.
While I was hunting up in East Florence near 46 Corners, I met my old friend Bob Hamner and we had a good visit about a lot of things, mainly deer hunting. We agreed that the deer hunting in many ways is better than it ever was. There are many more deer around, even in the north woods beyond Camden and Florence.
But in many ways it has changed, and not always to our liking. Today there is much more emphasis on technical knowledge. Some of it can be good, but a lot of it such as the so called experts analyzing the rut and seem to make it so complicated that it discourages some people. There is also a growing obsession with antler size rather than the experience of hunting and a trend towards managing deer like beef cattle. A lot of the younger hunters think that unless you have 25 food plots and 30 different tree stands, you might as well stay home.
Many years ago I had a big gang that hunted that area with me and Bob had an even larger group that hunted out of his camp. We would usually see some of each other’s group, ask where they were hunting, and tell them we would be hunting a few miles away to not interfere with each other’s hunt. Now it seems that a lot of our friends have given up hunting or most days find other things to do. More often than not, Bob and I end up going hunting alone or with one other person. Both in numbers and in attitude, we sometimes feel like the last of the Mohicans.


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