Claim the privilege of hunting according to the dictates of your own conscience, and allow all hunters the same privilege;
let them practice how, where, or what they may.








Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Ethical Question, Hunting or Shooting?

© 20009, 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Hello Everyone! Once again this is work in progress. We will continue to modify, add, and refine as the conversation continues. You will notice that I have added permanent links somewhere over there to the left.
Albert

Last week we delved into the High Fence and Preserve Hunting question. Again I wanted to thank all of you for participating so enthusiastically and professionally. You do all sportsmen a great honor and service.

After carefully reading the post and comments, the impression is that the real question is about the ethics of shooting behind fences or enclosures. Is it ethical to shoot an animal in an enclosure and still call it hunting. Several comments were made questioning the ethics of doing so. But careful review of the conversation yielded no reasons for questioning the ethics of the activity. It is reasonable to suppose one man's ethics are another's moral morass.

At this point ethics and morals seem to be intertwined so tightly as to be indistinguishable. The easiest way to separate them is to define them. Morals are something that we all agree upon ie: killing for the sake of killing is wrong; broad general ideas. Whereas ethics are our method for assuring a moral outcome to any of our actions, or how we define our values. Those of you that are philosophy majors or philosophers please feel free to correct my definitions.

I propose that we dissect what transpires when we pull the trigger. At what point do we have to consciously make a decision as to whether the shot is righteous or not. Is there an ethical checklist that one must complete if and when he is to pull the trigger? Does it matter if you are feeding your family or killing for horns and antlers. What are the objective values that we need in order to make an ethical kill.

Much of it is subjective. Do you consciously decide if pulling the trigger will be ethical when it's a rat? Most will strive to humanely end the rodent' s life by shooting carefully and with purpose.

It becomes stickier when the competitive nature of the human race comes into play. You've paid $4500 for a three day guided Mule Deer hunt. You brought the wife along, and she's been fawning over the broad shouldered guide. You know that your comfort zone is inside of 125 yards. Your guide gets you to just inside of 270 yards on a broad racked 4X4. He puts down his laser range finder and tells you it is 270 yards. He says it's big and tells you to take the shot. He puts his 10X Stetson down for your rifle to rest on for God's sake.

What do you do?

That would be determined by your definition of right or wrong, your ethics.

Is it a 30/30 or 300 Winchester Magnum.
Your knowledge of the ballistics table.
Have you any experience at 300 yards
Can you whip the guide if you mess it up and he chortles about it up at the lodge.
In front of the other hunters... and your wife.

Well maybe that last one doesn't count, but I sure as hell would add it to my equation.

I don't care how big the deer is, if I had a Winchester 94 in thirty-thirty I wouldn't shoot. That's the extent of my decision making process on that particular scenario. I know what I'm capable of and I leave it at that. Whereas with my Weatherby 30/06 I might consider the shot determined by the particular scenario.

Now, if I am in an enclosed property, it would depend upon my perception of whether I earned that deer ; did I work for it. First thing, why am I there? In my particular case, it wouldn't be for a magnificent specimen of that species. No, I would either be shooting culls for meat, or hunting a representative example of the species.

If I was shooting for meat I wouldn't take the shot. I'm there for meat not a big deer. If I was there for antlers, I would take the shot assuming in this case that I had fulfilled my personal criteria for an acceptable hunting experience, and I was comfortable with the probability of that shot.

"A Trophy is a Trophy is a Trophy, and to each his own." Adds Mike Riddle of Native Hunt. "My Trophy might not make P&Y or B&C or S.C.I. books but, it will always remain "MY" Trophy each and every time I look upon it, and reflect on that particular hunt while reliving the most vivid of memories which are conjured up from that hunt."

My primary game species is the feral hog. Most of the time hogs are baited, but in my particular case, I ambush them on their way to the bait, that's what I prefer. I've also ridden in doorless vehicles, four wheelers, and on horseback in pursuit of them, and chased them with dogs. Many of these hunts are less than an hour long from start to finish, but they are hunting expeditions none the less. Personally I have never shot an animal from or even near a vehicle. But I have dismounted and stalked into position to take a killing shot.

Traditions also play an important factor in what we consider ethical. In the south, you chase deer with dogs. When I moved here I was aghast! Up north you shoot dogs that chase deer! But after consideration of the effect, the traditions, and the sport, I concluded that it was just another method of hunting. Interestingly enough I consider hunting hog, bear, or lions with hounds the height of hunting. Well, the height would be wild boar, hounds, horses and lances.

In some areas up north you can bait bear. That is an acceptable means of hunting for those areas. If the management goals of that area were negatively impacted by the practice then it is well within the scope of scientists in the management division to curtail the practice. It is not acceptable for others to deny the practice because they feel it is unethical.

The Hodgeman, otherwise known as Mike Rodgers, as always, does a great job of illustrating the discussion:

"When we step outside of our culture and examine hunting traditions of other cultures the ideas get more outside our realm of experience. When I first moved to Alaska and saw some of the hunting practices in Western AK I was appalled. Shooting swimming caribou from boats, baiting bears, setnets, killing whales- among other things. It took me a while to realize this was a trip to the "store" and the people involved didn't want the experience to be "sporting" because it was their method of survival. Is it ethical- certainly. Moral- I think so. Is it for me- no."

"What passes as ethical for a resident of the Y-K delta who's surviving from nature suddenly becomes unethical if I do it- because its not ethical in the culture I exist in."

"Common practices in my culture- catch and release fishing, shooting large bulls not fit for consumption, even fair chase are looked at as disrespectful of nature from a subsistence perspective."

Mike, thanks for helping refine the discussion.

Though I have absolutely no interest in ever harpooning a whale, I appreciate the skill and Inuit hunter's natural acumen when pursuing them. I also respect the scientists who determine what numbers may be taken, as long as it's science and not politics determining the numbers.

If we were to carefully analyze most situations that we commonly come into contention, we would find that in the end it is not you or I that can honestly say whether the action or activity is "hunting." Only the person in that moment, in that experience, can truly decide whether it is or isn't hunting.

My good friend Rick Kratzke (Whitetail Woods)has given some thought to how he defines his ethics.

"Ethics is a tricky word, but what I will tell you from my experience is this:
  1. I don't shoot unless I feel I can make the shot.
  2. I take pride in following the laws and regulations set forth by the state I live in.
  3. I don't harvest anything unless I intend to eat it
  4. I don't harvest anymore than I can consume in one year unless I am donating it to the homeless.
  5. I can honestly say I have passed up deer when I could have shot, but didn't, because it was not legal to do so.

Now I know everyone has there own definition of what ethics means to them, but in the end if you hunt legally and harvest humanely, (the least amount of suffering to the animal), then you have done right."

An excellent synopsis of one person's ethical criteria for squeezing the trigger.

If you don't desire to participate in a particular form of hunting, or if you disapprove of a certain practice, then you are well within your rights to discuss it with others. But to discredit it or make claims that you cannot substantiate, that is wrong. We have enough opponents without making more of them within our own ranks.

I want to close with this, an observation from Holly Heyser, our own NorcalCazadora.

"If you let people argue about methods of killing (beyond the essential mandate of avoid cruelty/excessive suffering), they forget the simple fact that 96.8 percent of American adults eat things that used to have beating hearts. Wrap yourself in complicated ethical schemes and it becomes easier to marginalize some hunters; define hunting as one method in a larger system in which humans eat animals, and suddenly you can't separate us from the non-hunters - the only remaining divide is vegetarian v. meat eater, and we WAY outnumber the vegetarians."



Among the many things that we need:
  • Scholarly works that we should all be familiar with. Holly Heyser has a post on must read texts on hunting traditions and philosophies: "Books About Hunting ..."
  • Solid science in layman's terms for all of us to be able to grasp easily and use in our own defense.


Again this is a work in progress. I'll be adding to it as the discussion builds. Thank you everyone for your participation an help!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...


The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

19 comments:

Editor said...

a very good post, maybe if we could find another word instead of hunting to use for so-called canned hunts.
I am not against them, but no record books should accept "trophies" from them.
PS hunting with dogs is in Mississippi too and most of us hate it. Hopefully it is dying out.
Rex

Albert A Rasch said...

Editor,

The problem I have with the phrase "Canned Hunt" is that the only thing I find is hearsay and rumors. There are a few "documented" instances of the equivalent to a tied down deer, but I get more reports about wildlife criminals from the the Florida Fish and Game on any given week, than I can find documented cases of "canned hunts" in the last twenty years. I feel that the word is used by the antis to create abhorrence in the general population, and to discredit anyone that hunts in any fenced in area regardless of size.

We hit upon the trophy registration issue and I think we were pretty much in agreement that a separate organization specifically for ranched animals takes care of that, but that no other state or national organization should.

Thanks for weighing in.

Albert

Bryan Willman said...

I think you need to consider a wider context.
If it's somehow wrong to hunt a deer in a high fenced reserve, is it wrong to eat a cow that spent it's life in a stockyard before being dispatched with zero chance to run?
What if the fee you paid to hunt the deer supports the preserve, which creates deer habitat? Perhaps the best or only deer habitat around? What if deer hunting turns out to be sole economic and social basis for the survival of deer?

(Another part of the dicussion is about not taking shots that will torture the animal. I agree that responsibility lies with the shooter at the moment the shot is taken.)

So not only should we not "judge from a distance" - we should not judge narrowly.

Albert A Rasch said...

Bryan,

Thanks for joining us!

This topic is so wide yet so convoluted that it just begs for a "Cohesive Theory of Hunting©." Yeah that's right I just copyrighted it!

Unfortunately I am not a trained philosopher, so I am having a bit of a time trying to get these thoughts out on paper.

I touched on that in my original post(High Fence Hunting) where I made a mention of farm animal ranching. What exactly is the difference? The difference isn't in the animal, or the trophy, in the end the argument was "what defines hunting?"

Please continue to visit and add to the discussion, your observations are excellent.

Albert

tom said...

I consider stalking with a bow or firearm hunting. Haven't got up the nads to try the hog with knife and dogs hunt yet.

I consider my friend Jimmy calling me and saying, "We're getting too many red deer cows and I bet my boss would let ya shoot one for the freezer" and then going out and shooting it "foraging" or "shooting". Has been done from vehicles and over active feeders as it was just a meat gathering operation for me. The fact that on many exotic ranches nobody much shows interest in taking anything without antlers even tends to make them borderline tame. I can't call driving up to 40 yards from a nice red cow and shooting it with my .300 Mag "hunting" but they are tasty.

Everybody has their own lines is what I reckon we all learned from this exercise.

Sometimes I go stalk a cottontail,jackrabbit, or deer on my back acres with no weapons or intent to kill just to see how close I can get. I consider that hunting even though I have no intent to take game. Hunting version of "catch n release" fishing, perhaps?

On final reflections for me, since you started me thinking about it...I suppose there's room for all of us. I still have an issue of treating farmed animals as wild game though, from both a shooter's perspective and that of the land owners. I reckon they should be treated just like any other form of livestock. There's plenty of un-tamed bulls out there but I wouldn't consider them "wildlife".

Rick Kratzke said...

I always seem to say the wrong things in these types of discussions but, I am going to anyway.
I never had anyone to show me the rights and wrongs of hunting as I was growing up. What I do in life is what my father taught me which I felt was the right way. The rest is what I have picked up along the way.
Ethics is a tricky word but what I will tell you from my experience is this.
1. I don't shoot unless I feel I can make the shot.
2. I take pride in following the laws and regulations set forth by the state I live in.
3.I don't harvest anything unless I intend to eat it
4.I don't harvest anymore than I can consume in one year unless I am donating it to the homeless.
5.I can honestly say I have passed up deer when I could have shot but didn't because it was not legal to do so.
Now I know everyone has there own definition of what ethics me to them but in the end if you hunt legally and harvest humanely (the least amount of suffering to the animal)than you have done right.
I hope I have not gotten off the proverbial beaten path that Albert has set forth.

native said...

I absolutely am addicted to the rush of capturing, bare handed, a big and nasty Wild Boar with my "Bulldawgs".
Would I ever even think of disparaging anyone who does not do or enjoy doing the same as me?

Never! not in a million years would I think badly of a non-supporter of this style of hunting Wild Boar, because I realize that to some, this practice is considered, "un-sporting".
That is their opinion and I respect another's opinion enough to not look down upon it.

This should hold true for the sport of hunting as a whole in general.

A person with bad knees might tend to change his former hunting style from going on long treks into the wilderness, to placing a feeder in his back yard and harvesting a Deer each year while seated upon his back porch.
Let him do it that way without so much grief involved because he has "Paid His Dues", and has earned the right to still fill his freezer each year while he still draws breath.

I also know my effective range when shooting and I will bet that each and every one who is reading this has, at one time or another, shot just a little outside of their effective range and regretted taking the shot.

A Trophy is a Trophy is a Trophy, and to each his own.
My Trophy might not make P&Y or B&C or S.C.I. books but, it will always remain "MY" Trophy each and every time I look upon it, and reflect on that particular hunt while reliving the most vivid of memories which are conjured up from that hunt.

If I choose to Trophy hunt primarily, and the Meat is simply a consequence of my Trophy hunt, then that is also my personal and spiritual experience associated with my hunt, and should be left at that.
Anything more would be quite Orwellian and hedges upon policing my innermost spirit and thoughts.

So much more to say but promise to re-visit.

hodgeman said...

Albert, some good thoughts in your next post in the series. I believe that when we talk of ethics we should at least consider that it is in part culturally derived. Most of us are speaking from the viewpoint of our cultural experience and although there are regional variations (bear baiting, hound hunting, etc.) most of us will have a pretty common set of sport hunting ethics if we really boiled it all down. Although many commenters hunt primarily for meat, I'd wager few are by definition true subsistence hunters. And while some of us (like myself) are "nature" hunters the ethics of killing an animal are pretty standard sport hunting ethics. Maybe at the extreme end of the spectrum but still within it.

When we step outside of our culture and examine hunting traditions of other cultures the ideas get more outside our realm of experience. When I first moved to Alaska and saw some of the hunting practices in Western AK I was appalled. Shooting swimming carribou from boats, baiting bears, setnets, killing whales- among other things. It took me a while to realize this was a trip to the "store" and the people involved didn't want the experience to be "sporting" because it was their method of survival.Is it ethical- certainly. Moral- I think so. Is it for me- no.

What passes as ethical for a resident of the Y-K delta who's surviving from nature suddenly becomes unethical if I do it- because its not ethical in the culture I exist in.

Common practices in my culture- catch and release fishing, shooting large bulls not fit for consumption, even fair chase are looked at as disrespectful of nature from a subsistence perspective.

I'll quit now that my head is spinning. Excellent topic.

Albert A Rasch said...

Hodge,

I wanted to go there but I didn't have it in me yesterday! Great comment as usual and right on the money. I'm going to add it to the post.

Albert

Deer Killer said...

Lots of grate post on the discussion so far, and I agree with most of what is said in the discussion so far.

I feel that most hunters would agree with me wen I say that they are happy with themselves when they have completed the hunt. But not for the death of the animal, you have just taken a life, but it is the self fulfillment of knowing you have done it wright, to your ethics of taking the animal.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Another great discussion, Albert!

What's ethical for me?

- Making a clean kill. That means practicing at the target range and shooting in my comfort zone.

- Following laws, which may be in some cases misguided (we can't kill does in California!), but which overall are designed to maintain the overall health and strength of a species.

- Not wasting. For now, I will kill for two reasons: to eat, or to eliminate a threat. I kill black widows. I kill rattlesnakes that venture into my territory and leave 'em alone when they're out in theirs. If we ever buy our farm, I will kill predators that threaten my livestock (and I'll be tempted to eat them, because I really hate waste).

I've probably said this before, here, on my blog, who knows, but I believe that killing is killing is killing. You either believe it is appropriate and right for us to kill animals, or it is not. The deer you shoot doesn't give a rat's @$$ whether you ambushed it, shot it inside a fence, chased it with dogs, or hiked 15 miles in high mountains to do it. The duck you kill doesn't care whether you shot it in flight or on the water. All that stuff is just window dressing we use to drape ourselves in righteousness. The method of take does not change the fact that you killed that deer or that duck.

For some people, this philosophy might be too minimalist. But I think it's actually essential to defend what we do. Why? If you let people argue about methods of killing (beyond the essential mandate of avoid cruelty/excessive suffering), they forget the simple fact that 96.8 percent of American adults eat things that used to have beating hearts. Wrap yourself in complicated ethical schemes and it becomes easier to marginalize some hunters; define hunting as one method in a larger system in which humans eat animals, and suddenly you can't separate us from the non-hunters - the only remaining divide is vegetarian v. meat eater, and we WAY outnumber the vegetarians.

Thanks for raising the question, Albert!

Blessed said...

This has been an interesting discussion. I'm agreeing with most of what I'm reading here.

Ethical hunting for me - includes following the laws governing my hunt (if I agree with them or not), doing my best to ensure that the animal I kill dies quickly and without undue suffering and not killing just for the sake of killing - if the animal is not a threat or a food source I leave it alone.

Things that I enjoy - that make hunting more than just an activity that fills my freezer but also one that puts me "in touch" with nature, gives me an appreciation for the animals I kill, gives me a respect for the natural order of things - now that is where it gets complicated. I enjoy going out before dawn and setting up the decoys and waiting for the waterfowl to start flying over then seeing if we can call them in and shoot them before they land - does that mean it's wrong to "pond jump" or to shoot ducks on the water rather than in the air? No, but it does mean that I'm not likely to participate in those activities because they are not enjoyable for me. Are they legal? Yes. so am I going to say anything negative about them? No. It's all about choices and about hunting in a way that we enjoy hunting and are able to hunt. If it's legal, I'm not going to criticize it - even if I choose not to participate in that style of hunting.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Blessed, you have the perfect attitude: Hunt the way you enjoy hunting, and let other hunters do the same.

I think a lot of us have the same core morals, but I'm wondering if anyone out there doesn't agree. Will anyone make the argument that killing just for killing's sake is OK? Or that perhaps poorly reasoned laws shouldn't be followed?

I'm always looking for someone to disagree with me and challenge my ideas.

Albert A Rasch said...

Holly,

I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone "here" that would argue that killing for the sake of killing is ok. So far I would argue that the fact that we hunt, makes us appreciate life that much more, and paradoxically more inclined to use hunting as the preferred management tool.

Now someone, maybe, might jump into the "poorly reasoned laws" issue using the civil disobedience gambit...

Albert

NorCal Cazadora said...

You're probably right, but there are people who enjoy killing - not hunting, but the actual kill. And there are people who really don't care if animals suffer. I'm open to being challenged by any and all of them. Part of the reason I've reached the conclusions I've listed here is because friends have challenged my thinking.

tom said...

When it comes to agricultural pests and predators, I've killed things just to kill them. Marksmanship practice and passed the time while improving agricultural circumstances. Dunno how you score that.

Hogs have gotten so bad at one friend's quarter horse ranch that he's taken to shooting them and leaving them lie because they have gotten to that level of destructiveness and you can only give away so much mediocre hog meat after you've filled up your freezers. He's in the horse business not the hog farming business at a bottom line is a bottom line. If they start to chew things up too bad they start getting zapped.

I'd also reckon that most of us that got BB guns and .22s as kids killed some stuff just to kill it. Usually that doesn't carry over into adulthood, I'd imagine, but I bet more people than just I plinked lizards, toads, armadillos, inedible birds and such just to shoot them when we were kids.

As a middle aged person, I have mixed feelings at the end of a successful hunt. Glad to have had success but not particularly ecstatic over having killed something.

Gun Slinger said...

The argument again, is mind your own business and leave others to theirs. Norcal said the right of it when she said everyone tries to be more righteous than the next, when they're all doing the same exact thing.

Mr Rasch, you sure make us all think though. Gives me a headache sometimes, but then I go read some of your stories and the laughing makes me forget I had a headache.


Shoot Straight,
GunSlinger
Reviewing the Reviews

native said...

Shooting or hunting? Killing or Harvesting?
Euphemisms do a strange thing to the people reading or hearing them.

With the advent of political correctness we have moved into an era of "non-offensive" language and are indoctrinated into the belief that, euphemisms will somehow soften the blow of an offensive statement.

Along with this indoctrination also comes a generation of individuals who become "offended" all too easily!

These very same individuals who might berate a hunter for taking an animals life, most likely have no compunction whatsoever at wolfing down a McDonalds burger.

I might say to that individual: "At least I have the Wherewithal, Guts and determination to "Kill" my own dinner whereas you "paid" someone else to do your "killing" for you!"

Do I enjoy killing? I would be a liar if I said that I did not experience an elevated, and heightened sense of awareness (RUSH) after taking my projected targets life.
If I did not experience this rush which begins at first with the (CHASE) and then hopefully ending with the finale' of the (KILL), then most likely I would stop hunting altogether.
Because two of the main ingredients (amongst many of course) would no longer be present while embarking upon my adventures to hunt.

So Shooting, Killing,Harvesting or simply Hunting are all synonymous with one another and, although we may "fine line" and try to draw distinctions between them all, there really are none, because an animal is still "Dead" and we still "Eat" it!

The euphemisimal statement to that would be:
I harvested my animal and then drew sustenance from it's body!

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

I have nothing to add, but I am enjoying this discussion; just reading along, thinking, learning.