As hunters, we have more opportunities in the United States than hunters have anywhere else in the world. But that could change at any time, depending on public perception of our sport.
The thing is, we as hunters have more control over that perception than any other group. The radical animal rights groups can make all the noise they want, but as long as we as hunters show that what we do is humane, legal, and ethical, public perception should remain on our side.
But we can also hurt ourselves. When we decide to take shortcuts that bend or break the rules, we give those anti-hunting groups more ammunition to use against us. And we have to be perfect. Even things that seem to us to be tiny transgressions can get people to come down off the fence onto the side of the anti-hunting crowd.
For instance, say we’re out hunting on the edge of our hunt area. The deer we’re after are on the other side of the boundary. That boundary could be a fence to private land, or it could be a dry streambed. No matter how hard it is to figure out where the boundary is, and no matter how hard it is to pass up what looks like a good opportunity, we’ve got to pull back and wait to see if those deer come over to our side on their own.
And if we see other hunters doing it wrong, it’s our responsibility to either talk to those hunters and convince them to play by the rules, or report them to a game warden at the earliest opportunity.
If we all hunt legally and ethically, not only will it ensure we stay on the right side of public opinion, but it will also help make sure there’s enough game out there for all of us to have the opportunity to hunt.