Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thinking about hunting ethics

This spring has been a roller coaster ride of weather and nature constantly waving her little finger over the land causing floods with evacuations, roads being washed out, and in general making life difficult in North Dakota. There is light ahead because in some areas the rising waters are beginning to stabilize—sort of—there is still a lot of water in the fields to flow down to the rivers. Shoot, the way it is going it is going to be a few more weeks before I’ll be able to go fishing. Right now however, what I’d like to do is find a field that I could actually reach that is under the flight path of the thousands of geese around here. In time I know the rivers will return to their course, the bogs will shrink to sloughs and the ground will be dry enough to walk on without sinking past your ankles. If I am lucky it’ll all happen while the snow geese are still in the area and I’ll be able to get in some good snow goose hunting. Until then I’ll have to be content to watching the thousand-bird flights that pass over my house several times a day. Maybe tomorrow on my drive to Fargo I’ll be able to get some photos of the geese rafting on the flood waters. It is an amazing sight!

How many of you are familiar with the writings of Jim Posewitz? He hasn’t written any best sellers but he has written two books that I believe are very important to the future of hunting, Beyond Fair Chase and Inherit the Hunt . These are small books and each one can be read in just a couple of hours. What I believe is important about these books is that Posewitz tackles the tricky question of hunting ethics.

The question of hunting ethics is the source of many debates and I often find myself being at the heart of many discussions over hunting ethics. What has caught my eye in Posewitz’s book Beyond Fair Chase is that he has offered a comprehensive ethic for hunters and I’ve been working with it in the last installment of my three-part series for Whitetails Unlimited. Here is what he has posited as a Twenty-first century ethic for hunters:

“A person who knows and respects the animals he hunts, follows the law, and behaves in a way that will satisfy what society expects of him or her as a hunter.”

This is on page 16 of Posewitz’s book and in the next few chapters he takes the short, three-part statement apart and offers his evidence on how and why it works as a hunter’s ethic. What I have found, in my own work, is that Posewitz has written what I believe is a workable ethic. There is a great deal more to the discussion around the question of ethics in the Twenty-first century but the Posewitz Ethic can be applied to nearly every problem—at least that is how I see it.

What do you think? glg


Albert A Rasch said...

I'll have to add them to my library as soon as I am able to. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.

The Rasch Outdoor ChroniclesThe Range Reviews: TacticalProud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit

tom said...

"...follows the law" to me would be rather dependent on what the laws are. Just because things are legal or illegal doesn't equate one or the other to moral or immoral. The slaughter of bison and passenger pigeons was legal, I'll give you that most of those hunters had little respect for the animal, but I'm always shy of letting law be an arbiter of morality.

Galen Geer said...

Hi Tom, I think we would have to make the assumption (always a danger) that the laws are just laws that are created by the Republic. I don't think any of us are going to readily obey the unjust law as long as legal protest remains an option. glg

NorCal Cazadora said...

Galen, that's on the list of books I've been meaning to get to.

In terms of his 21st Century ethic, without having read the book, I've got to say I question the third one. What society expects of us? Which society - the society of cheeseburger-eating hypocrites who criticize us for bloodlust? The society of hunters that can't agree on bow v. rifle, crossbows v. compound, compound v. recurve, trophy as priority v. meat as priority?

That just sounds a little loose to me.

I'm fine with the law part because part of the responsibilities of citizenship is obeying laws, even if you think they're stupid. And respect for the animal sounds good to me too.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I support Posewitz and the Orion Institute with contributions, yet just to be even-handed, here is an argument that the preserve-hunting issue splits gun-owners.

tom said...

Preserve hunting split, etc. That linked article called 400 acres a cage...

Depends on your purposes and how you define a caged animal. Neighbor with a winery traps wild boar/feral hogs and feeds and waters them for a few days and shoots them in the head in the trap because they taste better that way and are agricultural pests. But they got to live their life up till their last few on earth free...seems perfectly ethical to me. I just don't call it hunting.

Why's it right to shoot ducks and geese over decoys but illegal some places (not all) to shoot them on the ground or water? Why is it legal or illegal depending on how you use the decoys and how many you use. I was born in Montana and remember the .30 cal big game rule like a .270 couldn't kill anything on the continent...

Most all game laws are weird or serve to protect one person's idea of sport over another's. As I've mentioned before, as long as you don't count farmed animals as wildlife, I really don't care, I just don't call some of the versions of "hunting" farmed animals "hunting", personally.

For what it's worth, target shooting, clay shooting, collecting, black vs smokeless, black rifle vs wood rifle, etc. all split gun owners.

Dick Cheek said...


Just wanted to drop you a line. Your former Drill Sergeant from Ft Benning

Dick cheek

Dick Cheek said...


Just wanted to drop you a line your former Drill Sergeant from Ft Bennig

Dick Cheek

Dick Cheek said...


Just wanted to drop you a line. YOur former drill sergeant from ft benning

Dick Cheek

Galen Geer said...

Hey Dick (Major?, Serious?) Send your email address to me:
ggeerpinesed@mlgc.com. Be sure to put Fort Benning in the subject line so I can catch it.
It is great to hear from you.

Galen Geer said...

Hey Everyone, I've been trying to finish an essay that has been, well, a challenge but it is now in final editing. I've also been digesting your comments and I want to respond because you've made me think (Is that what this blog is all about--thinking? I hope so!) I'll try to finish my response this evening. Thanks for reading my posts and helping me think harder about these issues and I hope, in turn, push me to produce better writing. glg

Helen "Philippines Information Technology" Carry said...

I wanted to try it but I have a very soft heart on animals!

Galen Geer said...

I also have a very soft heart for all animals. If we don't appreciate the life of the animal that we hunt then we have no business hunting it.