Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deer Season and Thoughts on Today's Optics

Winter has arrived.  Deer season is open and I’ve still got to fill my tag. This winter’s first snows, plus the threat of more unsettled winter weather over the next few days, combine for my favorite hunting conditions.   Now I will put a bit more effort into my hunt!
Two days ago I could have probably filled my tag when the doe I was stalking crossed a patch of open ground, just where I’d expected to see her except she was quicker than I anticipated.  I was at the wrong angle.  Had the doe crossed less than a minute later I would have been right where I’d planned and I could have taken the shot.  The difference was the angle to a farm house a half mile away.  When the doe appeared I raised the .270 and by force of habit I was looking behind the deer.  It’s all part of a controlled movement that I’ve trained myself to follow.  I didn’t always look past the target as well as at the target before fully shouldering the rifle and taking my spot weld to take my shot. 

It is tempting to say that my father, or one of my older brothers, taught me to take careful note of what is beyond my target but that isn’t necessarily true.  I think it is a combination of my experiences as a Marine and just the years of hunting.  I’ve learned bullets don’t necessarily stop in the deer and as the shift to non-lead bullets increases, at the same time that velocities are improved, we need to pay more attention to where that bullet could go after the shot is fired.
Not taking the shot might have cost me a few more days of deer hunting but I can sleep easy knowing that I didn’t potentially endanger the neighboring family with a “spent” round.  I know that I don’t always manage to think past the shot, especially when bird hunting (but I don’t think I would pull a Cheney on a hunting partner) but it is a practice all of us should take more seriously.

All That Said. . . .
Recently I’ve heard shots fired past legal shooting time.  The legal shooting time here in North Dakota is ½ hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset.  I can live with those times but apparently some hunters can’t.  When you look at some of the rifle scopes that are now on the market it is no small wonder that an occasional hunter will take these shots.  Some rifle scopes sold for hunters have only marginally less light gathering capacity than tactical optics.  As for the true tactical scopes, with serious light gathering capabilities, some of the advertisers are aggressively marketing these scopes to hunters. 

Is there a line?  I have to wonder if some manufacturers are starting to push wildlife agencies into a position where certain types of rifle scopes will be banned on rifles being used by big game hunters.  We cannot and should not try legislating ethics but is there a point at which legislation is needed to preserve what is a right? 
This is an argument that has been drifting around in my mind for quite some time.  It’s not a new argument and it has been examined by hunters and philosophers for centuries.  The Persians advocated the spear over the bow to kill game, as did the European kings, all of whom believed that courage could be gauged by how close the hunter was to the quarry at the moment of the kill. Ernest Hemingway, Ortega y Gasset, and a host of other authors and hunting philosophers of recent years have examined the question of technology in hunting and from my reading of their works all of them have cautioned against technology overpowering hunting.   

Are their cautions against allowing too much technology in hunting something we should reopen and give a fresh examination?  Or, as some others have claimed, should the rights of the individual, at all times, supersede any restrictive legislation intended to prevent a possible action by an otherwise law abiding person?
So, should we consider this argument: Should rifle/pistol scopes of exceptional light gathering or amplification capability, or equipped with enhanced reticles, either singularly, or in combination, be banned from use by hunters during some hunting seasons? 

I am not advocating anything other than a question of the technology’s present and future role.
This is not as easy an argument as one might first believe.  Here in North Dakota it seems the law is fairly specific: The use of night vision equipment or electronically enhanced light gathering optics for locating or hunting game is illegal. Is this law specific enough or does it leave the playing field open to scopes that have optics that actually enhance so much light it encourages hunters to take shots after legal shooting time?

I am really curious to learn your thoughts. 
Think about it.


daniels said...

Not only do I not think that more laws are needed, I think that North Dakotas laws regarding light gathering (night vision) scopes is excessive.

From my time up there, one thing I noticed is that poaching seems to be much more prevalent than in other states, and restricting optics is not a deterrent.

In other states, night vision is not only legal, but encouraged for hunting invasive species such as hogs. As for hunting other game, they're not necessary, and I've never heard shots before 30min. prior to sunup.

YMMV, but this isn't a situation where another law is required. Poaching and hunting deer, moose, elk, or other regulated game animals at night is ALREADY illegal. There's no sense in making it illegaler.

Blake Sobiloff said...

Why do we even ban hunting at night in the first place? My naive understanding is that it stems from the inability to clearly determine the target and why lies beyond it in poor lighting conditions, and nothing more. Well, with today's advanced optics and night vision scopes we can see better well into the twilight and even in the dark of night. Hunting can now be successfully and safely done at night with the right optics.

I say that if human hunters can't effectively manage a species' population via daylight hunting, then we should consider expanding the hunting hours for people with the right equipment to safely do so.

Galen Geer said...

Daniels and Blake,
Daniels pointed out from his own experience that poaching seems to be a problem in North Dakota and there is poaching in North Dakota, but poaching is a problem that exists in every state of the union and I doubt that advancements in optics have actually had that much influence over people who poach, other than opening a few new avenues for poachers to practice their activities. As for where night vision equipment is legal, the laws are very specific about what species can be hunted, where, and how. To the best of my knowledge the only night hunting that is allowed is for fur bearers, predators, and/or varmints and nowhere is it allowed for big game (night hunting for wild hogs is legal in several states).
Although I understand the source of both your opinions, I cannot agree with the idea of expanding the use of light enhancement hunting equipment. At some point we must draw a line and maintain that point in order for hunting to remain ethical. Setting limits on hunters and hunting is not necessarily based solely on the principles of wildlife management, but these limits provide the guides for ethical behavior. A person might be inclined to argue that guides to promote ethical behavior are inclined to fail unless the guides are themselves within already existing acceptable behavior standards.
What do you think?

Eric C. Nuse said...

Galen- No question we humans can overwhelm game with our technology and turn the hunt into a shoot. Light gathering optics are just the latest example. The concept of fair chase refers to the hunter and sportsmanship.
When skill and effort are taken out of the hunt, hunting loses it's challenge and becomes killing. As a former game warden I can tell you that killing animals outside of fair chase is not fun. It gets old very fast and becomes work.

The glorification of the kill and the promotion of the gear and techniques to make it easy not only makes hunting look bad to the non-hunter, it is demeaning to the hunter and bad for the future of the hunt.