While hunting laws preserve wildlife, ethics preserve the hunter’s opportunity to hunt. Because ethics generally govern behavior that affects public opinion of hunters, ethical behavior ensures that hunters are welcome and hunting areas stay open.
- Ethics generally cover behavior that has to do with issues of fairness, respect, and responsibility not covered by laws. For instance, it’s not illegal to be rude to a landowner when hunting on his or her property or to be careless and fail to close a pasture gate after opening it, but most hunters agree that discourteous and irresponsible behavior is unethical.
- Then there are ethical issues that are just between the hunter and nature. For example, an animal appears beyond a hunter’s effective range for a clean kill. Should the hunter take the shot anyway and hope to get lucky? Ethical hunters would say no.
The Hunter's Ethical Code
As Aldo Leopold, the “father of wildlife management,” once said, “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching—even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”
The ethical code hunters use today has been developed by sportsmen over time. Most hunting organizations agree that responsible hunters do the following.
- Respect natural resources
- Respect other hunters
- Respect landowners
- Respect non-hunters