There is a difference between actions that are morally wrong and those that are legally wrong. Our laws were not passed down from the gods. They were created by humans and were written in a way that was easy to interpret and enforce. I have seen hunters follow rules and regulations without considering the impact and also seen laws used as scape-goats to deflect moral responsibility. The following blog describes how laws and morals while hunting do not always align.
Example 1: On a recent podcast, Joe Rogan described a scenario in which a hunter finds an animal that has been injured and the hunter has the power to shoot it. However, the animal is undersized and would not meet the hunter’s hopes for the hunt. Both Joe and his guest said they would shoot the animal and consider their tag filled. I can respect that. But, I would shoot the animal, leave it and continue hunting. It would be legally wrong, but I don’t believe it would be morally wrong. Why? Because the animal is going to die and be eaten by other animals regardless of whether I shoot it or not. I believe I have an obligation to take the animal out of its misery, but I don’t believe that obligation extends to using my tag and eating that animal myself.
In my eyes it boils down to as a hunter: enjoying the sport in an ethical way while ensuring there are opportunities for future hunters to do the same. At the same time not shooting the animal would not be illegal, I would consider it inhumane. Similarly, shooting a deer out of season that has been hit on the side of the road would be illegal both for discharging a firearm from the highway and for happening out of season, though I would consider it acceptable.
A few years ago a friend hunted turkeys with a bow during the archery season then filled the tag during shotgun. He was fined for having the wrong permit. It was legally wrong, but I don’t consider it morally wrong. I believe it is wrong to hunt in a way that removes opportunities for future hunters. This is why poaching is both morally and legally wrong. I trust the DNR to provide season dates and tag quotas that will lead to a stable game population. If a hunter pays $30 and shoots a turkey within the season dates, his actions have not contributed to the extinction of the game species. Though the law was broken, there isn’t a moral obligation to follow every letter.
In hunting you will run into scenarios where you could follow the law and act immorally. The reverse can also exist where you break the law but are justified. Hunting is the ultimate game of trying to do the right thing when no-one is looking. At the end of the season it’s possible only the man in the mirror that will know what happened. I’m certainly not claiming I have always done the right thing. I hope you have enjoyed this article and maybe will make you consider your own hunting code. Please leave us a comment or four if you have any.
Thank you for reading. Stu