“Fair Chase and Poaching”

Talking to my bowhuntin buddie this afternoon. Talking about bowhunting,of course. Sometimes our conversations take on a serious tone when we get into philosophizing and opinionizing. Neither of us is seriously opinionated. I guess that’s one reason why we get along so well. However, when it comes to fair chase hunting. Well, that’s when the tone gets serious.

We got into talking about an ethical golfer today. No question about it, Golf and hunting share some strong similarities. I’m not talking about “birdies”. The golfer keeps his own scorecard. If he violates a rule, he calls a foul on himself. In other words, ethical golfers play by the rules and they expect other golfers to play by the rules. Golfers not only play by the rules, they are also expected to show courtesy to others on the golf course. Things like not talking or moving around while someone is hitting, not hitting into golfers who happen to be in the fairway or on the green, not walking on someone’s putting line, allowing faster golfers to play through, not standing directly behind someone who is putting in order to “get a read of the green.”

Bowhunters are expected to hunt by the rules/laws, and to hunt fairly. They should know the laws regarding the game they are hunting and jealously abide by all of them. If they are members of a hunting club, they should abide by every club rule. Yes, there is are courtesies shared among really excellent bowhunters. They do not set up on top of another bowhunter, or if they know where a hunter is, they do not set upwind of that hunter–if at all possible.

The fair chase rule is universal for ethical hunters. The Boone and Crockett Club defines fair chase as hunting big game animals that are wild and free-ranging. “Wild” refers to an animal that is naturally bred and lives in nature. “Free-Ranging” means an animal that is not confined to artificial barriers. Fair Chase has been the code of honor for North American hunters for over a century.

Fair Chase also refers to how much of a chance the animal has to elude or get away from the hunter. The essence of a hunt is pitting the hunter against an animal in its natural environment. If the animal is trapped, tied up, caged, or otherwise unfairly restrained, the entire episode fails to meet even one qualification of a hunt.

A bowhuntin buddie and I went on a hunt many years ago. We should have known better when the advertisement said, “No Kill, No Pay.” We were young and foolish at the time. These folks were going to “make sure” that we went home with some meat and a trophy. It took my bowhuntin buddie and I just about an hour to realize that we were “bowhunting” in a section of woods that had been fenced and cross-fenced. The animals could be securely held in a “pen” while we “made our stalk.” When the owner (guide?) received a radio call (before cell phones) from his partner that he found an animal tangled in a fence, and that we should come shoot it before it got loose, we left the property.

A word about poaching. Poaching is stealing. Poachers are thieves. They violate boundary laws. They kill animals that are not theirs to kill. Club members pay their dues and abide by their club rules. A poacher disregards this–it is not important to him. He seeks to kill animals that are part of the costly management efforts of others. Poachers are not hunters. Poachers are criminals who should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Fair Chase hunting is one of the “spiritual principles of hunting” to my bowhuntin buddies and me. Going after animals roaming freely on property that is open, pitting hunter knowledge and skill against these wild critters in their domain, especially with a stick and string, is necessary if the endeavor can be considered hunting.

This is the Anti-Hunting, Non-Vegetarian/Vegan, Fair Chase