Become an Environmentally Friendly Hunter

Hunting and care for the environment are compatible
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Many people take issue with hunting, seeing the activity as a fundamental affront to nature.  It should not be that way. Hunters are generally enthusiastic outdoorsmen and women who respect nature and cherish their time spent in fields and forests. They contribute a lot to biodiversity conservation, game and non-game species alike, through the very successful Pittman-Robertson Act. Yet, hunters should continually strive to be environmentally conscious in order to protect the very resources they cherish and the place in which they love to spend quality time. Here are some actions and attitudes an eco-conscious hunter should consider adopting. Many of these are already part of the hunter’s informal ethics code, and as part of the fair chase concept.

Animal Welfare

Adopting sound animal welfare practices does not mean becoming a vegetarian. As a hunter, it is your responsibility to ensure a humane, quick, and painless kill. To do that, select a firearm that is powerful enough for the game you pursue. Sure, you can kill a deer with that .22 caliber rifle, but it is absolutely unethical. It leaves no margin of error for shot placement and will likely succeed only in maiming the animal. Plus, it is probably illegal in your state.

Perfect your aim for accuracy until you are confident you can hit the animal’s vitals every time. While afield, be patient and only make the shot that will ensure a quick death. If you bow hunt, waiting for the animal to be well within range and ensuring a well-placed shot is especially important.

Informed and Respectful

Know the hunting regulations in your jurisdiction and obey them. Hunting before or past shooting hours, exceeding bag limits, and illegal baiting is examples of transgressions that are unfair to wildlife and to other hunters, and which reflect poorly on all hunters in the public’s view.

Hunters should make full use of the animal’s carcass, even when primarily trophy hunting. Not only is a wanton waste of game meat illegal in most states, but it signals that the hunter has little respect for the animal whose life was just taken. Plus, it’s one of the top perks of hunting: there are few environmental gestures as significant as selecting humanely killed, locally grown meat that was raised without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and drugs. Game meat is lean, healthy, and delicious -- use it!

Off-Road Vehicles: Tread Lightly

Four-wheelers and other types of all-terrain vehicles are great tools to access distant hunting grounds or to haul back a heavy carcass. By using these vehicles carefully, you can minimize the erosion problems often blamed on them. Avoid widening trails when trying to skirt mud holes, and cross creek beds where you will not be contributing to bank erosion. Most importantly, be easy on that throttle: not only will you avoid most of the soil erosion problems, but you will also minimize your noise impact on the people and wildlife also using the area.

The Right Attitude

Instead of taking a confrontational posture against the non-hunting public, take opportunities to educate those who are receptive to a different point of view. Explain your commitment to sourcing clean, ethically-obtained meat for your family. When the opportunity arises, explain your role in our modern ecosystems, where a healthy predator population is often missing in our fragmented landscape. Explain how deer are secondary hosts for Lyme disease, and how artificially elevated deer populations hurt forest recruitment and bird populations. Are you one of those hunters who still parade your kill on top of your car? Instead of antagonizing half the town as they drive past you on the way back from the grocery store, stick your deer in the trunk of your car, or under a tarp in the bed of your truck; it fits, and it keeps the carcass cleaner.

Avoid Lead Contamination

No need to wait for state or provincial regulations to get the lead out of your hunting practices. Lead has been successfully removed from waterfowl hunting practices; now it’s time to do the same for upland and big game hunting. Lead fragments left behind in your quarry’s gut pile will get ingested by scavengers, sickening them. Minute highly toxic fragments of bullet lead are frequent in game meat, which should be motivation enough to switch to modern copper alternative, which is more pricey but has long proven their effectiveness in the field.

Don’t Be a Litter Bug

Leave no evidence that you were even there, except for a gut pile if you were successful. Pick up your shell casings and food wrappers. Better yet, pick up anything you find left behind by others.

Do not leave home-made deer stands to decay out in a tree. These are an eyesore and a safety hazard. Remove climbing spikes, and consider not using them in the first place. Though they probably do not seriously injure trees, the wound they leave behind can dramatically lower the value of high-quality trees if the property owner had the intention to use them as saw lumber.

Protect Public Lands Access

Being able to hunt on public lands is a fundamental aspect of access to wildlife in the United States and in Canada. Protecting that right is important. As a hunter, it means understanding the rules in place for the public land you hunt; these areas are available for different types of users which should be able to enjoy themselves safely. Common courtesies also help foster a reputation for being responsible users: for example, leaving cattle gates as you find them and keeping gut piles out of view from trails and roads.

There are currently efforts to transfer ownership of state and federal public lands -- find out about these issues in your area and voice your opinion. Consider supporting organizations that fight for access to public lands, like ​Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership