First off let's define ethics: “moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conduct of an activity.” In everything we do we need to have ethics and respect. That includes hunting. Even though we are trying to kill an animal, we need to follow good ethical guidelines, show respect for mother nature and her wildlife, and have gratitude for the nourishment the meat provides for us, our families, and friends.
There have been many times where I have forgotten about ethics when hunting. I have failed to prioritize ethics over filling a tag. This year I am changing that and teaching people by my example how to have ethics when in the woods while chasing animals. I am showing that instead of trying to get a quick shot off, that it is better to wait for another opportunity. Sometimes the nerves get the best of us when that big buck steps out, and that almost happened to me a couple weekends ago!
On the opening weekend of Ohio Deer season this year, I learned about ethics and morals by doing the harder right. On the opening evening I had a doe and a fawn step out, and I wanted to fill a tag. I thought about what I should do as they were coming in:
Should I shoot the doe or wait for another opportunity?
Part of me was like, “Yeah, just shoot the doe, the fawn was going to be living on its own soon anyways.” But the other part of me said, “Look at how small the fawn is, and there may be a bigger doe without a fawn or a buck that steps out since it is still early in the evening.” In the end of that first day of deer season, I decided to not let an arrow fly, in case another deer was going to step out before shooting time ended.
On the second day of deer season, I still had some stuff to get done, so again I only hunted in the evening. It turned out to be another day where I was able to learn and practice following good ethics. I got into the stand around 6:00 and it wasn’t long before my heart would start pumping and the cameras started rolling. I kept dozing off, but right at about 7:00 I glanced over to my left and I saw a huge buck walking straight down the woodbine about 10 yards from me. He proceeded to keep walking and stopped out at 12 yards for 5 seconds, so I flipped on my scope, but accidentally turned it to the higher setting. By the time I turned it down he had started walking again. He looked and decided to walk right into where I walked in to get in my stand and to make a rub right in the path. Then he walked under my stand and I thought “Should I shoot him?” I thought that I may be able to do it, but I remember reading that even if you spine a deer they can still get back up and run off. I didn’t want to wound him if I didn’t hit his spine.
I decided to not take the shot and just keep videoing. I pulled out my phone and got a video for snapchat and put it on my story. Little did I know that wasn’t the best thing to do, because I had friends message me and ask, “Did you get him?” I had to tell them no, I didn’t shoot him. They said they would have shot him. And yes, it was hard not shooting him, even after videoing him for around 8 minutes. He would have been my biggest buck to date, plus I would have filled my buck tag on day 2 of hunting season.
It comes back to ethics. I would have looked like a bad hunter if I had taken the shot and wounded him. Yes, he was at least an 11-point buck, but I’m not about to take a risky shot on a buck and have him still be alive after the shot wound and/or run miles before he dies, because I decided to be greedy in the woods.
Since that weekend, I hear kids out of nowhere say, “That’s the kid that didn’t shoot that buck!” Sometimes I act like I can’t hear them, but sometimes when I tell them, I didn’t feel comfortable taking the shot. And they say, “You will never live that down.” And I probably won’t, but I was also able to be an example of what it looks like to put ethics over potential trophies.
With my page, Hunting on the Edge, I want to be as real as possible and not be one of those fake hunting influencers that won’t show you their mistakes. So, yes I may have messed up and not made everyone happy because I didn’t shoot, but at the end of the day it is my tag, and I would have to live with it if I would have shot and missed or wounded him. So that’s why I am writing this blog post, to show people that we need to have ethics and respect for the animals we pursue.
Remember, whenever you’re thinking about taking a shot, don’t think about what people would say if you didn’t take the shot. Think about the possible outcomes (e.g. would it only wound and not kill it, and would I be able to get a shot at it at a later time? The worst feeling in the world is taking a bad shot, wounding an animal, and having to run that shot back through your mind over and over again. The moral of the story is, when you’re out hunting, remember to follow good ethics!
Make sure to check out the line-up that we have of leafy gear! I was wearing the Leafy Suit,Gloves, and Hat/Mask in the NWTF Obsession Camo and it blended in so well during the early season of deer season!