June 22, 2016
Thanks to my friends at Orion, I followed a link to this article on the Izaak Walton League website. It sort of tees up an easy shot for pretty much anyone who’s interested with the title, Technology vs. Ethical Hunting. In the parlance of the Interwebz, that would be called, “clickbait.”
So, of course I seized the opportunity to pick some of that low-hanging fruit for myself and write an easy blog post.
The content of Technology vs. Ethical Hunting is about what you might expect. The writer ponders technological development since the days of his recurve and birch arrow shafts… or the changes since our forefathers carried flintlocks and powder.
Hunting has changed a lot since our forefathers walked into the woods with black powder rifles and iron sights. Today, we have rifles that can shoot unheard of distances, scopes with built-in range finders that adjust for myriad external factors, and bullets that are manufactured to extreme tolerances that allow consistent shooting patterns. And anyone can download bullet calculators and punch in the zero range, caliber, bullet type, and weight. You can even factor in different temperatures and wind speeds. You can print out the exact bullet drop out to several hundred yards.
Is this good or is it bad? Has “hunting” lost something in the transition? These are, of course, the questions the essay begs us to ponder.
To begin, I think it’s worth pointing out that hunting technology has been evolving since our species first hunted for our food. Obviously, the change was initially driven by necessity, and we’re some pretty clever monkeys when it comes to getting dinner. Once it stopped being about feeding ourselves, however, I think it became more about pushing the envelope just to see how clever we can be.
And we’re pretty accomplished at pushing that envelope. Hunting has become more comfortable, more efficient, and, to a lot of people, more fun. It would be silly to argue that it hasn’t also, in many ways, become easier as well. Still, it is only as easy as any individual chooses to make it. I believe that’s a key point that gets overlooked any time this discussion comes up.
It mystifies me, why some hunters take such offense when some other hunters don’t hunt according to the same standards. Why is it so important to criticize the other guy? What does the way I hunt take away from you? It’s not like the treestand hunter is trying to force the backcountry guy to climb a pine and sit tight. The crossbow hunter isn’t making any effort to force the trad bow guy to switch gear.
If technology doesn’t suit you, then don’t use it. I know, that’s a super-simplified response. This is simple, though… or it ought to be. If you’re not breaking the law, harming the resource, or threatening public safety, then hunt the way you want to hunt.
So, there’s this other thing that some folks like to trot out when these discussions come along. “This technology looks bad to non-hunters.”
We’ve all heard it. Some of us have probably said or written it. And I’ve challenged it time and again.
Here’s the reality. Most non-hunters don’t have a clue what happens when we hunt. Most of them don’t even realize the levels of regulation we deal with, much less the subtleties of ethical behavior. Many non-hunters think that we just go out and shoot stuff, with whatever we want, however we want. They generally think we kill stuff every time we go out, and a ridiculous number of them are actually surprised to find that we eat what we kill. Maybe there’s a vague recognition that there are seasons and limits, but I’ve found that even these basics come as news to a lot of people.
The other reality is that most non-hunters really don’t give a damn about hunting. To be sure, this makes them a little more susceptible to well-managed propaganda campaigns, but day-to-day efforts by anti-hunters generally fall on deaf ears. There’s always a risk at the tail end of an election cycle, of course, when hunting bills are on the ballot. People tend to believe the worst, and when it comes to issues that don’t impact them directly, they vote on the most recent thing in their memories. This, though, is really more about managing election campaigns than about who uses trail cameras or high-powered rifle optics.
I’ve said all of this before, and it looks like I’m going to keep repeating it. When I look around social, and even traditional media, the most vocal outcry about bad hunting ethics and abuse of technology is coming from hunters, not from the antis. If anyone is tainting the public mind about hunting ethics, I say it’s the hunters who scream about other hunters using everything from tree stands to drones… often without even really knowing much about what they’re screaming about.
I probably shouldn’t even have to add this, but I will. There is “bad” technology. Not that anyone is really doing this, but arming drones is probably bad. So is computer-based hunting (using a computer and a networked camera/gun system). Ethical questions aside, firing a gun at something that you can’t see with your own eyes is an inherently unsafe activity.
I also have no issue with discussions about the esoterica of hunting ethics. I think it’s great to aspire to the ultimate ethical high ground. I think it’s awesome to challenge yourself as a hunter, to test your woodsman-ship and stamina, and it’s good to encourage other hunters to do the same. But seriously, if I choose to sit on my back porch and pot deer when they come to my food plot, how does that take away from the guy who backpacks 20 miles into the wilderness with a self-bow and hand-knapped broadheads?
Technology vs. Ethical Hunting presents a false dichotomy. It’s good click-bait, and can make for a lively, online discussion. But at the core, it’s a self-defeating topic, and rife with the potential to be both destructive and divisive.