The Ethics of Fair Chase
Once upon a time, hunters would arm themselves with their backpack, their binoculars and their weapon and head out to the woods in pursuit of deer, elk, or any variety of wildlife that they had a permit or license for. For weeks prior to the hunt, these individuals would scout the area that they had a permit for and scour the area looking for their particular species for the upcoming hunt. The non-hunting public, and that represents over 80% today, gave their tacit approval by not disallowing hunting. In a democracy, hunting exists because of this tacit approval.
Fast forward to the current times. Technology has reared its’ ugly head and the hunter of today does not even need to head out to the woods to see where wildlife is. Trail cameras have become the latest method of seeing wildlife, knowing when and where animals are coming through an area and in the arid southwest; water holes have become the hot spot for hanging trail cameras.
For the uninitiated, a trail camera is a device that takes a picture when motion activates the shutter of the camera. So, if a deer or an elk walk into the water hole, as soon as they pass within the range of the motion detector, a photo is taken. In some instances, a live feed is sent to your home and you can view the activities of multiple water holes from your recliner or desk.
This brings us to the ethics of “Fair Chase”. The benefits of having a device that photographs and time stamps when an animal has passed your trail camera gives a decided advantage to humans and raises the question of what constitutes “Fair Chase”. Each of us has to determine what is ethical and what is fair. In the Midwest and eastern states where water is abundant, having a trail camera in a strategic location may or may not be of benefit. In the southwest, it is heavily in favor of the humans pursuing an animal. Where is the skill in locating a trail camera on every water hole within an area and knowing which ones are being hit by wildlife? It reeks of using technology to harvest wildlife. No longer are you using skill and stealth to locate animals. There is no backbreaking venturing out into the wilds on a continual basis to find that elusive animal. Today, you grab a beer from the refrigerator, plop down at your computer and see what is happening hundreds of miles from your home.
The State of Nevada recently outlawed having trail cameras on public lands from August 1, until December 31st of each year. If you have a live feed, then it is from July 1 until December 31 of each year. Finally, a state has taken the appropriate action to curb the use of technology in harvesting wildlife and making the hunt more of a “Fair Chase” scenario. It is my hope that other western states follow the move made by Nevada.
For those who disagree with my personal stance, please bear in mind that your hunting exists because those who do not hunt have not used the ballot box to stop this activity. A single You Tube video of a lazy hunter sitting drinking a beer and watching his live streaming videos to know that he has to be at a X water hole by 9:00 every day for the buck or bull of a lifetime is not the way to end our treasured pastime. Social media is a cruel and powerful beast. I hope that more hunters realize the potential pitfalls of using technology as a tool to harvest an animal in a less than ethical manner. The future of hunting is in our hands to do the right thing. Failure to do so will result in others taking our heritage from us in one fell swoop. The anti hunting community is waiting for just such an event.
Fair Chase in Fishing
In like manner, the savvy fisherman has gained the upper edge with electronics by using some of the most sophisticated sonar’s, aka fish finders, which now include side scanning and video. Just as with trail cameras, where is the ethics of “Fair Chase” here? You might argue that there are more fish than there are elk and deer but the “hunter instinct” is still the same. For hunting or fishing your skills need to be learned, not borrowed, so where is the line drawn?