Hunting Dilemma: What If I Witness Unethical Behavior In the Field?

When you see another hunter do something you don’t agree with, what do you do?

by posted on March 17, 2023
Deering Unethical Behavior

This is one of the trickiest dilemmas to be in, because there are a million variations of it and no clearcut answers on what to do. If you witness someone doing something in the field that you consider unethical, do you stay silent? Talk to them about it? Try to fix things yourself?

How you handle this is going to be very dependent upon what the behavior is. If it’s something illegal, your best bet is to politely have the “Hey man, I’m not sure if you know, but this isn’t actually legal and I’m not really comfortable with it. What do you think we should do?” conversation.

In some cases, you might be better off to leave immediately—a good example that comes to mind is if you’re waterfowl hunting with a group and people start shooting over their limit or “party hunting,” which means they’ve already shot their own limit but keep shooting and putting the birds on someone else’s limit. You’ll be in serious trouble with the feds if you get busted over the limit or party hunting for waterfowl, so grab the birds you legitimately shot and leave if you can’t get the other hunters to immediately correct their behavior.

I’m not one for snitching unless the behavior is putting people in danger, but calling a game warden is always a option if you feel it’s the right call.

If the behavior you object to is legal but something you personally consider unethical, you have three options:

Just talk it out. Be polite, because no one likes being told that they aren’t behaving well, and some people will not respond kindly to what they perceive as correction. No one likes to be preached to, even when they’re wrong.

Some things you might choose to just bite your tongue and ignore. Recognize that not everyone has the same standards as you, and you’re not automatically right in every situation. If something is cringey to you but not a huge deal, you might just let it go.

Sometimes you can rectify the problem yourself without causing a scene. For example, if someone is leaving their shotgun shells in the field, you can quietly pick them up yourself. If a fellow hunter wants to dump their doves in a ditch because they don’t like eating them, you can help them clean the birds, help them find a place to donate, or even take them home yourself (as long as you follow the laws and stay within possession limits).

And, of course, any behavior that is unsafe should be addressed immediately, and if it’s not corrected, I advise you to leave. I do not hunt with anyone I consider to have unsafe gun handling practices, and I recommend you don’t, either.



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