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Fair Chase Essay Contest Speaks Volumes


The Boone and Crockett Club, Blaser USA and Leupold and Stevens are pleased to announce the winner of the Fair Chase Essay Contest conducted online last fall.

"We suspected this would be popular, but had no idea just how popular," said Keith Balfourd, the Club's director of marketing.

Simply put, the contest asked one question, what does fair chase mean to you? The Club received over two hundred responses in a short time. Two winners would be selected. One for the best essay and one, a random draw from all the media partners who promoted this contest.

"Fair Chase is one of those things that is more a matter of the spirit of the hunt than a set of written rules, therefore it is very personal, Balfourd explained." "It is also critically important to hunters themselves and the continued public support of hunting. Because it is personal, picking the best essay was no easy task."

Fair chase emerged as a sportsmen's code of conduct in the early 1900s during a time of wildlife crisis in North America. Unregulated harvest from both commercial market hunters and recreational hunters had taken its toll on most species of game. To do what was right and distance sportsmen from the for-market slaughter, hunting with restraint and a level of respect for the game became a badge of honor that persists to this day.

"A positive image of hunters and hunting is critical now more than ever," stated Christian Socher, CEO at Blaser USA. "Fair chase is one of those things that helps ensure the continued public support for hunting by demonstrating our commitments to wildlife and wildlife conservation. We're pleased to have been able to do our part." 

"Fair chase helped set the tone for the conservation movement. A fair approach to the hunt meant an acceptable and sustainable approach that the public supported," Balfourd explained. "With our wildlife perched on the brink of extinction hunting conducted any other way would have set wildlife recovery back decades and people would not have supported that."

The winner of the Essay Contest is Howell Pugh, a sportsman from Texas and the media winner is Ammoland. Each will receive the new Blaser R8 Professional S rifle topped with a Leupold VX-6 riflescope and VIP tickets to the Boone and Crockett Club 29th Big Game Awards held this July in Springfield, Missouri.

"It was a tough call. There were many very well thought out and written essays that reflected the individual, personal nature of fair chase yet still had a common thread between them," Balfourd commented. "We think Theodore Roosevelt would be proud of the legacy of respect for the hunt and the hunted he established over 100 years ago."

More info on the Boone and Crockett Club 29th Big Game Awards is available at


ENTRY 9/20
The majority of TV hunting programs show the host bagging the biggest game with minimal effort. Equipment manufacturers use sophisticated marketing campaigns to convince us that success will come easier if we use their brand. And, if you don't have the time and knowledge to scout your game, well, there are outfitters that can take care of that for you. I didn't grow up traveling to deer camps in the fall with my family, nor did I plink for squirrels and rabbits in the backyard. The hunting bug hit me late in life, but I have fallen in love with this sport. Being relatively new to the sport, most seasons have ended in unfilled tags and an empty freezer. I was not gifted with the skills that are required to know when and where to hunt successfully. Instead, I must trust that by putting in honest, hard work, I will become successful. To me, this is the embodiment of fair chase hunting. Fair chase hunting means working relentlessly to hone my backwoods skills; to spend time practicing with my bow and rifle to the point of obsession; to walk through the woods with watchful eyes, studying the flow of nature and how to move along with it; and to only take the shot when I am absolutely sure that it is the right shot at the right animal at the right time. This is what fair chase hunting is, not giving in to the temptation of the shortcut, even if it means unused tags at the end of the season. Aldo Leopold said it best when he said "Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal." I believe in fair chase hunting because this it is the legacy I want to leave to my children: with hard work and perseverance, hunting becomes so much more than the kill, it becomes about the journey that got you to that spot at that point in time, and you did it without giving in to the temptation of the shortcut.

-Other Finalists-

ENTRY: 9/26:
What fair chase hunting means to me is any way that you take or harvest an animal that is legal, ethical and gives the animal a sporting chance. This means that a hunter may not use any means necessary to kill, but only those mean within the legal limits for the animal, which he or she is hunting. As far as ethics is concerned, what is ethical to me may not be to you and vice versa. But in my ethical opinion you should only take an animal if you plan on using it. 

ENTRY: 9/17
Calm and crisp or muggy and blustery, the weather matters not to the game. The man in pursuit is affected by these conditions more than the query. The playing field is leveled; man has a mechanical advantage, while beast is blessed with natural defenses. One has been gifted with natural camouflage, while the other has done their part to defeat the keen eyesight of the animal they pursue. The arena is set after careful consideration and preparation; the animal is unaware of these steps only driven by his will to survive. There are no boundaries this animal has faced that it cannot overcome, fences are merely an obstacle to go under or over. Food has come from the earth herself; feeders and supplements are alien to this animal.

The encounter may occur as hoped, it may happen by chance or may not happen at all. That is the chance that the man takes. The beast has been blessed with another day, man failed and nature has succeeded. The next sunrise may bring a different outcome for man, Wits will meet again, day after day, season after season, the chess match between man and nature will play out as it has since man crafted tools to hunt and prepare animals.

This is fair chase to me. Man using his cognitive ability to try and defeat the natural gifts that have been bestowed upon the animals. Enter undetected into the environment of the animal, hide from all of their senses with the hope of making a clean shot. The trophy is the memory of the hunt, not the size of the antlers nor the length of a beard. Meals provided to me and my family are a constant reminder of what the animal gave so we could continue on our own journeys towards the unknown. That is fair chase to me. 

ENTRY: 8/12
Fair chase to me is being able to teach my kids how to track your game, and making good decisions on where to set up to ambush your prey, like wind direction and scent control, I've never had my own land or any permission to hunt on others property, I've always hunted public land, where you have to learn to read the signs left behind from your game you are hunting, and utilize the lay of the land and wind and scent to be able to set up for a good vantage point, I try and teach my kids what my dad taught me as a kid and pass it down, apparently he taught me well enough that 9 out of 10 times I'm bringing home food for my family, I wouldn't even know where to begin on hunting over a feeder or a high fence section of land, to me its cheating, but some people like things handed to them instead of having to work for it, nothing makes you feel better than stalking your game and bringing home the meat to feed your family, that's what fair chase means to me

ENTRY: 8/13
As a kid I would wonder the woods and find places to sit and watch the wildlife in hopes to find the deer I wanted. I have never been a fan of shooting deer on the run so I would pass on those shots. Another thing I would do is keep track (best that I could) how many deer were taken on the properties around ours. I would then decide if I would take a deer or not. I have always enjoyed just seeing them. It has always been exciting to watch my pray when they had no idea that I was there. I would sometimes just sit and watch and other times harvest one always showing respect and care. It has never been about the kill to me I just enjoy being in nature.

ENTRY: 8/22
Alec Pinero Spending years finding your own spot deep into the depths of the natural world... where animals are still animals, and where even the "advantage" of pressured, frantically-running animals is nonexistent. Where the grass has grown the same for millions of years, and where a vehicle has never been, nor can ever be.
Once you find this spot, leave the calls, decoys, trail-cams, and bags of corn behind. Get on your belly and crawl through the swamps.... get uncomfortable. Stalk the animal, and take one clean shot.

ENTRY: 8/24
Fair chase is more than just following the rule and regulations, its more then just bringing the right gear and equipment to the right locations. Fair Chase means walking away from the best buck of your life, because you can't guarantee that your shot would be right. Fair chase is the blood sweet and tears that don't always pay off.

ENTRY: 8/21 
This is a story about fair chase and tradition with my son. It's about a father longing for a moment alone with his son, without the intrusions of cell phones and video games. A man who wanted his son to learn a skill shunned by most of society, but one which provides this man catharsis when nothing else can. It's also about a boy, fast becoming a man...trying desperately to please his oft unreasonable and impatient father. It is a quest without a final destination. One with glorious checkpoints along the way and fraught with obstacles and impediments.
The boy began his quest last year. Unable to pull his bow at 20 pounds, the law requires that he must pull 35 pounds in order to gain his license. Months of strength training. Thousands of wayward arrows. Baby steps. Small victories. Huge disappointments. Slowly gaining ground on the first condition precedent, having to be pushed at times, but still willing. Over months of practice, he began to experience a sense of passion. The father woke to the sound of the arrows hitting the target outside as the test approached, and this pleased him greatly. The boy was ready. Even at the test itself, the boy looked into my eyes with fear and uncertainty, and
I thought I had made a mistake...until the first three arrows struck the bulls-eye and that hurdle was cleared. Practice continued daily for months on end. Hundreds of hours watching videos and learning how and when to act when the moment presented itself. Six summer weekends "lost" to online war games to stand in the woods and scout and build stands with this crazy old man. The boy began to sound like a hunter. Began to speak the language of "rubs" and "scrapes" and the man felt pride and joy with every reference. When the season finally arrived, a hiccup with illness on youth day. I remember being angry with him. Angry! I realized later it wasn't anger; instead, it was the fact that I was disappointed for him, and that brought me solace. Another hiccup came with a missed shot a week later, and a drop in confidence for a boy struggling with that trait already. Hours spent convincing him that it was natural. His desire dissipated. He was reluctant to return. Then, this week...he asked if we could hunt this weekend. Practice shots and renewed confidence. All systems go...yet having been in the heat of the moment many times, I worried. No one knows how they will react. No one knows how much they can control those emotions. It's also a very different craft than gun hunting. We do both, and it's not an indictment of the craft; rather, I raise the issue only because it's much more difficult and the margin for error associated with hunting with a bow and arrow is much greater. Deer see 310 degrees. To be able to get one close enough is difficult be able to draw undetected (especially when you are not yet strong enough to do it sitting down, like Joey) and then execute the an absolute art. When the buck approached, I worried about the heart rate and heavy breathing...until I realized it was mine, not his. In 4 minutes that seemed like an eternity, he showed the value of persistence and hard work, and performed like the champ that I have always known he is. His nerves were calm, and his aim was remarkably true. I thought the anxiety would shake him, until I realized it was mine, and not his. When we recovered his buck, with a rack most hunters would call "spindly" or "genetically deficient," it mattered not to either of us. It's a memory. One shared by a father and his son. It's a trophy for our minds and hearts, not our wall. The hug we shared when he leaped into my arms made the tears flow freely, and I was worried he would think his Dad crying was weak...until I realized the tears were ours, and not just mine. Congratulations, Joe Kassar. I love you more than you will ever know. I am so proud of you and look forward to getting lost in the woods with you for the next 100 years....

ENTRY: 7/30
Fair chase is not shooting a deer, grown large on supplemental feed, over bait in the backyard. Fair chase is not shooting a bull elk in a high fenced 5-acre pasture after paying the requisite fee. Fair chase IS when a hunter who appreciates and respects wildlife enters the realm of the hunted with a minimum of technology, armed with the intimate knowledge of the animal to be hunted, finely honed skills in tracking, identifying, and stalking, and pursues that animal within the construct of the current law. A fair chase hunter does not take ultra long shots, but rather seeks to stalk and close on the prey using the skill he/she has perfected. A fair chase hunter takes the shot, only when certain in his/her own mind that the shot will result in an instant, or near instant death for the prey. Fair chase hunting is not EGO driven, but rather driven by a love of wild places and the animals that live there, and is based on self-respect and respect for the pursued.