Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

Why Dad?


By Daniel A. Pedrotti Jr.
B&C Regular Member
Chairman, Hunter Ethics Sub-Committee

Distilling the complexity of fair chase ethics down to a set of guidelines is a valuable and effective way to convey the behavioral expectations of our hunt credo. The tenets of fair chase are the scale against which we can each measure our actions so that we know we are on the right end of the ethical hunter continuum. A distinguished and longstanding member of B&C (and one of my favorite Club personalities), Jack Ward Thomas, did a great job with this principle earlier in this issue. Jack is exceptionally capable of presenting a complex discussion or concept and breaking it down into bite-sized pieces that everyone can understand. This is particularly important in the discussion of hunting ethics because his writing allows everyone to understand precisely the same message without confusion or dilution. He has reinforced the idea, explained the merits of it, and provided a simple set of rules or standards to which we all should adhere. 

In the case of hunting ethics, the express purpose of defining and codifying them is to simplify the message in order to expedite and expand the adoption process. The point here is that good hunting ethics practiced by a few does little to bring about the intended result. The same behavior, exhibited by many, will not only achieve the goal, it could encourage exponential adoption and increase the longevity of the prescribed behavior. 

While this is the correct set of guidelines, there is a deeper, even more compelling factor we all need to own. We each need to carefully consider and answer the question, “Why?”

When my brother and I were growing up, we learned more about the stuff of life during time spent in the deer blind. Between telling us to be still and look outside the blind “because no one ever saw a deer in the blind,” our dad would answer pretty much any question we had. But no matter how well Dad answered the question, my brother Mike always—always—asked, “Why, Dad?” There is something magical about sitting quietly, watching intensely for any movement for hours on end, that transformed the crude, homemade deer blind into our chamber of philosophical reflection and discussion. What I do not remember is my dad shortchanging his answer with “because I said so.” So when I read Jack’s article, I could hear my 6-year-old brother asking, “Why, Jack?” 

As the big brother, and because Jack is not in the deer blind with us, it is up to me to address Mike’s question, and I hope you will appreciate where this ends up. 

The answer lies in our relationship with the wild animals and the wild places in which they live and thrive. I submit we have a primitive, natural, DNA-level connection to nature and this relationship is derived out of our predecessor’s reliance on the protein, skins, and tools nature provided. Taking care of the source of so many life-sustaining essentials was necessary for survival. Understanding that what was good for the animals was good for us, and recognizing this relationship fostered reverence and respect. It is this reverence and respect that underpins the rules of the chase. And, while we are no longer even remotely reliant on the protein, skins, or tools, we bear the responsibility of our forefathers and we instinctively revere the wild animals and wild places. I submit that this elevates us and that our relationship with our quarry, codified as fair chase, keeps us on a higher plain and requires us to approach the hunt with integrity and dignity. If we don’t accept the notion that we have a responsibility to the wild animals and wild places they roam, the hunt is shallow and meaningless and ultimately indefensible.  

We honor the wild animals and wild places by our conduct. We feel a kinship at some level toward our quarry. Their plight is our plight. The game animal is worthy of our investment of time and effort, and we are better for having pursued it. We learn about nature and ourselves at the same time. We better understand our place in the natural hierarchy, and we are humbled by it. It is a primitive experience when unaided by overwhelming manmade influences, and in this state, it is dignified. This is well and proper, and it rises to the esteem we have for nature as a whole—particularly the game animals that provide so much in return.

Once we have this inside us, we are not only motivated to follow the guidelines, we are enlightened enough to bring others to the truth. When we can adequately speak our heart about the relationship we enjoy with the beasts and their surroundings, then we can share what is really important about fair chase in a way that transcends the code. Ultimately, the code itself is less important because we will measure our decisions afield against what we know and feel in our hearts. We will not concern ourselves with what others think, say, or do. 

We are hunters, not collectors. Ours is a challenging and uncertain effort, and we are satisfied with the trade. We behave with reverence, integrity, and respect towards our quarry, and we are better for it.  


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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt