So with the peak of the deer rut fast approaching and the upcoming opener of the firearm season for deer, there are more hunters in the woods than there have been all season. With more hunters in the woods and more on the way, it is more likely than ever that you will encounter other hunters.
It is said that your character is defined by who you are when no one is around. This character is often a reflection of one’s ethics or their moral compass of what is right and wrong. Those same ethics control many of the decisions we make each and every day and is never more evident than how a hunter conducts themselves in the outdoors.
Anytime you encounter others in the woods, whether they be hunters, hikers, bird watchers or anyone else, a lot can be riding on how each of us handle the situation. This not only applies when you meet someone in the woods, it should apply even if you happen upon another hunter’s favorite spot or deer stand.
Unfortunately, it seems there are many so called hunters out there that don’t always do the right thing. This is evidenced by the number of game violations that are issued by the Natural Resource Police Officers each year.
Whether it is exceeding the bag limit of squirrels or poaching that trophy buck, every violation is a black eye to the hunting community. What makes these numbers even worse is the fact that for every crime that is caught and punished, there are several more that go unreported.
In the day and age of the tree stand and trail camera it is seldom you talk to a hunter who hasn’t lost a stand, hunting blind, trail camera or some other hunting equipment to an unethical hunter who decided that they needed those items more than the rightful owner.
Theft and poaching aren’t the only infractions that hurt all hunters. Trespassing is another biggie that can easily sour landowners on allowing hunters to access their property. The true problem is that those who do not care to break the law often don’t worry about the cost or the consequences that their actions have on others.
Often you might hear, “I have hunted here all my life and now it is leased and posted so no one can hunt it anymore.” This is often the direct result of others not respecting the landowners rights or property forcing them to post or lease the land to protect themselves from liability.
This is a big reason that any hunter education course has a lot of time dedicated to the subject of ethics. Ethics in the woods should be taught early and should always be stressed when introducing new hunters young and old, to hunting.
It is very hard to be proud of your accomplishments, whether they are in the form of a trophy buck or simply a limit of squirrels, if it takes cheating to make it happen. It takes a lot more skill, strength and discipline to turn down the chance to take a trophy animal in a situation where harvesting the animal will require the breaking of the law.
Hunting is meant to be about enjoying the outdoors and what nature has provided for us, not just the killing of an animal. As hunters it is up to us to help police our own ranks.
I am not suggesting making the famed citizen’s arrest from the days of Andy Griffith, but by making sure that those around you know that the only way to play the game is by the rules. By making sure everyone plays by the rules we are helping protect the resources that we all love to enjoy.
If you happen to witness a natural resources law violation, you can easily report it and help protect the resources even more. If you see a crime in progress, you can simply report it by calling 911 and alerting the authorities.
If you witness something that you think may be a violation, don’t try to intervene or confront the violator, but be sure to pay attention to as much detail as possible and report it as soon as you can to the local Natural Resources Police Officer or WVDNR district office.
These numbers are conveniently located in the front of the regulations summary. You can even report violations online through the WVDNR website (www.wvdnr.gov/lenforce/poachers.shtm) and as always you can stay anonymous when reporting any violation.