Category Archives: hunting ethics

In Defense of a Hard 40 Yards

It is the doldrums of winter here and in the midst of February I cannot recall the last time I saw sunshine.  Dreary grey days followed by gloomy nights followed by more dreary gray days have become the norm as we hit the mid-point of winter.

To pass the time and to give myself the illusion that spring is really coming I have taken to the internet in search of turkey hunting equipment.  I do not really require anything in this area, but it is nice to look and fantasize about guns, turkey calls, vests, and ammunition; in undertaking this exercise I can say with some certainty that there is an absolute glut of frivolous gear on the market.

But two items that have become ubiquitous in modern turkey hunting are the ‘turkey-specific” choke tube and specialized ‘turkey loads’.  I’m completely fine with these pieces of equipment because they ‘tick all the boxes’ I look for in effective pieces of gear.  A choke is generally easy to install, both pieces are simple to use in tandem, and they promote clean ethical kills when used in appropriate situations.

However it is that last caveat that, ironically, makes an ideal tool for some modern turkey hunters an absolute nightmare in the hands of others.

Are extra-full, aftermarket turkey chokes and super-charged shells mandatory equipment to kill gobblers? Of course they aren’t.  Many gobblers have fallen to hunters in the years before custom chokes were de rigueur, and countless hunters in the modern age shoot fixed-choke shotguns by necessity or personal choice.  The broad, bronze tailfans of many, many wily gobblers adorn my father’s garage walls alone, and he has only ever shot them with simple copper-plated lead from the improved cylinder choke in his glossy, 1960’s vintage Remington 1100.   For him it is at least, in part, a fundamental belief that he does not need to buy species-specific shotguns.  I’m sure he’s not alone in this.

Hunters on a budget or with a traditionalist aesthetic aside, new loads and chokes are effective, without a doubt. At extended ranges (a nebulous concept I’ll attempt to define below) they deliver more shot on a turkey’s head and neck, and thus by extension more opportunity for a quick, ethical kill with minimal suffering to the bird.

I’m all for that.

But what of the nonsense I’m now seeing about regular and consistent 70 yard kills?  I saw someone online actually admit to killing a turkey at 110 yards using a certain choke/ammo combination; a feat made all the more miraculous given that this person was fortunate enough to actually witness a gobbler having a massive stroke simultaneous to their shot, because that is the only way I can connect the two events which are so obviously unrelated.

Or this person is a stinking, filthy liar.  The hunting community has its share of those too.

But overall that seems to be the mantra now.  Longer is better.  Take the long shot.  If he hangs up, bust him. Extend your capabilities, yada, yada, yada.  At the risk of being more unpopular than I already am, this is a generally stupid and occasionally dangerous.  Of course the entities marketing this all have their own disclaimers either stated explicitly or through their sponsored mouthpieces in the industry.

“Know your gun’s capabilities and practice often.”

“Know your ranges accurately.”

“If you’re unsure, don’t take the shot.”

“Don’t take borderline or risky shots.”

And other palliative pabulums meant to absolve them from any liability for actually manufacturing a product that emboldens hunters everywhere to practice less, take longer shots, and rely less on accurate ranging of their birds.

Now, I’m far from perfect and I’m well aware that errors in judgment happen, we are all fallible beings after all.  I once underestimated my range on a hard-gobbling jake by more than ten yards and without a doubt having an extra full choke bought me the margin for error that made that bird flop.  But my self-imposed threshold was 35 yards, when I paced off 44 steps I quietly swore at myself for having made an error.  Likewise, I was thankful for the wiggle room afforded me by the shotgun’s extra-tight constriction and the swarm of lead #6 pellets that went downrange.

But super-full aftermarket chokes and ultra-long range loads are not being marketed as ‘insurance’ against misjudged distances.  They are being actively sold and touted as a way to kill gobblers once considered hung-up, henned up, or stubborn.  All this to the detriment, in my mind, of the concept of ethical distances and ethical kills.

There’s a grace to calling longbeards in close.  There are nuances in turkey hunting that can be learned from having birds near you.  I would argue for all my days that the thrill of having a bird at ten steps outweighs the thrill of using aerospace-grade material to smash his brains in from another (figurative) zip code.

So is it the many-headed hydra of consumerism driving this?  Is it simple laziness?  Is there an element of chest-thumping machismo at reaching out like Thor himself and hammering a gobbler dead from over half a football field away?  Is it merely a fashion trend?  In truth it is all of the above to a degree.  So what can you do, other than just piss and moan on the internet like I’m doing?

Have some integrity.  Be patient.  Watch the gobblers and call them in close.  Shooting, wounding, and possibly not recovering a bird at unheard of distances is a far worse alternative than letting him walk and hunting him another day.  Shooting, missing, and educating a bird is not much better and just makes them more prone to hanging up at extended ranges in the future, creating a vicious cycle of warier birds and the perceived requirement for even longer range ballistics.

Frustration can make a hunter prone to wishful thinking around distances, skills, and equipment capabilities.

There is nothing to lose at holding yourself to a hard 40 yard threshold.  It cannot be legislated and it cannot be mandated, but it can be idealized and celebrated.

And it should be.

The Only Thing I Like Poached are my Eggs Benedict, or Why Are We Destroying Ourselves?

It broke across my social media feed on the afternoon of September 15th:

“Sportsman Channel Suspends Hunting Show Amid Federal Poaching Allegations”

I swear I got an instant headache.

Apparently, The Syndicate, a show hosted by one Clark W. Dixon of Mississippi was alleged to have been party to over two dozen illegal acts of poaching in Alaska, some of which were later edited to appear as law-abiding hunts and were subsequently shown on the program.  The full release that I received can be found here and the Sportsman Channel’s response can be found here.

This is not the first time this has happened in the hunting industry, and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last time.

I have no affiliation with any of the parties involved, so I only know what I’ve researched.  The production companies have commented, and the Sportsman Channel has commented.  To date, I can’t find any comments or on the record statements made by the alleged perpetrators of the illegal acts, but I don’t particularly care at this point, because there is always some form of excuse or admission of guilt bracketed by a ‘misunderstanding’, or whatever, and it makes me weary.

Sigh.  Can I just go hunting with my friends now and not have to worry about crap like this?

No, I can’t because I have a real problem with this ‘celebrity hunter, body-count, above-the-law, hero-shot’ mentality and what it does to hunting in the public perception.

The problem here is two-fold.  Of primary importance is that the non-hunting public holds these acts as their standard of what they deem hunting to be.  They presume that if a ‘professional’ hunter is poaching and hunting unethically, then all the non-professionals must be doing it too.  This is of course an incorrect stereotype of the most egregious variety, but it is a pretty natural response.  I’ve heard many hunters make the same manner of stereotype about ‘anti-hunters’ or ‘vegetarians’ or ‘environmentalists’ or anyone else that may for some reason oppose hunting.  For the irony-impaired, it is pretty hypocritical.  Still, it happens and the hunting community already has a big enough image challenge on their collective hands without public figures in their own fraternity buggering things up.  You can get all self-righteous and say “Screw the public! Hunting is my right!” but that does not help and in reality is not really a true statement anyways.

If it were your right, you would not have to buy game licenses and be subject to hunting regulations.

So instead, every time this happens that a hunting ‘celebrity’ is found on the wrong side of the state, provincial, or federal game laws (I’m looking at you Jeff Foiles, Ted Nugent, and William Spann just to name high profile cases in the last five years or so) everyday hunters have to bear the burden of public opinion and we are forced into either defending our own actions which for the most part should be pretty clean, or we have to come up with clumsy and ineffective rationalizations and explanations.  Just Google “professional hunter poaching” and the scores of articles you will find is extremely depressing.

So to the professionals and celebrities that keep screwing up, thanks for making us regular guys who just want to hit the woods and wetlands have to work harder to keep doing what we love.  Trust me it is harder for us since we are without thousands of dollars in production values up our sleeves, and we typically do not have a team of outfitters and production companies and various sponsors backing us.

But secondarily, and of a more insidious manner, is that this brings the ‘support a fellow hunter argument’ out.  This mentality embraces a fallacy so grand that it borders on the comical, and it severely runs the risk of ‘normalizing’ breaches of hunting regulations.  I refused to weigh in on the whole ‘Cecil-mania’ of last month or so because primarily, to my eye, that simply did not involve hunting, it was poaching out and out from all accounts and it was more or less the matter of a private transaction that was on the face of it, grossly illegal.  That it became a public matter occurred in due course, but it did not start out that way, and in fact it was nearly a month after the actual poaching of the lion before the media picked it up.  It also falls well outside my bailiwick in that I have no real ties to African Safari hunting, or really trophy-hunting in general.  Much has been written on it by others more knowledgeable in the field than I about this whole sloppy mess, so I’m just going to more or less leave it alone.

But where all that nonsense in Zimbabwe dovetails nicely with the argument I’m making above is that many, particularly the most vocal, in the hunting industry felt that the Cecil issue when it occurred, as well as the current “celebrity-hunter-caught-poaching” scenario I’m referencing here should somehow be excused and that the greater hunting community at large should ‘show support’ to the perpetrators in some rally of common-cause-collectivism among sportsmen and women everywhere.

Well, to use a cliché, that dog won’t hunt.

Because, at the risk of being unpopular (which has not stopped me before) the dentist who shot that lion is no more of a hunter than the accused at The Syndicate should their allegations be proven, or any of the others named above who have been convicted.  They are by definition poachers and thus fall outside the law, to say nothing of what the greater definition of ‘hunter’ actually is or should be.  Recreational hunting at its core involves regulations and the explicitly stated adherence to those regulations. To do less constitutes an act of poaching, plain and simple and if you do it, there are consequences.

This is not a concept fraught with grey areas.  Ethics are one thing, and could (I stress, could) be subject to debates, but the law is clear in that respect.  If it is legal, you can debate the ‘ethic’.  If it is prohibited by a law and due process convicts you, then there should not be a granted chance for debates. Period, full-stop.

(That said, the Sportsman Channel’s release regarding The Syndicate’s situation stresses that they stand for “ethical practices in hunting” but they still align themselves with and praise the support of convicted poacher Nugent in this recent tweet, so maybe it really is all about ratings and marketing, and this is more nebulous than I had initially thought.)


Now there is little doubt in my mind that the public figures in hunting do genuinely love the tradition as much as you and I do.  I’m sure they are sincere in their support of conservation organizations, and they might even be decent men and women to sit down across from, crack a beer and swap stories with.  They are likeable, which is part of their draw to be certain.  But by nature of their public persona, they are almost obligated to comport themselves to a higher (and arguably, the highest) standard with regards to both those shadowy areas of ethics and fully illuminated areas of the law proper.  Many of them do it correctly, and the bad apples do not spoil the bunch out of hand.

My primary question is, why are there bad apples to begin with?  Is there no validation method or process in place to vet the people who do this for a living?  Surely some of this graft can be weeded out?

My hunting mentors repeatedly stressed to me: Don’t take a shot you can’t make.  To turn that into a metaphor for this whole messy, PR nightmare perhaps the approach of the ‘celebrity hunter’ would be to not do anything that you would not normally do if you were not being filmed.  That is to say, if the goal is to create kills on camera so that you can somehow self-aggrandize your ego, or keep your sponsors happy, or increase your ratings, which would probably also achieve the prior two desires, and you show no regard for what game laws state, then it may be best to not pull the trigger.  If you would still pull the trigger after that…then I can’t help you in re-examining what motivates you to hunt.

But rest assured, you are a bigger part of the problem than anti-hunting groups could ever hope to be.

Honour Among Thieves & Unity Among Hunters, or, The Seven Deadly Sins of Hunter Relations

As surely as there are death and taxes, you can bet that however, wherever, and whatever you choose to hunt that there will be someone out there that knows how to find fault with the way you do it.
I long ago got used to the opinions, taunts, jibes, and snide remarks of the taciturn, illogical anti-hunter or the misinformed and self-assured non-hunter (which are two distinct sides to the same coin), but it was not until I started this pseudo-public, completely unprofitable forum for my hunting stories, opinions, and general bunk that I came to realize how much hunters truly hate other hunters.
Now before you send the hate mail which would only go to prove my thesis, hear me out.  I’ll also apologize for a moderate use of salty language in the following.
In observing this, I’ve found that there are a few ‘classifications’ for this hunting community ill-will and for lack of a better term, bullying, which I’ll outline now.
Some people don’t get to hunt as much as they would like, and others don’t get to hunt the species or areas that they would like.  Sometimes this is a function of time, occasionally this is a function of funds, and sometimes it is mixture of both.  Regardless of the cause, jealousy at the opportunity, success, or enjoyment that other hunters experience can be a catalyst for much resentment.  The jealous hunter will scoff at others, and disparage their skills or outcomes, solely because the jealous hunter cannot or has not yet had that opportunity themselves.  Consistently successful hunters have to deal with this as well, and can fall prey to all sorts of accusations of unethical hunting or benefiting from being in a ‘target-rich’ environment.
Low Self-Esteem
Related to jealousy, but with its own distinctive patter, hunters that don’t hone, respect, or value their own abilities often find every opportunity they can to denigrate and humiliate those with skills, no matter how modest or extravagant those skills are.  This type of hater calls the seasoned marksman ‘lucky’ or ‘nothing without a scope on their rifle’.  They may have never placed a decoy in their life, but they’ll tell you how your pattern isn’t working.  They tell you you’re doing everything wrong, or too much, or too little, but they don’t ever do it themselves.
Competitive hunters attempt, and are sometimes successful in their efforts to suck all the joy out of hunting for others.  You shot a 10-point buck?  They’ll make it their life goal to shoot a 12-pointer.  Shot a banded mallard?  They shot ten of them.  Trying for a wild turkey Grand Slam?  Well they have five of those and are working on an Ultra-Super-Extra-Difficult-Intercontinental-Mega Slam.  I don’t have any issues with hunters driven to succeed; I know and hunt with plenty of those and in some ways I’m one of those myself.  But when every personal goal comes at the comparison of the outcomes of others, I fear you may be missing the point of hunting altogether, or worse, you are using hunting to compensate for some psychological deficiency (see Low Self Esteem above).
Unbelievably, I missed a deer this year.  Several factors I could not control, and one that I could (my decision to shoot at all), contributed to this.  I don’t get a lot of opportunities to shoot deer, so I can safely say I was ticked.  Maybe even angry.  It happens.  But within two hours, a steak, and a couple of beers later, I was fine.  What I’m referring to here is not the attendant frustration that comes when you make a mistake.  No, no, what I’m talking about now is the hunter that is always mad at something.  They are mad at the weather, they are mad that game isn’t moving, they are mad that game is moving when they themselves aren’t there, and most of all they are mad at other hunters for having the temerity to hunt with, near, or remotely adjacent to them.  They want all the hunting to themselves, and they are visibly and permanently enraged that anyone else impinges on their ‘right’.  These people are not fun at all to be around, and if you find that no one wants to spend a lunch hour in a cabin with you, odds are you’re an angry hunter too.
It is the job of the puritan to keep hunting elite. Do you use a turkey box call?  They use their voice, and think you should too.  Do you shoot rifles at deer?  They bow hunt and are smug about it.  Did you pack mule into an elk or sheep hunt?  Sacrilege, why you should have been doing it on foot, humping all your equipment in on your own back you lazy schmuck.  See where I’m going with this?  The puritan not only understand ‘fair chase’ but they feel it is their sole responsibility to define and enforce the standard. 
Now, there is a difference between adherence to a high ethical standard and puritanical ways of viewing hunting, and this is often the grey area of the debate.  Laser guided scopes, ultra-high quality electronic game calls, and high-definition camouflage and scent elimination systems often push that ‘traditional’ envelop, but there is a reason we aren’t all still chucking pointy sticks at mammoths.  Progress happens and you can only avoid it for so long.  Likewise pride is different from puritanism, but when you value ‘your way’ as the ‘right way’ or worse the ‘only way’, well then I haven’t really got any time for you.
Hypocritical hunters will criticize and lambaste other hunters for things that, admittedly, they have no problem with.  Their issue and argument always seems to be that there is only a problem when you shoot a duck on the water instead of on the wing, when you shoot a big whitetail over a bait pile, or when youenlist an outfitter for a trophy hunt.  They like to reserve special privilege to their own situation and worldview.  Again, we all recognize hypocrisy when we see it, so start identifying it and cutting it out of the hunting dialogue.
The most insidious of the groups of hunters hating hunters are the “Experts”, both of the self-proclaimed variety, as well as those acclaimed as experts by consensus.  I would wager that the ‘expert’ class, or the ‘expert’ mindset is responsible for reducing hunter enjoyment more than any other of the above.  I’m not talking about the benevolent, avuncular mentor that guided you to your first deer or took you pheasant hunting for the first time when you were a child.  I’m talking about the ‘expert’ that finds fault in the methods, ethics, and outcomes of even the most earnest and experienced hunters.  They are in your hunting camp and they are in magazines.  They are online and on TV, and part of the hunting ‘industry’ at large is based on this servile toadying to the “expert” caste.  These people hold others to a moral standard that they themselves have defined, and only they will ever be above their own judgment.  They know the better way, the secrets, and the overall fashion of how this sport of hunting should be done because they are experts, and you never will know those things, because you won’t ever meet their standard of excellence.  They take the democratic equality out of hunting, and they boil it down to a contest.  In short these people are the embodiment of all the above types of unpleasant person, which makes them assholes to be around.  Avoid them.
I guess all of the above is somehow tied up in the psychology of the kill in some way; maybe seeing someone else’s success or enjoyment of the hunting pursuit somehow diminishes the self-worth of people with the above character traits, forcing them to belittle others so as to aggrandize themselves.
I don’t know…maybe some people are just jerks and cannot help themselves.  The truth is probably a fraction of both at play.  The worst part about all of it is every one of the above traits (and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t discovered yet) is that they all serve the same purpose; to divide hunters against hunters.  It may well prove the downfall of the modern hunting culture.
I also guess that there is a bit of irony in me taking the pulpit to sermonize and decry these types of hunters, but that’s not really what I’m doing with this piece (or at least I hope it isn’t what I’m doing with this piece).  My policy has long been that so long as it is legal, safe, and that it most importantly does not negatively impact the public perception of the hunting tradition, then I don’t really care how you hunt, so long as you’re enjoying yourself, and I’ve been on record in this forum and other social media with that stance for a long time.  I think we all have a bit of enviousness, puritanism, or self-exalting expertise about ourselves; that’s just how people are hooked up.  The hard part is to set those traits aside when we’re discoursing and involved with other hunters.
Hunting is an intensely personal thing, and people forget their impact on others when it comes to things they are passionate about.  I get it, and I know that it’s a fine line, but it may be the only chance hunters have to see the common ground between themselves.

Fair Chase & The Hypocrisy Line

It has been some time since I last had the time or inspiration to write something here, but a recent conversation, as well as some troubling media that I’ve seen has prompted my crotchety and opinionated side to come out for this particular post.  Despite the murky and nebulous philosophical wrangling that is about to take place, this may become an item that will make recurring appearances throughout whatever lifespan this blog has.
Let me start with an anecdote that will nicely frame what follows.
When I was a much younger and much more academic man, I had a professor that really influenced how I viewed the world.  He was relatively young by academic standards, being perhaps only seven or eight years my senior.  He was extremely intelligent in matters historical, and he was very articulate.  He was of a level of handsomeness that made every young female coed in my program an instant Scottish history devotee.  He also was as passionate about soccer as I was, and he played the game in a similarly direct fashion to myself.  Very often we would play a pick-up match for a couple of hours and then go grab some cold beer and pub food.  All in all, a rather nice fellow who became a bit of a mentor for me, as at the time I was seriously considering a career in academia.
So where is all this pseudo-academic bro-mance going, and what in the blazes does it have to do with hunting?
This particular fellow was not a hunter, but he wasn’t an anti-hunter either, as I recall.  I was much more passionate about converting non-hunters at the time, but he just wasn’t interested in the sport.  Once over several post-soccer beers(or possibly post-exam beers, I can’t precisely recall) I directly asked him if he saw an inherent hypocrisy in his not being a hunter, even though he was a carnivore.  He said no.  I pressed him more, and while not a direct quote he answered me along the lines of this: everyone has what he called, at the time, a hypocrisy line.  I’m sure he didn’t invent the term, and I’m sure others have recognized its existence, but I had not really considered the concept.  Since then it has always intrigued me, and it is something that has really framed how I view the world, so I guess this professor actually did teach me something after all (his European Reformation class, which really was excellent, notwithstanding).
The hypocrisy line, which I have found to be a sure of a test for any argument, is basically the point in any given debate, discussion or decision at which one is willing to compromise a stated value.  That value can be almost anything, from big important things like religious and political viewpoints, down to trivial things like which brand of whiskey you are preferential to (although I consider whiskey loyalty to be a VERY BIG thing).  Make no mistake, the hypocrisy line exists, and it is something that people are constantly reconciling themselves to, even if they don’t realize they are doing it.  It is extremely apt to understand the hypocrisy line if you participate as a hunter, and it is as pervasive as it is complicated.
By definition the hypocrisy line is intensely personal.  No one knows your level of hypocrisy more than you yourself.  And since I don’t want to make any presumptions about you, I’ll talk about my own personal hypocrisy line as it pertains to hunting.
First and foremost, my hypocrisy line pertains to the concept of fair chase.  Right off hand, anything prohibited as illegal is by definition, beyond the realm of real valid debate.  I’m sure there are hunting traditions that may fall outside the current structure of what the law allows, but that isn’t up for debate.  Break the law, shoot over your limit, or endanger others, and the hypocrisy line isn’t applicable.  But more interesting things start to happen when types of hunting are legal, because then the reconciliation with the hunting ‘ethic’, as it were, comes more tightly into focus.
I would state explicitly that canned shoots, high-fence hunting, or any other method that restricts not only the immediate, but also the longer term ability of game to evade the hunter are not “fair chase hunting” scenarios.  I am a very large proponent of the ideals of the Boone & Crockett club, and a lot of my pre-existing bias about fair chase comes from their mission statement, as well as the ideals handed down by my hunting mentors (which I consider to be a positive for of brainwashing).
But my belief in fair chase comes at a price, and that price is my own personal hypocrisy line.
I am rabidly opposed to baiting for bears.  I consider the practice of habituating a bear to a set location, and sometimes part of the day, for what is essentially a feeding time is deplorable.  One could have as easy a time going to the local zoo and shooting a bear when the frozen meatsicle is thrown into their exhibit.  I consider bear baiting at large to be an act of standing and shooting, and not even remotely equivalent to “hunting”.  But in terms of explicit fair chase principles almost every organization in the world considers it ethical and accepted.  So all my moral outrage won’t mean spit.  Proponents of the practice of bear baiting point to the benefits of predictable, humane shots on basically stationary targets, as well as allowing the hunter time to make informed decisions surrounding the sex of the bear and whether it is a mature, healthy animal.  Fair enough, but still not as thorough an argument as would be required to change my mind.
However, I am not opposed to hunting waterfowl over recently harvested grain fields.  In the eyes of many, even myself on occasion, this constitutes a hypocrisy.  Much like baiting of bears, hunting ducks and geese over naturally occurring waste grain is legal in almost every jurisdiction.  Where the difference for me lies is that the corn or wheat or peas or rice or whatever it may be is not being placed specifically as a waterfowl attractant, at least not where I hunt.  But countless outfitters, guides, and private landowners also plant grain fields with the explicit purpose of attracting waterfowl, so the issue can be murky.  Geese and ducks also become habituated to the food sources, and I’ve had on more than one occasion moments when geese were landing around me in a corn field, and I wasn’t even hiding.  The birds just wanted to eat there, and it didn’t matter that I was standing around in the middle of the field.
It is completely legal to bait for deer, and food plotting is big business.  I have hunted over bait sites of corn and apples for deer, and although I have never had any success in doing so, I have several family and friends that have shot deer in this method.  Some of them have a sticky ethical conundrum, but others don’t, and I guess that’s fine.  My hypocrisy line here is that I don’t consider this as egregiously unethical as bear-baiting because deer respond to bait nocturnally in general, and the predictability of deer frequenting bait is sporadic (based on trail camera photos I have reviewed) than with bears.  Not much of an argument, I know, but that’s my hypocrisy line.  I’m not completely comfortable with food-plotting, but again there is no truly debatable difference in hunting over food plots and hunting over bait, and if I’m going to be okay with one, I suppose I have to be okay with the other.
Advances in gear and equipment have also muddied the waters in which the definition of fair chase swims.  High-powered firearms, precision optics, modern camouflage and scent-control, and ultra-realistic game calls (when deployed in the hands or mouth of a competent user) have all tilted the playing field, if only slightly, in favour of the hunter.  Riflescopes can now provide hunters with precise aiming points based on wind direction and strength, caliber and bullet weight, and angle of the shot.  All the hunter has to do is get within range and pull the trigger.
So is that the litmus test of hunting now?  Is it just a matter of getting in range and pulling the trigger?  Because these are no small feat in some cases, maybe they are.  Are the lost arts of wingshooting, range estimation, and good old-fashioned woodsmanship becoming just that; lost?
I myself have reaped the benefits just this year of technology, on what was arguably the greatest hunt of my life to date.  Ultra-comfortable footwear saw me up and down kilometers of mountain trails.  Turkey calls using modern materials and realistic decoys drew the gobbler into range.  Modern high-powered shotshells delivered their payload through a machined ultra-full choke into a very small shooting window, with lethal results.  Hell, my companion and I even drove halfway into the mountains before starting our hunt; sixty years ago we would have had to packhorse in our camp in the hills and valleys, if we could even entertain a spring turkey hunt at all!
Did I have an ethical conundrum regarding ‘fair chase’ on my hands when that tom turkey fell over?  I can say confidently that I did not.  So is that my hypocrisy line, or is that just modern hunting?  And, in a more complex examination, is it both?  Is modern hunting an already hypocritical endeavor?
This is how I manage to remain unpopular, by the way.
Perhaps the bottom line is that this entire application of the hypocrisy line into hunting is a byproduct of our human evolution.  After all, did ancient societies debate whether a thrown spear was more ethical than an atlatl or an arrow propelled by the first archer’s bow?  Was there an argument about right and wrong when primitive hunters learned to mimic the calls of their prey?  Probably not, because I suspect survival and sustenance were higher up on the list of primitive hunting priorities than the moral complications posed by what they defined as technology.
With that said, the modern hunting reality, despite the position of many vested interests, is that we are not in a survival situation.  We are all (hopefully) lovers of wild game on the table, but our sustenance does not hinge on the hunt anymore, and these changes are what brings the ethical debate of fair chase into such focus.  With no compelling survival reasons related to much of what constitutes modern hunting in the developed world, justification and precision in rhetoric is required.  For many this justification or debate is extraneous and, dare I say, bullshit.
But that would be taking too narrow a view.  The linear thinking and closed-minded in the hunting fraternity will argue that no justification for the hunting tradition in the modern world is required.  The linear thinking and closed-minded in the anti-hunting community will seize upon that and exploit it to their benefit.  Because that’s how this song and dance has always gone.
Reconciling how you hunt with what your tolerance for hypocrisy is should not be a shameful process, nor should such self-examination be frowned upon or chided.  A constant reevaluation of the social construct can raise troubling demons, but it can also enlighten and enhance the experience of the hunt, and it can prompt new challenges to the hunter willing to take them on.  Having shot turkeys with a shotgun, perhaps I should try an archery hunt?  Being reasonably skilled with a goose call, maybe I should attempt to ambush or stalk the birds instead.
I’m still a terribly unlucky and poorly skilled deer hunter so I need all the help I can get on that front.
In some ways, I suppose I would be happier if I had never encountered the concept of the hypocrisy line all those years ago as an inebriated undergraduate.  And I’m sorry if this post becomes the first introduction of the concept for you; feel free to ignore it going forward.  But if you choose to embrace it as a means of questioning the world, and in this case, the hunting tradition, do not be surprised by the opposition you find, and do not fear what you may learn about yourself.

Being out in the woods and fields is possibly the most enriching activity in my life right now, and I feel I owe it to something that gives me that much to understand its meaning.