The greatest threat to sport hunting in this country is not the anti-hunting movement currently going on. This is just a small group of people making a lot of noise and getting an abundance of publicity from the biased national news media. Surveys have clearly shown that the vast majority of the American people support sport hunting; but at the same time, this majority is not in favor of unethical and unsafe hunting in the fields or forests.
The best time to be an ethical hunter is now. Before the hunt, make the decision to be a safe, legal and responsible hunter. An ethical hunter is never rude and does not disturb areas where others may be hunting.
I had the experience with someone who was just a "loudmouth" in the early 1990's. In middle October, I was squirrel hunting with a .22 rimfire rifle out Files Creek. By middle afternoon, I had gotten to one of my favorite areas in the National Forest where there were several squirrels. I already had one squirrel when a deer bow hunter dressed in camouflage approached this area and climbed into a fixed or permanent deer stand less than 100 feet from where I was positioned on a large rock. I was at the location first, and I decided to stay where I was. In less than ten minutes, I got another squirrel with my rifle. The shot I took was not dangerous to this person because it was in the opposite direction from him. The bow hunter quickly came down from the tree and started shouting like a maniac that I had spoiled his hunt by firing a gun. I listened to him for a moment and said, "Oh, don't worry about it, mister" and moved to another location about 300 yards away.
I managed to get another squirrel before it got dark, but I met the unhappy bow hunter when I came out of the woods. He still ranted and raved like a "spoiled brat" about how I ruined his afternoon. I tried to explain that I was at the location first, but it was like trying to reason with a "damned drunk".
This is a good example of a person who is simply a "slob hunter". First, it is unlawful to hunt from a fixed deer stand in the National Forest. Secondly, I was at the location first and wearing some blaze orange. The bow hunter could clearly see this, but he thought I should move on because he was in a deer stand.
It was about 1985 when Ruth and I took the Hunter Safety Class conducted by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources at the Operations Center. One of the first fundamentals about ethical hunting emphasized by the conservation officers was being respectful of other hunters. If you see another hunter in the distance, try to move to another location without disturbing the area. From my own experience, I have found that courteous behavior and good sportsmanship go a long way toward reducing possible conflicts. Being safe and maintaining self-control often earns the respect of other people. Ruth still enjoys teasing me about this class because she made a higher score on the final test than I did. I made the mistake of taking one of the questions for a possible "trick question".
Earning the respect of people who do not hunt can sometimes seem like a difficult task. However, a few courtesies a sport hunter can do in an effort to achieve this goal are:
n Never flaunt or display dead game animals on vehicles, if possible. I have often said, "Putting a carcass on the hood of a car will often spoil the meat because of the heat from the engine".
n Never brag or tell your hunting stories to people who do not want to hear them.
n Always clean up and dress appropriately in public. Never wear your hunting clothes if they are covered with bloodstains.
n Always show you care about wildlife during the closed season.
Hunters need to remember that everything they do can have lasting effects - from every person they talk to, every fence they cross, every shot they take, and every game animal they kill. Be responsible regardless of who may or may not be watching.