George Block Column

When ethics and hunting meet, who wins?

When ethics and hunting meet, who wins?

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It has been said an otherwise nice person can become overly aggressive when behind the wheel of a car. Their personality changes completely.


I have seen the same in some hunters. The drive to get a buck can overcome common sense.


A youngster, whom I will call John, learned that lesson during the past bear season.


At 16, John was enjoying his first experience at a mountain camp. There were many tales told, some of them tall, some of them true.


But somewhere along the line, things went wrong.


The story, as told to me by the boy’s father, involves common sense and ethics. It was an experience similar to one I had long ago in McKean County.


It’s been years since I climbed that mountainside and was advised by Dave George where to take a stand.


Daylight found me overlooking a bench and the snow made visibility good. I hadn’t been there long when eight or nine deer came my way. The 8-point buck was easy to see, and leaning against a tree, I let a shot fly.


The buck flinched, then took off before suddenly disappearing. The buck had fallen.


That is when the problem arose. A fellow ran up to the downed deer and shot it. He claimed the buck, and who was I to argue?


As I look back on almost 60 years of deer hunting, I can’t help but wonder what such behavior gets a person. As I travel along this path called life, I find most people are good but a small percentage are not.


It doesn’t matter if they are doctors, policemen or mill workers, a small percentage will show unethical behavior at times.


One person’s rule of behavior might be different than his friends.


Ethics vary from one person to the next.


While one hunter might shoot deer at extreme distances, his neighbor might consider that unethical.


John ran into a situation where a hunter’s ethics, at a minimum, were in question.


One of the adults at the camp he attended shot at a bear on Monday and never found it afterward. The next day, a bear ran past John, and he dropped it with a single shot.


The fellow who shot at a bear the previous day showed up to see the animal and told John there was a problem. He said there was a camp rule that the first person who hits the animal gets to keep it. The bear, it seems, had a nonfatal hit on the lower part of one of its legs.


So, by the other hunter’s rule, the bear was not John’s to keep.


There’s something wrong with that picture. How did he even know it was the same bear? While it probably was, that doesn’t make it a fact.


As the story was recounted to me, my belief was it should have been John’s bear. Where does the right of first blood end?


If the bear was shot the following year, does the first shooter have the right to claim it?


Sorry, it should have been John’s bear.


Part of the problem stemmed from the fact John’s father couldn’t go on the hunting trip and wasn’t there to defend his son’s right to the bear. I can’t help but wonder what the young man’s opinion of hunters is after that episode? I also have to wonder what the adult hunter sees when he looks in the mirror?


As I related in my own personal history of losing a game animal to an unethical hunter, I know this kind of behavior is too common. I know of cases where deer are stolen from the porch of a camp. I also know of an old-time hunter who had a deer taken from him in the woods of Warren County.


The person literally ran to the buck downed by another and started to drag it away.


Rather than fight, the gentleman shot another buck later in the day.


It’s sad such things go on, but unfortunately, they do.


The bear story, as related to me by the boy’s father, brought back memories of when that fellow took a deer that I had shot. Not only was the man who took the bear acting with questionable ethics. I have to wonder what the others at the camp thought?


Was there nobody there to stand up for the rights of this young hunter? They couldn’t have been sure it was the same bear. They do, after all, look alike.



George G. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.


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