The concept of ethical hunting has been around for some time and it is important that all hunters have an understanding of its principles and practise these when in the field.
Ethical hunting means that a person knows and respects the game hunted, follows the law and behaves in a way that will satisfy what society expects of a hunter. Ethical hunters are familiar with the places they hunt, the wildlife that live there and the way they should behave when hunting.
Practising ethical hunting techniques in the field will ensure that you get the most out of your hunting experience and will assist to secure the future of your recreational activity.
There are three key aspects to ethical hunting:
- knowing and respecting the game: understanding the deer and their habitat, and treating them fairly and with respect;
- obeying the law: laws and regulations have been introduced to ensure that hunting is conducted in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner; and
- behaving in the right manner: hunter behaviour has a direct impact on public opinion; remember your actions may impact on the future of deer hunting.
Respect 'fair chase'
One of the key components of ethical hunting is the concept of 'fair chase'. This means giving the game a reasonable chance to evade the hunter.
All ethical deer hunters will ensure that deer are not unduly harassed during a hunt.
The improper and illegal use of vehicles, radiotracking collars and other electronic devices such as two-way radios is considered to be highly unethical and is inconsistent with the concept of 'fair chase'.
Avoid mechanised pursuit in any form; a true hunter makes every effort to ensure the contest is as fair as possible.
Concentrate on shot placement
When using a firearm, all hunters have a responsibility to dispatch game as quickly as possible.
When hunting, you should always concentrate on hitting the deer in a vital area, preferably the heart/lung zone (just behind the shoulder). This area covers vital organs and give you the best opportunity for a clean shot that will dispatch the deer quickly. See 'Taking the shot' for more details.
Follow up every shot
No hunter will dispatch every deer instantly. Sometimes your first shot may not be fatal. If this happens, it is your responsibility to handle the matter swiftly and ethically. This means focusing on the wounded deer – you should follow the deer, find it and ensure that it is dispatched quickly and in a humane way.
Ethical hunters practice their marksmanship before entering the field. This will not only maximise the chances of cleanly dispatching deer, but will make your hunting experience more enjoyable.
Make sure you are fit
You must be physically capable of following a deer under any circumstances, over various types of terrain. If you are well prepared physically, you will have a much better hunting experience.
Respect dispatched game
Once a deer is dispatched it should be properly handled to minimise waste. Bring out as much meat as you can and ensure that the carcass is not left near a road, track or a waterway. Never shoot an animal if you know you cannot carry it out. Avoid wasting a valuable game resource. Prepare game quickly and never leave game to waste.
It is also important to respect the views of other members of the community when transporting trophies and other parts of harvested deer. Never display a deer on the way home. Wherever possible, cover the carcass and head with a blanket or tarpaulin.
Respect the habitat
Quality habitat is the key to a healthy population of game and other wildlife. When camping, make sure you set up at least 20 metres away from rivers or waterbodies and wherever possible, bring your own firewood from home. Never cut down trees or shrubs (alive or dead) for use as firewood.
You should also be careful that your fuel or rubbish does not pollute streams and waterways. Clean up litter and waste and take it home with you. If you come across someone else's rubbish, remove it and deposit it at an appropriate place.
Respect the opinions of non-hunters
People who are unfamiliar with hunting practices may be intimidated by the presence of firearms, so be sympathetic to their concerns and, as much as possible, keep firearms out of sight.
Be considerate, be courteous and show the public that deer hunters are responsible and ethical recreationalists. Good hunting behaviour will reflect on people's opinions of all hunters. Rude, illegal and irresponsible actions can prejudice the community against all hunters.
Respect private property and landowner rights
Responsible behaviour on private property means appreciating and respecting the rights of landowners or managers. If you have been given permission to hunt on private property, you should ask the landowner or manager where they want you to hunt, if there are any areas you should avoid and where you should park your car.
You should always respect their decisions. Leave gates as you find them and be sure to hunt well away from people, livestock, buildings and crops.
Be aware of personal safety
Many hunters today wear camouflaged clothes, which makes them difficult to see. While concentrating on the hunt, there is a possibility that you could become lost or be mistaken for game by another hunter.
To ensure your safety and the safety of other hunters in the field, it is recommended that all deer hunters wear some form of bright coloured clothing or hat when hunting. Overseas studies have shown that deer cannot see colours such as blaze orange and the wearing of these colours will not affect your hunting success. Many hunters have taken deer in Victoria while wearing blaze orange clothing.
The wearing of some form of bright coloured clothing is also recommended when you are carrying a carcass out of the bush. This will ensure that other hunters do not mistake you for a deer.
Choose your hunting companions wisely
Choice of a hunting partner or companion is important to your hunting experience and to your safety, the safety of other hunters in the team and the safety of members of the public. Select people who have good ethics and avoid those who behave irresponsibly.
The image of deer hunting depends on how you conduct yourself as a hunter, how you handle your firearms and how you respect the game you hunt. Remember that the public may judge all hunters by the irresponsible actions of a few. Therefore, every hunter should be an ambassador for the recreation.
A Code of Practice is in place for the welfare of animals in hunting. The code was developed to prevent cruelty and encourage the considerate treatment of animals that are hunted and to protect the welfare of other animals where hunting occurs. For a copy of the Code contact the Bureau of Animal Welfare on (03) 9217 4200.