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Hunting ethics

An ode to the good guys

John Luft is the Great Salt Lake ecosystem program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. He enjoys hunting in his free time.

I may have an unfair advantage when it comes to hunting pheasants since I was born and raised in Kansas.   Kansas has one of the most liberal bag limits of any state when it comes to roosters with four per day and 16 in possession. Needless to say, they are one of my favorite game species to pursue.   I take it very seriously, maybe to a fault. I have had co-workers who have hunted with me theorize that, as a baby, a pheasant came and pecked me while in my crib and that is why I pursue them relentlessly.

I can appreciate an upland bird hunter with the intensity to do what it takes to track down a wily rooster.   However, the one thing I can appreciate more than harvesting a ring-neck is hunting safely. Through past experiences, both good and bad, I have learned to choose my hunting partners wisely.  I have become extremely picky about who I decide to let accompany me afield. For me, there is a level of trust that needs to develop with time before I commit to offering to share a hunt. To say my list of hunting partners is short would be an understatement.

During the fall, I typically work most weekends. It so happens that I work in a field office at one of the Waterfowl Management Areas where some of the pheasants are released during the hunting season.

One late November Saturday, I looked out my window and noticed a man and his son walking with their dog back to a parking lot not far from the office. The hunter’s dog was on point below a dike about 100 yards from the office building. As the man walked in to flush the pointed bird, I waited to see what would happen. As the bird took off, it arced in front of both hunters who both had clear shots at the bird. There was one challenge, though: as the bird flushed, the arc it flew put it between the hunters and the office building 300 feet away.

I was certain I’d hear pellets peppering the windows and building, but neither hunter fired, and the bird sailed safely into the marsh.

While it would have been illegal for either hunter to shoot — in Utah, you may not discharge a shotgun within 600 feet of a building — I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. I was impressed with the good judgment and courtesy this law-abiding father and his son exhibited, even though they had no idea I was watching.

I hurried out to the parking lot where they were loading their dog and guns to leave for the day. They were eager to show me their licenses, but I was more interested in shaking their hands. I don’t know who these hunters were, but I do know one thing: I would hunt with either one of them. Thanks, guys!

5 Responses to Hunting ethics

  1. Thanks for posting some good news about hunters.

  2. Lucas from

    I also think there is a level of trust that needs to develop with time before to share a hunt… But then list of hunting partners will be short…-:)

  3. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say this article moistened my eyes. I was touched by how this wise father had taught his son how to be a safe and trustworthy hunter. I want them as neighbors so they can teach the scouts in my neighborhood! And maybe they’ll leave a “ready to eat” pheasant on my front step. 😉

  4. It’s nice to see a wildlife officer aknowledging someone for having proper ethics. I think that that kind of action can be as much or more effective way to encourage good ethics than citations can. Knowing officers are there wanting people to have good hunt experience, and not just looking to write citations is comforting. I was treated like i was guilty of something as a teenager one time when i was not doing anything wrong, and it left the wrong impression on me. I have since learned that most officers are there for you and the wildlife, and have the same passion for hunting as i do. I think its good for officers to engage people, especially kids in positive ways when they are following the laws so they will learn not to be afraid or avoid officers, and that we should all work together to keep our wildlife and ourselves safe, and our hunting privlidges intact. If we all work together, using and teaching proper safety and ethics it will benefit not only us, but the wildlife and our privlidge and access to it for generations to come. Respecting peoples property and giving game a fair chance is all our responsibility. Remember the actions of a few have ruined much access and opportunity for the rest of us. So let’s teach youth good ethics, respect peoples property, pick up someones litter, report poaching, and officers be proactive and friendly, so that our hunting rights not only go on, but we can have good experiences now and for future generations.

  5. I would like opportunity to help out landowners in some way, or some type of service me and my son could offer, either for some tag right or access to someones property. I can understand landowners frustration with people who destroy or damage their property in any way. Its sad to see shot up signs or litter on any property. I think would be good to build a trust between landowners and hunters. I would volunteer to do some type of service to repair someones attitude toward sportsmen. Even if was not for my benefit, but for benefit of relations between landowners and sportsmen. My grandfather had cattle, and i can sympathize with farmers and ranchers who have had problems with hunters. It angers me that people don’t respect peoples lively hood and property. But also landowners who treat all sportsmen as a problem. I had a bad experiance in clear creek with landowner and think that relations need to be strengthened between us.

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