The Ethical Shot Defined

By author of Guns and Camo

IT'S YOUR SHOT; OWN IT

Don't take chances. Be sure it's a clean, ethical and legal shot before pulling the trigger. (John Hafner photo)

This time of year, many of us (myself included) are heading to the woods to chase game. Some of us will be guided, some will hunt with friends, and some will hunt alone. Wherever you hunt this fall, there’s something important you need to keep in mind: You are the one behind the trigger. As the hunter, you alone are responsible for your actions, regardless of the circumstances. It’s your moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to do the right thing.

For starters, let's discuss only taking shots we’re comfortable with. Sometimes guided hunts go well. Sometimes they don't. I’ve been in situations where the guide told me I could make a shot I wasn’t comfortable with. On one of those occasions, I gave in and took the shot, even though my crosshairs weren’t as steady as they should have been. I lost a good mule deer as a result. It was my fault for pulling the trigger. The guide couldn’t see through my scope. I should have found a steadier rest or crawled closer to the deer. It was my name on the tag, and the wounded deer was on my conscience. Don't take unethical shots. You have the responsibility as a hunter and human being to only take clean and ethical shots so you have a higher probability of a clean kill.

Here’s another scenario. What if a guide or friend suggests an illegal action such as shooting a game animal on the wrong side of a unit boundary or after legal shooting hours? Though the guide may share some of the blame, be aware that you will be held legally responsible for your own actions...whether the guide talked you into it or not.  When you signed your license, you agreed to abide by the game laws of that jurisdiction. Keep your word, and follow the rules.

Lastly, let's talk about safety. When you load your firearm and head afield, you are carrying a certain amount of legal and moral liability with you. Poor gun handling or unsafe shooting can kill someone. Keep the chamber unloaded until it’s necessary to load it. Practice muzzle discipline (especially when using a sling). And by all means, keep your finger away from the trigger guard until your sights are on the target. 

Be sure you do the right thing, and enjoy time in the field in a safe, ethical, and legal manner.