Just as I was preparing for the opening of our archery season Sunday, I came across a bit of disturbing news that should be embarrassing to all hunters in the Palmetto State.
Recently, four hunters from South Carolina were charged with hunting illegally in Colorado. These weren’t simple mistakes where they misinterpreted some gray area within the law. All four had been bowhunting with poison-tipped arrows that quickly paralyzed any animal that was shot.
Even worse was the men admitted to having done this in that state for more than 20 years.
The poison, a strong muscle relaxant, immediately shuts down the animal’s respiratory system as soon as it hits the bloodstream, allowing the men to take shots at any part of the body in hopes of simply “breaking the skin.”
The four hunters, George Plummer and Joseph Nevling of Timmonsville, Michael Courtney of Florence and James Cole of Sumter, were each ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines and court costs and barred from hunting in the state for four years.
In a perfect world, they’d be barred from hunting anywhere for life.
Although most of the men expressed regret for their actions, Cole had the audacity to paint all hunters of our state as being of like mind and principle.
“Back in S.C., everybody hunts with (poison arrows),” Cole stated to the court.
In my entire life I’ve never encountered a single hunter that utilizes this tactic. Not here. Not anywhere.
The dictionary defines ethics as, “a set of moral principles: a theory or system of moral values/ the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group.”
As sportsmen, we have to understand the basic principles of hunting ethics and how they relate to us, especially in regards to the negative light that one person’s unethical actions will shine on us as a whole.
At no time in our history has our hunting heritage been under attack by extremist organizations as it is today. Anti-hunting groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS,) hide behind seemingly harmless and un-related names, in hopes of raising funds from the unknowing, to launch a barrage of “sneak attacks” against us.
For those that don’t know, the HSUS is the group that collects money from the unsuspecting by making them believe that they’re taking care of stray pets when they don’t actually operate even a single facility of that type.
What do you think radical groups such as this use as ammunition against us? You can rest assured that it’s the actions of a few — intentional or otherwise — that they try to paint us all with and I fully expect that now, in their efforts to rile the non-hunting public, they’ll start fund raising and membership campaigns that include this bogus story about how all bowhunters in S.C. admittedly use poison tipped arrows.
Although I’ve run the following list in this column before, it never hurts to have a reminder from time to time. I’m not quite sure to whom I should credit the foundation of the information, as I keep it filed away in my notes and expand on it as I see fit. It began as just a few basic guidelines but has grown quite a bit from there.
Take this. Keep it and look over it occasionally. Even better, cut it out and slap it on the wall or on a sign at your hunt club. These are the basics of which we can’t be reminded enough.
• Be sure of your target and beyond before you shoot. This applies to any weapon that you take into the woods.
• Make sure your equipment is in good working condition and properly sighted in.
• Take only those shots in which you are completely confident. Know your range. Respect for the wildlife requires that you harvest the animal quickly and in a humane manner.
• If you hunt from a treestand, always wear a safety harness. Just ask yourself, “Is it really worth taking a chance?”
• When using a camouflage blind, other hunters cannot see you even if you are wearing hunter orange. To be safe, tie hunter orange on the outside so that it can be seen from all sides. The deer won’t notice but, hopefully, another hunter will.
• If you hunt on private land, be sure to obtain permission from the landowner and respect his or her property as if it were your own. Get the permission in writing and keep it with your hunting license. Scout the area you plan to hunt so you know where the boundaries, houses, roads and fences are located.
• If you do not kill your deer immediately, make every effort to find the wounded animal. If you made a questionable shot, don’t push it. Give the animal time to expire and return a few hours later. Remember that permission is required to enter private land.
• Clean and care for your game properly. Take the time to dispose of the remains in the correct manner. Dumping a pile of guts in a ditch or on a side road is unacceptable and makes all hunters look careless and dumb. It’s also illegal.
• Pick up all litter, including spent ammunition. Leaving an area better than the way you found it is a sign of thanks to the landowner for the privilege of hunting.
• Report observed violations of the law to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources as soon as possible. You can call Operation Game Thief and do so anonymously. 1-800-922-5431 or #OGT on your cell phone.
• If you are involved in a firearms-related accident, the law requires that you identify yourself and render assistance. Failure to do so is a criminal act.
• Develop your skills and knowledge and share them with others. Good hunting ethics and safety practices will “rub off” on others. This is especially true with the youngsters.
• Know and obey all wildlife laws.
• Never draw your bow or remove the safety on a firearm until you are sure of the intended target.
• Respect the rights and opinions of all hunters, non-hunters and landowners. Be sensitive to what their opinions may be of your actions, such as improperly displaying harvested game as you travel home.
• Make every effort to retrieve and use all game.
• Respect the land and all wildlife.
Remember: Hunting is not a competitive sport. The quality or success of a hunting season is not measured by the number of animals taken, but by the number of memories made.
Here’s hoping that we all have a great 2013 deer season. To ensure that it’s memorable for all of the right reasons, a simple test may be all that’s required. If you have the slightest doubt or hesitation, don’t do it. Even if, afterward, you’ve convinced yourself that it’s OK.
More often than not, that initial “gut” instinct is the right call.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.