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A Lesson in Hunter Ethics

Most hunters know we should be ethical, but when the rubber meets the road, do our actions really reflect this?

We’ve probably all heard the news this week that Bill Busbice of Wild Game Innovations, and host of the Wild Game Nation TV show, was sentenced for poaching elk in Wyoming. Since this development, his show has been canceled by the Outdoor Channel, he’s been fined and banned from hunting in 45 states, and he has also parted ways with Synergy (Wild Game Innovations conglomerate). The news has spread like wildfire on social media, with many, many people sharing their feelings on this violation of hunting law, and hunter ethics. In fact, it’s raised so much attention I felt compelled to discuss my thoughts on what may be the most egregious display of hunter ethics related to this.. the reaction of many hunters.

First, I will say that it is obvious to anyone hearing this story that violations took place, and something wrong was done. Ok, and due to this justice is now being exacted by the proper authorities. Good, this is what we should want in regard to law violations. Also, I’m not a big fan of the show or how Big Bill comes across on it, but that honestly doesn’t matter when it comes to hunter ethics and this situation. The appalling part for me is the reactions, and actions of many hunters across the internet. You don’t have to go far to see posts filled with f-bombs, crazy rants, and downright hatred for this human being. Shirts have already been made bashing the guy, and taking advantage of this unethical situation for...self-profit. Ethics? It seems some have rationalized it as ok, somehow ethical, to treat another human being with disrespect, malice, and complete disregard, … just like a cow elk being left for dead in a drainage ditch (what Bill Busbice did with one of the poached elk). In my book, this makes these people as bad or worse than Bill, since in the name of ethics they throw ethics aside to bash and ruthlessly bludgeon a fellow human being. This ethics double standard is hypocritical and should be appalling to all hunters. It also displays an ugly truth: that many of us hunters are just as capable of unethical behavior as “bad” Bill Busbice. In fact, it’s right in black and white on the internet.

This should really make us step back and take an honest look at what it means to be a hunter, and a person, of ethics and integrity in all situations. It’s not only following the law in regards to hunting and harvesting animals, but in how we treat our fellow hunters and human beings.. in the field, and off. Its amazing how we can warp “ethics” to fit our needs, situation, or benefit. Bill must have done this with his quest to take a big bull elk, just as many hunters on social media have done the same to justify making a quick buck or bludgeoning him with hateful rants. I have run into many hunters on public land the last few years that hold this version of “ethics.” Every year I have several run-ins with other hunters who threaten me physically because I dare hunt in “their spot.” I’ve always tried to stay away from other hunters and honor where they hunt, but public land is just that, public and open to all equally. It’s just a fact, you’re just going to bump into people. Police have been involved, and on one occasion another hunter smeared dog feces under all the handles of my truck because I dared park in the lot where he did. Under the guise of “ethics” (them feeling wronged by my perceived encroachment), they were willing to violate ethics with threats and physical violence.

Remember the golden rule? How many of us have ever made a mistake? (Maybe not knowingly poached, but if our private lives were on display would others find something, sometime, where we fell short of the mark?). The Biblical references of casting the first stone, and taking the plank out of our eye might apply well here. Maybe if we really want to be ethical people, and hunters, we should extend a little grace to a fellow hunter (and human being) that appears to have fallen from it, and say a prayer that he gets on the right track. After all, isn’t that what we’d want if we did, and (for those who have acted in ways I described above) surely need? Being an ethical person, and hunter, I feel are one and the same, and are fleshed out in the everyday world in many, many ways (while hunting, on social media, etc.). So, if there’s a lesson to be learned here, and we think hunter and personal ethics are important (which we should), let us start by setting a good example of what it should really look like. Others are watching.


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