Hunting Ethics

The Hunt and Fair Chase

"Fair Chase," as defined by the Boone & Crockett Club, is the ethical, sportsmanlike, lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over such game animals.

Use of any of the following methods in the taking of game is considered Unfair Chase.

  • Spotting or herding game from the air, then landing, pursuing & shooting
  • Herding, pursuing or shooting game from motor boat or motor vehicle
  • Use of illegal electronic devices for attracting, locating, or observing game, or for guiding hunter to such game (check state & provincial laws)
  • Hunting game confined by fences or enclosures, or game transplanted solely for the purpose of commercial shooting
  • Taking game illegally or using illegal methods against regulations of the federal government or any state, province, territory or tribal lands

Below are examples of what is considered fair and unfair hunting practice for just one species.

Turkey hunters using calls to bring in turkey hunter deploying decoys in the water

Fair - Using decoys & calls to hunt turkeys.

Turkeys roosting in a tree

Unfair – and illegal - shooting a turkey out of the roost tree can cause the flock to abandon that site.

Know the rules and abide by them.

It always makes for a more enjoyable and satisfying hunt! 

4 C's decal

The Four C’s

A responsible Texas hunter is:

Careful- the hunter’s attitude is committed to the basic rules of safety.

Courteous- the hunter’s behavior is polite, helpful and gracious.

Considerate- the hunter’s respect for other hunters, landowners, and the non-hunting public.

Capable- the hunter’s abilities including marksmanship, outdoor skills, knowledge level and sound judgment.

Hunters greeting landowner Hunter posing with harvested buck Hunter butchering harvested deer

Ethical Responsibilities to Consider...

To Oneself:

  • Take a hunter education course 
  • Never lose self-control
  • Always follow the 4 c's: careful, considerate, capable and courteous
  • Know what to do in an emergency
  • Get in shape before your hunt
  • Establish good hunting ethics

To Other Hunters:

  • Never be rude or hog shots
  • Never drink alcohol or use drugs before or while hunting
  • Always offer to share the work and any game meat taken

To Non-hunters:

  • Never display  harvested game in or on vehicles when traveling
  • Always be courteous and be aware of how your image might affect non-hunters

To Landowners:

  • Always secure permission
  • Always take care of landowner's property and equipment
  • Always be considerate

To the Resource:

  • Always learn as much as possible about wildlife
  • Always take care of private and public lands
  • Always practice or work with conservation efforts
  • Understand and obey the hunting and game laws
  • Report hunting violators
  • Shoot within effective range to insure a swift, clean kill
  • Clean and store harvested game to maximize the consumption and enjoyment of the meat and usable parts


Hunting Ethics

Good hunting ethics are not usually covered by written laws. Ethics are a personal code which dictates how we act. It is conduct that is morally right, safe, proper and fair.

Courtesy: Aldo Leopold Foundation

According to Aldo Leopold, regarded as the “father” of wildlife management, “ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”

T.D. Carroll, the Father of Texas Hunter Education, once said:  “There are written and unwritten laws.  The written laws tell us what we can and cannot do while the unwritten laws tell us what we should and should not do.”

There are three questions you should ask yourself whenever you face a decision while hunting:

Is it legal? Is it safe? Is it ethical?

hunters using spotting scope looking for game as the sun sets

Consider the situation above. It may be within the legal shooting hours but in such low light can you be absolutely certain of your target and what lies beyond it? Would you be able to accurately place a good shot for a clean kill? Will there be enough light after the shot to detect and follow a blood trail? Would taking a shot now be safe or ethical?

ducks on a lake dove perched in a tree

Shooting ducks and geese on the water or dove in a tree: is it legal, safe, or ethical? Legality varies from state to state, safety and ethics depend on circumstances, judgment and attitude.

another deer behind white-tailed deer Hunter with binoculars

What would you do?

That’s a pretty nice buck. Taking this shot may be legal, it may be safe, is it ethical? Do you notice what’s behind the big buck?

hunter peering through binoculars closer look at deer behind the buck

Taking a shot at the buck in front could injure the spike behind. Taking this shot would not be ethical.  Would you have the restraint and right attitude to make this decision and wait for a better shot?

hunter lowers binoculars

Notice the hunter uses binoculars. Never use the scope on your rifle to identify a target. It is unsafe to point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.

Harris hawk in tree top hunter takes aim

A friend asks you on a hunt at his father-in-law's ranch in prime South Texas white-tailed deer country. On the way out to the deer stands one morning, the ranch foreman says that hawks are eating up all the quail on the ranch so shoot any owls or hawks that you see. Later when you arrive to pick up one of the other guests from a stand, you and the foreman witness the hunter shoot a Harris’ hawk out of a tree.

Is what he did legal, safe, or ethical? NO- to all three.

What do you do? Say nothing in hopes that you are asked back to hunt again at the ranch? Do you tell your friend? Would you tell his father-in-law, the landowner? Would you report the violation to the local game warden or call Operation Game Thief?

Watch a video on: The Three Questions to Ask Before You Take a Shot- Is it Safe? Is it Legal? Is it Ethical?