Joined the B&C Club today. For some time, I’ve been thinking about Fair Chase, what it means to me. The Boone and Crocket club defines fair chase as: “…the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild native North American game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.”
(Caption: No fences here where my friend Keith holds the horses while my guide scans for stone sheep.)
Apparently the Boone and Crocket Club thinks that fair chase only applies to North America, but most of us who believe in fair chase would disagree. The words North American are irrelevant. B&C apparently didn’t want to get into the politics of other countries where fair chase has been largely overlooked.
In Africa, for example, I found little thought being given to the chase. Most of the energy was centered on procurement of the physical trophy. In fact, I could have had anything delivered to me for a fee. Africans are closer to their subsistance hunting roots than we are. (The old phrase, all’s fair in love and war could be changed to love, war and subsistance hunting. Native Americans chased buffalo herds over cliffs.)
(Caption: Kudu bull taken with bow and arrow at a waterhole blind.)
However, it’s North America where fair chase has its roots and we should be proud of that. It’s the North American system of wildlife management that has created an environment where fair chase is been embraced and practiced by hunters.
The part of the B&C club statement that has wide ranging implications is the last 15 words, “in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.”
What is improper?
I don’t believe that all hunting must be by the rules of fair chase to be valid and honorable, so long as hunters know the difference.
Call a spade a spade so to speak.
One thing is very clear to me. My most meaningful hunts are the ones where fair chase is the medium. Know the difference!
In Africa, I participated in a week of archery hunts that were not fair chase. Why not? To begin with, all the hunts took place in enclosed hunting areas. I do not know how large the enclosures were and I didn’t ask, but they restricted movement of game.
I cannot determine how much impact the fences had upon the ability of the game to escape. Probably none, however, the fences did have an impact upon my psyche. In the dense thorn-bush country, I knew that if I were patient while still hunting into the wind, eventually, I would find game because I was guaranteed that certain animals were inside the fences. I could cover much of the area in a morning. Therefore, I hunted with extra conviction – a tremendous psychological advantage if compared to hunting an area that might have been void of game.
Animal behavior can be manipulated even in extremely large enclosures. The most common method is to control water supplies so that animals are forced to enter the danger zone to survive. Is it wrong, or just intellegent behavior?
I enjoyed the hunt very much. And, I enjoyed success, a prize to take home definitely improves one’s attitude. I will display my African trophies proudly, but not quite like I would the mule deer buck I didn’t get on the fair chase archery hunt that took place in Alberta Canada this fall. If I ever succeed at taking one of those huge mule deer bucks with my bow, or rifle, it will be the trophy that hangs over my fireplace.
Unfortunately fair chase “corruption” did come into play on my deer hunt as well. Here are a couple items to watch for: Radios: These should only be used to organize the hunt, not to monitor game while the hunt unfolds. Automobiles: These should be used as transportation, not as mobile blinds. When looking back at Alberta, I can see that we went over the line a couple times, something that I will work hard to avoid in the future.
The key difference between fair chase hunting and other hunting is that fair chase hunters pay for a hunt, not a trophy. When one pays for the trophy, it creates a conflict between the Professional Hunter/Guide and the rules of fair chase. This conflict cannot be resolved. If you want fair chase, pay for the hunt. If you must be guaranteed a trophy then pay a trophy fee. I’ve done it. And, I like my trophies, but a trophy fee hunt will never be the best hunt money can buy.
The rules of fair chase are designed to make hunting more rewarding, not less.
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