How Fair Chase Hunting Works

By: Vivien Bullen
Majestic deer in natural habitat.
White tail deer head
Pete Starman/Photonica/Getty Images

The debate over hunting goes way back. While activists and sportsm­en will probably be in dispute for years to come, there are steps being taken to make this sport as ethical as possible. That's the idea behind fair chase hunting.

According to Boone and Crocket, fair chase hunting is the ethical, sportsman-like, lawful pursuit, and taking of any free-ranging, wild, native North American big game animal that does not give the hunter an unfair advantage [source: Hunt Fair Chase]. In simpler terms, it means hunting without taking advantage of the animals and allowing them a fair chance to escape in defense.


Here are some of the basic rules of ethics that fair chase hunters live by:

  • When hunting, obey all laws and regulations.
  • When away from home, respect the land and customs of the locals.
  • Adapt and follow a specific personal code that will bring out favorable abilities and sensibilities as a hunter.
  • Never draw out the death of prey. Try to attain the best shot to make the kill as quick and precise as possible.
  • Keep the personal code in mind and let it dictate behavior. It is the responsibility of the hunter not to dishonor the hunter, the hunted or the envir­onm­ent [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

­The ethical approach also states that a hunter may not take an animal if:

  • The hunter herded or spotted the animal from air and then quickly landed to pursue.
  • It was herded or chased by a motorized vehicle.
  • Electronic communication devices are being used.
  • It is confined by artificial barriers or transplanted for commercial shooting.
  • It is trapped or drugged.
  • It's swimming, trapped in snow or helpless in any nature.
  • The hunter is using another hunter's license.
  • Laws or regulations are being broken [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

Read on to learn about both sides of the fair chase hunting debate.


Arguments in Favor of Fair Chase Hunting

­In a world of insider trading, and anti-theft devices, it can be hard to recognize what role ethic­s have come to play in our society. But in fair chase hunting, the role seems clear, at least to some hunters; it is seen as the ethical way to hunt. And there are many sportsmen out there who believe in this code of conduct. Much of this attitude comes from the reasons these people starting hunting in the first place -- to conserve nature and its species.

As the human population grows, so does its dependency on space and natural resources. We're constantly expanding, taking land and converting it for new use. This puts added pressure on wildlife to find habitats and food. Fair chase hunting follows strict rules, ensuring advocates hunt animals that are within the law and regulations of the land. By hunting some animals, others will be better able to attain the basic necessitates of life.


So hunting has its foundation, but why fair chase? One hunter says that when the animal isn't given a fair chance to escape and protect itself, then the sport isn't really hunting. Instead, it's just killing or murder. Following the rules of ethics makes hunting a fair sport [source: Briggs].

But it's not exactly a case of clear-cut right and wrong, as it may seem. The next page highlights the cons of fair chase hunting.


Arguments Against Fair Chase Hunting

There really aren't many arguments against fair chase hunting as much as there are arguments against hunting in general. It seems that, as a whole, the practice i­s highly respected among the hunting community and merely opposed by those who oppose the sport of hunting in its entirety. But some hunters do admit to straying from the fair chase path.

­One hunter says he draws the fair chase line at varmints. While he respects the idea for big game, he sees no need to restrain from hunting any disease-infested animal by the easiest means possible. If a rat, or similar animal, poses a threat to the health, safety or well-being of humans or other animals, he will most likely throw the ethics book out the window. But he does recognize the need to remain respectful of these animals in their natural state, away from humans. After all, no matter how dirty or annoying an animal may be, it still plays an important role in our ecosystem [source: Martin].


It's also beneficial to take each individual's specific motivation for hunting into consideration. For example, ethics may be forgotten when a human is hunting out of necessity, for basic sustenance. This is where ethics get blurry, because who's to say which life is more important?

So, now we know the idea behind fair chase hunting and how those ethics are challenged. The next time you go hunting, consider both sides. And, either way, hunt safely.


Lots More Information

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More Great Links

  • Boddington, Craig. "Don't Fence Me In." Fair Chase. 2003. Accessed 11/30/2008.
  • Briggs, Stefanie. "Initiated measure addresses fair chase hunting in the state." Nodak Outdoors.
  • Fair Chase Hunt. "Why a Website of Hunting Ethics." 2004. Accessed 11/30/2008
  • Martin, John. "Sport Hunting and Fair Chase." Skinny Moose. November 2008. Accessed 11/30/2008.
  • Remington, Tom. "Fair Chase is Ethical." Idaho Hunting Today. 2008. Accessed 11/30/2008.