God made me a reasoning predator, and bowhunting forces me to be the best that I can be. My spirit soars with my blood brother the eagle when my level of awareness rises to the hunt and the kill. My sacred temple deserves the best fuel I can provide it, and nothing is better than the pure venison of the beast. I hunt because I am a hunter.
I'm tired of hunters starting from the defensive. I've yet to see a customer enter a bank with a sign hanging around his neck that states, "Have No Fear, I'm Not A Bank Robber."
Businessmen, childcare employees, priests, welders, bakers, auto mechanics, teachers, cops, volunteers, and everyone in between also do not belabor the point they are ethical people. We expect them to be ethical, and of course the vast majority of them are. No call for warnings, apologies or excuse making necessary, thank you.
Granted, there are unethical scumbags in every professional and recreational pursuit, but they are the extreme lunatic fringe minority. For any group of people to constantly focus on promoting their ethical standards is, in my opinion, cause for suspicion and scrutiny, which is exactly the reason why the hunting community should tone down the ethical message that is so often trumpeted on hunting television shows and in articles.
I don't know an unethical hunter. Never met one, and I've hunted with and/or guided thousands of hunters over the past 50 or so years. Of course I've heard of them from the Dan Rather culture war mongrels in the media who live to expose the most egregious conduct each hunting season. That being said, everywhere I travel, I am approached by people and families of every imaginable description, smiling and excitedly expressing enjoyment of my hardcore "Spirit of the Wild" hunting TV show, and my pro-hunting and pro-gun books, articles and interviews across the land. I travel constantly and have never had a negative comment. And I'm an absolutist. You'll never hear an apology from me for my hunting lifestyle.
The overtly cautious and oftentimes apologetic tone that so many in the hunting community and industry have adopted sickens me. It's almost as if it's a contest to see which host or writer can claim to be the world's most ethical hunter, which does nothing but cast a dark cloud over the entire hunting community as if "ethical" is a rarity and must be emphasized. My radar is on full alert the second I hear someone proclaiming to be ethical - even if the person is ethical. Ethical behavior is still expected where I live, work and play. There is no need to claim it.
The reason some in the hunting community have adopted this wrong-headed approach of constantly talking about hunting ethics is that they believe it will take some of the sting out of the anti-hunting numbnuts' morally and ethically bankrupt ideological vacuity. These fellow hunters couldn't be more wrong in their approach to portraying hunting. Their well-intentioned approach puts hunters on the defensive.
Non-hunters expect and believe hunters to be responsible and ethical folks just as they don't expect the local cop to take bribes. Non-hunters know that hunters don't intentionally wound animals, leave a dead beast to rot in the field after being shot or intentionally inflict undue pain and suffering on critters. Only sick and twisted fools do such things, and if they do they are not hunters, they are criminals - and everyone knows it.
So why bring undue and unwarranted suspicion to an honorable community that has nothing to hide? It literally baffles me. If the guys who consistently talk about hunting ethics believe for a second they are uplifting the image of hunting and attracting new hunters, they are dead wrong.
I'm not falling into this ethical hunting morass because the more we talk about it the more we become bogged down in the murky mud of suspicion. It immediately puts hunters on the defensive when we have nothing to be defensive about. Instead of constantly worrying if our halo is polished bright enough to please everyone, the path we need to take is to constantly promote how much fun and exciting hunting truly is. This is why my awarding-winning "Spirit of the Wild" television program focuses primarily on the fun factor. Have you noticed that?
If non-hunters ask about ethics, I first tell them hunters are ethical for the simple reason that they buy a hunting license. I choose to educate them that it was hunters who demanded an end to the wholesale market slaughter of game, created bag limits and hunting seasons for the benefit of game. I tell them that hunters' dollars are used to sustain both game and non-game alike, including songbirds. I then tell them that it would be highly unethical for us not to hunt, as game will quickly overpopulate and create any number of environmental disasters for both fauna and flora. Clearly, it is this hands-on conservation connection with the good earth through hunting, fishing and trapping that brings balance each year and is integral to sustaining real world biodiversity. These are the standard ethics of everyone I hunt with and know. None of us bother mentioning it. We simply live it and exude it.
America's hunters must refocus our message on the fun factor of hunting. It is the ultimate extreme sport. Skateboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing and skiing will never compare with outwitting a mature whitetail buck, calling in an omniscient wild turkey, or blasting dive-bombing supersonic ducks out of the sky. There is no other sporting or recreational pursuit that can compare with the goose-bump thrill-ride of an up close and personal hunting adventure. Stare a black bear in the eyes and tell me that's not heart-pounding excitement. I couldn't be more convinced this message is the missing link in promoting hunting. I believe it is life and death for our cherished outdoor hertitage.
Of course hunters are ethical. There is no reason whatsoever to even discuss such a simple truism. No amount of yammering about hunting ethics is going to attract new people to the hunting fold or convince people that hunters are better than anti-hunters. Speaking about hunting ethics to the non-hunting community does more harm than good. Nobody's asking.
No one would be attracted to NASCAR if the drivers constantly spoke about ethical racing habits. People watch NASCAR because it's fun to watch cars speed around the track at 200 mph. Just as people watch NASCAR because racing is exciting, people watch hunting shows to witness exciting hunting adventures, not to get a lesson on how ethical hunters are when there is absolutely no need to discuss it.
Hunters are the good guys. We don't need to walk around with a figurative sign around our necks that says, "I'm an ethical hunter." That's the wrong approach. My sign says, "Hunting is a ball of exciting fun." Please join me in my crusade to spread that good word. No apologies.
For more information on Ted's books, TV shows and children's charity camp, visit www.tednugent.com or call Sunrize Safaris at 800-343-4868.
This story first appeared in the January 2008 American Hunter.