Our prehistoric ancestors were hunters.
To them, animals were as sacred as life
itself. A good hunt assured survival.
Paleolithic cave paintings discovered in
Europe expressed early man’s reverence and
gratitude for the animals that sustained
life. It is believed that this animal art
symbolized assurance of the success of the
The famous Lascaux caves in southern France
are a sanctuary of paintings that have
endured for more than 17,000 years. These
ancient cave paintings depict the vital
grace of deer, bulls, horses and the figures
of our ancestral hunters relying on
intelligence and tools of stone, wood and
bone to conquer the animals they revered.
This ancient art tells the story of how
cooperating in the hunt helped to shape our
Back then, hunters and the game they sought
were inseparable. Human existence and
hunting were one.
Today, few of us hunt to survive. As
modern hunters, our role is to ensure the
survival of wildlife. We have properly
assumed responsibility for our natural
heritage and strive to practice an ethical
standard similar to that of our ancestors.
Our cooperative efforts are evident in a
host of organizations that benefit wildlife.
The license fees and taxes hunters pay
contribute to a significant portion of the
nation’s conservation funding — from habitat
restoration to research.
Though our tools are more efficient than
those of our ancestors, as ethical hunters,
we avoid the use of technology that would
place the game we hunt at an unfair
disadvantage. We abide by ethical standards
to preserve the challenge of the hunt. We
honor the majesty of wildlife and wilderness
and respect the game we take. We are not
wasteful. We understand the difference
between right and wrong and behave
accordingly because we appreciate the
opportunity and privilege to encourage and
preserve the continuation of our ancient
role as hunters.
Be an Ethical Hunter
Hunting well is synonymous with good
hunting. Ethical hunters practice their
shooting skills, prepare themselves for the
physical demands of the hunt, review the
rules of firearm safety, select equipment
equal to the dignity of the game and
maintain their firearms properly to assure
functional reliability. They also review
wildlife identification and behavior often.
Ethical hunters choose their hunting
companions with care. They must share a
commitment to responsible behavior and be
bound by mutual consideration. It is
important that they share a willingness to
sacrifice selfish interests and lend a
helping hand in times of difficulty. With
good companions, there are no bad days
Hunting on someone else’s land is a
privilege, not a right. The ethical hunter
always asks for permission, follows the
owner’s wishes and leaves the property as it
Expressing thanks for the owner’s
hospitality, maybe with a gift from the game
bag, is a common courtesy that can go a long
way toward securing land access again and
establishing good hunter-landowner relations
in the future.
Understanding wildlife behavior is
crucial to hunting success and adds
immeasurably to respecting the hunt even
when no game is taken. When skill and
tireless determination result in the
opportunity to shoot, the ethical hunter
never takes more game than can be used. If
they can, ethical hunters use well-trained
dogs to help find downed game. Properly
field dressing and cleaning game assures
that game is never wasted. Skill, patience
and respect enhance the total hunting
The Ethical Hunter
Non-hunters are critically important to
the future of hunting. Most non-hunters are
tolerant, but will be less so if forced to
confront displays of dead game or see people
in hunting clothes behaving in disrespectful
ways. Ethical hunters are defined by their
own sense of respect, honor, safety and
fairness. Hunters who behave irresponsibly
pose a greater threat to the future of
hunting than any anti-hunting group. Bad
impressions are difficult to change.
THE HUNTER’S LAW
Two types of law govern the ethical
hunter’s actions. One is written — the other
is not. One is governmentally enforced — the
second is based on morality. Both types of
law apply with equal force to all hunters.
The amount of game taken, for example, is
limited by formal regulation, as well as by
self-restraint. Those who break the written
law by poaching must be reported. Those who
break the unwritten law by shooting at
excessively long range, using inadequate
equipment or neglecting to prepare
themselves for the hunt must be corrected.
THOSE WHO IGNORE THE LAW ARE NOT
If we can act when alone as though a
crowd were watching, we will be stronger.
If we can cherish each hunting day without
regard for its result, we will be happier.
If we can calculate our hunting achievements
in terms of memories earned instead of shots
fired, our days afield will be richer.
We will be ethical hunters, worthy of our
Hunting is as old as humankind and as new as
tomorrow. We will continue to hunt for as
long as we honor the game, shoulder our fair
burden of responsibility for the natural
world and require more of ourselves than
others require of us.
National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc.
11 Mile Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470-2359