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 Ethical Hunting in Washington State

Every hunting situation has laws which govern your actions in the field.  Where laws do not exist, ethics then take over to guide your actions in the field.  It is important to note that, ethical standards are all relative to the hunter and the situation.  Generally, there are no right answers or wrong answers.  Here are some ethical considerations which are shared passionately amongst hunters.

If you can contribute information click here Submit information (tips, area suggestions, etc)

Big Game Hunting Ethics__________________________________________

  • Know the laws for the area and species you are hunting.  Ignorance of the law is never an excuse in court.

  • It is considered bad form to harvest a doe when that doe has fawns or yearlings.

  • It is considered extremely unethical to use your riflescope to identify objects in the field.  Pointing your rifle at anything that you do not intend to shoot is very dangerous.  Use your binoculars!

  • It is generally considered that in the case where two hunters shoot the same animal, the last person to shoot the live animal gets to put his/her tag on it.

  • Always expose and show the breech of your unloaded gun when around game wardens, in the parking area, moving items to and from the blind/boat, or the like.  To most people, a closed breech means a loaded weapon.   Loaded weapons, when not hunting, make people nervous.  Show them that your gun is unloaded and that you know proper gun handling.

  • Before shooting an animal during rain or at dusk, ensure a good clean shot. It will be significantly more difficult to track a blood trail in the rain or at night.  Marginal shots can easily result in losing the track of your animal, therefore, needlessly wasting your animal.

  • If you see illegal behavior in the woods, whether it be other hunters or not, report the activity to the nearest authorities.  You owe it to the vast majority of the other hunters in our community who hunt legally.

  • Know your maximum effective range of your weapon.  Do not take shots that you are not 100% certain will efficiently kill your animal. Report Poachers

  • Next time you see a game warden or a game biologist, recognize the difficulty with which they perform their jobs.  Thank them for the work and their service, regardless of your opinion of the policies of the game management department.   Their job is to enforce the laws of the State of Washington,
    regardless of your opinion of the law.

  • Never litter! and that includes shell casings from your weapon.  Pick up found trash and leave your hunting area cleaner than you found it.

  • Field dress (gut) your animal as soon as you possibly can.  This will ensure that the animal is dead and will help prevent spoilage of the meat.

  • When bringing your animal home from the hunt, ensure respect for both the animal and the non hunting public.  Properly store your animal while in transit.  Public perception of hunters is a fickle thing.  Do not add fuel to the anti hunting sentiment.

  • Do not let your game meat spoil either by improper handling or by leaving it in a freezer.  Do your level best to not waste a single ounce of game meat.

  • Never drive off trail.

  • Never hunt or pursue big game when the big game is trapped in a fenced paddock, feed lot, or field. This type of hunting is not considered fair chase. Per the Skagit Herald and the WDFW, in late 2009, a number of legal bowhunters went into a fenced field and went after a herd of elk trapped in that field. A few of the severely spooked animals tried to jump the barbed wire fences and inadvertently disemboweled themselves on the top wire. All of this was within site of a major freeway. What the hunters did was 100% legal, but clearly the carnage that followed caused undue stress and death on the trapped animals. Always think of how a herd or an individual animal will react after the shot. Also, be very aware of your surroundings and who may be watching. The general public does not necessarily want to watch hunters in the actual act of shooting an animal or bird, regardless of legality.  (hws staff)

Bird Hunting Ethics_______________________________________________

  • Know the laws for the area and species you are hunting.  Ignorance of the law is never an excuse in court.

  • It is considered bad form to set up your decoys within shotgun range of another hunter's spread.  The rule is whoever was there first... gets the spot.  If space is limited and you intend to be hunting away  from the other hunters, ask permission of the hunters who were there first (even on public land).   If they deny your request, find another spot... it is dangerous and annoying when you set up close to someone.

  • You should never command or handle another hunter's dog without the owner's permission while in the field.  Most dog owners are pretty serious about their dogs and the dogs are "on the clock" when in the field.

  • Always expose and show the breech of your unloaded gun when around game wardens, in the parking area, moving items to and from the blind/boat, or the like.  To most people, a closed breech means a loaded weapon.   Loaded weapons, when not hunting, make people nervous.  Show them that your gun is unloaded and that you know proper gun handling.

  • Commonly used steel shot does not have the impact of Bismuth or lead. Marginal shots on birds can lead to a few "cripples."  Do everything in your power to chase down and find your cripples.  You owe it to the bird.

  • Skybusting waterfowl is a technique that should be exercised judiciously. The potential to merely wound the bird is so great that these shots should never be attempted.  Know the effective range of your weapon and do not exceed that range.

  • If you see illegal behavior in your hunting area, whether it be other hunters or not, report the activity to the nearest authorities.  You owe it to the vast majority of the other hunters in our community who hunt legally. Report Poachers

  • Next time you see a game warden or a game biologist, recognize the difficulty with which they perform their jobs.  Thank them for the work and their service, regardless of your opinion of the policies game management department.   Their job is to enforce the laws of the State of Washington,
    regardless of your opinion of the law.

  • Never litter! and that includes shell casings from your weapon.  Pick up found trash and leave your hunting area cleaner than you found it. (courtesy Todd G.)

  • Do not shoot birds while they are on the water.  The majority of your shot will only hit the back feathers of the duck or goose.  Shooting the exposed wings and breast of a bird in flight ensures a quick and clean kill.

  • Field dress (gut) your bird immediately after getting it back in the blind. This will ensure that the bird is dead and helps prevent spoilage of the meat.

  • When bringing your animal home from the hunt, ensure respect for both the animal and the non hunting public.  Properly store your animal while in transit.  Public perception of hunters is a fickle thing.  Do not add fuel to the anti hunting sentiment.

  • Do not let your game meat spoil either by improper handling or by leaving it in a freezer.  Do your level best to not waste a single ounce of game meat.

  • If you are shooting with a group and you are unsure as to who shot the bird, it is considered good form to allow the hunter with the least amount of time in a blind, to have the bird.  Do not readily claim the bird as your own, when it could easily be someone else's.  It's rude.  (courtesy Bill B.)

  • Never shoot a roosted Turkey.  It is considered bad form. (courtesy Mike D.)

  •  It is very unsportsmanlike to shoot a turkey in a tree, mark where the bird is and come back later before first light and catch the birds when they come down off the roost.  Turkey roosts are safety zones for hens and gobblers.  Only specific trees are preferred by turkeys to use as a roost (lots of bare branches well above the ground) Shooting straight up into a roost can damage the tree and the roosting branches making them unusable for future flocks.  It can also be difficult to correctly id your bird as a hen or a tom.  In fact, some states actually make it illegal to shoot turkeys out of their roosts.

  • Never drive off trail.

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