The ethical issue isn't the 350-yard shot. The real concern, as Boone and Crockett Club sees it, is hunters not trying to get a closer one.
Long-range shooting is a hot topic in hunting. Improved and specialized guns, gear, bullets and sniper skills are growing in popularity, stretching the lethal range of hunters further than ever before. But many hunters wonder how it all fits with traditional, ethical standards. How far is too far to be considered fair chase?
Boone and Crockett adopted a new position statement to help define the ethics of taking game from long range.
"It's not about distance; it's about intent," said Bill Demmer, Club president.
He explained, "Hunters have varying degrees of marksmanship skills and capabilities. Some are steady only out to 100 yards. Others are very efficient at much longer distances. All kinds of field conditions also factor into what is or isn't an ethical shot. So, within reasonable sideboards, it's impossible to use distance as a measurement of fair chase."
But the Club firmly takes issue with hunters who choose shooting long rather than trying to get close. Intent is what separates hunting from merely shooting a live target.
"The honor and lasting memories in hunting have always been in our ability to get close to game animals. And every hunter has better odds of a quick, clean kill at closer distances. That's one of our most imperative responsibilities as a hunter, and that's the legacy of sportsmanship that we believe is important to uphold," said Demmer.
Maintaining the integrity and public support of hunting is vital. The tradition, along with its indelible ties to conservation, is a key to sustaining wildlife for the future.
C.J. Buck, president of Buck Knives and a Boone and Crockett member, said, "Hunting is personal and the reasons why people hunt are personal. For many, making a kill is merely incidental to their time afield. This elevates hunting to mean something more than just filling a tag, and that's one of the things that make it special. Sure, we have laws for safety and to conserve the resource, but at the end of the day our satisfaction has more to do with our own intentions. I think that is why so many sportsmen are disturbed by those who make the shot or the kill more important than the hunt itself."
Boone and Crockett has been a standard-bearer for hunting ethics since 1902, when Club founder Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a captive black bear during a hosted hunt in Mississippi. The incident, widely covered in the press, popularized the concept of fair chase on this continent, elevated public appreciation for sportsmanship and even inspired introduction of a new toy, the Teddy bear.
Demmer concluded, "Some people don't like us talking about ethics, claiming it divides hunters when hunters should be united. Rallying around hunting ethics is how sportsmen did away with the anything-goes culture that nearly eliminated big game in the early days of the conservation movement. I believe doing right by the game and the traditions of hunting still unites hunters."
The Club's position statement and an article by noted gun and hunting writer Wayne van Zwoll are posted at www.boone-crockett.org.
© 2014 Boone and Crockett Club