Tag Archives: fair chase

Fair Chase? You Decide

This year I was blessed with the easiest buck I’ve ever killed. But was it fair chase? You decide.

2020 Buck, photo copyright Mike L. Raether 11/2020

Even though we have a five week general hunting season in Montana, I don’t usually start hunting deer until the whitetail rut, which around here is last two weeks of the season.

Early on the morning of November 18, just as first light was flirting with the sky, I was about to head out to my favorite hunting spot (about 10 minutes away), when in the dim dawn light I saw a herd of about 15 cow elk and calves bedded down in the pasture about 65 yards from my house.

As the light grew, they started getting up and heading out like they always do about first light. I didn’t have a cow permit, so all I could do was watch them. And as I watched them I remembered that deer like to hang around elk sometimes, so I bundled up, got a cushion from the house, parked my butt on the little bench we have on our front deck, and lay my rifle across my lap. As I watched the edge of the timber across the pasture about 100 yards away, two different pairs of does wander out of the timber about 75 yards apart, and began feeding at the edge of the pasture. I figured if those does weren’t already bred, a buck might show up to take care of business.

After an hour or so I came back in the house to get some work done in my home office, but I kept a close eye on the pasture all day. About 2:00 in the afternoon a fork horn showed up, but it wasn’t a good shot so I passed. I told my wife I was going to spend the last hour or so of the day out on the deck, and went back to my impromptu “hunting spot” about 4:30 P.M. A doe with a yearling appeared along the edge of the pasture, and I watched as mamma nursed her fawn. Afterword, they both wandered up into the trees, and I lost track of them.

Just a few minutes later a decent buck arrived, trailing the doe. I steadied my rifle on the deck railing and took him at 130 yards, broadside and just behind the shoulder. Bang-flop. He was a 3X4, but certainly not a monster; he was an older deer whose antlers were in decline. I shot him at 5:00 P.M. and by 7:00 P.M. he was gutted, hung, skinned, and I was sitting down to dinner! Not exactly fair chase, I suppose, but at 71 years of age I’m not getting any younger (I once tried grower younger instead of growing older, but it didn’t work).

This was one of the few deer I’ve brought home in one piece. Usually, it’s bone it out where it drops using the gutless method, and pack out the meat. Not this time. But was it fair chase? You decide, and leave a comment letting me know what you think.

The Hunting Dilemma

It’s a paradox: “You say you love animals but you kill them. Why?” If you’re a hunter and a non-hunter asked you this question, how would you respond?

Photo “starry sky” courtesy of skyseeker. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Like many of us, I like to spend the last hour or so of the day with my feet up. I don’t have TV, but I do subscribe to Netflix as I enjoy watching some of the documentaries. Recently I watched a documentary called, Stars in the Sky: A Hunting Story and knew immediately I had to share this gem with my hunting friends. If you have Netflix, I encourage you to stream it. If not, you can buy the documentary from numerous places online. Trailers are also available online. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Stars in the Sky: A Hunting Story isn’t an apologetic or a defense of hunting, but a look at the “whys” of hunting. It’s a view of hunting from a number of diverse perspectives. It’s a walk along different paths. Perspectives are offered not only from hunters, but from a conservationist, a retired schoolteacher, a rancher, an environmental historian, a U.S. senator, and a vegan philosopher.

My non-hunting (but meat-eating) wife watched the film with me, and at one point she turned to me and asked, “Why do you hunt?” As I said, she’s not a hunter so she assumed a couple of the draws might be recreation, and spending time in the company of other hunters. She knows I love my almost-yearly retreat to elk camp, where I spend a couple of weeks living in a wall tent with a few friends. Her assumptions were correct, to a point, but there is more. I shared that many hunters consider hunting a solitary thing, and that is very much demonstrated in the film. Yes, I enjoy my time living in a wall tent with friends, but when we leave the tent in the grey predawn, we each go our separate ways, and solitarily filter back to camp in the failing light of the day to greet one another, share stories, and enjoy a hot meal cooked over a wood stove.

Back to the film, it did an admirable job of exploring hunting as a link between generations: The film noted that rarely does one take up hunting unless initiated by another, perhaps a father, an uncle, or in my case a good friend. One hunter shared, “I was introduced to it as an act of love for the natural world.” Responding to the hunter’s call is a coming of age for many, a demonstration of gaining enough maturity and understanding of fair-chase ethics culminating with the right to carry a deadly weapon.

And so we return to the paradox: “You say you love animals but you kill them.” Paradoxical, yes. But it is what it is. However, this leads me to ask a question: Why do YOU hunt? Consider leaving a comment. All perspectives welcome.