Wildlife Management & Hunter Ethics

I recently embarked on a journey that I have been trying to travel down for years now. I was allowed to become a hunters’ education instructor for the State of Virginia. I was allowed to travel to a wonderful place in Appamatox, Virginia and spend some time learning the ability to teach safety to those who want to learn it. What a sheer thrill it was to join the ranks of many before me and those beside me in the effort to keep people enjoying the great outdoors safely! One of the biggest things that was emphasized in this training was ethics. Now that archery season has started in Virginia, it’s something I like to discuss with everyone this time of year as a little refresher. 


For starters, let’s just define the word ethics. “Ethics” is defined by the Webster’s English dictionary as “the principles of conduct governing and individual or group”. Furthermore, these “ethics” are governed by law for hunters. Something that was once said to me by a very wise man still rings true to me in EVERYTHING I do in life, however it was spoken to me in the woods by my close friend and mentor. He said to me “no matter whether you think someone sees you do it or not, someone, somewhere, and somehow, it will be known”. Just because you think you can “get away with it” doesn’t make it right. It’s your moral character and gumption that will dictate your behavior. Or as another great man and mentor once said to me (my dad) “let your conscience be your guide”. 

Now stepping off the soap box and the morals discussion, it is our job as hunters to teach our future hunters and outdoors-people to be ethical. We need to instill a mindset of conservation and appreciation. It is very significant in level of importance, especially today and furthermore. In my particular area, houses are erupting like volcanoes. Fields, wooded areas, natural habitation for creatures and critters is disappearing in droves!!!! We need to conserve what we have, or it will be gone! We also need to appreciate what we have. The first step to this is being ethical. Having that moral fiber to do the right thing when nobody is watching, the ability to know when to harvest and when not to. Being steadfast enough to practice and appreciate the PRIVLEDGE to hunt and be in the great outdoors…….these are all key parts. 

I personally took hunter’s safety as part of grade school classwork. It was required in my hometown, and in my school system (back then). Now, it’s not even taught in schools, you have to go elsewhere to even get the required training. I do see both sides of that change. A lot of the kids brain dumped it after we got the class, but were still now legally allowed to get a hunting license. This created a high number of accidents. Not a good idea. BUT, for some kids, this was the only way they’d be able to get it. It also opened minds to the thought of ethical hunting and safe hunting practices, seeing as how in my hometown, hunting and fishing were not only significant priorities but literally all some people could afford to feed their families with. Mine included. That being said, it was beneficial for me to teach the class to get a refresher on a lot of things that have been long forgotten about. In the advent of my daughter growing up and desiring to hunt with me, as well as many others who want to hunt with me, I enjoy teaching these things. As a refresher to you fellow hunters who have probably forgotten, here are a few things to keep in mind (especially when talking to the youth of tomorrow).

The Pittman-Robertson Act. This is key to conservation and the future of our hunting/fishing for everyone. It was established in 1937, and it takes a tax from goods sold to finance the wildlife conservation in the United States. You are contributing to it and don’t even realize it (most people that is). The Department of the Interior (a federal agency) gives the allotted money to each state for land acquisition, wildlife research, restocking options, and hunter education. Even non-hunters benefit from the Act, because this also pays the way for camping areas, wildlife watching areas, etc. etc. etc.

Ethics. This can get into a huge discussion, and ethics are guidelines by law for hunting. This however doesn’t speak for what you do whilst “nobody is looking”. Another reason as a responsible hunter and responsible adult/parent/guardian teaching youth the honest and ethical ways are key. If we don’t start with ethics, we will have endangered animals we now have a hunting season for. Let your conscience be your guide, however, do your best to impart good (and moral) decision making to the youth. If we don’t, their grandkids won’t have the ability to enjoy the great outdoors.

Wildlife management. This is a discussion that can go on for days. If you really want to delve into it, go for it. You’d be surprised how much you can learn by researching into this. I will delve into this later in another article, because it is such a great topic and actually quite interesting. Honestly, we do need to teach this to everyone. Even the non-hunters would appreciate this too.

The most important one to me, safety. Almost all the incidents last year were due to negligence, failure to attend hunters safety, or follow simple (common sense) things. 90% of the injuries and the one fatality in Virginia was caused by lack or improper usage of fall protection in a tree stand. If we don’t teach the youth this, we are in serious trouble!!!! I will admit, I didn’t use any sort of fall protection as a kid. I look back now and feel lucky to not have had an incident. I religiously use mine now, and even if it’s only a possibility I’ll be in a tree stand, mine is on! Like the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention leads to a lot of protection! I’d definitely rather be safe than sorry. 

Please do yourself a favor. Get involved! Get engaged with the youth, or non-hunters. You’d be surprised how amazing it is to get someone out in the wild and see the faces of amazement you won’t find in a suburb cul-de-sac. Even if they don’t hunt, or if they do, the experience of a lifetime is waiting for them. I challenge you to volunteer some time like I (and MANY others) have. Yes, I know I missed some time in a tree stand. Yes, the itch of a wonderful morning with my bow is ALWAYS calling. However, it’s a LOT of fun to get someone new out there, and get them involved themselves. 

Be safe out there, and shoot straight!

-Bill Vahle, Fall Obsession Field Staff

Samuel Thrash