Being hunters and shooters we have many things we are responsible for in our sport. We have to be able to shoot well. We have to take care of our guns and equipment. We have to take the time to know how our equipment works and practice with it to be able to shoot it well. We have to be able to judge the animals we are hunting and know that it is the right one. Whether it’s big enough or old enough to shoot. We have to know where our shot will go if we miss. We also have to abide by the laws of the state or country in which we are hunting. I am going to tell you two stories where the Hunter did everything right and the outcome is not what you would expect. Let me know what you think about what happened to these hunters.
Hunter number one (I will call him Jim) was hunting Dall sheep for his first time. He had booked this hunt with a well known outfitter in Alaska. Jim spent six months getting into good physical condition, even hired a personal trainer to get him into the best shape of his life. He shot his rifle on a regular basis, two inch groups at 300 yards were very easy for Jim to shoot. Jim read everything he could about hunting Sheep in Alaska and new the laws. Jim’s outfitter was hunting in a new area for him. This area had not been hunted in many years and the hopes for a record book Sheep were on every ones mind. Two weeks before Jim left on his hunt he brought his rifle in for a last minute check up and to make sure he would not have any problems during his hunt. He looked to be in great shape. He was sure of his physical condition and his abilities and was ready for this hunt. As you can guess all did not go as planned. After getting to camp, Jim shot in his rifle and checked the zero. The next day, Jim and his guide climb to the top of a mountain to glass for Sheep only to find three other camps near by. There were no Sheep in sight, just other hunters. With the chances for a record book Ram gone, Jim settled for hunting a good legal Sheep. On the third day of hunting, they spotted several small groups of Sheep. After a four hour climb, the guide told him that there was a legal ram in the group. None of the Rams were full curl, but one was over 10 years old. As they were getting into shooting position the Sheep spotted the Hunters and started up the side of the mountain. The Guide told Jim to shoot the lead Ram. When Jim pulled the trigger he heard his guide say, “I hope there were two legal Rams in that group”. Our Hunter had shot the Sheep he was told to but it turned out to be a very nice 8 or 9 year old Sheep. Taking responsibility for his shot, he decided to turn the Sheep into the local Fish and Game Department and gave an explanation of what happened. His Sheep was confiscated, as well as, his rifle! He was given a ticket and has to fly back to Alaska to appear before the court to see how much his fine will be. The Guide had his professional license taken from him for 5 years. Jim did everything an Ethical Hunter is expected to do. He listened to his Guide and it will cost him tens of thousands of dollars to stay out of jail. The only thing he has to show for all his hard work is a picture of the Sheep and a bad memory.
Hunter number two (I will call Bill) went to Central Africa to hunt Bongo. Bill is a very experienced Hunter and was prepared for the harsh environment and a hard hunt. On the second day, a Bongo was spotted and as luck would have it, after a great stalk and a chase, the Outfitter said to take the shot. The Bongo fell in its tracks from a well placed 375 bullet. On walking up to this wonderful Trophy, Bill discovered that the Bongo had broken off one of his horns. “Well that is bad luck”, is the only thing his Outfitter could say. This pretty well ruined the rest of the hunt for Bill. He came home will a bad story and an empty checkbook.
Both of these Hunters did everything right in getting ready for these hunts. They followed the laws and listened to their Guide and Outfitter. Both had problems. When we go on out of state or on safari to other countries, we put our trust and sometimes our lives in the hands of others. We expect them to know the laws of the land, and how to judge the trophies we are hunting. Always check out the Outfitter and know with who and where you will be hunting. Always ask for a list of references and actually call those references to discuss how their hunt went and if there were any problems. Even if you are hunting Whitetail Deer, know the rules of the ranch and how much everything costs. Some ranches charge by the inch for a Trophy Buck. For example, a 150 inch Deer could cost so much and a 152 inch Deer can cost thousands of dollars more. Believe me, it is hard to judge the difference between a 150 and a 152 inch deer. Make sure both you and your guide are on the same page with how big a Deer you are hunting and how much you expect to pay for the Hunt. This will help you in the end when you are ready to head home. As we all prepare and look forward to the upcoming hunting season with great anticipation, take the time to know the law, practice with your firearm and be an Ethical hunter, it’s your responsibility.