Edi­tor’s Jour­nal

How much is too much when it comes to abid­ing by fair chase?

Outdoor Life - - CONTENTS - An­thony Licata Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor In­sta­gram: @tonyli­cata15

Long-range shoot­ing is a hot trend in hunting, driven by im­prove­ments in ri­fles, op­tics, and ammo. I’m a poor long-range shot. I don’t prac­tice at those dis­tances and so have no busi­ness shoot­ing game at ex­tended ranges (to say noth­ing about what can go wrong at such dis­tances with even the most pro­fi­cient shooter). But there are more fun­da­men­tal rea­sons why I try to get as close as pos­si­ble when I’m hunting. In our an­nual op­tics test (p. 34), you’ll see that there is an arms race among com­pa­nies to build ri­fle­scopes that use rangefind­ing tech­nol­ogy, Blue­tooth, smart ret­i­cles, and phone apps to make it pos­si­ble for hun­ters to shoot ac­cu­rately at ranges that would’ve as­tounded our fa­thers and grand­fa­thers. Equip­ment that aids in mak­ing a clean, quick kill— the pri­mary goal of any eth­i­cal hunter—is a good thing, but if that were the only goal, we’d shoot game­birds on the ground. Sport­ing ethics also in­clude the hard-to-de­fine con­cept of “fair chase” and the idea that hunting should never be too easy. Al­most 70 years ago, hunter and con­ser­va­tion­ist Aldo Leopold was al­ready con­cerned about th­ese is­sues. This pre­scient warn­ing comes from his clas­sic Sand County Al­manac: Then came the gad­geteer, oth­er­wise known as the sport­ing-goods dealer. He has draped the Amer­i­can sports­man in an in­fin­ity of con­trap­tions, all of­fered as aids to self-re­liance, hardi­hood, wood­craft, or marks­man­ship, but too of­ten act­ing as substitutes for them.… I have the im­pres­sion the Amer­i­can sports­man is puz­zled; he doesn’t un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing to him. Big­ger and bet­ter gad­gets are good for the in­dus­try, so why not for out­door recre­ation? It hasn’t dawned on him that out­door recre­ations are es­sen­tially prim­i­tive, atavis­tic; that their value is con­trast­value; ex­ces­sive mech­a­niza­tion de­stroys contrasts by mov­ing the fac­tory to the woods or the marsh. What would Leopold think now? Tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced gear can be a great thing, but we al­ways need to con­sider th­ese is­sues. As tech­nol­ogy races for­ward, we should care­fully weigh what is gained and lost with each re­lent­less step to­ward the bet­ter, eas­ier, and more con­ve­nient. I’m not go­ing to tell any­one which type of tech­nol­ogy di­min­ishes the out­door ex­pe­ri­ence, or how far they should shoot, or at what range fair chase turns into “too easy.” Ev­ery­one needs to de­cide that for them­self. But in our quest to be more suc­cess­ful in the field, we should not lose touch with the ancient preda­tor-prey re­la­tion­ship, where the preda­tor fails more of­ten than suc­ceeds. This prim­i­tive con­nec­tion of­fers me re­wards that I can find no other way. Mem­o­ries of two very sim­i­lar mule deer hunts might be the eas­i­est way to ex­plain what I mean. In each case, I spotted a great buck at more than 600 yards. If I’d had the right ri­fle and op­tics, and the shoot­ing skills to match, I could’ve killed them from where I sat. At that range, the bucks couldn’t see or smell me, so they’d never know I was there; I had plenty of time to set up for a good shot. In­stead, I plot­ted a way to get closer. Each stalk re­quired back­ing out over a ridge, a hike around and up a draw— watch­ing the wind the whole time—and fi­nally, a belly crawl over ex­posed ground to get within 300 yards. The stalks were hard and painful, and pushed my hunting skills to the limit. In the end, one of the bucks dropped at my shot. The other busted me in the fi­nal mo­ments, and I went home with­out veni­son. Both ex­pe­ri­ences were equally ex­cit­ing, and each made me feel deep in my gut what is so re­ward­ing and spe­cial about hunting. We’d love to hear your thoughts on long-range shoot­ing and tech­nol­ogy in hunting. Please write to us at let­[email protected]­door­life.com.

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