How to Be an Ethical Hunter

Expressing thanks for the owner's hospitality, maybe with a gift from the game bag, is a common courtesy that can go a long way toward securing land access again and establishing good hunter-landowner relations in the future.

Know Game

Understanding wildlife behavior is crucial to hunting success and adds immeasurably to respecting the hunt even when no game is taken. When skill and tireless determination result in the opportunity to shoot, the ethical hunter never takes more game than can be used. If they can, ethical hunters use well-trained dogs to help find downed game.

Properly field dressing and cleaning game assures that game is never wasted. Skill, patience and respect enhance the total hunting experience.


Hunting well is synonymous with good hunting. Ethical hunters practice their shooting skills, prepare themselves for the physical demands of the hunt, review the rules of firearm safety, select equipment equal to the dignity of the game and maintain their firearms properly to assure functional reliability. They also review wildlife identification and behavior often.


Ethical hunters choose their hunting companions with care. They must share a commitment to responsible behavior and be bound by mutual consideration. It is important that they share a willingness to sacrifice selfish interests and lend a helping hand in times of difficulty. With good companions, there are no bad days afield.


Non-hunters are critically important to the future of hunting. Most non-hunters are tolerant, but will be less so if forced to confront displays of dead game or see people in hunting clothes behaving in disrespectful ways. Ethical hunters are defined by their own sense of respect, honor, safety and fairness. Hunters who behave irresponsibly pose a greater threat to the future of hunting than any anti-hunting group. Bad impressions are difficult to change.

The Hunter's Law

Two types of law govern the ethical hunter's actions. One is written--the other is not. One is governmentally enforced--the second is based on morality. Both types of law apply with equal force to all hunters.

The amount of game taken, for example, is limited by formal regulation, as well as by self-restraint. Those who break the written law by poaching must be reported. Those who break the unwritten law by shooting at excessively long range, using inadequate equipment or neglecting to prepare themselves for the hunt must be corrected.

Those Who Ignore the Law are not Hunters

If we can act when alone as though a crowd were watching, we will be. If we can cherish each hunting day without regard for its result, we will be. If we can calculate our hunting achievements in terms of memories earned instead of shots fired, our days afield will be stronger. Happier. Richer.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is the trade association for the firearms, hunting and recreational shooting industry. Find out more about how NSSF supports programs designed to ensure the future of hunting and the hunter and conservation at


Courtesy of ESPN Outdoors -
  • 2
  • of
  • 2

Discuss This Article