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What's "Fair Chase"?

posted Oct 1, 2014, 11:16 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Oct 1, 2014, 11:20 AM ]
Fair Chase is a concept that's partially defined in hunting ethics.

For example, it's partially defined in a position statement of the Boone and Crockett Club, but with the qualification that "...as with any guideline that applies both under the law and within those things that cannot and should not be legislated, interpretations can vary..." In other words, the definition of "fair chase" is, to a large degree, left up to discretion of each individual.

However, here's their general definition: "the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals."

Let's take note of a few things about this statement. First, it's limited to "big game" (not including "small game" animals, not including unprotected or non-game animals, not including fish); second, it doesn't define the term "improper." We may assume that the club's position is that this definition should not be legislated.

Another part of this statement allows for the use of technologies and methods that each individual feels are right, acceptable, and necessary for success.

Another statement from the Boone and Crockett Club seems to refer to this allowance for what's necessary for success: "Bear baiting is a legal method in Saskatchewan and in addition to affording the opportunity to see a number of animals, baiting also affords close inspection and encourages selective harvest of mature males."

That's one good point in favor of bear baiting. There are a number of points against bear baiting, including a number of negative effects that follow from feeding wildlife, including the building of dependence in wildlife on artificial and unpredictable sources of food, the concentration of wildlife at feeding sites, poor nutrition, and the acclimation of wildlife to humans and human environments. Searches for the phrases "junk food" and "pastries" on the Boone and Crockett Club's website on 10/1/2014 didn't return any statements. In other words, because bear baiting can be done responsibly, the position seems to be that bear baiting is okay.

There are a number of other Position Statements of the Boone and Crockett Club, including some encouraging positions against clearly improper practices; but they're never going to cover every case, and they're generally going to make room for individual discretion. As far as that goes, it's a good thing.

Of course, some guidelines should be and are legislated in game and fish regulations. It might be fair to say that regulations have been set in cases where there has been abuse. So, for example, there are limitations on the ways in which bright lights and other electronic devices may be used, how and when wildlife may be fed with the intention of taking, the trapping methods that may be used near recreational and residential areas and in other circumstances in which they might unnecessarily endanger non-target animals, etc. In other words, there are a number of things that can and should be legislated., in which interpretations are not allowed to vary. And as far as that goes, it's a good thing.

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