Deer Hunting Sportsmanship
When it comes to determining whether or not a deer is a trophy, remember this……a trophy is in the eye of the beholder.
Individuals should always be the judge on whether or not the deer they have shot is a trophy. Actually, putting a definitive numerical score on a whitetail deer before it can be considered a trophy is not only misleading, but also often irrelevant.
Here's a good example: in hard-hunted states, where the average age of a harvested buck is only 1 1/2 years old, it is quite an accomplishment to locate and kill a deer that is 2 1/2 years old and scores barely 80 points.
On the other hand, in sparsely populated regions, the average age of a harvested buck can be somewhere closer to 3 1/2 years old and 120 points. Many bucks can die of old age without ever being seen.
Consequently, if the definition of the term "trophy" is a recognition of exemplary accomplishment, the smaller Pennsylvania buck should rank higher as a trophy because it was much more difficult to accomplish.
That's exactly how the Boone & Crockett (all methods) and Pope & Young (archery) clubs define their trophy qualifications. As a result, the Pope & Young's minimum requirement for entry in the record books is much less than the Boone & Crockett Club. This decision reflects the difficulty of getting within the effective 30 yard range for a bow harvest.
In general, both clubs recognize superior animals who have attained extraordinary antler size; focusing on the animal being scored and not the sportsman who harvested it.
Hunting ethics is a term used to define the true standards, conduct and moral judgement of a sportsman. Some deer hunters believe that hunting ethics are also a mirror image of the rest of their personal lives. Ethics can typically be broken down into two areas…..personal and public.
The personal ethics of a sportsman deal with the way he treats his sport, the animals and other deer hunters. This should not entail illegal activity. On the other hand, public ethics deal with issues such as breaking game laws, trespassing on private property, poaching, etc.
Every ethical deer hunter should practice personal ethics as a way of showing respect for his fellow sportsmen and the animals he pursues. This includes sharing hunting property instead of fighting over them, or avoiding areas that you know are being occupied by other deer hunters. Personal disregard for another hunter's right to be in the woods should also be avoided. Unfortunately, this happens all the time.
Also, any sportsman who purposely breaks game laws and fails to follow up on each and every shot they take is practicing unethical behavior.
A sportsman who participates in party hunting, shooting an animal for another hunter, poaching, or leaving a deer in the woods because it is "just" a doe or small buck is not only acting in a grossly unethical manner, but also illegally.
Today, hunters are not only waging a battle against anti-hunters, but we are also waging a more discouraging battle against the adverse publicity generated by unethical sportsmen. The actions of these guys give the majority of ethical, law abiding hunters a bad reputation.
Highways and Roads
For the whitetail deer, highways and roads are massive killers. In Pennsylvania, over one hundred thousand deer are road-killed annually. That number is higher than some states' total hunting harvest!
In an effort to reduce these numbers, some states have erected “deer proof” fences along the most accident prone stretches of highway. Despite these efforts, deer still manage to find ways to get around the fence and eventually get hit by an automobile. Still, the number of deer and vehicle collisions has dropped in these areas.
Perhaps the worst road threat to deer are the many winding, two-lane roads that snake through the rural areas of the whitetails habitat. Usually, accidents happen quickly because neither the deer or the driver can see each other very long before the collision takes place. There is little warning for either. With the forest literaly ending at the roads edge, the driver simply doesn’t have time to react to an oncoming deer.
Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to completely eliminate road kills. Driving slower seems to have no effect. It is said this is the price for our motorized civilization coexisting with whitetails in their world.
The object of deer hunting is to enjoy yourself. However, with so much emphasis being put on antler size these days, it is getting harder and harder for the average deer hunter to not feel a little inferior to those have access to thousands of acres of managed land and routinely shoot trophy class bucks.
The best way to enjoy deer hunting is to do what makes YOU happy instead of what someone else tells you should make you happy. For example, if you wish to shoot smaller deer and does, and its legal, then enjoy yourself and forget about what anyone thinks.
If trophy deer are your goal, then study the whitetail and its habits and do your best to reach that goal. But, don’t let the thought of shooting a certain caliber of deer suck the fun out of your experience. There are so many things to enjoy in the deer woods. The harvest itself is mere icing on the cake.