Dear Writing Huntress,
I’m new to hunting. Like, brand new. I’ve done the classes, taken the tests, received my license and have started shopping for a shotgun. I feel prepared for season but I know there have to be some unspoken hunting rules out there that newbies like myself aren’t aware of. What’s the best way to be a courteous hunter? Are there time-honored rules for different seasons or asking permission to hunt on private property? What do I do if I get invited on a hunt, can I bring my sister, too?
Hunting for Manners in Mobile
Dear Hunting Manners,
Hunting, like hosting a black-tie event, is full of etiquette. While some form of state or federal law governs many of these regulations, others are simply outward expressions of being a good hunting neighbor.
Even Wikipedia, granted not the most valuable wealth of knowledge, states that, “Hunting may be regulated by ‘unwritten law.’” This type of unwritten, verbal “law” can be murky, especially among different states, cities or even families, so I can’t give you all the rules spanning the hunting world, but I can supply a few I’ve come across.
Be sneaky, very, very sneaky
When hunting public land, be aware of other hunters while trekking to your stand. Try your best to avoid walking right in front of someone else’s hunting area. If you happen to stumble upon another hunter, vacate his or her vicinity as quickly and quietly as possible, so as to not ruin his or her hunt.
Soggy and muddy means no-go
Landowners, especially farmers, invest a lot of money in their fields. Hence, if the land is overly muddy, wet or recently planted, DO NOT drive on it to retrieve a deer or stand.
If it’s not yours — leave it
If I had a nickel for every story of a trail cam, ladder stand, feeder or ground blind I’ve had stolen from public or private lands, I’d be a sad millionaire. Obviously, stealing is against the law, but it also goes against a deep moral code within the hunting community.
Hunting by Invitation
No friends allowed
Unless otherwise specified, don’t bring along extra people when you’re invited on a hunt. Be considerate of your host, as well as his or her time and resources.
Help set the spread and clean up
Just like any dinner party that requires a dish to pass or a beverage to share, hunting with a group requires an equal distribution of work. Pitch in however you can, it will make for a more pleasant day.
Be sure to have a clear, concise agreement concerning the days you’ll be hunting a parcel of land. Don’t assume you’re allowed to hunt the same piece of land in the following weeks, simply because you had the OK in the weeks prior.
Keep in mind that a landowner doesn’t have to give you permission to hunt his or her land. After the hunting season, send the landowner a thank-you card or small Christmas gift as gratitude for hunting rights.
Leave your gun and face paint in the truck
I’ve heard this from many a landowner in North Dakota, so please view it as more of a courtesy than a rule. When approaching a landowner for permission to hunt his or her land, a fresh-faced hunter is a lot more likely to obtain permission than a gun-toting, camo-faced one.
Distance is next to Godliness
Many states have laws governing how close you can be to other hunters or occupied dwellings while hunting. Be sure to not only know these distances, but also be able to gauge them afield. Personally, I extend these distances quite a bit, just to be on the safe side.
Have a backup plan
It’s 3 a.m. You’re tired, but you know you’re headed to a great field you scouted yesterday. The only problem is that someone got there before you and is setting up. While you could try to secretly hunt the same field, the best course of action is to move on. Always think of 2 to 3 backup plans, just in case your field is occupied by sunrise.
Hunting for Manners, while hunting etiquette holds many intricacies, being a good hunting neighbor is relatively simple, if you apply the golden rule: Treat others the way would want to be treated. Keep in mind, you’re not only representing yourself when you hunt, but also the rest of the hunting community, so do your best to be the most lawful and courteous hunter possible. Oh, and remember, have a little fun, too!