Hunting Ethics

Photo courtesy of Ben Thomas 

Rylan Jackman proudly displays his first buck. He harvested it only after ensuring that he was not messing up someone else’s hunt.

It was going to be an easy hunt. About a mile from home, a handful of elk had been having their way with a friend’s corn field. They had been there all summer, but now the season was open. Better yet, there were several nice bulls in the group, and I had two sons wanting to elk hunt; one of whom had never killed a bull.

I talked to my sons about the hunt, encouraging them to take a look. Both thought about it but declined. What? Turn down a gimme hunt for a grainfed bull? What was up with that? It turns out that it wasn’t the animals they were rejecting. Neither one wanted to trade the experience of chasing elk in the mountains—truly hunting—for an easy kill.

My oldest son recently passed on a black bear because, even though we watched it for almost an hour, we could never ascertain whether or not there were cubs involved. He really wanted to put a bearskin rug on his wall, but refused to accidentally orphan cubs. As the bear finally walked away, two observers told us they would have shot the bear anyway.

If it sounds like I am bragging on my boys, I am. I couldn’t be more proud of the decisions that they make regarding hunting. But these stories are about something more—self-imposed ethics in hunting.

This past week my son Ben and I were hunting east of Idaho Falls. In the darkness of pre-dawn, we pulled up to our spot to find another truck parked there. After a short visit with the occupants it was determined that we were planning to hunt opposite sides of the hill and would not be in one another’s way.

After a push through a deep canyon, we bumped into these same hunters on the road. They had returned to their vehicle shortly after sunrise and had driven down the side of the hill we were on. There, they had spotted four bucks.

When I asked them if they had gotten a shot, the dad, Marvin Jackman of Idaho Falls, told me they hadn’t pursued them even though they knew exactly where they were. Why? I asked. Because, he responded, they were unsure of our plans and didn’t want to mess up our hunt.

In today’s competitive hunting world that sort of courtesy, concern and sportsmanship is almost unbelievable. I thanked him for his consideration but insisted that they return to the spot and hunt the deer. We hiked back over the hill and had the privilege of watching Marvin’s son, Rylan, bag his first deer with a perfect shot.

Few other avocations are like hunting. Hunting requires a strong personal code of conduct because there aren’t many rules governing behavior and, more often than not, there is no referee to stop the hunt and castigate the participant for mis-deeds. Hunters, by how they voluntarily choose to behave, will eventually make or break hunting in this country.


"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho