While conducting a recent speaking engagement, I had a lady ask me, “What do you consider fair chase hunting?” Well, if you were to Google “fair chase hunting” on the internet, the Boone and Crockett Club states it is the “ethical, sportsman-like, and lawful pursuit” and “taking any free-ranging wild, big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the game animals.”
Well, to answer her question, I stated my own personal opinion, and that is simply, ”If it is legal and ethical, do it!”
If you wanted to argue the differences, most of the progression and advancement of modern day hunting equipment could be considered not consistent for fair chase hunting. If you would have told me 55 years ago that I would be using the equipment that I use now for deer hunting, I would probably said, “No way that is possible.” But with the advancement and progress of the modern day firearms, it is entirely possible for the skilled hunter, with practice and being familiar with his/her weapon, to harvest big game animals several hundred yards away without the animal realizing there was danger.
That can be considered an unfair advantage, and many people not enjoying the hunting tradition consider it not being fair chase. With all the different camouflage patterns offered, it is much easier to defy the animal's vision. They have also developed many scent-control products to counteract the animal’s keen sense of smell, and with the introduction of trail cameras, you can get an accurate indicator of the population of animals in your area by having photos along with the date, time, air temperature, and moon phase. And with the advent of the portable tree stand, it is very simple for the hunter to be mobile and relocate his/her stand location in rather short time.
Do I utilize any of these advantages in my hunting techniques? Yes, I certainly do, but there are a number of tips and techniques I personally do not utilize. Of course in Indiana, it is illegal to actually bait deer. Many states allow the hunter to do this, but I honestly feel if it was legal in Indiana, I would not do it!
I am somewhat “old school,” and I have noticed my opinion is not agreed with by many hunters, but I prefer a natural food source compared to one “dreamed up” by a manufacturer. I prefer hunting around natural crops that are common to the areas I hunt. I love hunting by bean fields, and the deer are accustomed to seeing, smelling, and eating beans that are planted.
I also enjoy hunting close to corn fields. Deer consume a lot of corn, and it is natural. I like to hunt close to apple trees because deer love apples, but what if a hunter carries apples into an area that has no apple trees? The deer are on full alert. They know those apples are not a natural food source.
Same thing for carrots. Deer love carrots, but they were born and raised in that area, and they know what is natural within their area. I also like to hunt close to oak ridges, and I know the deer love acorns. If I can locate white oaks, that is a natural food source and will attract deer.
Another technique that is commonly used for deer hunting that I do not utilize is “deer drives.” This is basically a pre-determined number of hunters walking through an area making some noise in an attempt to move deer toward other hunters who are waiting at certain spots in an area.
The “sitters” will enter the area silently and take positions along deer trails. Once they are established in position, the “drivers” will commence slowly, walking in the general direction of the “sitters” while they often whistle or talk in an effort to move deer toward the “sitting” hunters.
Deer drives must be used properly with one person as the “drive captain” and with safety being stressed. All of the hunters need to adhere to the safety rules and remain within vision of the other hunters. Their “line of travel” should be correlated and kept in a straight line.
Personally, I have never been on a “deer drive” because I would rather spend time scouting an area and be one-on-one with the deer. I fail to see the “sport” in 15 to 20 guys teaming up to harvest one deer.
Opinions on fair chase hunting can be different from one person to another, and it can be argued. Trust me, I have seen friends who could not agree on opinions, and many friendships have been dissolved over such issues.
Every hunter wants to be successful. If they didn’t, they have defeated themselves, and there is no reason to go hunting. What works for me does not mean it will work for you, and I know our opinions will be different on certain topics. But as long as it is legal, I say, “Go for it!”
You and I have very little, if any, say-so concerning what is legal and illegal, and if you consider it not being acceptable as fair chase hunting, I suggest don't do it!