The other day I was doing a radio interview about hunting on an NPR show called On Point. During our discussion, the host played a clip from another interview in which Ted Nugent said that hunters who discuss hunting ethics are actually feeling “guilty” about being hunters. While I happen to be a huge fan of Nugent’s music (Stranglehold is pure genius, and I’ve even attended Nugent’s Whiplash Bash), I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell he was talking about. It made me think of something that happened the other day, when I tried to explain to my 2-year-old son why he shouldn’t walk up to old ladies and point to their face and announce, “That’s an old lady!” While I didn’t use the word “ethics” when discussing this with him, I certainly made it clear in a two-year-old way that we abide by codes of conduct. It was very similar to discussions I’ve had with him while dissuading him from walking out of a store with a Blow Pop that wasn’t paid for, and from throwing ripe tomatoes across the kitchen in order to see them splatter. But after hearing Nugent’s comment, I wondered if I was wrong for discussing these things with my boy. Maybe, perhaps, I’m harboring a bunch of guilt about old ladies, stealing Blow Pops, and destroying ripe tomatoes.
At the risk of betraying all the guilt that I also feel about being a hunter—guilt that I’ve camouflaged through 30-plus years of hunting, and by writing dozens of hunting articles and three hunting books—I’m going to talk for a moment about hunting ethics.