Judgment…or a Lack Thereof

I got into a discussion with a hunter recently regarding the ethics of shooting running game. His position was that there are no circumstances where it would be appropriate to shoot at a running game animal. I asked him whether it was proper to shoot at a running animal if it was already wounded. He sniffed that he had never wounded an animal. Oops…red flag.

Hunt long enough, and you will make a bum shot, make an error in judgment or have an equipment malfunction. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, now might be a good time to consider what you will do when it occurs.

It wasn’t all that long ago when most hunters considered shooting at running game just a part of the game. Many actually enjoyed the excitement and noise. I taught a buddy how to handload about three decades ago. About a year or two afterward he sardonically told me that I ruined the fun of hunting for him. “I used to shoot a box of shells at almost every animal,” he lamented with a bit of tongue in cheek. “Now it takes no more than a couple of shots!”

I’ve had some pretty good luck shooting critters on the fly over the years—more good than bad—but I have also made some really bad decisions. Nowadays I generally restrain myself from such shots. If it’s a quail shot—where the range is quite short—I’ll probably take a poke because the likelihood of wounding the animal is relatively small. But despite the fact that I have made several successful shots on animals running at 200 yards and beyond, the chances of wounding and losing such a critter are unacceptable to me.

All bets are off if the animal is wounded. If I have made a bad shot and the animal is running away, I owe it to make every effort to dispatch it as quickly as possible. If my conversational acquaintance of  that day can ever manage to ever drag his butt off his pompous throne of self-idolizing moral supremacy, I hope he considers his options before something like this occurs and plans accordingly.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”
  1. Brad Woodward Reply

    Your title says it all…reasonableness, employed is the key. I too, have dropped a fair number of ungulates on the run, primarily in my younger days. These days almost everything I harvest is accomplished from a very good rest while the animal is positioned properly, unaware and motionless…but I have taken a few in the last few years on the move, but I KNEW that I could dispatch them without issue. And oh yeh, I have muffed a few – everyone has, some are just too proud to admit it. Thanks again, good subject and worthy to consider for future days afield.

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