Moments of Choice

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

The deer hunter quietly pulled away from his hunting spot and onto the roadway. Down just a few hundred yards, the gravel road gently curved next to a hayfield. There stood the buck of a lifetime within easy range.

As the hunter braked to a stop his mind raced, "Should I shoot him? Whose land is this? Yes, shooting hours are still open, but you can't shoot from the road."

When his foot slipped off the brake he thought, "Another day, big guy, another day." He drove away feeling good about doing the right thing and looking forward to tomorrow's hunt - the legal and ethical way.

Hunting and fishing ethics are often decided on the spot, in a split second, or as a Moment of Choice. What are ethics?

Ethic: the discipline dealing with what's good or bad or the principles of conduct governing someone or a group. An ethic is how you behave based on your personal values.

Ethics can be simple decisions, such as making sure to pattern your shotgun or sight in your rifle before you hunt or taking proper care of harvested game. They can also be complex decisions filled with high drama and intense human emotion that can end in a life or death situation. Ethics are often shared by people within the same geographical area of Missouri.

Who judges your outdoor behavior? Sometimes family members or a partner, occasionally the public, but most often it's simply you. The true test of character is what one does when no one is watching.

Aldo Leopold wrote a passage more than half a century ago that still embodies a sports person's ethical code. "A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact." Men and women who hunt and fish must face themselves and their outdoor conduct on a personal level.

Ethics are unique to a person and should be a constantly changing set of personal beliefs. As we continue to learn and appreciate our natural resources, this set of personal beliefs evolves into higher standards. These higher standards increase our respect for the natural world. Your code of ethics should allow you to have high self esteem and earn

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