Comments About
"Is It Sporting?"
Last time we reported on a hunting ethics question by reader, Bill Tidwell, Is It Sporting? Here are your responses.

I feel that there's skill, technique and a lot of luck involved in hunting turkeys. This hunter should have tried to apply these three factors along with the other hunters in the area and let the curiosity of the animal being hunted decide who was successful.

Mel Carter

Yes, definitely we should pass a law that says it should be illegal to shoot a roosted tom turkey! This was very unsporting of that person!

Ted Blackwell

Bill Tidwell's turkey hunting experience poses an interesting question.

With all due respect to Bill, a five minute difference in watches is not beyond possibilities, and available light that close to sunrise can vary considerably from ridge top to bottom. I just recently bumped a big tom strutting in a clearing 15 minutes before shooting time. I had no problem seeing his beard and had just recently set my watch and checked sunrise using my GPS.

Unfortunately, unless someone actually observed the roost shot, the 'hunter' is innocent of breaching ethics. I have heard my share of early shots on public property and wondered at the superior eyesight of fellow hunters.

Not to mention the quality of their timepieces. A novice at duck hunting, I had a hearty laugh when a fellow blind-mate stated, "I guess it's shooting time" at the roar of shotgun blasts from nearby refuges. My Casio showed ten minutes to go!

We don't need a regulation to declare shooting roosting turkeys illegal. Love for the sport and respect for the game pursued is all it takes for 99.99% of our fellow hunters to refrain from breaching personal ethics. Without that love, respect, or personal ethics, no law will change things.

Back to the tom I bumped. If I had the shot, would I have taken it? I remember the first animal I killed (it was politically correct to not have to use harvest back then). My Dad ensured we took a minute to reflect at the beauty of the animal. I kind of assume he meant something more, and in my youthful innocence tried to understand. As I started my appointed chore of cleaning up, I recall thinking how minutes before this animal was part of something greater than me and my 30-30. This past January, my son Neal and I were treated to two honkers flying right over our heads at 15 yards. I can still remember their calls and the grandeur of their flight against the brilliant pink sky. The question of shooting came up. No, shots were not taken. We had left our blind ten minutes earlier at 'official' sunset. Neither of us have ever taken a honker.

Bill, it is perhaps moments like ours and hunts like you and your son experienced that ensures the 99.99% will pass on an ethical tradition. Our sons learned something that no regulation could ever accomplish.

Chuck Kolsar

I'd like to respond to the question "To help eliminate unethical hunting, should the shooting of roosting wild turkey be declared illegal?" Mr. Tidwell stated that according to his watch, a hunter killed a turkey by shooting it out of its roost, and did so approximately five minutes before legal shooting time.

First, let's get one thing straight. Going by Mr. Tidwell's account of what happened, and assuming that what he described is true, then the "sport hunter" is not, in fact, a sport hunter -- he (or she) is a poacher. A person who violates game laws is, by definition and in no uncertain terms, nothing but a poacher. Shooting an animal outside of legal constraints -- such as shooting a deer out of season, taking more than the allowable bag limit, or shooting before or after legal shooting hours -- makes a person a poacher. So let's not cloud the issue by calling someone a sport hunter when he/she is nothing more than a criminal.

Now, should it be illegal to shoot a roosting wild turkey? Sorry, but no. Ethics are dictated by one's personal beliefs. Remember several years earlier when former Fish and Game Director Boyd Gibbons wanted to prohibit using dogs to hunt bear? He said that doing so was unethical. The hoopla and debates, many of which were seized upon by the antihunting community, led to the Legislature and the Fish and Game Commission considering measures that would have outlawed the use of hounds when hunting bear. Fortunately, the Legislature's efforts failed, but the Commission eventually passed a regulation effective July 1, 1995, prohibiting the use of treeing switches on the dogs' collars.

To determine if an action is ethical, one must ask one's own self if the action that he or she is about to take is in the spirit of fair chase. Would you shoot a duck on the water after it landed in the decoys? Would you shoot a pheasant as it ran on the ground in front of you? If the duck or pheasant was wounded, then in my opinion, shooting it on the water or ground is ethical because you would be dispatching it as quickly and humanely as possible. But in those same circumstances, shooting one that is not wounded would, again in my opinion, be unethical, because it does not follow the often unwritten rules of fair chase. If I can't do it and be proud of the way I did it, then I won't and don't do it.

I don't think we need more laws or regulations to tell us what is fair and ethical. Instead — and this has been written many times before today — we need to police ourselves so that we don't have to be policed by others. And the best way to do that is to set an example by conducting ourselves in the manner that we'd like everyone else to follow.

And by the way, I wouldn't have shot that turkey even after legal shooting time had begun, and I applaud the hunter who scolded the poacher. Maybe he'll think a little harder about his actions next time.

Mike Hill

I believe that shooting roosting turkeys should be illegal. I just returned yesterday from taking my 15-year-old on a junior hunt. We inadvertently walked under a roost tree while trying to get close to another turkey that had gobbled from the roost. There was a huge gobbler in the tree. He looked to have had at least a 10" beard. I guess I could have told my 15-year-old to shoot it, but why? Is this the way turkey hunting is supposed to be? No. I want him to know the joy and incredible excitement that calling in and watching a gobbler strut into range does to you. That is a memory that he would always remember. It wouldn't be very flattering to tell someone you shot yours out of a tree, especially your first one. As far as I'm concerned, anyone could do that. I could go on and on, especially about the numbers of bowhunters back east that have been shot out of their deer stands in the fall by so-called turkey hunters. It should be illegal and that's it. If you can't do it right, don't do it at all!

Monty Owens

To shoot a roosting turkey from its roost is highly unethical. I am not an avid turkey hunter, but have hunted them in the past. This type of behavior is along the same lines as road hunting for deer, whether with a bow or gun. Any person that would commit such an offense is no better ethically than a poacher.

Chuck Wyllie

Is it any different than using dogs to tree a bear, squirrels, raccoons, and then shooting them out of the tree. Is it any different than to be totally hidden in camouflage and having the prey walk up to your gun sight, because he is tracking the call of your partner 50 yards away.

YOU DAMN RIGHT IT'S WRONG...That's probably why you can't shoot pheasants until after 8 a.m. ... so they have time for some scratch and a drink of water before they start their day dodging 12 gauges, short hairs, black Labs, skunks, coyotes, and whatever else Mother Nature can dig up. If you hunt the state's duck areas, you still have the early shot and the late shot... but for the most of it they are still shooting at moving, winged prey. The real question might be... WHAT IF AT 12 NOON YOU CAME ACROSS A TURKEY SLEEPING IN, AND STILL AT ROOST... What do you do? Is it any different than the bear, coon or squirrel? Was it the early by 5 minutes or the fact that it was in a tree? Or is it because some low-life, scum-bag urban road hunter thought of it first?

For the father to his son, you might not have been lucky enough to harvest the turkey anyway. Your real responsiblity is to explain to your son that what happened is not the right way to do it and be glad for the time you shared with your son in GOD'S OUTDOORS. I truly hope you have many more enjoyable hunts together.....

Dennis Best

I believe the practice of shooting turkeys in roost trees should be illegal. I personally have passed up this type of situation. The hunt and fair chase is the most important aspect of hunting. There is something about shooting a bird out of the tree that seems unethical and unsportsmanlike.

Bruce Pedersen

Shooting turkeys off roosts should not be a matter of law. The turkey is just as dead shot in a tree or on the ground a few seconds or minutes later. This method or manner of harvesting a turkey should be up to the individual hunter and it just isn't anyone else's business. The decision does depend on a number of factors, including safety and legality but should not include competition to see who gets there first. In the situation that prompted the above question, the shooter may well have shot a little too early depending on whose watch was more correct. Be courteous and respect your fellow hunters! This situation reminds me of the arguments between compound bow shooters and those that choose traditional equipment; fly versus bait fishermen; and in-line versus traditional muzzleloaders. We just don't need to create controversy that could ultimately be used to destroy our tradition of hunting and fishing. We do not need the "We have met the enemy and he is us" syndrome. We've got enough people trying to do that already.

Tim Pender

We have enough laws, rules and regulations. There will always be jerks, I know of no way to write a law that will help or make them grow up.

Steve Kawelmacher

Yes, It should be against the law to shoot turkeys from the roost.

William Knox

I have not hunted wild turkey enough to know how sporting it is to shoot a turkey out of the roost, but the fact that this so-called "sportsman" took this bird before the legal shooting time may change the picture a bit. The situation might have played out a little different if this hunter would have waited until legal shooting time.

As for the question, "Should the laws be changed?" I don't see a big difference in shooting a turkey out of a roost, or shooting a buck on his bedding area. Shooting before legal light is already a violation of the law, and for a good reason. I feel that the real problem is too many hunters and too little quality public land. I have faced ever increasing similar situations in all types of hunting. The true frustration is spending days, weeks, and in some cases months, scouting an area and locating a quarry only to find that another hunter has picked the same rock to sit on, and got up 10 minutes earlier. Although while walking back to my truck grumbling the words, "There should be a law against that," I can't think of any law that would help.

Syl LaMacchia

It's like shooting fish in a barrel, what fun (sport) is that! I realize how hard it is to find and how elusive wild turkeys can be, but that doesn't make it OK to shoot them while they roost! It's cheating, plain and simple! If you are that hard up for a bird, go get a Butterball!

Big John

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