A while ago we came across a video of goose hunters being confronted by someone who was a little bit less than enthused by the fact that they were out and looking to harvest some birds—legally, mind you. These sort of encounters have been very common over the years, especially depending on where you hunt. We’ve heard of anti-hunters destroying or stealing decoys, videotaping hunters, making a ruckus to scare game away, and at least a few heated confrontations where things could have gone south very fast. That is why it is important to understand that these situations could happen to you. Not all anti-hunting sentiment is restricted to Facebook posts or Twitter feeds, sometimes it meets you right in the field.
You can see an example of this in the aforementioned video, which is below. The woman in this video was later reportedly fined by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Video includes some foul language.
Hunters need to know how to deal with these types of situations. It is important to note that harassing hunters is illegal, despite what anti-hunters believe. However, even if you are on the right side of the law, there are still wrong things to do and right things to do. This list of actions is what a number of wildlife agencies recommend if you find yourself facing down an anti-hunter in the woods. Of course, it’s not a legally-binding checklist, but it does offer some good guidelines.
1. Avoid confronting the antagonist
This is the most important step. The last thing you want to do is get in a screaming match with a complete stranger in the middle of nowhere. Nothing good will come of it. You will not be able to change their viewpoint on the matter. Instead, argue as little as possible and try to remain calm. Officials say that you should inform the person confronting you that what you’re doing is legal, while what they are doing is breaking the law. If they persist, it may be worth leaving rather than let the situation get worse. Sure, you may lose a day of hunting, but it may be better than the alternative.
2. Observe proper gun safety
If you are hunting with a firearm—or really, any weapon—make sure you observe all the proper safety rules. You may be in a tense situation, but it’s no time to forget about the basics.
3. Don’t do anything that can be considered threatening
A popular tactic by anti-hunters is to record the encounter. Some groups encourage this as a way of “exposing hunters” and creating adverse media exposure. Therefore, it is important to consider your every move and how it will look on video. Threatening gestures, language, or even the re-positioning of a firearm could cause a misunderstanding. Worse yet, it may turn a situation where you had the legal advantage into a case where you are now under scrutiny.
4. It is not your job to enforce the law
This is an important point to remember. Although hunters should of course protect their belongings and well-being as best as possible, it is important to understand the law, and what you can do and cannot do. As frustrating as it may be to have a camera pointed in your face or to have someone yell at you, remember that they are breaking the law, not you.
Leave the enforcement of the law to game wardens, which leads to our next point.
5. Contact law enforcement as soon as possible
Hunter harassment can carry some stiff penalties, but the burden of proof is on you. Remember to make a note of when, where, who, and what occurred. Hunters should pay attention to details and remember as much information as possible. It is not always possible for the warden to arrive quickly, so you should make sure that you have plenty of information for officials to begin an investigation. Wildlife agencies take hunter harassment very seriously.
Remember, how you act not only impacts you, but also reflects on all hunters. If you do have the chance to engage in a civil discussion with anti-hunters however, perhaps in a more relaxed environment, then that’s a different case. Below you can see Steven Rinella expertly defend hunting when questioned by a vegan audience member.
Image courtesy Tina Shaw/US Fish and Wildlife Service