I grew up in an area of northwest North Dakota where many people come to hunt pheasants and deer every fall. I fondly remember going out with my father and being taught the ethics of hunting. He taught me to shoot by sight, not by sound. He taught me to always look behind the target so as not to inadvertently hit something like a house or grain bin. He taught me to treat landowners with dignity, respect and to always ask for permission. He told me to never assume the deer is mine because I saw it first.
Good ethics involves looking beyond the hunter's education curriculum. It's about using a firearm and utilizing terrain wisely in a safe manner for everyone. I understand that receiving a deer tag in North Dakota is an opportunity that many don't get, and should be used wisely. I make mention of these lessons because I know many other hunters witness these same ethical violations as well. I have seen where hunters basically get "buck drunk" and will do anything to shoot the first thing they see. They intently watch a buck they know is in posted land and wait for an opportunity to shoot when no one is looking. I have seen and heard hunters shoot repeatedly at one animal. If one must shoot repeatedly, he or she needs to go back to the gun range. A clear shot that kills the target is safe and a just means to ending the life of the animal in a way that doesn't create unwanted misery.
I have seen people will use a gratis tag and hunt as a group on land that doesn't belong to them. A gratis tag is for land owned by the bearer of the tag. Also, party hunting is illegal. I have seen and heard where multiple hunters are in a small PLOTS area and basically stumble on top of each other. How is this safe when a bullet can travel over 2,000 feet per second? A truck parked at the gate should be the first warning sign.
You may be asking why I don't call a game warden or call out a hunter directly. First, I don't trust a stranger who is holding a firearm. Second, many circumstances are hard to record and can become a game of "He said, she said." Third, contacting game wardens in western North Dakota can be difficult. I've left voicemails and gotten no return call. I don't know if the mission of game wardens has changed since the price of oil has dropped in western North Dakota, but I do know during the oil boom that many wardens also assisted local authorities due to shortfalls in staffing agencies.
One thing we all can agree on is that we cherish the outdoors. I also know that North Dakota Fish and Game can't be everywhere at once. I know they value input and constructive criticism. I hope this helps to improve the overall outdoor experience, discussion and to raise awareness of improving ethics in hunting in North Dakota.
Delvo lives in Jamestown, N.D.