What Would You Do?

All hunters know they must obey game laws, but because something is legal, does that mean it's right?

The law is the law, but ethics and morals sometimes fall into that so-called "gray area." Oftentimes an ethical dilemma has a clear-cut answer; it has an ending so concrete that you walk away from it with 100 percent clarity that you've done the right thing. However, a few don't have such a defined answer and make you think: What would I do?

It's noon and you're unloading your ATV from the back of your pickup. The morning hunt was slow, so you've opted for a change of scenery. While standing in the truck bed, you peer across the adjacent corn field and see deer spitting out of distant woodlot on the neighbor's property. One appears to be a good-sized buck. Then it hits you— they're racing toward a drainage ditch that leads directly to the area you intend to hunt that evening. Your brain immediately begins computing options.

Rolling down the ramps on your ATV, you do the math. If you take off at top speed you could reach your stand site before the deer do, especially if they slow at all in their flight. You know it's against the law to pursue game on a motorized vehicle, but you wouldn't technically be "chasing," just driving fast to get to your stand. Precious seconds tick by as you consider all the ramifications of your next move. What would you do?

For me it's simple: I shut off the ATV and wait. I let the deer reach their final destination without any auditory clues they're being hunted. After they arrive and calm down, I might be able to slip in under the radar and have a crack at them as they come out to feed at dusk. I won't have that opportunity if I bump them with the high-speed ATV. Plus, any conservation officer witnessing my racing antics might not be able to clearly define whether I was chasing deer or simply out for a joyride.

You can't believe how lucky you've been lately. You were drawn for a coveted archery-only buck tag for the metro season, then a homeowner with several acres gave you permission to hunt next to a known hideout of several mature bucks. The rut is heating up as you climb into your best trees tand. As you look and listen, you notice several elementary aged kids exploring the far end of the lot and you hope they find curiosity elsewhere as the sun begins to set.

Suddenly, all hell breaks loose below you. A hot doe explodes onto the field edge right under your stand. In tow is a small buck, but arriving on the scene seconds later is a tall-tined buck any bowhunter would be proud to tag, including you. The doe looks at the escape route, the kids and then back toward the two amorous suitors. Apparently comfortable with human activity, she bolts in the direction of the kids.

You know that both bucks are going to follow her. As you ready your bow, it occurs to you that a perfect double-lung shot could drop the buck right in front of an audience of suburban kids who have probably never see an animal die before. Are you going to be the person who introduces these youngsters to the circle of life, or do you hold off for another day? Despite the fact that currently the public overwhelmingly supports hunting, that's the polling of adults. These are kids. What would you do?

I don't shoot. Too many groups want to ban hunting as it is, and all I need is to have one of these smartphone-carrying kids capture the buck's death run, then record me walking up to the buck, and moments later posting it all over YouTube for the world to judge. There'll be another day for a showdown with this buck—a day without an audience.

Rivalry between hunting buddies is as common as rising fuel prices during summer, but this time it's serious. You and a friend have both captured the same big buck on scouting cameras, and from what you can piece together, the deer moves through both of your prime stand sites. You're an early riser and generally get to your tree stand an hour before legal hunting time. Your buddy hits the snooze button one too many times and gets to his stand right at shooting light.

As you hike toward your stand, a bit of mischievous competition swells inside you. You realize that on your way to your stand, you could walk past your buddy's stand and leave just enough human odor that the big buck could bypass the area and swing your way instead. Because you're using a backdoor entrance to your tree stand, the buck will never know you're in the area as he skirts back to his bedroom. What would you do?

This strategy could work, but really, how good of friends are you? Whitetails don't need your help in being paranoid, but you certainly can add to their current state of mind with wandering woodland antics.

For me it's about hunting smart and more importantly, hunting hard. I'd pass widely by my buddy's stand to be ready at my ambush spot when shooting light arrives. Those two factors will provide the most success over the years.

The next time a dicey deer hunting scenario arises, take an extra moment to think about what you'd do and lean toward the ethical answer. You'll sleep better knowing that any gray area was handled with crystal-clear determination.