The ethics of Hunting: Boone and Crockett standard

contributed photo The Boone and Crockett Club has been around for a long time, since 1887. Its initial membership included people like Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, George Bird Grinnell and Archibald Rogers. All were concerned about long term viability of wildlife populations. During the late 1800s, the general mood in a fledgling America was shoot it and eat it. Roosevelt had other ideas and was ahead of his time in regard to conservation ethics and science data on North American Big Game. Lucky for all Americans today, those principles have stood the test of time. Every state and many nations of the world strive to improve wildlife habitats and population management where appropriate to the betterment of all species.

BOONE & CROCKETT CLUB membership is something every wildlife enthusiast, hunter or not, could benefit from. This organization has stood the test of time, grown in stature and credibility, and continues to be a benchmark for science based wildlife research endorsement and official record keeping for over 30 categories of North American big game. In every case, this organization has held high to the ideals of conservation. Gifford Pinchot, a forester by training and a good friend of President Roosevelt, helped define conservation. Pinchot’s definition was …“conservation encompasses the whole complex interactions necessary to properly manage our natural resources in good stewardship.”

In simple terms it is called wise use. To that end, members of B&C pledge these ideals: 1. To respect the privilege of hunting, private property, my fellow sportsmen and all wildlife. 2. To accept my role as a hunter-conservationist by supporting and promoting wildlife conservation and hunting issues. 3. To take pride in making positive contributions to wildlife and habitat conservation. 4. To abide by all game laws, encourage others to do so, and make every reasonable effort to cooperate with law enforcement officials. 5. To take responsibility for refining my skills in woodsmanship and marksmanship. 6. To respect the legal hunting methods used by others and refrain from divisive behavior that can separate the hunting community. 7. To do my part in upholding a positive public image of hunters and hunting. 8. To share these responsibilities and beliefs with those whom I hunt with, especially young hunters I will be mentoring. 9. To make every attempt within legal limits to recover and waste no animal taken.

To learn more about this prestigious organization, check out www.Boone-Crockett.org or bcclub@boone-crockett.org.

To go along with one of the tenets of the B&C Club related to game recovery. Once a shot has been made, the work just begins … to locate the critter, take care of the meat and remember all the fair chase guidelines as related above. So this past week I had a chance to tag along with and see how a new Iowa regulation/law allows for use of trained dog to follow the trail of a deer. It was a pleasure to see the dog, in this case a well trained German Dachshund, put its nose to work and lead its handler in the exact path the deer had taken. The hunter noted that right at the time of release of an arrow, the deer suddenly stepped forward. By the time the arrow got there, it did not penetrate the lung area but hit further back. A fatal shot yes, but more time would now have to be allowed for a successful recovery in this case.

According to Iowa law, a new addition that went into effect in 2020, the use of trained dogs for blood tracking wounded deer, is allowed under certain guidelines. The handler must maintain control of the dog with a long leash, up to 50 feet long. A tracking task can take place on public or private property, with landowner consent, outside legal hunting hours. The hunter must accompany the dog and handler, and when the critter is located, dispatch it, or recover it if the animal has already expired. Page 37 of the Iowa regulations booklet explains the rules applicable to tracking dogs.

Dave Hoffman, an Iowa DNR biologist based at Clear Lake, is a strong advocate for the proper use of dogs for big game recovery. He has trained a German Wirehaired Pointer, to accomplish tracking tasks. His dog was present at the August Iowa Bowhunter’s Association Fall Festival to inform the attendees of how the law works, and how to go about obtaining the services of a tracking dog handler. Hoffman’s presentation was well noted.

First of all, shot placement, by arrow, or bullet, is critical. In most cases that is exactly what happens. And the animal quickly goes down within sight of the hunter, or in snowy conditions that greatly aid in quick recoveries. When conditions or circumstances do not go according to plan, then other methods of recovery are utilized. There is a long history by our European ancestors to use dogs in game recovery going back into the 18th century, and probably prior to that time. Using a dog prevents a lingering death, reduces waste, and transforms the nightmare of a loss into a happy recovery.

Blood trail tracking is what the law labels this recovery method. However, biology enters the picture with another fact or facts. All deer family members; caribou, moose, deer, elk, etc …. have a gland tucked between the toes of their hooves. This is called the interdigital gland, and it leaves trace odors behind with each step the animal takes. That is how deer for instance can follow each other even if not within visual range. When disturbed or frightened, a deer will jump away quickly, and in so doing slight changes in the chemicals released from the interdigital glands are left in each footstep. A well trained dog can decipher that change in chemicals and follow just the trail of the wounded animal. It’s an amazing trait of a dog’s well developed nose to pick up those slight differences to the exclusion of all other smells. The nose of a dog is thousands or perhaps tens of thousands times more acute than a human nose.

Training strategies for dogs suitable for tracking is a bit different. It is not a command and obey expectation. It is a partnership with the handler to reach a common goal, and bonding, trusting each other. This is not a task for just any dog, so leave fido at home if that dog is not trained to this specific task. Do call upon those folks that have invested their time to properly train a tracking dog.

So if a shot placement is not in a vital area, hunters need to evaluate some facts and not make sudden decisions. On the body of a deer photo, do note where the arrow or bullet entered and its likely pathway through the body. Where was the deer standing? Pick a landmark as a reference. How did the animal respond with regard to body language? Then when it is time to gather evidence, note blood patterns and/or hair types left behind. Mark the initial point to begin this trailing task. The next step is to back away.

One of the best tactics is not to walk where the deer last was seen. That leaves human scent that may confuse a dog. Back off and get help. This was the case in the above scenario. Calls were made to Dave Hoffman and other trackers to determine availability. Eventually Adam Craighead of Des Moines said he would be able to come the next day after work. He brought along his well trained dachshund. The hunter in this case did not contaminate the hunt area so a “clean” setting was available for the dog. Long story made short, when the dachshund’s nose hit the first blood point, and interdigital foot gland scents, it was follow me time. The little dog followed the deer’s last pathway as if those footsteps were flashing lights. The deer was recovered successfully.

Iowa law now joins with 40 other states where dog use in some format is allowed and legal. It is a special case-by-case situation if initial locating attempts prove difficult or are not likely without special dog noses put to the task. One can learn more by checking out United Blood Trackers.org.

As of mid week, Iowa deer hunters, youth and archers at this point, have taken about 3,300 deer. The data shows about 1,800 female deer and 1,500 male deer have been registered on the DNR’s confirmation system as outlined on the deer possession tag. Those numbers will begin to build as later in October and early November when deer activity always increases during the breeding season.

TAMA COUNTY CONSERVATION holds a fun night every year. And for many readers of the T-R, tonight, Saturday, Oct. 9, is the event that allows everyone to have a good time, eat great food, and raise funds for conservation projects. Ticket price at the door is $25 per adult, $15 for kids age 12 or older. Younger than 12 are free. Doors open at 5 pm. The place is Otter Creek Lake & Park located northeast of Toledo, 2283 Park Road. Then on Sunday, Oct. 10, more activities are on the docket from noon until 4 p.m. Things to do include a farmer’s market, hay rides, arts and crafts, carnival games and more. That is called their Fall Festival.

PHEASANTS FOREVER BANQUET is set for Nov. 6 at Marshalltown’s Midnight Ballroom, 1700 S. Center St. This is a cooperative PF chapter fundraiser between Marshall and Tama County PF members. Games, raffles, a dinner and auction of dandy items will follow the meal. Money raised by PF are used locally for assistance with conservation projects. Call 641-751-1668 or 641-751-4487 for ticket purchases or more information.

Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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