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Thread: Ethics of Aerial Spotting of Game

  1. #1
    Member Buck Nelson's Avatar
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    Default Ethics of Aerial Spotting of Game

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    I have long believed that aerial spotting for the purpose of locating game to kill is a breach of the fair chase ethic.
    Mike, I've taken the liberty of quoting you from another thread. I think this topic deserves a thread of it's own.

    I am all in favor of strong hunting ethics, but this one really makes me think. I don't own a plane nor have I chartered one to look for game. But I'll tell you what, when I'm in the air in Alaska I usually have my eyes peeled looking at the country. I'm definitely looking at the beautiful mountains and the fall colors but I'm almost always looking hard for floatable rivers, fishing potential and animals. I may be looking in places I know I'll never hunt, but I'm almost always looking. If I see a big bull moose or a nice dall ram I file it away in my head and I try to remember it, so to me that means I'm looking with the intention of locating game.

    It seems that most of us are scouting to a certain degree from the air. Don't guides watch for animals when flying out to set up camps? If they see some big bulls in a particular drainage or a couple of big rams in the same cirque aren't they likely to let it affect their plans when hunting season rolls around? Won't guides new to an area fly the country and won't they always be looking for animals? I guess it's hard for me to imagine owning a super cub and not cruising around before season checking out the country and looking for animals.

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    uhhh ohhhh ....


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    Quote Originally Posted by Buck Nelson View Post
    Mike, I've taken the liberty of quoting you from another thread. I think this topic deserves a thread of it's own.

    I am all in favor of strong hunting ethics, but this one really makes me think. I don't own a plane nor have I chartered one to look for game. But I'll tell you what, when I'm in the air in Alaska I usually have my eyes peeled looking at the country. I'm definitely looking at the beautiful mountains and the fall colors but I'm almost always looking hard for floatable rivers, fishing potential and animals. I may be looking in places I know I'll never hunt, but I'm almost always looking. If I see a big bull moose or a nice dall ram I file it away in my head and I try to remember it, so to me that means I'm looking with the intention of locating game.

    It seems that most of us are scouting to a certain degree from the air. Don't guides watch for animals when flying out to set up camps? If they see some big bulls in a particular drainage or a couple of big rams in the same cirque aren't they likely to let it affect their plans when hunting season rolls around? Won't guides new to an area fly the country and won't they always be looking for animals? I guess it's hard for me to imagine owning a super cub and not cruising around before season checking out the country and looking for animals.
    I'm not certain that anyone refers to an animal sighted on the approach or take off as "airplane hunting". I doubt those types of sightings have any impact on the amount of game harvested. The same can not be said for the careful flying around with the intention of finding game to harvest.
    Certainly some guides as do some non-guided hunters carefully fly an area looking for the location(s) of animals to kill. In either situation the poorer the hunting skills the greater the necessity to use the aircraft for "hunting".
    We (and the resource) would be a lot better off if as individuals we made the effort to develop basic hunting skills and passed them on to those that accompany us has hunting partners and/or our kids before "blasting" away.
    Joe (Ak)

  4. #4

    Wink

    A few hours in the sky will afford you with more knowledge than you can learn in a lifetime about the terrain, animals present, obstacles, possible routes, possible campsites and competion of other hunters. I have flown around peoples residences and hunting areas quite a bit. Afterward in having conversation with them, I have found out how little they knew about the place. No doubt the airplane is what has changed Alaska more than any other single mode of transport. There will always be critics of the plane, the track rig, the buggy, the jet boat, the canoe, the atv, the airboat or the raft. There are critics of everything. My personal experience is this: I would much prefer to see the Average Joe Six Pac Hunter using all of the afore mentioned rigs before using a professional guide. It is the professional hunter in my opinion that enable a wannabe hunter to actually get into the field and kill an animal, because they are the ones that make it real easy to kill an animal the novice knows absolutely nothing about. I also know this: The majority of real trophies I have seen taken in Alaska, were taken with the aid of an airplane. Ethics are personal choices and beliefs, so no doubt there will be opinions at each end of the spectrum. Some bowhunters belief it is unethical to use anything other than a homemade longbow and cedar shafts. Nothing will change their minds. Mobility is the key for successful hunting. Some fly, drift, cruise or pedal a bike. Ethics conflict all the time, mostly with those that don't have the "other mode of transport". BTW, I think it is prudent and practical to use every mode of transport for hunting and fishing.
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    Default To what extent

    I had a plane for ten years in the 80's, and it's a wonder I didn't get into a midair collision, I was always looking at the ground. I used the plane to look the area over that I was going to hunt ahead of time, Like flying an area to see if the caribou were any where close to the place I intended to hunt. I never spotted an animal then went after that animal later. I know people that fly mark the critter with a GPS then go to it with an airboat,totally unethical.

    Also I would always end up hunting moose with my river boat even when I had a plane, I found the river boat gave me access to way more country then a plane on wheels.

    But to say you shouldn't even look for game from a plane is a little extreme in my opinion, I haven't had a plane in 19 years and don't think Im at any disadvantage during hunting season. It's like anything if it's abused it's wrong. And for the record I've lived for 50 years in Alaska, and have killed around 250 big game animals, including 22 in Africa.

    One thing I know for sure is people with planes that are looking for game should do so from a minimum of 500 feet of altitude, you don't want to spook game that someone may be stalking.

    And should never spot game, go get a boat and try to go right to a certain moose or sheep etc.

  6. #6
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Good topic

    Hi Buck,

    My earlier posts on this topic are directed at special scouting trips which are intended solely for the purpose of locating game to be killed. The actual hunt may take place the next month, the next week, the next day, or in some cases, even the next hour. Years ago a friend and I guided for a large, wealthy brown bear operation, and I was disgusted to discover that they had 1-2 airplanes in the air every day, looking for bears. I was dropped in a remote spot with my hunter and with the exception of a relocate flight, the planes left us alone. Still, I left after that one hunt, even though the season was just getting started.

    I'm not talking about looking out the window on your way to camp. But on most of my hunts, that could hardly be called "aerial scouting for game", because the flight path to camp usually takes us over areas that we are not intending to hunt. For example if the river runs north-south, and you approach from the east, there's not a lot of scouting going on there. On most of my sheep hunts, the approach to base camp was from downriver, leaving the entire headwater area (where we planned to hunt) unflown and unscouted from the air.

    There is no doubt in my mind that hunters who scout for game from the air kill more animals. But such activities diminish the experience in my opinion, and often don't give the game a fair shake. Some time ago I was dropped off on a river where the moose habitat was limited to small isolated patches of willow in the river corridor, which gave way to open tundra on the surrounding hills. After the pilot landed, he pointed to a willow patch about a half-mile upriver from where we'd landed. He told us that there was a nice bull moose in there if we wanted it. The pilot had been watching it from the air in that same willow patch for a couple of weeks, and wasn't going anywhere. We didn't even walk up there; it would not have been a hunt.

    Personally I'd rather not know that there's a 42" ram in the next basin, or a 70" bull moose over in that swale. I'd rather just hunt; to use the skills I've learned, and to hunt an area that has historically produced, or that I have discovered through good research. I'd rather hunt well, and feel the thrill of not knowing for sure what's out there.

    Having said that, if I'm float hunting I will scout the river from the air, for the purpose of confirming ingress and egress points, and to identify undocumented hazards that could be a problem later. It's a safety consideration, and I keep my maps in my lap so I can mark these areas as we go, and sometimes I will take a digital photo of the hazard from the air so I can better identify it on the ground. On rare occasion we will see game on these trips, but as a man of your experience knows, game is often difficult to see even from the air, especially on a single pass through the area when you're looking for something else. I suppose even this activity takes some of the mystery out of it though. I guess in that regard I'm somewhat inconsistent, even though my intent is not to locate game.

    It's a self-imposed limitation that has its roots in my personal hunting ethic. I think a lot of other hunters have the same values, and I don't mind tossing it out in discussion and as a challenge to others who may not have considered this.

    -Mike
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  7. #7
    Member oakman's Avatar
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    Default

    Having never done this before, I wonder what kind of information a guy could get from the air. I mean if you are at least a few hundred feet AGL, what kind of information can you expect to get on animals on the ground. I would think that you could tell if they are there, in the case of something like sheep, you could possibly tell that they are rams, but could you really tell if the ram is legal or a 42 incher? Also, if same day airborne hunting isn't allowed, wouldn't a bunch of game have moved a bit after spotting it? To me it would just seem to let you know that there is something in the area or not.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    A few hours in the sky will afford you with more knowledge than you can learn in a lifetime about the terrain, animals present, obstacles, possible routes, possible campsites and competion of other hunters. I have flown around peoples residences and hunting areas quite a bit. Afterward in having conversation with them, I have found out how little they knew about the place. No doubt the airplane is what has changed Alaska more than any other single mode of transport. There will always be critics of the plane, the track rig, the buggy, the jet boat, the canoe, the atv, the airboat or the raft. There are critics of everything. My personal experience is this: I would much prefer to see the Average Joe Six Pac Hunter using all of the afore mentioned rigs before using a professional guide. It is the professional hunter in my opinion that enable a wannabe hunter to actually get into the field and kill an animal, because they are the ones that make it real easy to kill an animal the novice knows absolutely nothing about. I also know this: The majority of real trophies I have seen taken in Alaska, were taken with the aid of an airplane. Ethics are personal choices and beliefs, so no doubt there will be opinions at each end of the spectrum. Some bowhunters belief it is unethical to use anything other than a homemade longbow and cedar shafts. Nothing will change their minds. Mobility is the key for successful hunting. Some fly, drift, cruise or pedal a bike. Ethics conflict all the time, mostly with those that don't have the "other mode of transport". BTW, I think it is prudent and practical to use every mode of transport for hunting and fishing.
    WOW - talk about different prospectives! If there was ever any thing that allowed the '...enable a wannabe hunter to actually get into the field and kill an animal,.." I would surely think it would have to be the way some have chosen to use aircraft as a substitute for developing basic hunting skills and that applies equally whether by guides or non-guides. Though I would certainly agree about the importance use of various methods of transportation for acessing accessing hunting areas I do not agree the need to be the method of "hunting".
    I would also agree that "...A few hours in the sky will afford you with more knowledge than you can learn in a lifetime about the terrain, animals present, obstacles, possible routes,.." is probably true if one never takes the time to acquire basic hunting or general woodsmanship skills. Though it certainly can be argued "why bother" if the airplane is going to be used as the primary "hunting" tool.
    "...The majority of real trophies I have seen taken in Alaska, were taken with the aid of an airplane...". Without question, in some areas of Alaska and with some guiding operations and non-guided hunts the airplane has been responsible in large part for the harvest of trophy animals. With a lot of the guiding operations I'm familiar with that has not been the situation. the airplane is used strictly for transportation to and from the hunting area. Certainly in large part because of the standards the guide has chosen and those chosen by the client.
    Joe (Ak)

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    Member AKHunterNP's Avatar
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    A couple other good resources are available to people who can't fly, like myself. Google Earth and National Geographic topo are great tools. Anytime I go hunting in an area I am unfamiliar with I will look at those two programs. Google Earth is free and NG topo isn't too expensive. They both print useable maps and ariel photos. I consider myself to be a fairly educated hunter and by using ariel photos you should be able to find spots where game should be. That is hunting. Finding an animal from the air, landing and shooting it is something else. Just like the saying goes for fishing, "that's why it's called fishing and not catching".
    "...arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe...Horrid mischief would ensue were the good deprived of the use of them." -Thomas Paine

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    Quote Originally Posted by wantj43 View Post
    WOW - talk about different prospectives! If there was ever any thing that allowed the '...enable a wannabe hunter to actually get into the field and kill an animal,.." I would surely think it would have to be the way some have chosen to use aircraft as a substitute for developing basic hunting skills and that applies equally whether by guides or non-guides. Though I would certainly agree about the importance use of various methods of transportation for acessing accessing hunting areas I do not agree the need to be the method of "hunting".
    I would also agree that "...A few hours in the sky will afford you with more knowledge than you can learn in a lifetime about the terrain, animals present, obstacles, possible routes,.." is probably true if one never takes the time to acquire basic hunting or general woodsmanship skills. Though it certainly can be argued "why bother" if the airplane is going to be used as the primary "hunting" tool.
    "...The majority of real trophies I have seen taken in Alaska, were taken with the aid of an airplane...". Without question, in some areas of Alaska and with some guiding operations and non-guided hunts the airplane has been responsible in large part for the harvest of trophy animals. With a lot of the guiding operations I'm familiar with that has not been the situation. the airplane is used strictly for transportation to and from the hunting area. Certainly in large part because of the standards the guide has chosen and those chosen by the client.
    Joe (Ak)
    Joe,
    Perhaps you are overstating your case just a bit. Every hunter I know that uses a plane, also applies all the basic hunting techniques and skills each of us are accustomed to, once on the ground. As I mentioned before, I think the real "enabler" is the professional guide (I know a little about this aspect as well ). Many times the guided hunter has little to no knowledge about the critter he/she is hoping to shoot. No idea whatso ever and sometimes have never seen one, until their hunt. Average hunter using a plane is gaining knowledge and that knowledge is applied in the hunt. No successful guide or hunter that I have ever known, goes into the area without good 411. I would much prefer to educate myself with an airplane, than depend on someone elses studies or data. I don't trust others to paint an accurate picture of the current situation. Hunters are continually looking for advantages over game and competition. Some use the internet, google earth, field studies, F&G statistical data, friends reports and any myriad of tools in their box. The plane is just another tool, if one chooses to use it.
    "96% of all Internet Quotes are suspect and the remaining 4% are fiction."
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  11. #11

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    Was talking to a guy a few years ago. He said that hunting with the aid of a plane gave me a unfair advantage. I said to him that fishing Halibut out of your 40' boat gives you a unfair advantage. Pony up and buy a plane.

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    Default Using others flight time

    How do you guys feel about when you are up sheep hunting and you observe a cub flying circles over the same spot on a mountain over and over. Is it right for me to ride over on the horses and take a look at what they are looking at or should I just put on blinders and head to where I planned on going in the first place a place they just flew over but never gave it a second glace?

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I have to admit that I struggle with this one. Akres makes some good points here that are worth pondering. Joe and others have mentioned that folks should learn hunting skills and use those to increase their odds of success. As Akres points out, though, many clients of big game guides don't have those skills - at least not as they pertain to hunting in Alaska - and instead spend a lot of money to hire someone with those skills in order to tip the odds in their favor. Yeah, flying an area does tip the odds, but I have a hard time believing that it tips the odds any more than hiring a professional guide.

    I understand the ethical hesitations that some folks have with using an airplane to spot game, but when compared to hiring a guide for an area you don't know or simply flying out to a remote area with higher concentration of game, I don't entirely buy that it tips the odds in any greater fashion.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    Joe,
    Perhaps you are overstating your case just a bit. Every hunter I know that uses a plane, also applies all the basic hunting techniques and skills each of us are accustomed to, once on the ground. As I mentioned before, I think the real "enabler" is the professional guide (I know a little about this aspect as well ). Many times the guided hunter has little to no knowledge about the critter he/she is hoping to shoot. No idea whatso ever and sometimes have never seen one, until their hunt. Average hunter using a plane is gaining knowledge and that knowledge is applied in the hunt. No successful guide or hunter that I have ever known, goes into the area without good 411. I would much prefer to educate myself with an airplane, than depend on someone elses studies or data. I don't trust others to paint an accurate picture of the current situation. Hunters are continually looking for advantages over game and competition. Some use the internet, google earth, field studies, F&G statistical data, friends reports and any myriad of tools in their box. The plane is just another tool, if one chooses to use it.
    Well I certainly have no idea of who you are or what you "..know....about this aspect...". I can only go on my own experiences in the guiding industry. Though as previously indicated, I don't question that some segments the guiding industry have relied heavily on the use of aircraft for hunting, however, in my experience, that certainly is not all or even close to all of the industry with which I've been associated. It has also been my general experience that the clientèle attracted by a guiding service is reflective of the service being provided. Kodiak is an example, where clients that are primarily interested in the quicker results usually going to opt for booking a hunt where aircraft are used for locating and assisting in other ways to enable the killing of a bear, aren't booking on Kodiak.

    "...Every hunter I know that uses a plane, also applies all the basic hunting techniques and skills each of us are accustomed to, once on the ground..."
    The problem, at least from the standpoint of guides, is that in all the years of helping administer part of the guiding examination to assistant guides, I've yet to see one that individual that had been in a situation where aircraft was heavily relied on that came close to having the comprehension of basic hunting methods as did the "product" of ground based operations.
    Certainly nothing will change regarding the use of aircraft - and - maybe it shouldn't, however,
    Joe (Ak)

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    I have to admit that I struggle with this one. Akres makes some good points here that are worth pondering. Joe and others have mentioned that folks should learn hunting skills and use those to increase their odds of success. As Akres points out, though, many clients of big game guides don't have those skills - at least not as they pertain to hunting in Alaska - and instead spend a lot of money to hire someone with those skills in order to tip the odds in their favor. Yeah, flying an area does tip the odds, but I have a hard time believing that it tips the odds any more than hiring a professional guide.

    I understand the ethical hesitations that some folks have with using an airplane to spot game, but when compared to hiring a guide for an area you don't know or simply flying out to a remote area with higher concentration of game, I don't entirely buy that it tips the odds in any greater fashion.
    For me this is a very interesting thread. As I indicated in a different posting the clients in general are going to book with a guide whose hunting methods in general reflect their own hunting values. Though with an animal such as moose, where a lot of residents have enough experience hunting that particular species, those residents with that experience certainly have the "edge" over a non-resident (or the inexperienced resident), that certainly has not been my experience especially with sheep and brown bears. Most of the non-residents I've guided were every bit as "qualified" to hunt for sheep or bear as any resident I've met that had either no or a sample size of "one".
    It might be "fun" to trash to non-resident guided hunter for their "lack" of hunting knowledge, however, a review of some of the postings by residents might change that.
    Joe (Ak)

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wantj43 View Post
    It might be "fun" to trash to non-resident guided hunter for their "lack" of hunting knowledge, however, a review of some of the postings by residents might change that.
    Joe (Ak)
    Joe, I'm not intending to trash guided hunters. I've personally helped many non-residents on here to research their areas and, in some cases, to select a guide. I have friends who are guides and I hold guiding in high esteem as a profession. I do, however, see hiring a guide as a way of tipping the odds to a high degree in favor of success. If that is why folks are opposed to using an airplane to spot for animals - because it tips the odds - I just see some inconsistency there.

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    I'm okay with with what Akres says about 'tools'.

    Visualize average 'joehunter', raised with great family hunting ethics, has packed the freezer with moose and/or caribou most years, good clean meat, hard earned. Never had the funds and/ or time to do a 'fly out/drop off hunt.

    Then, time comes, and after using all the internet tools, doing area research, 'joehunter' gets time and funds to go to one (1) pond/lake decided upon by using these 'tools', and now able to utilize this form of transport, airplane. Has a full week alone, 1st day is 'shot' due to being airborne, last day is 'reserved' to break camp and fly home. Now 5 days to hunt.

    After an hour and 1/2 of flying time, 'cub/185, 'wings', on approach to landing sees a dozen or so moose, several identifiable bulls, a couple of 'nice' ones, a mile from the lake.

    The next day 'joehunter' goes in the direction where the moose were seen the day of his flight, late in the afternoon he drops the first bull he sees, likely one see upon landing the previous day, its on the end of the lake he PLANNED to hunt before EVER getting 'airborne', he skillfully field dresses the '65' inch bull and packs one quarter back to camp, getting in as darkness has fallen. The next day he returns, no bear sign, good,, busts his 'hump' and gets all the remaining meat to camp. The 3rd day 'joehunter' retrieves the antlers, no bear sign,, good,, paces himself and back at camp just before noon. Takes a good relaxing break while 'making' the meat 'pretty'. Now has 2 days to 'poke' around, picking berries, taking more pictures of the area. Just enjoying himself and loving the 'solitude'. Plane comes in 7th day at noon. 'joehunter' is home hanging meat at 4:30pm. Wife and kids smiling, glad hes home safely and smiling too.

    Did 'joehunter' do anything wrong ???????????????

  18. #18
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    Buy a plane?

    I will be the first, "IF" they will let me shoot from it. ~~ ~~

    Man , would I max out my bag limits......leave you fellas the scraps ~~LOL!!!~~

    Ive talk'd with many an old timers on said subject and they had a serious advantage, and knew it.
    Talked a spell with the wifes relation, Art Feilds on the road here the other day, has some serious #s of Wolves and Wolverine, Polar Bear and guided hunts stacked up with airtime. serious ammounts.......but it was legal back then.

    The plane is a serious advantage, in the hunting game.....even works for birds.....dont it??




    Lemme see, you dont lead a running Wolf from a plane, you aim a tail or twos length behind 'em....dont ya?
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

  19. #19
    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    I guess I'm guilty.

    I haven't done too many fly-in hunts but in each case I asked/offered to buy an extra 30 minutes flight time to overfly my hunting area, mostly to get a birdseye view of the terrain but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping to at least know if there was a legal animal nearby.

    Having said that, I saw no legal rams on my fly-in sheep hunt (just goats). Nor did I see any bears flying into Ugak Bay on Kodiak. I never saw the big bull moose again once I was on the ground, and the big bull bison practically vanished into thin air. The airplane gave me a leg up on each hunt and I hunted hard to no avail.

    Aerial scouting is OK in my opinion if the game is not harrassed or buzzed. Even if you know an animal is nearby, you still have to wait until the next day and you still have to look and listen and watch the wind. You still have to find it, stalk it, and shoot it. I admit it is a slippery slope but knowledge gained beforehand via the air does not guarantee success.

  20. #20
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    Default Airplanes

    Stranger - Funny you should mention Art. I took a ride (in his airplane) several years ago just upstream from Noatak. The gas fumes made me sick.

    Airplanes represent change. This has been a great thread with many points of view. Here is mine. Each "development" in hunting has tipped the odds in favor of the hunter - stainless barrels, better ammo, spotting scopes, GPS, trail cams, etc. It's up to each of us to determine the ethics of using these "new" products. I know my stepson will always think variable scopes and trail cams have "always been" part of hunting. I should also mention that most of us don't want to "go back" to the old ways (before we wtarted hunting). An airplane is just part of the development of hunting tools and can be used ethically or unethically depending of the user - not the plane.

    I'm reminded of the stroy about the king who wanted something immortal to put on his wall. The seers finally came up with "This too shall pass".

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