Hunting Ethics...you be the judge.

Adam

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I just came back from a sheep hunt in the Wrangells outside of McCarthy. I've got my opinions but would like to get yours. Here's what happened. After being dropped off at the strip it took us almost two days to get into the mountains where we started glassing for sheep on August 9th. Almost immediately we saw a band of 9 rams with one excellent full curl. Later that evening a guide dropped off his assistant and hunter on the ridge across from us. We recognized the guides plane. This isn't good but we weren't too worried because we didn't think they could drop off the side of the ridge where the rams were due to extremely steep slopes and cliffs. We go to bed feeling confident even though we've glassed them and they have glassed us. The next morning we wake up at 4:00 am and they are already up watching. It takes us a couple hours to half way down our side. The big ram has moved up into the cliffs on the guides side of the drainage so we stop and wait for him to come down and feed. The guide and client are still on the ridge watching. After a couple hours the ram moves down with his buddies and starts feeding. After donning our whites to cross a snow field and boulder field in wide open view of the rams, which are about a half mile down the drainage, we move out towards the rams. It was then that we noticed the guide and client get up and head down the ridge in the same direction. We are still not overly concerned because you'de have to be a billy goat to get off that ridge down towards the rams. If they drop off the back side then it would take them way too long to go to the bottom and come around after the rams. The next hour and a half are spent side hilling trying to get above the rams to get the shot. We pause one last time to catch our breath knowing the rams are just beyond the next rise... no more than 200 yards away. We had barely sat down to rest knowing we were literally minutes from being in position for the shot.... when a shot rang out! Fearing the worse we ran to the rise to see our ram down on the ground and the guide and client on a cliff above the ram. We easily got to the ram ahead of them hoping it was still alive so we could take the coup de grace and claim and claim him ourselves but the clients shot was true and the ram was dead. His shot was over 380 yards...so he claimed later.

After a "fierce conversatiion" the guide admitted he knew we were stalking the ram and was watching us to see which direction the rams were in. He said he kept expecting to hear a shot as they raced down the ridge looking for the ram we had been stalking and was surprised to find the ram before we had. The client, from New Hampshire, was apologetic and said this wasn't the Alaska Dall Sheep hunt experience he paid for and wanted a remote hunt, without the fear of other hunters in the area, with a legitimate stalk on a ram. Trust me we had a lot to say but our main points were (1) A sheep hunter should earn his sheep. To be dropped on top of the rams the night before opening day...walk down the ridge, shoot the ram, and get picked up on the gravel bar below...all in less than 12 hours is not what we considered true Alaska sheep hunting. (2) When a party is in the middle of a stalk then they have first right of refusal on that ram. To race ahead of them, knowing they are after a specific ram, to beat them to the shot is unethical in the very least. I know of some hunters who wouldn't hesitate to kick ass big time if that happened to them.

To be fair I've got to present you with both sides of the picture. We had a chance to confront the master guide at the McCarthy Airstrip. Though he listened he came back with the following on each point above: (1) He has every right to land where ever he wants. It is not illegal to land a client on top of rams the night before opening day and if his clients are going to pay a total of over $20K (including tip fee, airline tickets, tag and licence), then he as a master guide will do everything in his power to get them a ram, (2) He has had his guides stalk a client on a ram when out of nowhere other hunters rush in and take that ram away just like what happened to us. If everybody hunted "ethically" then there would be no issues since we all play by the same rules. However, since that isn't the case he tells his assistant guides do to everything in their power to get that ram and let the best man win.

The ram in question was 41.5" with 13.5" bases. Heres a picture taken just after the ram was shot. Thoughts?
 

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B_Reynolds_AK

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Unethical

Unethical

I feel that your assessment of the situation in question is accurate. Guides will, and should, do all they can to get they're clients on an animal. However in a situation such as this, the Guide needs to use discretion and reason on the ethics of what he intends to do. His client came out a winner, but in fact will always have a bitter taste to go along with the trophy. He most certainly will not be a repeat client.
 

Brian M

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Pretty lame, indeed. Not much you can do about it other than discussing it with the guide like you did, but still...understandable that it would leave a sour taste in your mouth. I will never race another hunter for a ram that they appear to be watching/stalking. I would hope others would afford me the same courtesy.

On a side note, I didn't quite understand your note about hoping the ram was still alive after being shot so that you could finish him off and claim him. Would it be your position that someone who finishes off an animal gets to claim that animal as theirs, even if it was first shot by another hunter? Never heard that argument before.
 

Adam

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Pretty lame, indeed. Not much you can do about it other than discussing it with the guide like you did, but still...understandable that it would leave a sour taste in your mouth. I will never race another hunter for a ram that they appear to be watching/stalking. I would hope others would afford me the same courtesy.

On a side note, I didn't quite understand your note about hoping the ram was still alive after being shot so that you could finish him off and claim him. Would it be your position that someone who finishes off an animal gets to claim that animal as theirs, even if it was first shot by another hunter? Never heard that argument before.

I'd have to research the legality of that position, but according to my hunting partner it was his understanding that if an animal is wounded, the hunter who fired the killing shot has legal right to claim that animal as his own.
 

JuliW

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Do unto others is how I try to live my life. I would not want someone coming in on an animal - no matter what species - if they knew I was in the process of making a stalk. And I would surely back off if I found myself in the reciprocal situation. And in fact, have before.

I agree with Brian... I do think it maybe would have been a VERY heated discussion if you had finished off a mostly dead or even wounded animal to claim it as yours. But I don't blame you for wanting to have that opportunity, either ;)...especially in the heat of the moment when emotions are running high.

Brian - the person who placed the first 'lethal' shot would be the person to tag it. So, if the first hunter had punched the liver - it still would be his. If he had shot it in the leg, and Adam had the killing shot, it would be his. Pretty sure that is how it works, legally, anyway.


Juli
 

hodgeman

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Sounds like a very messed up situation.... for everyone.

Jumping on a ram being stalked by someone else is poor form. Legal but poor form.

The client got a ram he'll never be proud of and spent mega $$$ to get...and you walked away with your dignity intact. I'd say you got the better end of the deal.
 

Sollybug

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[wow sorry for the loss but that is an amazing sheep. It truly is a race. The guide cannot interfere with you but can stalk the same ram. It would have been cool to see some residents who had not plane spotted harvest that ram instead of the guide.
 

4merguide

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I'd have to research the legality of that position, but according to my hunting partner it was his understanding that if an animal is wounded, the hunter who fired the killing shot has legal right to claim that animal as his own.

No way...... if the animal is going to get away then that is one thing. If the animal is laying there dying and unable to move then it belongs to the hunter that made that shot. I understand you being upset at the whole thing, but do you mean to tell me that you would have walked up to that ram that is going to die, put another hole in him and decide it was yours? Come on man......that wouldn't be any better than what those guys did to you...... imho.
 

mtnclimber

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Thats a crap situation for sure. But when it comes to a ram of that size, a lot of peoples "ethics" go out the window when they see that amount of horn. hopefully you guys were able to continue your hunt and be successful.
 

BRWNBR

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"hoping it was still alive so we could take the coup de grace and claim and claim him ourselves"

sounds like this could have been a different ethics posts if things had gone differently......
 

limon32

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You should be awarded for letting that guide and client get off the mountain alive. I'm sorry to hear this story, I hope you got/get another chance.

This type of story is precisely why I no interest in sheep hunting. I deal with enough stress at work to be competing on a mountain.
 

Anythingalaska

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"hoping it was still alive so we could take the coup de grace and claim and claim him ourselves"

sounds like this could have been a different ethics posts if things had gone differently......


No way...... if the animal is going to get away then that is one thing. If the animal is laying there dying and unable to move then it belongs to the hunter that made that shot. I understand you being upset at the whole thing, but do you mean to tell me that you would have walked up to that ram that is going to die, put another hole in him and decide it was yours? Come on man......that wouldn't be any better than what those guys did to you...... imho.

Thanks for replying guys, took the words right out of my mouth. That would have been awfully selfish to try and claim an animal in such a way.
 

Adam

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Perhaps I should have clarified the coup de grace definition. This is a post about hunting ethics so to assume that I meant to walk up to a wounded animal and kill it while its on the ground and claim it as mine is asinine. That would also be unethical. At the distance the hunter took the shot I half expected to see a fleeing ram shot in the ass...which in that case I would have shot and claimed it to prevent it from dying unclaimed and wasted.

I think JuliW's definition would be the best solution as to who owns the animal. I'm out.
 

Bushwhack Jack

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Pretty complicated situation. Sounds like lots of bad decisions from just about every angle and every person involved. First of all the guide and air transporter had no business landing there if he (they) knew you were already there, unless he intended to hunt a different drainage. Second point, the whole problem might have been avoided if you would have met with the assistant guide face to face and the both of you hashed out both of your intentions. Third point, taking a 380 yard shot on a ram sounds pretty unethical and irresponsible if you ask me. Fourth point, whoever draws first blood has the right to claim the animal regardless of who finishes it off. At least that is what I was taught. And last, that "master" guide, so to speak, has zero integrity if he says that it's every man for himself out there. And if that is the case he doesn't deserve the title of a master guide and he should think about retiring. I wouldn't be surprised if I knew this guide personally. Would you mind sending me a pm with his name? Not to gossip, but I am genuinely curious to know if it is one of the same guy's that I used to work for.
 

BRWNBR

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'Bout all we can do with these situations is complain about them so sheep huntin all goes to drawing hunts set up like 14c so hunters are alotted a time frame.(I have a survey on my desk as we speak about sheep hunting pressure and competition in specific areas) Then Make aircraft illegal for transporting hunters. And make scoped rifles illegal.

Or....just say crap. Help them take photos, congradulate the shooter And be better than those you are angered with.
 

Amigo Will

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I believe the guides ethics were at least equal to yours for even thinking killing shot.
 

Justin

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That seems to happen more than you think. It's happened to me two times, but by another resident hunter. Ethically it's way wrong. I think to many people think hunting is like fishing on the Russian River. That said I feel a guide is held to a higher standard. He admitted to stalking the same sheep he knew you were actively after is an admission of being an ass. Also like the client said he paid for a wilderness hunt, not some foot race. Just a messed up deal that a paying client shouldn't experience!

A sheep hunt to me is solitude. I see the entire state going permit very soon. Sorry your sheep hunt was crapped on. To me that's not hunting. Probably why I don't like combat fishing? Jake you should run for president.
 
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Folks up this way have some fairly set and standard rules for such;
The first one who hit it with a bullet or harpoon owns it. Who ever 'coup de gra's it, gets a share.
If your in the same boat, the boat owner/driver gets 1/2 of the catch, but is expected to support the hunt, while shooters and harpooners, fellow camp mates are expected to divvie the rest. Hunting on land will net you a nice catch, and share it if you want to with camp mates. (but almost never with fur)
Camp mates should agree before shooting, usually going different directions or planning on the same prey, and come up with a plan.

When theres other Hunters comming along, how can you know what their up to?...... sometimes they will meet, sometimes the stalk will become a sort of 'race', weather its fur or a first shot at standing Caribou, and the outcome is usually laughed over when the bullets stop flying, no worries, no one owns nothin' till it's dead at their feet, first bullet, first served.. Theres more out there. Same happens when folks go for the same Big Caribou Bull crossing a river, Just gotta keep on hunting, dont let it get you down.

The guides morals was driven by $$$, and those are way different morals
 

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