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Game Laws


With the onset of hunting season so too are the debates over game laws. Both long standing and new, debates rage over who should make the decisions, why the decisions are made and how everyone else could do better.

2016 marks the last year that South Carolina will have the liberal “no limit” on bucks in the coastal plain of the state. A lot has been said and more will be said, both here and elsewhere about this decision. Those who are adamantly opposed and those who feel the new laws didn’t go far enough. Regardless where you fall, as sportsmen and women, it is our responsibility to follow the laws as they are written.

More than once I have heard through the years of hunting comments made by those who ignore the game laws. Comments that are often bragging because they got away with something. Comments such as; “I am not buying a license to hunt on my own property.” Or, “I will shoot what I want whenever I want.” Some are even so brazen to not only do these things but brag about it at the local diner as if to taunt the Game law enforcers to do something.

Regardless of where the laws are drawn, whether it is in season dates, bag limits, tactics, or anything else. There will always be some who ignore the laws. I am one of the naïve that believe these are the minority and they make all hunters look poorly in the eyes of the non-hunting public. Let’s face it clearly and straight forward. Our image to the non-hunting public is important whether we like to admit it or not. We cannot afford in this modern society to thumb our nose at the indifferent non-hunting crowd. We must make sure our image is impeccable. In my opinion this starts with abiding by the game laws. All of them. Even if we do not agree, or like them, it is in our best interest and the interest of our sport to portray a good image.

On a personal note, it sickens me when I see grown men and women blatantly ignoring and breaking game laws. It makes it far worse when they do this with their children in tow. They are rearing a generation of law breakers and immoral hunters that will continue to paint a bad picture of a beautiful sport. Perhaps it is time we policed ourselves.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was telling me of a dilemma he found himself in when one of his friends who hunted with him confessed he hadn’t purchased a license in several years. He assumed his friend had a license and there was never any reason not to assume this. Once he confessed that he hadn’t purchased one it put their friendship in jeopardy. It seems that true friends and family would not place someone else in this situation. After a good conversation about ethical hunting and the image they were bearing on their children licenses were bought.

In my experience it appears that some laws are more readily broken than others, and some are more accepted than others. This seems especially true with daily bag limits on doves and ducks. I would wager (if I was a betting man) that anyone who has hunted on a dove hunt has seen, witnessed or been a part of a hunt where limits were ignored. Some even award prizes for killing the most, or the most on fewest shots etc. Hunters with bags of fifty doves is not uncommon in certain parts of the state on opening weekend. With a daily bag limit of 12 birds, it is not difficult to see how the wonton killing of several dozen can limit the opportunity for others.

“A limit before dinner and a limit after.” Was a saying I heard for years when it came to ducks. “If I kill my six at first light and go home and clean them, and then go back in the afternoon and kill six who’s going to know?” The quick answer is, you will know. Your buddies will know, and your family will know.

As hunters we often have to make some difficult decisions. Letting a very respectable buck walk. Not killing jakes, and stopping at a limit when the birds are as thick as Wataree swamp mosquitoes. But the hardest in my opinion is when we police ourselves. As hunters and outdoorsmen, it is our responsibility to draw a hard line. We should never condone the blatant breaking of game laws. Excessive limits, no license, season dates, you name it – if we know someone is breaking the law, it is our responsibility as hunters to call them out. Whether you report them to the law is up to you, but it is at the least your responsibility to call them out and let them know that their behavior will not be tolerated.

A friend of mine was put in a particularly bad situation when his own brother decided to kill a doe when it was a buck only day. His brother did not have a doe tag. When confronted with this situation his brother said; “I’m going to clean it and get it home, I won’t get caught.”           My friend said, “You’ve already been caught by me. Don’t come back here hunting again.” This situation put a big strain on their relationship.

Whether it is family, friends or just an acquaintance I believe it is our responsibility to police one another and to hold one another accountable for our actions as sportsmen and women. You may not like the game laws, you may disagree with how they are enforced. But for the sake of the hunting community, and for your own integrity, obey the laws and make sure those around you do the same.