TR’s Rules to Hunt By-Theodore Roosevelt laid down a hunting code of ethics he lived out every time he went afield.

Posted: September 18, 2015 by gamegetterII in hunting
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Sportsmen often quote Theodore Roosevelt’s comments on hunting and conservation, but his views on sporting life went far beyond his spoken words. Through his writings and actions, Roosevelt laid down fundamental guidelines that every hunter can learn from, if not totally agree with.

TR's Rules to Hunt By

In The Wilderness Hunter and Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Roosevelt expressed his opinions on hunting big game across North America. In African Game Trails, he visited the Dark Continent and blended local opinions with his views from the American West. Though some of his viewpoints were colored by his time period, many are timeless lessons that every hunter can draw wisdom from.

The Cardinal Sin

“On this day I got rather tired, and committed one of the blunders of which no hunter ought ever to be guilty; that is, I fired at small game while on ground where I might expect large.”

— T. Roosevelt, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman

Roosevelt was after bighorn sheep when three jackrabbits crossed his path. He had previously written about the wariness a hunter needed to pursue sheep, but not seeing game for some time had left his trigger finger itching badly.

He wrote that one rabbit practically begged to be shot, being “perched on a bush, and with its neck stretched up.”

He knelt, fired, missed, and instantly regretted his hasty decision—off in the distance an animal stirred and disappeared without Roosevelt or his companion ever learning if it was a sheep or not.

When you target a species to hunt, stick to that animal.

Never Give Up

“I fired into the bull’s shoulder, inflicting a mortal wound; but he went off, and I raced after him at top speed, firing twice into his flank; then he stopped, very sick, and I broke his neck with a fourth bullet.” 

— T. Roosevelt, The Wilderness Hunter

Elk are infamous for absorbing lead like a sponge and offering no visible reaction in return. In this 21st Century age of one-shot kills and long-range shooting, many hunting guides are frustrated by their clients’ refusal to anchor elk with follow-up shots. The first shot hits perfectly behind the shoulder and the shooter takes a victory lap, leaving the guide to watch as the bull races off to parts unknown.

Roosevelt had poor eyesight and sometimes reached beyond his effective shooting range, but if he had cartridges left and the animal was still in sight he never stopped firing till the animal was secured.

There’s always hope as long as there’s lead in the air.

Measure Distances Accurately

“Distances are deceptive on the bare plains under the African sunlight. I saw a fine Grant[‘s gazelle], and stalked him in a rain squall; but the bullets from the little Springfield fell short as he raced away to safety; I had underestimated the range.”

— T. Roosevelt, African Game Trails

Theodore Roosevelt didn’t have mil-dots, rangefinders, or computerized scopes, but if he had he might have chosen to use them. Some hunters disdain technology and feel it has no place in the grand tradition of hunting, but within reason it can a blessing and not a curse. Make small changes to your equipment list, like a rangefinder, and see if the accuracy is worth the electronic convenience.

Hunting with or without modern devices is a personal choice. However, don’t let nostalgia rob you of the chance at more, and more ethical, shots.

Don’t Play The Numbers Game

“The mere size of the bag indicates little as to a man’s prowess as a hunter, and almost nothing as to the interest or value of his achievement.”

— T. Roosevelt, African Game Trails

Roosevelt and his son Kermit kept only a dozen or so of the 512 African animals they killed while on safari. The vast majority of the animals went to museums as exhibit specimens or were used for meat. He wrote that the two had not killed even a hundredth of the animals they could have if they had been willing.

As a foreign dignitary and arguably the most popular man in the world at the time, the only bag limit imposed on him in colonial Africa was the one within his own conscience. Roosevelt knew a full bag limit doesn’t necessarily mean a full day.

Judge your days afield on the memories made, not the shots fired.

Be Sure of Your Target

“The cowboy’s chapfallen face was a study; he had seen, in the dim light, the two ponies going down with their heads held near the ground, and had mistaken them for bears … He knew only too well the merciless chaff to which he would be henceforth exposed; and a foretaste of which he at once received from my companion.”

— T. Roosevelt, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman

– See more at: http://sportingclassicsdaily.com/issue/2015-1/article/trs-rules-to-hunt-by#sthash.eqpmF2S0.dpuf

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