Respect is one of the most important ideas a hunter can learn and practice. Hunting is an activity where the participant is alone, there is no audience to observe or influence behaviour. With that in mind, it is vitally important that the hunter learns that doing things in a fair and honourable way comes from an inner belief in right and wrong, rather than from the pressure of others.
Ethical, responsible, caring behaviour illustrates an essential level of respect and an absence of this behaviour indicates the hunter doesn’t understand the importance and historic value of their connection with the land. Poor behaviour by people calling themselves hunters is also the ammunition used by international anti-hunting groups.
Respect for the animal starts long before the hunt begins.
Proper wildlife identification skills are important so that a hunter can abide by rules. It’s easy with moose, deer or elk because only the males have antlers. Caribou sexes both have antlers so the hunter must learn more about identification because only bulls are legal to hunt.
Respect also includes your choice of an adequate, legal rifle, which should be sighted in and practiced with until you can be accurate up to your own range limitations. Learn stalking skills to get closer to the animal because accuracy and bullet energy are enhanced at shorter distances.
The animal that dies quickly from a minimal number of shots has not suffered unnecessarily, has not escaped, and has not experienced undue stress, which effects the flavour and consistency of the meat.
Field dressing a wild-game animal, especially a large moose or bison is a big task. They don’t always fall where they are shot and moose are famous for running into a river, lake, or swamp before expiring.
Having a basic knowledge of the field dressing process, and possessing the right equipment (cheese cloth bags, tarps, ropes for hanging) shows that you care about doing things right.
Every year wildlife officers charge hunters with wasting meat and occasionally abandoning the whole carcass. A common meat wastage scenario occurs when the people involved are unprepared as far as equipment, clothing, and weather are concerned, or they make a very bad decision by killing an animal too far from the boat, truck or camp.
Sometimes the hunter only wants the horns or antlers as a trophy. This shows complete disrespect for the animal and if the person is caught wasting meat for this purpose the resulting penalty is justifiably severe.
How you prepare, how you think about the animals you are hunting, and how you care for them once they have been shot, speaks volumes about the level of respect you carry with you as a hunter and also as a person.
A final thought: I always take a second or two to quietly thank the Great Spirit (or whoever you think is in charge) for the animal I have just taken. I know many others who do the same, and I believe it is a lot more respectful than a lot of yelling and high-fives.