The Unwritten Rules


As a fly fishing and bird hunting guide I see all kinds of things that peeve me. When it comes to these sports, both of which that I think of as gentleman's game...this topic really gets under my skin. There was a time when I was first getting involved when the vast majority understood how the game was played and most respected it, unfortunately those days are over.
In as far as fly fishing goes my friends are always telling me things like "Matt, the sport is evolving" or "the world is getting smaller" or any number of things along those lines. Me personally, I refuse to accept this. Both of these things are true but it doesn't mean that we have to become a bunch of assholes.
Luckily for us upland folk, for the most part a lot of the old rules hold true. However, the future isn't too bright if we don't pass on what we know to the younger generation of hunters, a group of guys and girls that I include myself into. As we see the older generation hanging up their coats, the younger guys are taking over, thank goodness. But its important we pass on everything we have learned and everything we were taught about this thing that we love so much.
I remember a time when I was learning and doing my research that a lot of attention was given to respect, etiquette and general good sportsmanship and in this young hunters mind, we are starting to lose some of that. Recently I have witnessed a few things that made me cringe so I thought I would share some of what was passed on to me. You may agree with some of it and not with the rest or you may agree with all of it. Either way no harm can come from having good form and bringing a little bit of manners back into what we do, especially in this crazy day and age. Here are some things that in my opinion we should all be aware of and follow in no particular order.

1. Don't Give Commands to another mans dog.
I get a lot of pride in seeing my dog work. If you aren't aware, I'm currently working a young promising dog. He isn't perfect, he makes a lot of mistakes and I do too. Recently I was running him in the woods and gave him a little toot on the whistle, something I do when he's ranging a little too far. He turned right around and came back immediately. For me this was a huge sense of accomplishment and I had never been more proud hunting than right there and than. Point being, every dog is different and some dogs work better than others. Hunters put a lot of time into their dogs and they know what to expect from them and what they want them to do. Whether you think the dog is doing something right or not just keep it to yourself and don't tell them what to do. Not to mention how much you can confuse a dog, especially one who is still being trained.

2. Shoot at the Sky
This rings true all of the time but even more so when hunting with others and their dogs. There is nothing more cringe worthy than watching someone line up a low shot with your dog on the ground, not to mention other hunters. It's only birds, and contrary to some belief there are plenty of them. Pass on the low shots unless you are absolutely positive there is no life other than your target anywhere in the ballpark.
Victim of a low shot link

3. Know your lane
If you're hunting with a small group, even just two of you, always try to hunt parallel to each other. Personally, I like to walk right with my buddies and spread out when the dogs make game but that's your call. One thing is certain, if you're on the left side you have no business shooting at a bird on the right. Don't be a hog and don't be unsafe. If you respect your buddies and they are getting most of the shots they are going to give you your turn, and if not you can always get other buddies.

4. Make No Excuses
If you miss a shot, you missed. Don't spend ten minutes trying to explain why. If you're confident you hit the bird than certainly say so and make a good search, but if you missed, you just missed. Nobody cares about why you missed and if you keep good company nobody cares that you missed in the first place.

5. Pick up Your Empties
I hate going on a peaceful walk in the woods and walking into another persons trash. If you fire a shot it's not a big deal to reach down and pick up your empty shells. Don't throw your sandwich wrapper on the ground, don't leave crap all over the place. We are stewards, set a good example.

6. Don't touch another mans guns or dog without being invited to do so
This doesn't require a lot of explanation but you would not pick up someone's kid without asking so don't do it with their dog and/or guns either.

7. Muzzle Discipline
There is no quicker way to make people uncomfortable than acting crazy with guns in your hand. Be aware of where everyone and every dog is and hold your gun accordingly. Keep your gun pointed in the sky if you aren't certain and always keep it away from other hunters and their guns. I personally like to carry my gun open most of the time but its not expected for everyone to do that. Just keep that thing pointed in a safe direction and for God's sake don't load it until everyone is ready.

Look at all that blue sky. Link

8. Be Prepared
Don't be the guy who shows up without enough ammo or that didn't bring lunch when everyone else did. Especially on long trips. You make everyone else feel shitty if they have a sandwich and you don't. If you get asked to go on a hunt and you don't have what you need, say it up front. This seems trivial but it's common sense in everything else we do and I have seen it a hundred times.

9. Respect the Law
We aren't a bunch of banshees and criminals. What sets us aside from the yahoos and crazies is that we respect our quarry, our buddies, and the law. Don't take game out of season and be aware of what you can and can't do legally. One of my big peeves is people running their dogs on birds out of season where it isn't legal. These rules are put in place for a reason whether you agree with it or not.

10. Don't Speak Ill of Another Dog.
It's really poor form to say anything negative about somebody's dog. To to take it further, don't just blab all day about all the other great dogs you hunt behind. If you want to hunt behind them, go do it. Appreciate what's on the ground in front of you.

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