Few would disagree that the breakneck pace of technology threatens to overwhelm us. Recreational hunting is not exempted. When it comes to hunting ethics and fair chase, new questions flood the conversation almost as fast as cutting-edge technology.

Here is a doozy. Should it be legal for a big game hunter to use a computerized targeting sighting system? To be more precise a deer hunter lays down $10,000 for a “smart rifle,” or a Tracking Point Precision-Guided .308 Firearm, is he pushing the envelope on ethics?

Put simply, a smart rifle calculates distance, trajectory and lead for a moving target. It then takes over the shot and fires the rifle at the precise moment. The system used is not unlike a computerized targeting system used in a jet fighter. My golly, Miss Molly! Theoretically, it is possible to make an accurate shot on game a half mile or more away.

According to Sgt. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service, it is not illegal to hunt big game in Maine with a smart rifle. New Hampshire reportedly is considering a ban.

There are two contrasting schools of thought on the ethics of hunting with smart rifles. Many argue that the high-tech firearm violates the principle of fair chase because it gives the hunter an unfair advantage over wildlife. While others, including the smart rifle manufacturers, argue that, indeed, a smart rifle, with its uncanny accuracy under all conditions, is more likely than a conventional rifle to deliver a clean kill.

What are your thoughts?

As a hunter, I have, over the years, leaned in the other direction toward less technology. I gun hunt still, but prefer bow hunting. However, my attitude is libertarian. Let hunters use whatever device works best for them. Hunting ethicist Jim Posewitz would no doubt frown if he had to share a deer camp with a hunter who had a smart rifle in the camp gun rack. One of Posewitz’s definitions of the ethical hunter is a good one and it takes the argument beyond the aforementioned positions to a higher and, perhaps, more critical level. He writes that an ethical hunter “behaves in a way that will satisfy what society expects of him or her as a hunter.”

Herein lies the problem, if you ask me.

In my book “Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” I write, “given the outlandish and inordinate power of a single incident to shape public opinion in our media-intense society, the future of hunting rights is irrevocably connected to the behavior of each and every hunter.”

No matter how you slice it, there is no way that even the most reasonable non-hunting citizen is going to accept the argument that a deer hunter with a $12,000.00 high-tech rifle with a computerized sighting and firing system is practicing fair chase. Just no way.

For the sake of our hunting heritage in a free society, policymakers involved with regulating firearms used in recreational hunting need to get ahead of the curve when it comes to high-tech hunting devices.

This should include a close look at the increasingly more common practice of spotting game with remote-controlled drones as well.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has three books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook,” “Backtrack.” And his latest “The Maine Angler’s Logbook.” Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com..


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: