Safety, Ethics and Etiquette
Hunters are encouraged to conduct themselves in a safe and ethical manner to ensure that the future of recreational hunting and the shooting sports in general is protected. A hunter needs to understand and follow the principles of ethical hunting. They should always display an appreciation and adherence to sustainable wildlife management practices and obey all specific game and hunting laws. The SSAA’s Code of Conduct and the general ‘Rules of etiquette when hunting’ are good starting points to follow in regard to safe and ethical hunting.
Code of Conduct
SSAA members must adhere to the following basic ethical requirements. Any breach of these requirements may result in suspension of membership or expulsion from the Association.
- Obey the rules of firearms laws and regulations.
- Undertake to do all in their power to preserve the good image of the sport and the Association.
- Support game management and wildlife conservation.
- Encourage new shooters, both young and old, to acquire knowledge and ethical attitudes relating to game management, conservation and safe firearms ownership, all of which are the hallmark of the sporting shooter.
Basic Firearm Safety
- Treat every firearm with the respect due to a loaded firearm.
- Carry only empty firearms, rendered safe with the action open or broken, into your car, camp and home.
- Always be sure that the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
- Always carry your firearm so that you can control the direction of the muzzle.
- Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.
- Never point a firearm at anything you do not want to shoot.
- Never leave your firearm unattended, unless you unload it first.
- Never climb a tree or a fence with a loaded firearm.
- Never shoot at a flat, hard surface or the surface of water.
- Do not mix firearms, gunpowder and alcohol.
Safe and ethical behaviour
As modern-day society continues to place more emphasis on the ethical treatment and welfare of animals, it is very important for hunters to ensure their practices don’t fall foul of such considerations. Ethical hunting means that hunters obey both the unwritten or moral codes of practice, as well as the formal written laws. Modern means of travel, firearms technology and optical sights make it easier for hunters to find and see their target. However, it is still up to the hunter to ensure a clean and rapid kill. The hunter should always take the time to regularly practise and sharpen their skills at their local shooting range.
It is important to understand that during wildlife management activities, such as the removal of problem animals, ethical hunters still need to ensure that animals, no matter their status, are treated in a humane way. The ethical hunter shows concern for wildlife and the surrounding environment. They instill in others who they mentor along the way the same principles they follow in regard to ethical hunting behaviours. This includes letting others know if they think that their behaviour is out of line.
Shooting at road signs, chasing game in vehicles and careless handling of firearms are unacceptable practices. It’s these types of activities that are often reported in a bad light and can give all hunters a bad name. The ethical hunter knows the importance of obeying laws to ensure the sustainable use and management of wildlife. They take care of the environment and always have people’s safety in the back of their minds. They also recognise the sensitivities of others in regard to wildlife management issues.
Hunters need to conduct themselves in a manner to main-tain or improve the hunter’s image among the general public. A hunter must also have and maintain a good relationship with the landowner if they want somewhere to hunt.
Crown land requires permission from the responsible government authority. Permission is normally granted through a hunting permit and/or a booking system in certain states and territories. A hunter must always obtain permission from the landowner before entering a property. It is advisable to always obtain permission in writing from the landowner, as it could save an embarrassing situation should the authority enter the land and your presence be questioned. Failure to ask for permission is a valid cause for complaint by landowners and is one of the reasons why some landowners are reluctant to allow others apart from family to hunt on their properties. A property owner can ask the police to lay charges of unlawful entry (trespass). Charges and resulting court action could be costly and result in cancellation of the firearms licence and subsequent surrender of all firearms owned.
As a guest of the landowner, the hunter should respect the property, taking care not to damage fences, trample crops or disturb or injure livestock while navigating the property. All gates must be left as they are found. Take the time to note and report anything unusual or of special interest, such as leaking water troughs, livestock on roadways, gates that are closed and denying water to stock, or the presence of trespassers or poachers. These simple observation and reporting tasks will strengthen your relationship with the landowner and ensure that your presence on their property is providing an added benefit beyond wildlife management activities. This type of feedback will most certainly result in an invitation to come back again some time.
Public and crown lands in some states and territories are often accessed during game species’ open seasons or through various wildlife management projects such as the SSAA CWM’s branch culling activities. This temporary access does not give you the right to abuse the privilege of access at any later time. In most states and territories, crown lands are designated flora and fauna reserves and are generally out of bounds to private hunting. Permission to hunt must be obtained on every occasion. Do not damage or litter public or private property and always leave your campsite in a better condition of cleanliness and tidiness than you found it. Ensure that you respect the privacy of the landowner at all times.
Ethical hunters need to practise to maintain a satisfactory degree of shooting skill. To be proficient, you need to develop a sound understanding of the basic techniques of shooting and the best way to achieve this is by regularly practising at the range.
There are four main field positions used by hunters when using a rifle: the prone, sitting, kneeling and standing positions. Before taking a shot, the hunter should be in the most stable position possible. If a target animal has been selected and there is time, using the support of a tree, fence post or bipod/shooting stick can improve stability, which will ensure an accurate shot and a clean, quick kill.
When using a shotgun, ensure the shooter’s body faces towards the target in a boxing-like stance. Place the left foot (for the right-handed shooter) half a step ahead of the right and lean the body slightly forward, resting with more weight on the left leg. Extend the left arm and grip the shotgun fore-end firmly enough to be able to swing the body and the shotgun in any direction. Hold the right arm and shoulder up and place the shotgun butt snugly into the right shoulder. The shot should be made by pulling the trigger as the barrel is swung to move ahead of the target. The follow-through is the same as in golf, in that, the swing must continue after the trigger has been pulled.
Target animal identification
By understanding the biology, behaviour and habitat of an animal, the hunter can then determine what type or method of hunting will achieve the best results. Knowing when a certain species becomes active allows you to concentrate your hunting effort around those times and this increases your chances of greater success. Apart from the timing of your activities, your understanding of the target animal will help you determine the most effective method of hunting, be it whistling, spotlighting, flushing, hiding or stalking.
Choosing the right hunting calibre
As an ethical hunter, you want to be sure that the cartridge you are using is powerful enough to produce a clean, quick one-shot kill. The following information suggests firearm and cartridge types for a variety of species. Of course, these are just general suggestions and with experience, you may develop your own preference suited to your needs.
Additionally, there are certain rules governing the size of cartridge used when hunting certain species, so the following information should be used only as a general guide. States such as Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales have minimum legal calibres for certain species of deer. Being a responsible and ethical hunter, you should always endeavour to be up-to-date with any regulations that indicate a specific cartridge type or calibre for a particular animal.
Minimum suggested rifle cartridges for hunting game animals Game animal Minimum suggested cartridge Maximum range Rabbits and hares .22RF 100m Foxes and feral cats .22RF 100m Kangaroos .222 Remington 150m Dingoes and wild dogs .222 Remington 200m Feral goats .22-250 Remington 100m Feral pigs .243 Winchester 150m Buffalo .270 Winchester 200m Small deer* .243 Winchester 150m Big deer* .270 Winchester 200m *subject to legal minimum calibre set by state regulations
Rules of etiquette when hunting
- Leave gates as you find them
- Ask permission to light cooking fires first
- Keep cooking fires as small as possible
- Put your fires out properly before leaving
- Never gather firewood and use a chain-saw without prior permission
- Keep clear of stock routes
- Drive only on defined tracks
- Be especially careful with target identification and danger zones if spotlighting
- Keep away from water troughs
- Never contaminate stock water with soaps
- Take your rubbish away with you
- Ensure the property owner is well aware of your movements
- If you are successful, offer to share your game with the owner
- Report any suspicious or unusual events to the owner
- Don’t keep returning to the property with new people - look after the areas as if they were your own