boone and crockett club position statement
Big Game Records Eligibility
The Boone and Crockett Club sets the rules for entering a trophy into its records books. These rules, as stated in the Club’s Entry Affidavit, are based primarily on principles of wildlife conservation and fair chase. The Club’s trophy entry rules have gained wide acceptance, and in fact, the game laws of some federal, state and provincial agencies are based on the concept of fair chase or use its entry rules.
Nevertheless, the relationship of the Club’s trophy entry rules to the broader principles of hunting ethics, game laws, and records programs of other organizations are not necessarily well understood by the public. The Club regularly fields questions about whether a particular hunting method or use of technology will disqualify an entry, why conduct in the field that is legal in a state or province can still be unethical, and how all this applies to records book eligibility.
The big game records of the Boone and Crockett Club are a set of wildlife and hunting data that the Club began to collect over a century ago to track the recovery of big game populations from unregulated overharvesting. The records program of the Club continues to be a useful tool for measuring the successes of wildlife conservation today, as its measuring system provides an indicator of age and habitat conditions for many species. Having sportsmen participate in this data collection system by voluntarily submitting their trophies is vital. Over the years, the Club has developed rules for trophy eligibility based on its desire to collect data that is valuable to game managers, biologists, lawmakers, hunters and others responsible for wildlife conservation in North America.
In addition, the Boone and Crockett Club believes it is important to honor the trophies harvested and the traditions of hunting by requiring that all trophies be taken in “fair chase,” which is a code of hunting ethics intrinsic to the mission and values of the Club. (Click here for the Club’s Position Statement on Fair Chase). The Club acknowledges that fair chase is a subjective term that represents a spectrum of behavior shaped by personal choice. The Club’s trophy eligibility rules are not intended to define or limit the concept of fair chase, or divide hunters. It is up to each individual to set their own ethical standards when hunting. It is up to the Club to maintain a records program that is consistent with its mission, values, and the consistency and integrity of the data collected.
The Club has decided that explaining the rationale behind each of the rules in its hunter entry affidavit will lead to a better understanding of why it excludes entry in its records books of any big game harvested through the use of the following methods, techniques, technology, or under the following conditions:
I. Spotting or herding game from the air, followed by landing in its vicinity for the purpose of pursuit and shooting;
With the popularity of personal aircraft in the 1960s increasing and being used in hunting to access remote areas in North America, it became apparent that some hunters were using aircraft not only to reach their hunting destination, but locate their game from the air, and in the vicinity, and pursue for a shot. In some cases, hunters were using aircraft to herd game into a more accessible situation. The Club determined that this was an unfair advantage to both the game and other hunters. At the same time the Club was instituting this policy, some states and provinces began outlawing the practice and instituting a 24-hour fly rule, which made it illegal to fly and hunt within the same 24-hour period.
II. Herding or chasing with the aid of any motorized equipment;
Using motorized vehicles to access hunting areas is a common and legal practice. Taking this one step further by herding or chasing game from a vehicle and then stopping to take a shot is deemed an unfair advantage and unsportsmanlike.
III. Use of electronic communication devices (2-way radios, cell phones, etc.) to guide hunters to game, artificial lighting, electronic light intensifying devices (night vision optics), sights with built-in electronic range-finding capabilities (including smart scopes), drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), thermal imaging equipment, electronic game calls or cameras/timers/motion tracking devices that transmit images and other information to the hunter;
Technological advancement in hunting equipment is a natural progression of our desire to be successful and affective in ethically harvesting game. At some point, these technologies can displace a hunter’s skills to the point of taking unfair advantage of the game. Below are some examples (which are not intended to be an exhaustive list):
● The Club believes that having another person on the other end of a two-way radio or cell phone to help locate or guide a hunter to game is not fair chase.
● Big game animals cannot be legally hunted at night in any state or province. Using any technology or device that allows hunters to see in the dark in order to harvest an animal is both illegal and unsportsmanlike.
● Knowing the range to a target is a critical piece of information for the ethical harvest of big game animals. Rangefinders are a valuable tool, as are riflescopes. However, combining the two into one device, commonly called smart scopes, disqualifies a trophy from being accepted.
• Using drones to take pictures or video, or transmitting this information live whether scouting or during a hunt takes unfair advantage over a game animal and other hunters.
● It can be argued that thermal imaging equipment is helpful in recovering wounded or lost game. The Club has determined using thermal imaging equipment to initially locate game for hunting, however, is not fair chase.
● Trail cameras can be a helpful tool in game management and selective hunting. The use of devices that transmit captured or live images or video from the field back to the hunter crosses the line of fair chase.
• Almost all cougars are hunted using dogs because of the considerable difficulty in locating them without dogs. The practice is legal in many states. The Club finds that using electronic collars to ensure far-ranging dogs do not become lost is understandable and acceptable, but using electronic collars to more easily locate and access a treed cougar in order to take a shot is not an appropriate use of that technology.
IV. Confined by artificial barriers, including escape‑proof fenced enclosures;
As stated above, the Club’s records program is a gauge of the success or failure of conservation and game management policies and programs. Data kept by the Club’s records is the measurement of antler and horn growth, which is considered as an indicator of age and habitat conditions. Wildlife managers use these data to make game management decisions. As such, the scientific purity of this data is of utmost importance to managers and Club.
Artificial barriers and escape-proof fences typically mean that the animals confined within are managed by private individuals and are not free-ranging. Including data in the records books on such animals undermines the usefulness of the data to wildlife managers who are charged with overseeing the health and regulated hunting of free-ranging animals.
In addition, game species and their habitat within an enclosure can be managed or manipulated in a way that is not possible under free-range conditions. Often such manipulation is for the purpose of growing the largest antler and horn sets possible in the shortest amount of time. The Club has determined that including data on animals taken from enclosures creates a greater possibility of unnaturally grown or genetically-manipulated specimens skews the data, making it worthless to game managers.
For these reasons the Club has chosen to exclude game harvested behind an artificial barrier or escape-proof fence from its records program. (Click here for the Club’s Position Statement on Genetic Manipulation).
V. Transplanted for the purpose of commercial shooting;
In nearly every situation where a captive animal is released for commercial shooting purposes, such animals are released into another escape-proof enclosure. These trophies are ineligible for the reasons stated in rule IV above.
Captive animals are not truly wild, and vary in the degree to which they have become acclimated to being around and handled by humans. With little to no fear of humans and being raised in controlled environments with no need for their natural survival instincts, the Club does not consider the practice of shooting such animals fair chase. (Click here for the Club’s Position Statement on Canned Shoots).
One exception is the transport of an animal(s) by a state or provincial wildlife agency for the purpose of augmenting an existing population or reintroducing a species to a range they once occupied. These relocations can be from a captive enclosure or temporary holding facility, and animals are either released into the wild or into another temporary holding facility, and then into the wild. These relocations are to benefit a population rather than to be commercially shot. Trophies eventually taken in these situations are valid data points and integral to the analysis of these populations.
VI. By the use of traps or pharmaceuticals;
The use of traps in the fur trade and for controlling certain nuisance species is a legal and common practice in North America. The Club maintains records on two species (bear and cougar) that can be legally trapped in some states and provinces. While the Club supports the decision of a state or province to allow fur trapping and trapping as a means of predator control, the Club does not consider trapping as an appropriate means of hunting for purposes of its records books. Using drugs to slow down or kill game is also deemed unsportsmanlike.
On a similar note, the use of natural food or bait, food plots, or unnatural food attractants do not affect records entry eligibility if such practices are legal in the states where the animal was harvested. The Club acknowledges that baiting is an effective game management tool used by some agencies to manage certain species and to protect human safety and property. The Club supports the authority of the state agencies to determine if and when baiting is an appropriate management tool.
VII. While swimming, helpless in deep snow, or helpless in any other natural or artificial medium;
When the Club was established in the late 19th century, it was a common practice to drive deer and moose to seek refuge in water, where they were shot from the shore or from boats or canoes. The same was true of chasing and shooting game floundering in deep snow. Both of these practices were deemed unfair chase by the Club as part of its first constitution in 1887. The Club considers hunting of any animal that has been rendered helpless to escape as unethical.
VIII. On another hunter’s license;
Party hunting and filling a tag for someone else in your hunting party is still legal in some states and provinces. Trophies taken during a party hunt where such practices are legal are eligible for the records book as they are a valid data point, though the hunters name will be omitted from the record as the hunter.
IX. Not in full compliance with the game laws or regulations of the federal government or of any state, province, territory, or tribal council on reservations or tribal lands;
The Club supports state, provincial, and first nations wildlife management authority, including the institution of game laws to protect wildlife, personal property and human safety. The Club requires that all trophies entered into its records book are taken in full compliance with all applicable laws.
The Boone and Crocket Club will continue to develop rules and policies for trophy entry to adapt to changing technologies and conditions. (Click here for additional Records Programs Policies). The Club acknowledges that every hunt is unique, and reserves the right to exclude a trophy that it finds, in its sole discretion, to have been taken in an unethical manner or due to any other circumstances, such as trophy manipulation, use of technologies, hunting methods, or the results of genetic/DNA analysis that would render it ineligible.
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