Outdoor Etiquette

I love to see Matt Miller’s name when I read the “Ask a Conservation Officer” section in the Duluth News Tribune. Matt worked for us at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters quite a few years ago. This is a good piece about hunting and fishing laws versus etiquette.
Q: Last fall we arrived at a walk-in hunting area just after another hunter. We each proceeded to get ready to hunt, but then the other hunter told us he would leave to find another spot. Should we have been the ones to leave? Are there laws governing etiquette for hunting and fishing spots?

A: What you bring up is a very good point and applies to all kinds of outdoor recreation. First, there are no explicit laws or rules covering this situation. Hunter or angler harassment only covers situations where a person takes action with the intent to prevent another from taking part in a lawful activity. It seems your neighbor at the walk-in area recognized that perhaps each of you would have a better experience if someone left, and he took it upon himself to find another spot.

When it comes to choosing a spot to hunt or fish, you must consider different factors including who was there first, who has the physical ability to access different spots, and who may have young hunters or anglers along who might benefit from certain spots. Public lands are open for all to use, regardless if someone has been in a specific location for many years. Often, trying to force yourself into your preferred location creates less success for everyone, including you.

On a recent off-duty ice-fishing morning on an area harbor, I arrived early to set up. Several other anglers arrived and took their spots, drilling holes and setting up tents. One notable angler arrived much after everyone else, positioned himself within 25 feet of a couple other houses, and proceeded to take more than 10 minutes to first drill, then laboriously chisel, a large hole in the ice for himself, creating a very noisy disruption of the entire area.

Nothing about what he did was illegal, and some perhaps would not find it unethical. However, if he had considered the results that his actions would have on his success and that of others, he may have made some better choices about how to set up. Most hunting and fishing norms are driven by ethics, not laws, and that consideration is needed on each trip.

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.

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