Fred Bear and His Ten Hunting Commandments

Fred Bear-Full Draw

I have a love/hate relationship with hunting season. I love it because I enjoy hunting but, I hate it because I live in an area where lots of weekend warriors come to hunt. Every year I see hunters that always remind me of Fred Bear’s 10 Commandants of Hunting. Fred Bear was certainly experienced enough to write them.

I nearly have them memorized as a local gas station with odd hours had them posted on aged yellow paper to the side of the deli portion that served fried chicken way too early in the morning. I wish everyone grew up reading these commandants, and maybe I’d be less jaded by visiting hunters. 

Fred Bear was a legendary bow hunter and a pioneer of the sport. Believe it or not, in the 1940s and fifties, bow hunting wasn’t common. In fact, most states didn’t have a set bow hunting season, and some didn’t even permit bow hunting. Efforts by Fred Bear spread bow hunting across the United States. He had a storied career, to say the least, and in his wake, he left us 10 Hunting Commandments.


Fred Bear’s Ten Hunting Commandments Fred Bear Book

While it’s easy to apply these rules to just bow hunting, I think they are applicable to most of all hunting. (Except for dog hunting, but that’s not real hunting anyway.) I’m sure my dad saw that yellowed piece of paper every day we went hunting, but I don’t know if he ever paid that much attention to them. Yet, at the same time, these are nearly the same rules or commandments Papa Pike imprinted on me while hunting. Maybe that’s why I remember them so fondly. 

1. Don’t step on anything you can step over.

It’s pretty simple. Don’t make unnecessary noise, and disturb an area as little as possible. Let as little scent, noise, and destruction in your wake as possible. 

2. Don’t look for deer, look for movement (and remember it’s what they’re looking for, too.)

Animals tend to be naturally camouflaged in their environment. Seeing a brown deer in the fall can be tough, so don’t just rely on seeing the deer, pig, or squirrel. Watch for their movement, and they’ll reveal themselves. 

I can still hear my dad say the words “sit still” in his quiet whisper. If you’re moving, you might as well be shouting. 

3. Always approach downwind. In the cool of the day, move uphill; in the heat of the day, move downhill.

Noise, movement, and your scent are all dead giveaways. With all the modern tech we have, it’s superbly easy to know which way the wind will be blowing in the morning and evening. Admittedly northwest Florida isn’t very hilly, but moving up and down hills depending on the temperatures allows you to approach the animal from an advantageous angle. 

4. The best camouflage pattern is called, “Sit down and be quiet!” Your grandpa hunted deer in a red plaid coat. Think about that for a second.

I don’t think Fred Bear was anti-camouflage. In fact, I know he wasn’t. This is my favorite commandment, and I think he was basically saying the highest-tech camouflage doesn’t replace discipline. (As a side note, I killed my first deer in blue jeans and a grey jacket.)

Fred Bear Smiling w/arrows

5. Take only the gear to the field that allows you to hunt longer, harder, and smarter.

This is a great fieldcraft skill for anyone. The message conveyed then is the same as it is now. Does the gear allow you to succeed in your mission? If not, it’s dead weight. 

6. A rainstorm isn’t a reason to quit the hunt. It’s a reason to stay.”

Animals move differently depending on the weather, and that might be the best reason to get a little wet. I admittedly didn’t understand this commandment until recently. To me, we stayed in the woods because all the weekend warriors would leave, meaning fewer people to deal with, and vehicles moving would scare them off the dirt roads and, hopefully, to us. 

7. Camouflage your appearance, your sound, and your scent.

I told you Fred Bear wasn’t anti-camouflage. Animals tend to be sensitive to their environments, skittish, and anything out of the ordinary can scare them off. You are out of the ordinary, and so is your movement, noise, and Gain laundry detergent. Be smart, think natural, and be scentless, soundless, and still. Mosquitoes are a test you just gotta pass. 

8. Be sure of your shot. Nothing is more expensive than regret.

If you’ve hunted for a bit, you know that the biggest buck you’ve ever seen is going to approach you from the worst angle possible. Eventually, you’ll be forced to try and shoot, or maybe for a more advantageous position. 

9. Hunt where the deer actually are, not where you’d imagine them to be

Have you ever found a nice, dry piece of dirt with great angles of fire that seems mosquito free? It’d be great if deer passed through that area. However, if you can’t find any tracks, scat, rubbing, old antlers, or any other sign, then maybe you should keep looking. 

10. Next year’s hunt begins the minute this season’s hunt ends.

I certainly didn’t understand this commandment until I became an adult and planned my own hunts. Nowadays, I know that scouting and learning are a continual process. Ensuring your skills with your chosen weapon stay sharp and you have ammo to boot ensures you aren’t scrambling when fall sets in. 

The Commandments 

Fred Bear’s Commandments remain relevant to this day. Adhering to these commandments will make you a better hunter, and if you’re a new hunter, it’s wise to remember and understand these commandments. It gives you good footing to be successful. If you’ll excuse me, I’m headed to the stand. 

Fred Bear with Elk

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