After two days of hiking through the rain, sleeping on the ground, and eating nothing but salami and cheese it was aggravating!

Three hours of driving. Pitching a tent in the dark in the rain. Sleeping in the mud. Hiking down deserted roads in the mountains for hours. Despite all of this effort, there is nothing more frustrating than finally seeing you quarry just out of reach.

After a weekend of long hikes on a turkey hunt, I finally found turkey. A flock of turkey. In a farmer's front yard.

Just a bit beyond that I found two others - large toms weighing at least 40 pounds each - meandering along a cow pasture. On the other side of a barbed-wire fence.

The next morning I found my next turkey. Sitting in the middle of a school yard.

An hour or so later, four more turkey appeared pecking at acorns strewn around a "no hunting" sign.

On public land where I could legally hunt, no turkey were to be found. On private land or within city limits where hunting carries the threat of trespass, civil fees, and possible jail time they were plentiful.

Hours of work, miles of driving, and lots of cash spent on gear and the trip and I was this close to bagging a bird. The only thing standing between me and a delicious dinner were a handful of pesky rules.

Who would be hurt if I ignored them?

Respecting the Law

It's not the first time my willingness to follow the rules has meant I was going home empty-handed. I've been crabbing and thrown back a catch just a hair's breadth shy of being the legal size. I've been fishing and thrown back a catch rather than try to hide its intact adipose fin.

I've paid money to purchase DRM-protected media rather than download a torrent - and had the DRM system protecting that media fail and render my purchase unusable.

There are laws all around us that protect game, property, and business. Often it's incredibly tempting to ignore those laws and move forward as if they weren't there. It would mean a fresh turkey in my oven this week, tasty fish on the barbecue last month, or a new movie on an airplane during my flight today.

But it also means others are well within their right to disobey the rules and regulations protecting my property.

Over-hunting by all means I wouldn't have seen the 17 turkey, 8 deer, 5 quail, and 45 elk I saw this past weekend. Over-fishing means I'd never again be able to catch a meal-sized trout, let alone a salmon. Digital piracy means no one would ever have to pay for works I copyright - and would likely put me out of a job.

I was once told that, to survive in the business world, I'd have to adapt a stance of flexibility towards ethics. Over the past several years I've seen many who definitely fit that bill - and just about all of them have ended up facing serious civil or criminal consequences. No matter how enticing it becomes to break a rule here or there, I've stuck to the letter of the law.

Even when it means I go home from a turkey hunt empty handed after seeing a lone turkey in a middle school soccer field at 6 in the morning.