While I planned to make the title of this blog post much more professional, sometimes you just have to throw out a line from an Ice Cube song, followed by an Urban Dictionary translation: "Take a step back and examine your actions, because you are in a potentially dangerous or sticky situation that could get bad very easily." I'd like to say this to a large chunk of those that represent the hunting community.
We have a reputation for having a conservative, close-minded, "I don't care what anybody thinks" attitude, and I'm here to tell you that it's hurting our way of life. I'm tired of hearing people say "who cares what anti-hunters think - they're clueless, delusional, etc" followed by a million remarks that put down their way of life. First of all, TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT! & I hate to be so blunt, but this isn't about anti-hunters. Nobody is asking you to walk on eggshells for the antis.
Do I hear crickets? GOOD. Now read carefully.
Someone one shared the following with me and it’s stuck with me ever since:
Imagine our world as 100%.
Hunters make up 10%.
Anti-Hunters make up 10%.
Non-Hunters make up 80%.
This is about the non-hunters. The indifferent. The ones who may be curious but don't ask questions. Who don't care if we harvest meat but just don't do it themselves. The ones that you MIGHT have a chance to share this beautiful way of life with. They're the level-headed ones, the listeners, and they give us a chance to shine - because they make up the majority of this world. And guess what? You have this wonderful opportunity to attract them to the things we love to do! On the flip side of that, they may join the antis because of something they saw us do in the process of harvesting our own meat. Why risk that?
It should be an every day thing to ask yourself, "Am I representing hunters in a positive light, or would that turn someone away?" If you plan to be in the spotlight within the outdoor industry, I suggest you start evaluating your actions now. When you feel like nobody is watching you, they are, regardless of your social status. If you're a hunter, you impact more people than you think. Yes, we are a small percentage of this world, but what we do is bizarre to many, and there's a very small window of opportunity to shed some positive light on our lifestyle because at the end of the day we are taking a life. It's interesting to go back and look at my early stages of hunting, before social media was a thing. I rarely took pictures, and when I did take a few, I never imagined anyone other than hunters would ever see them. I didn't deal with the opinions of others because I had a private life. It's amazing how quickly things can change! I've listed a few tips below on how to portray the beauty in what we do:
Clean up your animal before taking pictures. I'll be the first to admit, I don't always do the best job wiping the blood off the hide or photoshopping when necessary. I also am guilty of spending more time on certain animals than others because of my emotional connection with various animals. For example, hogs are hard for me to put time into. They're a destructive, overpopulated nuisance to my state and the blood is harder to wash off because of their coarse hair. I have been lazy at times and they deserve equal respect! Also be sure to stick the tongue back in the animal's mouth, or remove the arrow from the body. I personally had to photoshop the arrow out of my gator because it was stuck in his thick skull. That is the ONLY time you will find me photoshopping my images - out of respect for the animal!
Kill shots are fine, and a wonderful learning tool for yourself and others. However, there's no need to show the guts strung out, or stabbing the animal - whether it's from running dogs or putting an animal out of its misery, or shooting the mother of an older fawn standing next to her, or the last few breaths of an animal. It's just not necessary. Of course we respect and understand the process! We already live and breathe the lifestyle, but it's a lot to take in for others who might be interested in hunting.
Show more pictures of the meat harvested! From fresh backstraps to cooked meals to packing out to butchering. What a great way to show WHY we do it, and to show an alternative to factory farming. I've found on multiple occasions that I may not persuade someone to start hunting, but we have this mutual respect for each other because we agree that hunting is a great alternative to factory farming. I will always reference a good friend of mine, Jeremiah Doughty, on this subject because he represents this part of hunting in such a beautiful way by using every part of the animal.
Don't forget that the best things in life are free. In other words, share the beauty of your hunt in regards to nature. Trees, water, stars, fire, mountains, flowers, sunsets, etc. These are things that ANY person can easily appreciate! We are outdoorsmen, not just hunters. I would consider Cameron Hanes a friend and daily inspiration, and he has a system for sharing his experiences across social media that's highly respected. He always posts the atmosphere/landscape of his hunt first, then the meat that was provided by his harvest, THEN the picture of the animal. When you prioritize in that way, it shows that it's less about killing and more about living.
Share the process of how we prepare for a hunt. This includes scouting to sighting in your weapon to training for the mountain! We're often accused of it being easy and that we have an unfair advantage. There are certainly easier hunts than others, but there's always work involved. Make sure to highlight the preparation and share your knowledge with others. When I'm talking to more experienced hunters, I feel like I know so little and it can be intimidating. That's until I talk to someone that asks me "Did you catch a deer today?" and I realize how much my hunting experiences have taught me. I realize how much knowledge I have to share - it's simply a difference in the audience, but equally beneficial. I definitely find myself catering to beginners, rather than those that have hunted for years. We have a wealth of knowledge that can help someone - don't keep it locked up!