I’ll be blunt. Our community will be the downfall of our community. The anti-hunting establishment doesn’t need to worry, or even work that hard, to ensure that hunting does not make it another 10-20 years. Our community, hunters, will ensure that for them. You see, unfortunately, bred into being a hunter is a sense of competition – competition with yourself, competition against the environment, and unfortunately, competition against other hunters. Who has the biggest rack, who killed it in the craziest conditions, who hunted the longest, the hardest etc. As a result, competition breeds jealousy, and jealously breeds animosity.
At the publication of this article, the western hunting lifestyle is in full swing. The rut for elk has come and gone and those die-hard archery hunters may still be toting their stick and string ensemble into the elk woods, but a number of “primitive” weapons have been swapped out for the old boom stick, sometimes a muzzleloader, sometimes a bolt action rifle, sometimes a handgun. Those guns shoot accurately from 60 yards to 1000 yards, all depending on the equipment and the proficiency of the shooter. There are likely several Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pictures of all sorts of opportunities lost but also very proud moments of harvesting, including some harvesting their very first western big game animal.
Unfortunately, there are also very likely several threads where some have taken it upon themselves to disagree with something about the post. The manner it was taken, the weapon of choice, the camo they are wearing, even sometimes the emotion they are feeling. I guess the question that I would boil all of this down to is what makes a hunter? Do you have to be fit in and in shape to be a hunter? Do you have to be able to scale up mountains to be a hunter? If you shoot an animal at 800 yards with a long-range rifle, are you any less of a hunter? If you don’t wear camo, or better yet, a certain type of camo, does that change your success as a hunter?
All of these questions speak with an internal dialogue that all of us as hunters need to have with ourselves before we choose to comment anything derogatory, which is an internal question about ethics. You see, hunting ethics are gray. Hunting ethics are subjective. Ethics are defined differently by every single individual and have likely been shaped by the environment in which they grew up and the ethics that were taught to them to believe in. What’s black and white is whether something is legal or illegal. When someone looks down on a long-range rifle hunter, or they look down on the size of the trophy, or they look down on the fact that the animal was taken 100 yards from the trailhead and not 15 miles in the backcountry, that “negative viewpoint” comes from an internal decision-making process shaped by that individual’s ethics.
My fervent wish for our community is when seeing a post that collides with your internal ethics, I would hope you adopt the old adage that your mother likely instilled in you, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” This is especially important for our hunting community that is shrinking by the year. Those comments not only cause the recipient to consider whether it (i.e., pursuing this thing that they love) is worth it, but the people considering becoming hunters watching the comment barrage and the vitriol will likely also think twice in becoming a hunter.
So the next time you look at that post, that picture, or that video and you decide to comment, question whether the hunt was legal or illegal, and if legal, really self-internalize why you have an issue with it. It’s likely because it doesn’t neatly fit into the box that defines your own ethics, but does that mean it’s wrong?