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August 2019 Soapbox

August 2019
Author: Jerrod Lile

I made a mistake the other night. I was critical of a fellow hunter through a private message on social media when I had never shared a cup of coffee, a meal, or most importantly, a campfire with them. It’s 100% against my own personal policy to do that, and quite frankly, I’m still not sure what possessed me to do it. The next day, I discussed it at length with my wife, who doubles as my consultant, and best friend because I was disappointed in myself and I wanted to get her take on it. Not surprisingly, we didn’t completely solve the problem, but we did conclude that as a society, we are struggling to figure out how to manage all of the newly available methods of interacting and communicating with each other.

Honestly, I thought I had done the right thing by confronting this individual through a private message. However, at the end of the day, I took a shortcut by making a number of assumptions that turned out to be false. Thankfully, this particular individual responded to my message with a poignant and intellectual response that reminded me of several things I wanted to share in this month’s soapbox.

First of all, regardless of what you see on social media or hear from the hunting community you belong to, everyone deserves an opportunity to answer your questions before you make assumptions about them. Honest dialogue is hard work. Every hunter I know who is worth his or her salt is willing to work hard. Why not go the extra mile to reach out and ask questions instead of assuming the worst when we see stuff we don’t like on social media?

Second, there is a huge portion of the American population that is relatively neutral to hunting. They are neither pro nor con, they simply don’t have a strong opinion. We should spend more time thinking about how our actions, posts, and words influence this critical part of the community. Not because we’re apologetic for what we do, but because we’re aware that this segment of the population needs to hear our message now more than ever as they get bombarded with false information about who hunters are and why we hunt. Focusing on this portion of the population is the most natural way to unite as hunters, and it has a much bigger upside than worrying about the true anti-hunting population.

Finally, the old adage, “United we stand, divided we fall,” has never been more true than it is today. For some reason, hunters can be a surly lot to each other. Odd competitions arise, weapon preferences become their own soapboxes, and judgements are made without doing the hard work of having real conversations. In the good old days, those conversations happened around campfires. Today, we can have them from anywhere. I’d argue that if we imagined we were sitting around a fire, we’d be more polite, more inquisitive, and more positive. I, for one, am going to try to do this the next time I’m tempted to jump to conclusions. After all, few things in life are more likely to connect us than the flickering light of a campfire on a chilly fall night.