The Hunter Ethic – How We Conduct Ourselves Matters
I’ve talked with many hunters in the past that believe the way we conduct ourselves as hunters doesn’t matter. According to them, we don’t need to conform to political correctness, nor should we care what others think when it comes to hunting. I’ve had folks take offense to me telling them that they should really think twice before posting distasteful photos on social media, or graphically describing what happened. I know there will be people that disagree with me, but I hope if nothing else, that you will consider how you represent hunting after reading this article.
There is a great divide on this issue as some say we should consider our conduct, and others who might say, “Who cares?” Well, I am here to tell you that we all should care. Generally speaking, about 5% of the U.S. population hunts, and about 5% are against hunting. That leaves roughly 90% of the remaining public that are generally neutral to hunting. This 90% is why hunting still continues today, obviously with the help of hunters advocating on our behalf. But that 90% in the middle is not vocal one way or the other. They generally support hunting when it is in the context of gathering meat for the freezer, wildlife management or other support of wildlife conservation. However, they can also be easily swayed against hunting as well. Most do not support trophy hunting, and any negative association to hunting sours their taste for it.
This is where this debate becomes so important. We need that 90% in the middle to continue to lean to have favorable feelings toward hunting if we want it to continue as we know it today. Every time we post a photo on social media from our hunting experiences, we should think about this. We need to focus on the positives of hunting and do our best to avoid something that could be misconstrued or taken the wrong way. I see posts with regularity on various social media platforms of graphic hunting images and distasteful commentary, none of which sheds a positive light on hunting. These images and messages only serve to advance the agendas of anti-hunters, while also leaving a negative impression on people who may have otherwise been neutral.
We need to face the reality that hunting is not guaranteed to us, and we need to work together to protect it. Something as simple as being mindful of these little things could go a long way to keeping hunting in the view of those unfamiliar with our past-time as positive. When I post images or talk about hunting on my own social media page, I take the opportunity to present all that is beautiful about hunting. I want everyone that I interact with to know that hunting is about so much more than just the harvest of an animal. Sure, thinking about the chance at shooting a mature buck is what keeps me up at night, but it’s really the journey that matters the most. I too have posted things that I wish I hadn’t in hindsight, but through this experience I have seen the negative outcomes that can result.
We live in a media driven world where things can go viral very quickly, immediately putting us under a societal microscope. I am not suggesting that we should not share who we are, or that we shouldn’t be proud of our hunting experiences, but there is a fine line between sharing it and showing the respect that sportsmen and women have for the animals they pursue, and being viewed as barbaric, blood thirsty, and cruel. Taking a moment to think about this before posting is always a worthwhile exercise, especially during this time of declining hunter numbers. We are all representatives of our sport, and if we want it to be around for the next generation to enjoy, we should consider all points of view before hitting send.
Guest writer Teddy Fisher is a wildlife ecologist working on deer management issues within parks in the Washington, D.C. area. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State University where he also worked at the Deer Research Center. He is now attending Clemson University where he is working on a human dimensions of wildlife project related to hunting and R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters).