As someone who works in the outdoor communications field, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with social media. On one hand, it is a great way to network with other hunters, share ideas and tips, ask and answer questions, and even make new friends. In fact, I’ve met some great people through social media. Unfortunately, it is also a place where people air their dirty laundry, create drama, and say things to others they would never say face-to-face. But social media is not a bad thing in and of itself, and whether it ultimately has a positive or negative impact on hunting will depend largely on how we, as hunters, choose to use it. I believe we owe it to the future of our hunting heritage to take the necessary steps to keep hunting in a positive light online. That means being respectful of what we post, respectful of our fellow hunters, and spreading positive hunting messages.
What we post matters
Like it or not, hunters are a very small minority in the U.S. at around 5 percent of the population. The percentage of anti-hunters is roughly the same. That leaves 90% of Americans without a strong feeling one way or another about hunting, and those are the people who ultimately hold the future of hunting in their hands. Today hunters are fortunate to have the support of approximately 80% of Americans when hunting is done for food – the highest on record. However, the public is a fickle bunch, and that tide can quickly turn. Just look how fast the public turned on so-called trophy hunting after a Minnesota dentist killed “Cecil the lion”. In fact, if you use the term “trophy” when discussing hunting, public support drops to less than 30%. So what’s all this mean for us, as social media users?
First, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us, as hunters, to do what we can to keep public support for hunting and promote hunting in a positive light. And part of that is being more conscientious about what we post on social media. Yes, there is a part of me that could care less what non-hunters think, and no, I don’t enjoy having to change the things I share or say to appease them. But that’s the proud, ideal-world me. The real-world me knows that despite how I feel about non-hunters, they hold in their hands the future of the hunting traditions I hold dear. The real world me knows that hunting is not an inalienable right gifted to us in the Constitution. Hunting is a privilege, and one that can quickly go away if a majority of Americans ever decide they disapprove.
Just as you represent the company you work for any time to you’re out in public with company attire or in a company vehicle, the same holds true when you’re on social media with hunting photos shared to your account or as your profile pic. You represent all hunters. So let’s take a look at a few ways we can maintain the public’s support of hunting.
Less Blood & Gore
As hunters, we all understand what it means to take a life and the blood that is spilled as a result. We also understand what’s involved with field dressing game and getting it ready for the table. It’s a messy undertaking, but one that weaves us into the very fabric of our evolution as a hunter/gatherer. And while I believe society would be much better off if everyone had a better understanding of what it truly takes for them to stay fed (even vegetarians), I don’t think it’s our place to force that message on them in a gruesome way on social media.
Even as a hunter who has shot, field dressed and butchered my share of deer, I still cringe at some of the photos and videos I see hunters share on social media – head shots on deer, closeups of extremely large entrance or exit wounds, and poor shots where animals suffered unnecessarily, just to name a few. Yes, some of that is just a part of hunting, but that doesn’t mean we have to share those parts with the non-hunting world. And while you may say you only share that stuff in hunting Facebook groups or with your hunting friends on social media, all it takes is a share or a screenshot and a share to make your image or message meant for other hunters to reach a much larger audience.
I used to lose a lot of sleep over the antics of animal rights activists. They were, in my mind, the biggest threat to the future of our hunting heritage. Not anymore. Today, hunters have become their own worst enemy. The infighting has gotten so bad that it seems nothing is too trivial for us to fight over. We have deer hunters bashing other deer hunters for the bucks they choose to kill, the equipment they use, the way they hunt, even the camouflage they wear!
I still remember the days when I was proud to see other hunters out and about. Whether they were wearing camo or driving around with a deer in the truck, there was a brotherhood among hunters that brought us together in a common bond. Somewhere along the way it seems as if it’s turned into some kind of competition, and, as a result, we view other hunters as our opponents instead of our allies. But the truth is, at only 5% of the population, we have to stand united. That doesn’t mean we all have to hunt the same way or agree on every aspect of hunting. What it does mean, however, it that we should treat one another with respect despite those differences, and stand together against the threats to our hunting heritage.
More Positive Hunting Messages
As I mentioned earlier, most Americans support hunting when done for food, and a surprising number of non-hunters would try hunting if someone would invite them. So just as important as not posting bad stuff on social media, is taking the time to post positive hunting messages there. And I’ll be the first to admit, this is something I need to do a better job of, as well. Rather than just sharing a hero shot of a dead animal, we should all make sure we take the time to share other aspects of the hunt: time in the field with friends and family, the beauty of nature, what hunting means to us, or the end result of wild game meat on your plate. Let’s educate the non-hunting public that it’s not just about taking a life — it’s so much more than that. It’s time we start sharing the whole story.
While the future of our hunting heritage may be in the hands of non-hunters, we have the opportunity to impact how those people view hunting. But it’s going to take a concerted effort among hunters. If we can provide a united front on social media, where we focus on the positive aspects of hunting – the camaraderie, the conservation, the connection with nature, and the healthy, sustainable source of protein – and minimize the negatives, then we will continue to see the vast majority of Americans support our hunting heritage. However, if we continue with the infighting and sharing the negative aspects of hunting, the future is not so certain. The choice is ours to make.
Communications Manager at The Quality Deer Management Association
Brian Grossman is an avid bowhunter and competitive archer residing in west-central Georgia. He currently serves as the communications manager for The Quality Deer Management Association and as a freelance outdoor writer. Grossman’s background is in wildlife management, where he spent over 15 years working on both public and private hunting lands in Kentucky and Georgia.
Latest posts by Brian Grossman (see all)