Does social media hurt or help hunting?

Prior to 2000 who could have fathomed this thing called social media. With a click of a mouse we can upload pictures and comments for the entire world to see. So is this good or bad for the tradition of hunting?

It’s no secret that roughly ten percent of the population hunts. As a lifelong hunter this statistic scares me. The good thing is the majority of those who don’t still support the timeless tradition. But sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can and do have an impact on the non-hunting public. But that all depends on how we use them.

Some sportsmen and women believe hunting is our God given right, something that’s steeped in our history- but it’s not. It’s a privilege that ultimately lies in the hands of the 90 percent who don’t hunt. We need to be cognizant of our comments or when posting pictures of game taken in a less than respectful or desirable light.

But as the sale of hunting licenses continues to decline how can we continue to keep our level of support? This is where social media can be beneficial. It can help unite and spread the positive message of hunters as strong, considerate conservationists. True sportsmen regard our outdoors as sacred and believe a deeper connection with nature enhances our lives and those who take advantage of it. These are things that need to be shared.

Unfortunately I have seen where some sportsmen argue with each other on public forums. I look at it this way, whether we believe in traditional archery over firearms or spot and stalk over the use of hounds or bait, as long as we hunt ethically and legally it does not matter. We are all on the same team. Bickering on public forums only serves to show divisiveness among our ranks and is used by those who do not believe in hunting. Social media can, if used correctly, bring a respectful and united voice to the non-hunting public.

Differences in opinions are nothing new. Well before social media we may have disagreed on best calibers of rifles, best archery equipment and even the use of modern technologies. But when discussions were held face-to-face or even over the telephone these conversations were handled civilly. Rarely would any one actually change their minds, but we remained friends.

Social media has changed that. Now we have “computer cowboys,” who I think try purposely to cause dissention. It’s amazing what some will say or post when hidden behind a computer screen. There are trolls who do nothing but seek to divide us.

If you’ve spent any time at all on Facebook hunting pages you’ve probably seen it. Some guy shows a picture of a record class buck and immediately someone comments about poaching or high-fenced hunts. Or how about the person who shoots a smaller deer and is shamed by those who consider themselves more experienced. When things like this happen we have hunters making other hunters look bad. How do you think the non-hunting public perceives this?

Because of my job I spend more time than I like online viewing hunting pictures and videos. Some photos are taken with great care in showing the animal in a respectful light. Then there are others I have seen that make me shudder. Like deer with chest cavities propped open and blood everywhere. I saw one the other day where a deer was pictured complete with gut pile and an arrow stuck in its head.

It comes without saying hunting involves taking a life and we get blood on our hands. Something we should never be ashamed of. But at the same time we have to consider who else will see this and what kind of impact will it have? Although science and a lifetime of facts are on our side we must share the right message in a way that shines a positive light on the great tradition of hunting. To keep support we have to be mindful of those who do not hunt, just as they should be respectful for those who do.

We can help by keeping our posts positive. Let’s post about the friendships we share, experiences we’ve had or the beautiful scenery we encounter. It’s ok to share pictures of our harvests as well; after all, that’s what hunting is all about. and we should do this as tastefully as possible. Before posting that photo take just a minute to show the best side preferably in a natural setting. These pictures will become lifelong memories. It sure beats posed on a garage floor, back-framed with cluttered shelves and other junk.

In the end, remember it’s not all about us. It’s about the legacy and the timeless traditions we want to leave for our own children, grandchildren and future generations to come.