EDITOR’S NOTE: Hunting’s PR problem is a multifaceted and extremely subjective issue that is widely open to interpretation by both sides of the debate. Here’s my general thoughts, for whatever it is worth: we all know the result of a successful hunt – a kill. It is how you portray that success that gets most of the criticism. You will never make everyone happy, but we don’t need to give the antis more ammo to attack us or scare off those on the fence / solidify the perceptions of the ignorant about hunters with distasteful images and social media posts. With all that taken into account, I personally, don’t believe in rolling over either. Be proud of your hunt – you have accomplished what most in the world never have. Take a trophy pic, but do your best to show respect to the animal and consequently our community. Clean it up, don’t overly glorify the kill, and for God’s sake, don’t look like Jeffrey Dahmer in the picture. Smile, be proud, show some class, and always remember, you are a representative of the hunting community whether you care to be or not.
John J. Radzwilla, Editor-in-Chief
Hunting’s PR Problem by, Ty Daniel
The thing about tradition is that once you’re in the cycle, it’s fairly easy to continue without much thought. Before my great-grandfather passed, my family went down to the farm on Christmas Eve. My grandfather had a strict rule about no drinking in the house, so naturally we would all gather in the cold outside, passing around the whiskey until there were more of us outside than inside. On Christmas, we would all meet up in the early afternoon, and at night we would head to my other great-grandparents house, who couldn’t be less opposed to drinking. Grandma Barb passed out alcoholic beverages like she was running for office. Around the time Grandpa Jim had enough scotch to get politically incorrect, people started to leave (some of us grabbed another beer and pulled up a chair).
That was our tradition. Who knows how it started, although much of it came naturally. That was something my family did long before I was even born. But what about new traditions?
Most hunters I know are men and were taught to hunt by their father, who was taught by his father. Often, it’s a patrilineal tradition passed down from one generation to the next. My great-grandfather hunted, although, by the time I came of age, he was too old. My grandfather did as well, although he died long before my birth. My father shot bows and introduced me to them as a child, although he didn’t hunt. What ultimately led me to archery was The Lord of the Rings movies. Although I was disappointed at the lack of orcs available for me to shoot in my hometown…
“I began my hunting journey a few years ago and was able to see the PR problem the hobby I have come to love has. It’s one of the biggest issues modern hunting faces.”Ty Daniel
I wish I had come from a long line of hunters and taken part in hunting traditions stretching generations, but I don’t. Without a mentor, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to learn things from scratch the hard way. It took me a couple dozen times stalking whitetail on foot to realize maybe there was something to these tree stands. The CIA couldn’t waterboard me enough to get me to admit how abhorrent my first time butchering a wild pig was. But hunting is a passion of mine and I wouldn’t have it any other way, even if that means learning why waterproof boots and two pairs of socks are a must firsthand.
I don’t have trouble admitting my mistakes or even laughing at them. It’s not a mistake, it’s a learning experience. I fully intend to make hunting a tradition in my family. Every mistake I make is a mistake my children don’t have to make, and their children after them. Looking towards the future in this way helps alleviate some of the sting of my blunders in the present, and it does something more important too.
I am a first-generation hunter. This tradition is beginning with me. That means everything from my hunting methods to my thoughts on gear, rifles, and broadheads to my experience will be passed down to my progeny. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Bowhunting is a passion, although if my son decides he prefers to drop quarry hundreds of yards away with a high-powered rifle, I won’t lose much sleep. But if I don’t pass down the deeper tradition of why we hunt and why we wrestle with feelings of guilt and sorrow coupled with joy and relief after we kill an animal, I have failed not only my children and their children, but the hunting community as a whole.
The Europeans who settled in America knew nothing of hunting. Hunting deer and other wild game in European forests had for centuries been reserved as a privilege for royalty and nobility. Much of Europe still has strict hunting laws, and their wild game numbers pale in comparison to ours. The Native Americans were paragons of hunting, and many of our hunting traditions come from them. Our ancestor’s eagerness to hunt the bountiful quarry unimaginable to them in their native lands led to greed and severe market hunting, which decimated North American game and extirpated many species from their natural ranges. Pioneers of conservation, such as Teddy Roosevelt, took notice. This led to conservation efforts and regulated hunting, which saved many species from extinction, preserved wild swaths of land in America, and allowed hunting to continue as a tradition in America.
Failing to understand why we hunt and its history is failing to understand something built into the DNA of who we are as a country. Hunting is a privilege, not a right. Because hunting has been a tradition in people’s families for generations, many forget this.
“Maybe it’s because their fathers or uncles had no respect for wildlife and passed it down to them, but these hunters never learned the difference between good attention and bad attention, making the rest of us look bad.“Ty Daniel
As infuriating as it is for the average person to see fishermen mistreat their catch or hunters pose distastefully with their kills, almost as if they are trying to start conflict, it should be more infuriating for other hunters. Maybe it’s because their fathers or uncles had no respect for wildlife and passed it down to them, but these hunters never learned the difference between good attention and bad attention, making the rest of us look bad. But if you are a first-generation hunter who intends to pass the tradition down, building your traditions on a foundation of respect and honor is imperative.
“There needs to be an understanding in modern American hunting values that the idea of the animal’s life is more valuable than the trophy itself, and that the privilege of hunting is upheld in every action you make, from the pull of a trigger to the way you carry yourself in the field. You are a representative of the sport.“Ty Daniel
While I can’t fall back on the storied tales and traditions of the hunters in my family who came before me, I have a responsibility to keep this in mind moving forward. I do my best to carry myself in a respectable and honorable way in every conceivable way when I hunt. In my short time as a hunter, I’ve taken some impressive game, and have my fair share of stories. But someone has always killed a bigger buck, hiked further in, or saw an even bigger bear than me. My stories and my trophies are just that: mine. While they mean the world to me, most people wouldn’t give it a second thought, and ultimately my hunting exploits will be of little significance compared to the great men before me and the ones after. But the traditions and attitudes I begin and pass down to my children, the generations after them, and all the people they encounter will make far bigger ripples in the hunting community than any buck or bull I could ever kill.