Growing the hunting community through being decent to one another
God help the individual who posts a hero picture to social media of a buck less than 200 inches…and even then there’s no guarantee that that person won’t be spared the spears and jabs of our hunting community.
“Shot was too far back.”
“He looks young.”
“Shoulda let him go another year.”
“Haven’t you ever heard of QDM?”
“Obviously a high-fence hunt.”
How we recruit any new hunters with this type of scrutiny is a miracle.
Let’s continue with the candor.
The bulk of hunters in this country are male (89% in 2011 per the U.S. Census Department’s most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation). Being the aforementioned gender, I have insider information on a particular phenomenon we’re notorious about: asking for directions.
If guys are already bad about asking how to get to point B, imagine if we knew that every time we asked, we’d get scolded or made fun of.
Imagine this scenario:
“Excuse me, I’m trying to figure out how to get to the public boat ramp and my smartphone isn’t smart enough to find it. Can you point me in the right direction?”
“Sure, but first, Al from “Home Improvement” called and wants his flannel shirt back. And, did you shave without the lights on this morning then use salami-scented aftershave?”
Guess who probably isn’t going to stick around for instructions on how to get to the boat ramp? Also, asking Rodney Dangerfield for directions is probably ill-advised…God rest his soul.
Most new hunters are nervous they’ll make a mistake and draw negative attention from the old salts. We can’t allow that because it dissuades people from even beginning the journey to become a hunter.
I experienced a more subtle version of this hunter-to-hunter crappiness a few years back sharing hero pics from the previous archery season with a guy at the range. The buck was a chocolatey-racked three-and-a-half year old with an extra brow tine that was certainly no monster, but there I was seated behind him, grinning ear to ear framed by the dense fall underbrush he expired in.
Completely unimpressed the guy asked, “Is that the first buck you’ve killed?”
If we want to recruit more hunters and work to defend our hunting heritage, maybe we ought to start with simply being decent to one another. Here are a few suggestions on how we might do that.
- Separate personal taste and opinion from fact
This is relevant especially for conversations about which bow to shoot, but also when it comes to the size of deer you harvest. Trophy is a relative term and your hunting priorities are probably not the same as those of your fellow hunter. Try to understand their perspectives and priorities before climbing onto any soapbox.
- Make it constructive
There may be times when your feedback is genuinely needed. When you see an opportunity to share information, do it constructively and in an encouraging way. You learned likely because someone taught you, not because someone ridiculed you. Ask the individual if they’d like a pointer before offering. If they’re up for it, let them know that you haven’t always done it the best way, but you learned from someone and it improved your effectiveness in the field. Shooting form and shot sequencing are good examples of areas where constructive feedback could be helpful.
- Play it close to the vest
Remember our discussion about how guys hate asking for directions? I think some of that is driven by our fear of looking stupid in front of an audience. Maybe someone did put a bad hit on a deer while bow hunting. Send them a private message or speak with them off-line (while keeping it constructive). Chances are they’ll be more receptive to your feedback, rather than feeling like they need to focus on saving face in front of their peers.
- Find the good
One of my friends had a quiver full of arrows that looked like an archery shop blew up and he had scavenged for them in the rubble. No two arrows were the same. Fletchings were different. Spines were all over the place, but he wasn’t shooting too badly.
“Boy, your shot sequence and execution must be solid because even though your arrows aren’t consistent, they’re grouping pretty well. I can’t imagine how tight your groups would get if you were shooting the same type of arrow.”
After that recognition, he was personally motivated to shoot better, so he ultimately invested in a fresh dozen from his local shop…and proceeded to blow the nocks off a few shafts because his groups were so tight.
How to be a decent hunter…there’s no rocket science involved. It’s pretty straight forward. Just be gracious, encouraging, and tactful and our community will grow and be better for it.