Recent news events regarding hunters and their hunting methods and the particular game animal they pursued—though legal—continue to trigger considerable discussion on Internet chat rooms. A recent video posted on social media, for example, showed a spear hunt that sparked an apoplectic response by radical elements of the anti-hunting insurgency, which frankly was to be expected. What struck me more was the vehemence shown by some members of the hunting community. But let's stop long enough to establish the facts. This particular hunt was conducted in a legal manner – legal weapon, legal method, legal season, legal license. Period. You don’t have to personally prefer or even be in favor of the given hunting method used.
Through the years, such discussions on hunting methods have included hunting with archery equipment. (Of course, the guys and gals who don’t like bowhunting perhaps like spear hunting mentioned in the above example even less.) Any discussion against bowhunting naturally gets the archers wound up, feeling like they have to defend their methodology. As for the traditional bowhunters, they've thrown the compound bow method under the bus from time to time, and the compound bowhunters occasionally have done the same with crossbows. And then handguns were pulled into the fray. As a handgun hunter myself, I watched specialty pistol guys say their method was preferred while revolver hunters touted that getting close was more challenging or ethical than hunting and killing game from a distance. So then what happened?
The long-range hunting contingency got pulled into the conversation. Blackpowder hunting was insulted by someone who personally thought center-fire smokeless powder is the zenith of modern hunting technology. So the traditional "front stuffers" quickly suggested the inline black powder muzzleloader hunters were poisoning the well of purity. Then, the hunting over bait crowd got raked over the coals by the spot-and-stalk crew. The rifle hunters split down the middle with the double rifle shooters looking down their noses at the bolt action hunters who split down the middle arguing the merits of controlled-round feeding versus push-feeding. Of course, then some questioned the hunter who chose a lever action in (gasp!) .45/70 on dangerous game and then the hunter who preferred to head to the woods with an AR-15. When the melee was over, we all had mud on our faces, even the self-righteous, up-close but not too close, far but not too far, centerfire, enough-muzzle-energy, variable-power scoped, “ethical” rifle hunter got soiled.
Admittedly, this is a dramatization, though I have witnessed such discussions among hunters from time to time. The fight is all over once the dreaded word ‘ethics’ gets bandied about as if the one using it is the originator and barometer for that catch-all concept. Of course, what is considered an ethical hunt can be in the eye of the beholder, and it’s tough when hunters aren't in agreement with what is ethical or fair chase, irrespective of whether a hunt is legal. So here we are, collectively fighting to preserve our way of life, yet we sometimes struggle to have a conversation that doesn’t include finger pointing or accusations. We American hunters must not be our own worst enemy. "If divided we fall, then together we must stand. Isn't it long past time we hunters issue a call to be tolerant of all hunters, regardless of their hunting method or game animal of choice providing they follow the letter of the law?"
The fact is that in this day and age of social media—and the anonymity of the internet andits pervasiveness in our lives—a new culture has emerged. It’s one that is accustomed to sharing views—informed or otherwise—within milliseconds, all from a handheld device. No thought, no delay, no expertise needed. Just emotions and two thumbs to post with for the world to see. Now imagine the power we could have if we instead stand together.
The first step is to stick together as hunters and stop scrutinizing each other. Step back, set our handheld devices down and take a lesson in tolerance. I’m not suggesting that you compromise your personal beliefs, but I do think we collectively shouldn’t air them on public forums. This only provides the vocal and rabid anti-hunting contingency with the ammunition they seek to try and use against us. It is simply counterproductive. Instead, show some wisdom as to when and where it is appropriate to air any objections, if at all. Unfortunately, some in our ranks cause problems for the entire hunting community when they are careless in how they portray the animal they've killed on social media. Simply be aware that when you use a public forum to post your hunting photos or videos, even in the best scenarios, they draw attacks on the hunting community that are difficult to stop.
This is how we present a united front to stop the anti-hunters' movement to ban all hunting—a movement that, by the way, would strip away the billions of dollars we American hunters provide for wildlife conservation along with it. In the 21st century culture war on hunters and hunting, we are already assaulted from all directions. We are shamed, ridiculed and threatened. If divided we fall, then together we must stand. Isn't it long past time we hunters issue a call to be tolerant of all hunters, regardless of their hunting method or game animal of choice providing they follow the letter of the law? This is how we win. The American public is on our side.