I had an interesting conversation last night with a guy concerning the state of all things hunting. One might think that conversation revolved around upcoming plans, or reminiscing about our past season. Instead, we talked about the nature of perception and experience, with respect to social media and the internet as the forces that drive a majority of “content” you see today.
It was a timely conversation, as I had also read an article by @hatchet_jane concerning her reasons for hunting which are rooted in tradition. Her reasons were a counterpoint to what we see flooding our Facebook and Instagram feeds. If I see one more product placement shout-out for a nonsensical item...I am going to puke. We should not be hunting because we get free shit. We should be hunting for the same reasons we started hunting.
Because it is fun.
Because it calls to us on a primal level.
It dawned on me late last night while lying in bed, that I was born during a small window of time that has been categorized as a sub generation. That sub generation has been aptly named “Xennials.” We are those with one foot in each era. Those eras so starkly opposite in nature have an interesting dichotomy for one who holds and understands both. The latchkey-blogger.
I can remember a time in my childhood that we did not have electronics or video games. Then we did.
I remember going my whole adolescence without having a cell phone. Then it was suddenly commonplace.
I remember hunting when killing the biggest animal was not the most sought after aspect of the hunt. Until it was.
I have spent my whole life straddling major technological leaps between the old and new. Technology is a fantastic thing, and the medium with which we interact as a society. But its undeniable contributions of good are balanced against an equally number of bad.
I recently drew a late whitetail tag in Washington State, and had an insanely fun hunt. It was not my typical backpack hunt (I was living out of my travel trailer), but other aspects made it an exceptional experience. I was able to hunt with a close friend who I don’t normally big game hunt with. I brought my seven year old son and introduced him to a different kind of hunting outside of waterfowl. I met new people and made new friends while being able to hunt un-pressured deer. I worked my ass off, and had an opportunity at a monster buck (I missed). I told myself that the experience to that point had been everything I could have wanted in a hunt, and that the next legal buck was going to get a bullet.
The following morning a small four point walked out in front of me and I ended my hunt.
I sat in camp that evening, alone, sipping on a Coors Light, smiling from ear to ear. My friend having left and taken my son home a few days earlier. I was prepping my post for Instagram and wondering how long it would take for someone to ask something to the effect of, “I would have waited for a bigger buck.”
It took fifteen minutes.
I don’t blame that person, I blame the environment. I blame us. We have become killcentric in our mindset when it comes to hunting while only paying lip service to the experience. We focus on 1% of the hunt while ignoring the inherent value of the rest. We all experience the hunt a little differently, and that’s OK. The mountain hunter in Colorado is going to experience things a little different then the tree stand hunter from Iowa. But whether or not a hunter is successful in punching a tag should not be the measure of success when evaluating the enjoyment of the pursuit of our passion.
There have been multiple cases over the years of this rearing its ugly head. We have had prominent TV and Internet personalities commiting major game violations in pursuit of a kill shot or giant animals to drive larger audience appreciation. Camera angles have become a science in order to grow inches which equate to more “likes”.
Thankfully there has been a pushback in recent memory against this mentality. People like Steve Rinella, Donnie Vincent, Randy Newberg and the Montana Wild crew (to name a few) have been showing that we are not all a bunch of beer drinking rednecks. (Ok so I tend to drink a lot of beer) But with those revelations come great responsibility. We each have a responsibility to not commercialize and cheapen the experience as we seem to have done with the kill.
Maybe I am unique, but the memories that stick out the most from every one of my trips don’t revolve around a punched tag. I have a friend who has killed over twenty elk with a bow. My favorite story of his hunting exploits revolve around a poor experience with pack goats, which would need an entirely new post to do it justice.
When we are old, let us tell our grandchildren more of the story then pointing to a rack on the wall. Instead, use that rack as a point of engagement to tell them what really mattered in those woods.
Let us tell them what it means to be a hunter.