HOW ANTI-HUNTERS ARE USING YOUR PHOTOS TO BRING AN END TO HUNTING AND TRAPPING
Under the deer mounts on my wall hang 3 canvas photos. One is of my husband as a kid leading a pack string through the backcountry. There’s another of him guiding me along a trail on my first archery hunt. The last is of a Colorado sunrise. It’s one of those that God seems to hand paint just for those willing to wake up and chase it.
These same photos sit in an album on my Facebook in addition to grip-and-grins with the animals we’ve been blessed to harvest. Together they sum up what hunting is about to me.
The work, the adventure, the pursuit, and occasionally the success.
A non-hunter doesn’t see that same story, though. To them, I am a cold-blooded killer storming into nature and taking what isn’t mine. I’m a cruel and sadistic woman who deserves to die for taking the life of an animal.
This isn’t new information to hunters. We know that our opposition is radical in their opinions of what we do. What is new, is the way these anti’s are furthering their agenda. They are cherry picking photos that we’ve posted to paint us as barbarians. When their outrageous hunting petitions are shot down based on science, they take their fight to ballot boxes. It’s then that they will campaign entirely on public emotion.
And they will use our photos to do it.
It may sound like a tin-hat theory, but it’s already happening. In Colorado, we have groups like Prairie Protection Colorado (PPC) who steal hunter’s photos and videos from social media. They share them to their group and encourage members to vilify and attack sportsmen. PPC even showed up at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting with a slideshow of photos taken from hunters and trappers; Sportsmen who had no idea their face was being used to further an anti-hunting agenda.
This isn’t just happening in Colorado. In Montana, Google denied advertising to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a leader in conservation, because it promoted animal cruelty. In New Mexico, a bill was passed banning coyote killing contests. Senators introduced the bill because they were “disgusted” by the sight of the dead coyotes. They called it “an abhorrent fringe activity”. Nevada also has a bill banning coyote contests that would carry the same penalty as manslaughter.
These bills and punishments speak volumes to the negative way hunting is viewed today. The general public does not understand the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They view animals as cute peaceful Disney critters who must be saved.
People who will never set foot off a developed trail think that animals are best left managing themselves. They don’t understand that unregulated populations mean animals die from disease, over-predation, and starvation. They have no idea that the vegetables and meat on their plates come from farmers and ranchers who rely on wildlife management to keep their crops and herds thriving.
The general public would vote to outlaw hunting, simply based on the fact that an animal dies. No amount of science will combat the emotional response from a photo of a hunter covered in blood, smiling over a partially field dressed animal.
As hunters, we have to start changing that perception, and it starts with our photos.
HOW YOU CAN PROTECT YOUR PHOTOS
Having your social media accounts set to “private” is a good start it, unfortunately, it’s not enough. People on your own friend’s list could be the ones sharing your photos to these groups.
The first thing you can do is analyze your friends and followers. If you don’t want to unfriend or block people, then you can change the settings on your hunting posts to only share with friends who you trust.
From there, take a look at the hunting groups you are in. Encourage admins to make the groups “closed” so only members can see the photos you share. You can also report suspicious members that you suspect are only there to troll hunters.
Finally, chose what you post carefully. This can be a touchy conversation amongst hunters. On one side you have those who post only carefully posed photos of their hunt. On the other, you have hunters who feel strongly about sharing their hunting experience for what it is without sugar coating things.
Ultimately, the only way to keep gruesome pictures out of the hands of anti-hunters is to keep them off the internet in the first place. This doesn’t mean you give up your grip and grin. But it means you take a minute to wipe the blood off your hands. Cover their wounds, tuck in their tongue, and give the animal the respect they have earned from us as hunters.
If they are going to take our photo, let’s make them photos we are proud to say represent what hunting is about.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
The dialogue must change if we want to preserve our hunting heritage and I encourage you to share hunting for all of its parts.
- Share the science and facts.
- Share what hunting means to you.
- Share the sunrises.
- Share the views
- Share the work that you put in before the season starts.
- Share the respect you gain for these animals by learning about them.
- Share the wild game on your plate.
By moving the conversation past the death of an animal, we can educate about the entire EMOTIONAL experience of hunting.
We are fathers and mothers teaching our children about hard work and the circle of life. We’re families and friends enjoying nature. We are business owners, teachers, nurses, and hard-working people.
Through sharing, we not only combat the stigma of hunting, but we can even encourage new hunters to join.
ATTRACTING NEW HUNTERS
Surprisingly, there is a new demographic being attracted to hunting, and it’s a group many traditionalists might be hesitant to accept.
Hipster, liberal, millennial men and women are taking up the sport at an impressive rate. The physical challenge of the hunt, as well as the opportunity to break away from the norm, is appealing to them. They also recognize that wild game is the ultimate clean eating option when it comes to meat.
The very people we often blame for the wolf management issues and anti-hunting agendas are in fact the people dipping their toe into this lifestyle. If we are ever going to change the public perception of hunters, we need to embrace new hunters no matter the background they come from. Hunters from new demographics may just be the key to hunting acceptance at large.
In the words of CPW Commissioner Robert Bray, “We must all strive to be ethical. I completely condemn the social media aspect of [hunting] and the posting of offensive, illegal, and inappropriate pictures and comments. We must, as sportsmen and women, police ourselves and condemn that kind of behavior.”
I encourage all my fellow hunters to help us move against these anti-hunting groups with education and positivity. We love this lifestyle because it allows us a relationship with nature that many will never know. Let’s share the whole picture and bring light to what hunting really is about.