Has Deer Hunting Been Reduced to Partisan Politics?

Posted on January 19, 2016

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Hunting is a recreation and invigorating pastime that never should, through a super civilized, over-artificialized state of living, be allowed to die out. In this age of neurotic haste it means rest and renewed health to the man (and woman) whose brain and energies are being constantly overtaxed…

We all need something of the primitive in us in order that we may have a rock bottom on which to stand. – Paulina Brandreth, 1930

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There was a time when self-control, common courtesy and good manners ruled the day. I fear that we have long since bypassed those commendable attributes, at least within the deer hunting community. It is hard to decipher the difference between deer hunting and the political arena as a result of the vicious rancor routinely disseminated in most online deer hunting groups, chat rooms and other social media sites. It’s a literal war out there folks, not a dialogue, because those who attempt this are quickly brow beaten. The end game is to take no prisoners and to be the guy having the loudest voice at the end of the thread, declaring himself the victor.

However, as with most vitriolic communications, the message usually gets lost in the heat of the exchange. Depending on the subject matter, it is the attitudes of participants, their education level and passion that will dictate just how nasty it gets with seemingly little regard for feelings or decorum. For instance, I recently read a post where a well-intentioned hunter was sharing with the fraternal order of deer hunters how to aesthetically photograph your dead deer. Included in his tutorial were insights as to how to avoid tasteless shots with tongues hanging out, blood everywhere, riding the animal, back of pickup shots etc. All seemingly sage advice, right? Apparently not.
“F*&% you, I’ll take photos anyway I like.”
“Who are you to tell us how to photograph our deer?”
“If you don’t like it, don’t look”, were just a few of the unrestrained replies. And folks, those were just the tip of the iceberg.

 

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While it is easy to sit behind a monitor and type away like a brave soldier, smugly unleashing a verbal barrage, understand that words have meaning and they do indeed matter. Typically, in order to gain a sense of self-worth or overcome their insecurities, there is always someone that will be quick to demean another’s accomplishments. Some of their act reads like this:

“Not bad for a small buck.”
“Got lucky huh?”
“I wouldn’t have shot that even if it was the last day.”
“Nice deer, did you see mine?”
“If every other hunter was as good as me and didn’t suck so much and stop shooting spikes…”

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

When the topic turns to management methods such as antler restrictions, baiting, any-deer permit allocations, etc., things really get ugly fast. Anyone, and I mean anyone, that dares to explain theories regarding sound biological approaches that go against the status quo or other entrenched practices will be vehemently attacked. For others, once the extent of their intellect is exhausted on a particular deer related topic, or they are bested by someone far more credible, the response is usually a derogatory personal attack or a condescendingly reply like: “If you don’t like it, go hunt somewhere else.”

 

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The results of all of this are evident. Unless you are a cyber-bully or have incredibly thick skin, you will be reluctant to weigh in again regardless of your competency on the subject matter. Or, you will likely begin any post by apologizing or pleading for civility at the outset. Meanwhile, any anti-hunter that is reading will further judge with satisfaction and glee all of the infighting among our minority sub-culture.

How did we get here? I mean when did deer hunting go from being an enjoyable, wholesome pastime that provided food for the table to an intensely angry, elitist, egocentric and arrogant spectacle? When we went to the ‘Big Screen’. Although all of those undesirable human attributes listed above have been around since creation, they have now metastasized globally and permanently via a whole host of media outlets. These have linked an entire cross-section of hunters from every walk of life, much like one big deer camp, where everyone indeed has a name. In social media, deer hunters have found an outlet that gives them a voice, a place for ‘show and tell’; a platform to make comparisons and satisfy their curiosity. Specialized groups have formed that key on specific aspects of deer hunting near and dear to these hunters, which has only led to more infighting. The unintended consequences of this instant communication is the display on computer screens of what the biological community would call bar stool biology, by anyone whose audience was anxious to read the next post.

 

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The effect social media has had on deer hunters does not lie in behavioral modifications, but rather has served to reveal the true character in each of us that would otherwise remain unknown to a vast majority. Yet, in all of its convenience and instant gratification, it has done little to satisfy the longings in every hunter’s heart (and human’s for that matter): the desire to be recognized, belong and to have relationships.

However, that desire need not be fulfilled by abusive, slanderous, brutal, uncontrollable clamor; and making a point should not involve personal attacks nor receive condemnation. After all, this is deer hunting, not an election. Understand, trolling hunter’s social media sites and weighing in with one’s two cents regularly is not going to gain you professional recognition or respect; those attributes are earned over time, the hard way.

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We need to remember our recreational sport is just that, a sport where votes are not necessary and support is not solicited. It is not about who’s method is best, who is the best or what equipment is best. Rather, it is and should always be about self-satisfaction, enjoyment and respect for the animal we pursue. Let’s put the fun back into what we all know is not an easy thing to do, despite what some may lead us to believe: pursuing a wild, free-ranging whitetail. Perhaps we could all take a cue from Ellen, who concludes her show each day with these five simple words: Be Kind To One Another!

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer