by Eric Hall
The world we live in has gotten smaller through social media. Everyone seems to know everything about everyone. Viral content spreads through the internet at lightning speed. Media is consumed at a high rate from multiple sources throughout a global community. This has a positive impact in many ways; we can reach a lot of people with a simple post or tweet. The flip side is that negative reactions come faster than ever as well. Social media provides the power to influence, shape perception, and alter opinion. These are uncharted waters and navigation takes thought and understanding. Believe it or not, what we hunters say and do matters not only now but for future generations.
Hunters talk about the “moment of truth”, the moment we make the shot count. It is something that we consider often and prepare for all the time. What about those moments of truth outside of hunting’s fishbowl? A moment of truth can also be described as an interaction where someone has the opportunity to form an opinion. These moments of truth are critical to the sustaining of our outdoor heritage. These are moments of truth that we also need to consider and they happen well after the shot.
Consider a person who has never been exposed to hunting, they see a picture or a post on social media, this is THEIR moment of truth. They will form an opinion of hunting and hunters in general by the words or the picture depicted in the post. Right or wrong, this is what happens and it happens with amazing speed. Before we post or write, we must consider the message we are portraying about hunting. What is this photo or these words telling someone about hunting and the lifestyle?
Why do we care? Why should anyone care about anyone else’s opinion? Why should hunters take a posture, catering to those outside the hunting community? Why should we be concerned if what we say or do offends someone?
Simple, the perception of hunting from a non-hunters eye is shaped by the portrayal of hunting to which they are exposed. Their perception is their reality. Ask yourself, do you really want to be the one to skew that perception in a negative way? True hunters respect the land, respect the law, respect the game and respect each other. The key word here is respect. Respect is a core value that hunters hold. Shouldn’t our posts exhibit the core values that we hold as true? Shouldn’t we respect the non-hunters as we expect them to respect our privilege to hunt?
I am not saying we need to stop posting. I am not saying that we shouldn’t post pictures of the animals we harvest. What I am saying is make sure we are always positioning hunting within the realm of respect that we hold dear. Our photos should not depict bloody animals and entrance wounds exposed. If you take those photos and want to share them privately, so be it. If you intend to post a picture, clean up the deer and use your pack, bow, rifle to cover the wound. A pet peeve of mine is sitting on the animal. Ask yourself, is sitting on the downed animal showing the respect you have for that creature? For me, the answer is a resounding no. I am an advocate of hunting so if it bothers me, imagine the impact on a non-hunter’s perception! Instead sit beside it, behind it. Again it is the perception of that photo once it is out on social media. Thumb through any popular hunting magazine and look at their photos. While yes, the animal is no less deceased, the manner in which the animal is photographed shows respect to the bounty that nature provided.
Our word choices are no less damning. I have seen numerous posts where the words. “whacked, drilled, hammered,” etc. describe the taking of an animal. Again, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is being exposed to hunting for the first time. There are plenty of euphemisms we can substitute that portray hunting in a positive light. Harvested instead of killed is an example that comes to mind.
Another great tip I heard on a podcast recently included adding some depth to the post. Share the passion by describing the journey. Share the experience of the hunt, not just the end result. Words like “thankful”, “blessed”, “overwhelmed” portray the emotions we are all feeling. They show a sense of gratitude towards the animal and nature as a whole. In my humble opinion, they more accurately portray why we take the field each year. Yes to harvest but also to experience the wonder of nature first hand as well as provide table fare for our family.
Naysayers may complain that I am being too politically correct. I argue that we have a responsibility to portray our passion in the best possible light when it is exposed to the public eye. Hunting is a positive activity with positive impacts on the ecosystem and the economy. We have a duty to be positive ambassadors for hunting. Through our pictures and words, we tell a story. The story of conservation, of love and commitment. We control the perception and thus the reality of the non-hunters of the world. Let’s help them see hunting through our lens, clearly, void of negativity, and full of respect and appreciation.