The Identity Crises within the Hunting Community 

Unbinding Identity: Embracing Virtue Beyond Labels as Deer Hunters

Published February 1st by Eric Clark, Okayest Hunter Co-Founder

In 2023, I decided to get rid of my 2019 Ford F-150 to support our single-income family better. I was shocked by how much my ego and sense of identity were tied to a damn truck. I mean, what kind of deer hunter am I if I don't drive a truck? Where will I put all my gear? How will I tow my trailer? Where will I put the deer I tag every few years? I was having a weird identity crisis, and for what? So I could reputably call myself a deer hunter?? I bought a used blue Ford Fusion, and it turns out my three kids think it's the coolest thing ever and have named it Bluey after the cartoon show that I probably enjoy watching more than them. 

Wide buck in truck bed

We've all fallen into the trap of linking our identity with our possessions and status— there's a saying for it: "The clothes make the man." When we're rocking a powerful job, we exude confidence. Riding the wave of a successful hunting season makes us feel like a stone cold big buck killer. Compliments? We soak them up, because, obviously, they're well-deserved and who knows when you'll have another successful season. I mean, who wouldn't love to hear, "Hell of a buck, man, way to get it done!"

As long as everything's going smoothly, it's tough to see the downside of tying our identity to externals (aside from the occasional inflated ego). The reality hits when the tables turn, revealing how risky it's been. Associating our identity with external factors during the good times makes it inevitable to feel the sting when those same externals paint us as "losers" for having a piss poor hunting season, or "fools" getting rid or our truck, or targets of others' disdain.

This lesson taught me to develop a good sense of self by not tying my identity to external things. If you've ever listened to the Okayest Hunter podcast, you've likely heard me talk about Stoicism and how I try to deploy it throughout various facets of my life, hunting included. According to Stoicism, wisdom, courage, and justice are essential for personal growth and identity. Our brand, the Okayest Hunter, is all about promoting a positive and welcoming hunting culture that's not just about individual accomplishments. Instead of superficial things, like a truck as an example, people can build authentic connections and feel fulfilled by focusing on values like humility and kindness that come from within.

In a world brimming with diverse opinions, lifestyles, and pursuits, it's not uncommon for individuals to forge their identities around external factors like possessions, political affiliations, or perceived toughness. I'm exploring the idea of untethering one's identity from external markers and embracing a more virtuous and inherently good sense of self to embolden the hunting community to put an end to hunter shaming and furuther codify our mission to make the hunting community a positive place for generations to come.

The Pitfalls of Identity Attachment:

When we attach our identity to external factors, we risk having a narrow and divisive perspective. This can occur when we define ourselves solely by our truck, hunting gear, or political affiliation. Such an attachment can lead to a sense of superiority or exclusion, impeding personal growth and preventing genuine connections with others. In turn, this can contribute to a divisive mindset that separates "us" from "them." How many folks fight over crossbows vs. compound, Chevy vs. Ford, or Saddle vs. Hang on Stand? It's important to remember that we are all part of the same team and to avoid limiting ourselves by such attachments.

The Stoic Approach:

Stoicism is all about being a decent human being. Modern stoics like Ryan Holiday seek to apply this ancient philosophy in today's world. They emphasize that virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and virtue are essential for a happy life.

For us as deer hunters, stoicism can be a game-changer. This is especially the case as non-hunters vastly outnumber us and are trying to eradicate hunting as we know at the polls. Instead of getting caught up in infighting amonst ourselves about which truck, hunting brand, or gear is better, we need to work together. Instead of becoming obsessed with a particular ideology, stoicism encourages people to cultivate an identity rooted in virtues that go beyond external factors, like physical possessions or political affiliations. The moment anyone says they know everything about deer hunting, they ought to hang up their bow <-- That's a fixed mindset, not an open one. If your identity is too closely tied to external things, there's a good chance you're closed off to learning new tactics or ideas that could stand to improve your success in the deer woods. One of our strenghts as human beings is the ability to change our mind, or opinion. If we're not willing to do that from time to time, we're bound to repeat the same ol' things getting the same ol' results. I believe that's the definition of insanity, isn't it? 

In the "The Daily Stoic," Ryan Holiday emphasizes the significance of focusing on what is within our control. We as hunters can channel this insight by centering our identity on virtues like resilience, empathy, and humility. As much as we'd like to think, we have less control over the success of a hunt than we'd like to admit - heck, I'd take good luck any day of the week to increase my odds at a shooter buck! When that neighbor or unlucky driver kills the target buck you've been after, it couldn't be more out of your control. You can always control your response. Tying your identity to killing deer that may find other ways to win a Darwin award for dying may prove to be an exercise in futility. Rather, tying it to your response to things outside of control, so long as that response is good and kind creates real legacy. 

Untying the Knot: Welcoming Intrinsic Virtue

To untie one's identity from external factors, we can start by reflecting on our core values and virtues as deer hunters. Fred Bear said, "Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person." I don't think anyone remembers or cares what truck Fred Bear drove, or what stand he hunted out of, or what camo he wore. Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king and Roman Emperor, once said, "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." I'd say the same is true about getting outside, into the deer woods and enjoying every minute of the hunt. When you're in the woods chasing whitetails, who tagged what brand in what vehicle, wearing whatever fad brand of camo couldn't be (or should be) furthest from your thoughts. 

Rather than relying solely on the pride associated with the newest year model truck or an ideal hunting record of having killed several mature bucks over the past few years, we can find fulfillment by aligning our identity with the pursuit of the hunt and doing what's right and good. This involves embodying qualities like kindness, empathy, and integrity, fostering connections with others based on shared humanity rather than superficial markers and bragging boards.

Okayest Hunter: A Beacon of Humility and Relatability 

In the quest to redefine the identity crisis within the hunting community, the Okayest Hunter strives to stand out by prioritizing intrinsic value, kindness, and humility over superficial accolades. We have an unwavering commitment to reshaping the hunting narrative and to boldly emphasize the inherent goodness derived from the hunting experience.

Okayest Hunter was inspired by principles of humility and authenticity. We encourage hunters to embrace the imperfections that come with pursuing their passion. By adopting a lighthearted approach, our belief challenges the traditional notions of toughness and bravado often associated with killing mature bucks. Of course, don't mistake kindness for weakness - we just want to do what Gary Vaynerchuk preaches and build a honey empire, not one made from vinegar. Okayest Hunter seeks to shift the focus from external markers, like the size of a trophy or the latest gear, to the intrinsic value of the experiences and connections forged during the hunting journey; hunting is, in fact a journey and we're all at different stages within it. 

The ethos of Okayest Hunter seems to inherently align with stoic principles. Humility is evident in our acknowledgment that perfection should not be the goal but rather the continual pursuit of improvement and self-awareness both in the field and in the throws of the hunting community within social media. By embracing the "okayest" aspect of hunting, we encourage you to find joy and fulfillment in the learning process and the shared camaraderie with other hunters, regardless of where they're at in their hunting journey. 

In doing so, I hope the Okayest Hunter brand can transform the hunting community into a space where we derive fulfillment from the intrinsic goodness from the hunt itself.

Suppose we can move beyond the limitations of external attachments and embrace humility, kindness, and intrinsic value. In that case, we can contribute to the evolution of a hunting community grounded in authenticity, shared humanity, and a commitment to the inherent goodness of the hunting experience as we continue to pass the torch to the next generation. 

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