How we can improve it for future generations
By Eric Clark | PUBLISHED April 17th, 2023
The hunting community is facing several challenges posing threats to our heritage and the future of hunting. From competition hunting to hunter bashing on social media, the problems vary in nature and require our attention as hunters. One of the issues Okayest Hunter attempts to fight is hunter bashing and shaming. How many times have we joined a new Facebook group looking to learn more about a niche deer hunting topic like mobile hunting or just deer hunting in general and witnessed hunters bashing other hunters for the gear they chose, the type of land they hunted, or the trophy they've tagged? We're worried deer hunting faces its biggest challenge from within.
No matter what you post on social media, someone will have an opinion. That opinion often comes with an undertone of negativity. Just because someone doesn't do something the way you would have, doesn't mean it's wrong, yet keyboard cowboys can't seem to help bring other people down.
Here's what we heard when we asked the deer hunting community what they think are some of the most significant detriments to deer hunting.
Competition hunting, measuring contests
Competition hunting has become increasingly popular in recent years, where hunters are pitted against each other in contests based on who can kill the biggest or most animals. These contests, commonly known as measuring contests, often involve high-stakes prizes and can lead to unethical practices such as poaching and overhunting. These types of competitions are alright, of course. We need to remember what is truly important about hunting. It's the entire experience, not just one thing or moment. Many hunters are after that mature buck because they're a challenging animal to hunt, but remember to put your ego aside and do it for yourself and no one else.
Pay-to-play, less available land, overcrowding
Hunting costs have increased substantially over the years, and pay-to-play hunting opportunities have emerged. This has led to less available land for hunting and overcrowding in popular hunting areas. Moreover, the rise of hunting lodges and outfitters that cater to the wealthy has made it increasingly difficult for average hunters to find affordable hunting opportunities. This is undoubtedly a challenge. However, various companies have emerged, attempting to somewhat mitigate this issue. Several day lease hunting companies in multiple regions of the country try to take an Airbnb approach to gain public access to private land. Of course, that's just one potential solution.
Access, not enough hunters?
As mentioned above, access to hunting grounds has become increasingly complex, especially in urban and suburban areas lacking open space. Though the number of hunters has increased, the gap between hunters and non-hunters has become extremely wide. This leads to decreased funding for conservation efforts and a need for more political representation for hunters since less of the voting population hunts.
There are some strong opinions about social media's impact in shaping public perception of hunting, and only sometimes in a positive way. The famous hunter from Meateater Steve Rinella's brother, Matt Rinella, has spoken about his strong opinion towards social media and media companies, in general, that tout grip and grins and how it's is the single detriment to deer hunting. To some degree, sharing graphic images and videos of animals being killed has led to widespread condemnation of hunting and a rise in hunter-shaming from anti-hunters and non-hunters. This has created a polarizing environment where hunters must defend their passion and justify their actions. Mostly, though, we, as hunters, must be mindful of the type of hunting content we share and how we share it.
Social media platforms like GoWild have created an excellent environment for hunters, outdoorsmen, and women that is safe from the harassment of anti-hunters. It has also cultivated a highly positive community for hunters that don't stand for hunter bashing like you'd expect to find on other traditional social media platforms like those mentioned above.
Hunter shaming has become a prevalent issue in recent years, where hunters are criticized and ridiculed for their hunting activities by other hunters. Hunter shaming might lead to a decrease in the number of new hunters, as potential hunters are deterred by the negative portrayal of the past time.
According to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the overall population of the United States has been growing faster than the number of hunters. In 1991, there were 14.1 million hunters in the United States, while in 2016, that number had decreased to 11.5 million. The U.S. population grew from 253 million to 323 million during that same period. In 1991, hunters represented 7.1% of the U.S. population, while in 2016, they represented just 3.5%.
As the population grows, the demand for outdoor recreation and access to natural resources will increase. This demographic shift has significant implications for hunting. At the same time, fewer hunters will support conservation efforts, primarily funded through hunting license sales and excise taxes on hunting equipment. This could result in a decline in funding for wildlife conservation and management programs, which would have a negative impact on wildlife populations and hunting opportunities.
The decline in the number of hunters has led to a need for more political representation for hunters. With fewer hunters advocating for hunting rights and conservation efforts, there is a risk that policy decisions will not consider the hunting community's needs and interests.
Fred Bear, a legendary bow hunter and founder of Bear Archery, once said, "The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure." This quote emphasizes the importance of hunting as an adventurous way of life, highlighting the passion many hunters feel for the past time. Similarly, Teddy Roosevelt, a well-known conservationist and avid hunter, stated, "In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen." Both Fred Bear and Teddy Roosevelt understood the importance of hunting as a way of life and conservation. Their words remind us of the value that hunting brings to our society and the need to promote positivity within the hunting community to ensure the future of one of our favorite traditions.
As Tony Peterson pointed out in a recent episode of the Okayest Hunter podcast, "We've got to get hunters to understand that if we don't band together and we don't start working for the greater good, we're not going to have anything left to hunt." This sentiment perfectly encapsulates the need for hunters to unite and take action to preserve hunting for future generations.
Ibn Khaldun, a 14th-century Arab historian, and scholar identified four types of generations in his work "Muqaddimah":
- The Prophetic generation: the first generation of a society, which is the most pious, virtuous, and religious.
- The generation of companions: those who directly interact with and learn from the prophetic generation. They also tend to be virtuous and religious but have less knowledge than the first generation.
- The generation of followers: the third generation, which tends to be less religious and pious than the previous generations but still follow their teachings.
- The generation of decadence: the fourth generation, which tends to be the furthest from religion and virtue, focusing more on materialism and worldly pleasures than on spiritual matters. This generation often leads to the downfall of a society.
So how does this relate to deer hunting and the challenges facing the hunting community?
As the number of hunters declines and the gap between hunters and non-hunters widens, we must focus on cultivating the pioneer and follower generations. These generations are the ones that have the passion and drive to preserve hunting as a cherished American tradition. By promoting ethical hunting practices, increasing access to hunting opportunities, and educating the public on the importance of hunting and conservation efforts, we can inspire new generations to take up the sport and advocate for hunting rights.
We need to be wary of the decadent and ruiner generations. These generations lack the motivation and drive to preserve hunting as a tradition. The selfish hunters that claim certain hunting brands are crowding "their" public land and taking "their" spot, or the ones that have said things like a youth hunter shot "their" deer... These hunters can potentially cause the downfall of hunting and wildlife conservation efforts.
In the words of Ryan Holiday, "We must confront the challenges before us with a sense of purpose and determination." We should leverage the knowledge of Ibn Khaldun and his four types of generations to inspire and cultivate the pioneer and follower generations. By doing so, we can ensure that hunting remains a sustainable and ethical activity for generations to come.
The negative won't ever fully dissipate, and unfortunately, that one percent of the hunting community that is bashing can make the negativity much louder than it deserves. So let's continue to make the positivity in the hunting community louder and congratulate other hunters that have legally and ethically punched their tag rather than tell them it wasn't big enough, they used the "wrong" weapon, or the land they hunted wasn't challenging enough. To each's own - it's your tag and your hunt, no one else's.