Well, you’ve gone and done it: killed a trophy buck, or turkey, or aardvark or whatever you were hunting. What’s the first thing you do?
In the old days, (defined as ‘five years ago’) we’d stop before field dressing the animal in order to light up a cigar, take a small snort from the medicinal flask hidden in the bottom of the pack and generally savor the moment. That was before Facephamplet, Tweeter and all those other social media things became such a big part of our lives.
Nowadays, instead of simply experiencing things as they happen, all life events including breakfast, bathroom breaks and surgery are immediately shared for the whole world to see. The readers then reply with “likes,” “shares” and funny little animated faces that actually appear, for those of us who forgot their reading glasses, to be random insects crawling across the screen.
While this column isn’t actually a general damnation of social media, there is a more practical reason for raising the topic: hunting and social media don’t really mix anymore.
I know that everyone, including Your Kindly Local Outdoor Writer, have posted items broadcasting our latest outdoor success to inspire jealousy, er, interest from our friends. However the world is changing and as we rapidly approach the opening day of the firearms deer season, I would propose that a little more restraint and introspection in regards to sharing hunting experiences might be in order.
This problem can be traced back to the infamous Cecil the Lion incident in 2015. If you don’t remember, Cecil was a lion killed (under admittedly sketchy circumstances) in Africa by American Walter Palmer. The killing of a lion in Africa is still considered a major feat, considering they quite regularly win the contest, so Palmer was hailed as an accomplished hunter, right?
Whether Palmer did or didn’t hunt ethically or legally didn’t matter. His biggest failure was posting the picture on social media. It immediately ignited a firestorm of criticism that nearly ruined Palmer’s life. By the time the whole thing was forgotten, thousands of people had weighed in, commented upon and in some cases committed vandalism, all in the name of Cecil. At the height of the hysteria, it seemed apparent that Palmer would have been better off shooting Mother Theresa during Christmas Mass rather than that large, tick-infested carnivore.
Now, after the overall success of that debacle, hunter-shaming has become a standard part of the anti-hunting playbook.
Our society used to exhibit shame regarding behaviors that aren’t positive attributes for individuals or humanity. Now everything is trotted out, celebrated and uplifted, even the things that shouldn’t be; everything, except for hunting.
Now, in some circles, posting a picture your happy child with its first squirrel or deer is tantamount to admitting child abuse. Unfortunately, we hunters aren’t exactly helping the situation either in many cases either.
Therefore, since the world appears to be losing more of its collective mind with each passing day, here are a few suggestions to consider regarding social media use during the upcoming hunting seasons:
- Post pictures that are as tasteful and non-gory as possible. For any trophy photo, blood needs to be cleaned up, the animal composed neatly and your hands and clothing wiped off.
- Be respectful of the animal. Don’t post yourself sitting astride or standing with your foot propped upon it like Teddy Roosevelt in 1909. Sunglasses and a cigarette stuck in the mouth of a dead deer or opposum aren’t really funny either (Yes, I’ve seen such things).
- Never use graphic language to describe the actual killing. If your head is in the right place, the kill is the culmination of the experience, not the sole reason you are in the field. It isn’t necessary to explicitly describe what happened during those final moments because non-hunters don’t understand the moment anyway.
- Be especially careful describing things such as eating a part of the animal raw or smearing blood on your face or other such rituals after a kill. I know many people who believe such rites honor the animal and I don’t disagree but it is not something you really want to publicize in today’s world.
- Above all, don’t intentionally try to offend or upset those who don’t support hunting. While attempting to figuratively poke them in the eye, you will undoubtedly offend many more average folks along the way who could easily turn into anti-hunters. Every blood-soaked photo or gory paragraph that ends with “…happiness is a warm gut pile!” is simply adding another name to the animal-rights mailing list.
Ethical hunters wield their weapon responsibly and should take the same care with social media. If not, you might belatedly realize that an online misfire might actually be a bigger problem than one in the field.