As a longtime military member, I’ve had my fair share of grip and grins. Every promotion, every certificate, every award, every coin – there always seems to be someone nearby ready to take a photo of the presenter and recipient in a contrived pose.
As a hunter, the grip and grins don’t always take place on a stage or in front of an audience. They often happen in the backcountry or knee-deep in a river. These photos symbolize the feeling of accomplishment after a successful hunt. They represent and commemorate the scouting, the hiking, the camaraderie and the time away from family.
A picture's worth 1,000 words.
In a time where technology allows photos and videos to reach the newsfeeds of thousands of scrollers in a matter of seconds, the meaning behind these images can get swept away. While social media gives the hunting community a voice, it also invites the anti-hunting community to make assumptions and paint an unfair picture of the nation’s outdoorsmen.
By posting experiences online, we as hunters risk losing control of our narrative. Viewers can draw conclusions about the scenario and the hunter’s motives that are incorrect. They may even conclude that all we care about is killing or feeding our egos. Now, if you’re posting photos from the backcountry with animals covered in blood and their tongues hanging out, you aren’t showing respect for those animals. Kill-centric photos aren’t necessarily the problem, though.
A classic grip and grin after a hunt is part of the experience. But as hunters, our actions and mentality need to honor traditions and respect the animals and people that are part of the process. How we document these experiences will impact the values that future generations carry with them when they hunt with their own families.
Shaping our narrative.
Unfortunately, the worst, most abrasive photos are the ones that seem to get the most attention, making it more important than ever for us to be intentional and thoughtful about what we post during a hunt. When hunters make mistakes in a post, it can create a public relations problem for the entire community, especially as society gets further removed from how their burger ended up on their plate.
Public opinion can change very quickly. While polarizing comments can create conversation, it must be done carefully.
A simple way to reshape our narrative is to stop focusing solely on the end result of a hunt, and instead tell a story. Sure, trophy photos are a great source of pride, but they rarely showcase the adventure leading up to that photo, or the environment that produced the animal in the first place.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and whatever else has people glued to their phones these days can have an immensely positive impact on our community, but we have to come together as hunters to make that happen. By putting thought into what we post, policing our own ranks and supporting one another, social media can do some good. As representatives of the hunting community, we owe it to other hunters to be ethical, tasteful, welcoming and truthful as we tell our stories online.
So, tell me, who do you follow on social media that knows how to tell a good hunting story?