Social Media Is Not A Hunters Friend

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By: Dr. Dave Samuel
By: Dr. Dave Samuel

The majority of United States citizens live in big cities. If you live in a rural area, it may be hard to relate to that, but it’s true.  In all that paved America, with stores, malls, condos, airports, etc., you really don’t see, nor are exposed to, much wildlife.  You definitely are not exposed to hunting.

Growing up in rural America, you are exposed to hunting.  In fact, you probably hunted or had family members who hunted.  You eat wild game and you understand that hunting is sustainable.  Wildlife replaces itself.  Hunting money pays for wildlife management.  There are positive values to hunting.

In large cities, none of those things are evident to most people.  That’s just the way it is.  Hunters need to understand that much of the world does not see hunting the way hunters do.  True, the large majority of Americans support hunting as a tool for wildlife management.  But about 10 percent do not.  Even though three-fourths of all non-hunters support hunting for wildlife management, they don’t see the act of hunting the way hunters do.  We need to understand that and act accordingly because when social media gets involved, bad things happen for the future of hunting.

If you do not believe that, consider the bad things that happened for lion management and the future of lions in Africa after social medial reacted to Cecil.  When Cecil was killed in Zimbabwe last year a number of negative things happened that will negatively impact lion management forever.  Cecil was collared as part of a research project.  An American hunter killed him.  That hunter broke no laws.  The lion was not killed in a park.  He was not attracted from the park by bait.  The myths about this incident are many, but social media went crazy and in the end various regulations were implemented that will hurt lion populations in Africa.  The European Union said hunters can’t bring lion trophies taken legally back to most European countries.  Airlines implemented regulations about shipping certain species hides and horns on their planes.  Those are still in effect.  States such as New Jersey passed laws against owning a mounted lion.  The list goes on and on.  That was all about social media.

Hunters need to understand that social media changes everything.  It seems that a few hunters don’t get that.

Now to the intent of my column.  Hunting is not a spectator sport.  You’ve just spent weeks watching spectator sports on the Olympics.  They were great.  Yes, shooting was part of those Olympics.  Archery and trap and skeet are huge world-wide Olympic sports.  I was glued to the television watching the Americans shoot recurve bows 77 yards at a center of a target that was smaller than a grapefruit.  And hitting it most of the time.  Amazing.

But what if what we witnessed with those archers was a live deer target?  How would non-hunters have reacted?  Do you think that Facebook postings would have supported that?  And what if the skeet gun shooters were actually shooting at flying birds.  How would non-hunters have reacted?  In the real hunting world, these things happen by the thousands.  Bowhunters took over 32,000 deer in my home state of West Virginia in 2015 and only hunters witnessed those kills.  Gun hunters took over 100,000 deer in West Virginia in 2015, and only hunters witnesses most of those kills.  The same is true for your state.

So when a hunter from Ohio, a college javelin thrower, went to Alberta in May and speared a black bear, then in August posted a video of that on You Tube, why would he be surprised when thousands of people were outraged.  He hunted over bait, which many non-hunting Americans do not understand.  I know it’s legal, but many non-hunters do not understand how it works and why hunters do it.  They believe that it is unfair to the animal.  Most will still vote for hunting as a tool for wildlife management, but they do not like baiting.  It’s just the way it is.

This video, while a legal weapon, for now, to hunt with simply provides more fodder for the anti's to attack hunting.
This video, while a legal weapon, for now, to hunt with simply provides more fodder for the anti’s to attack hunting.

The fact that early man used spears to kill animals has no relevance today to the public.  I’ve killed black bears with my bow and have done so over bait, and even I have a problem with this guy posting a video of him spearing a bear on You Tube.  What was he thinking?  Makes my skin crawl knowing how much damage his posted video, seen by millions of non-hunters, does to the future of hunting.

So, this guy thinks he is macho.  Actually he just doesn’t get it, and never will.  Hunting is not a spectator sport.  The spiritual values of being in the wild, the challenges of hunting are one thing that most citizens get.  But there are parts of hunting that we see all the time but non-hunters do not see, and when seen, they won’t like it.   The taking of wild game for meat, when totally witnessed by non-hunters, just doesn’t work.  By “total” I refer to the entire hunting process, including the gutting and butchering of the game.  Many non-hunters want no part of seeing that.  And spearing a black bear?  Not for me either.  Even if it was legal.

I understand that some hunters will say . . .’it’s our right to do whatever is legal’ and I agree.  But when you post certain aspects of certain hunting on You Tube, then politicians and others will get involved and hunting will suffer.  Alberta is already starting the process of making the use of a spear illegal.  Other provinces and states will too.  It has nothing to do with bear biology, it is a reaction to hundreds of thousands of citizens, (maybe millions), being upset watching a YouTube of this guy spearing a bear.

I realize that a number of hunters, some women, have been hammered on Facebook because of postings made of kills.  My good friend Michele Leqve shot a polar bear several years ago and took the wrath of Facebook antis.  Melisa Bachman and many others have had the same thing happen.  My guess is that most of that negative sentiment came from strong anti-hunters.

In this column I’m not referring to those folks.  They will hate us, no matter what we do.  And I’m sure they are part of the outcry from this video.  But lump those people in with the thousands of non-hunters who have no relationship to hunting, who will vote to support hunting for wildlife management but who cannot relate to a video posted nationwide showing a spear killing a bear, and you have a problem.

Is what that hunter did hard to do?  Yes.  Challenging?  For sure.  Legal?  It was when it was done, but probably won’t be for long.  Is it something everyone needs to see on You Tube?  I don’t think so.  Why?  Because it hurts all of hunting and leads to laws and regulations that hurt all hunting.

Also see: Social Media Made for the Antis 

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