Do You Know These Hunters?
Deer hunters, as a whole, are some of the finest people you'll ever meet. They are passionate about the game they pursue and truly care about the natural resources that support their outdoor endeavors. When deer hunters get together, whether they've known each other 10 years or 10 minutes, good times are had and conversations come easy. There is a natural bond there that has been likened to a brotherhood or family.
Unfortunately, like any family, there is always that estranged cousin or brother-in-law saying or doing dumb things who makes the whole family look bad; the one you do your best to avoid when you spot him out in public. Likewise, for deer hunters, bad apples not only reflect poorly on the rest of us, but they also jeopardize the future of hunting as we know it.
With hunters making up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, the last thing we need is to be divided, especially when it comes to trivial matters of our pursuits. So, I'm calling out the worst offenders — the five deer hunters who tick everyone off — and I'm asking that we all come together as fellow hunters to ensure the future of our hunting heritage.
Maybe you don't know him personally, but you've seen him around. He loves to hang out in all the popular deer hunting forums and social media sites. Wherever folks gather to proudly post photos of the big bucks they have killed, you'll find the accuser.
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Rather than a good heartfelt congratulations or great buck, he'll opt for the probably a high-fence deer or his other go-to, I heard that deer was poached. Of course, he would never say such things without good information from a reliable source. His friend's cousin's ex-wife works with a guy who knows the hunter who killed that big buck and it was definitely poached…inside a fence…and tied to a tree.
In this age of social media, it seems like hunters are constantly coming under attack by the anti-hunting fringe. The last thing we need is to attack each other with baseless accusations. Hunting is not a competition between hunters to see who can shoot the biggest buck. It is a personal quest for each of us. Let's learn to celebrate others' successes and leave the crazy accusations to the anti-hunting trolls.
The Equipment Snob
This guy (or gal) is very proud of his (or her) hunting equipment. So proud, in fact, that they look down at anyone who doesn't use that same equipment or, in some cases, anyone who uses equipment more modern than his. You may recognize him as the bowhunter who shames his fellow hunter for using a crossbow, suggesting that crossbows are only for kids and hunters with disabilities. Sometimes he's the guy who uses Brand X hunting gear who can't believe anyone would use Brand Y. And occasionally, he may be that mysterious flint-lock muzzleloader shooter who can't believe anyone would stoop to hunting with one of those fancy inline-muzzleloaders.
Just like the accuser, the equipment snob is a divider who weakens the hunting ranks. There's nothing wrong with being brand loyal or passionate about a certain style of hunting. I think most of us are to some extent. We just need to respect that others may think and hunt differently than we do. As long as it's legal, ethical and doesn't post a threat to the health of the deer herd, then let's support each other as deer hunters.
The Game Shamer
You'll find the the game shamer in many of the same hangouts as the accuser. In fact, they may sometimes be one in the same. Unlike the accuser, however, the game shamer doesn't blame his fellow deer hunter of doing anything illegal or unethical. He just believes the hunter should have set his/her goals a little higher, and he's not shy about letting them know.
You'll quickly recognize this person by a variation of one their favorite phrases, He'd have been a nice one next year, or Why did you shoot that little buck? The game shamer spends so much time worrying about what everyone else is shooting that it's a wonder he ever gets out to shoot anything himself.
Just like equipment choice, the decision of what to shoot is a very personal one. If you're the type who holds out for a big, mature buck every year, that's great. Killing a mature buck is an accomplishment worth celebrating. But let's not shame the guy or gal that only gets to hunt a few times each season and is happy to take the first legal deer they see to put meat in the freezer.
The Inconsiderate Deer Hunter
While the inconsiderate hunter can be found most anywhere deer hunting is allowed, he seems to enjoy the freedom of public land most. You can often find him walking noisily through the woods right around daybreak. He seems to enjoy the company of other deer hunters, because he often sets up within sight of them. Yes, he sees your blinking flashlight, he hears your discreet whistle and he definitely noticed you frantically waving your arms. But this is his spot, and he's going to hunt it come hell or high water.
Of course, the inconsiderate deer hunter hunts on private land too. Since he enjoys the company of other hunters, he often brings multiple friends with him, despite only having permission for himself. He's easy to find because he leaves gates open wherever he goes, and loves to run the farm trails on his ATV at prime hunting times.
Fortunately, this guy is a rarity. He's far outnumbered by good, honest, responsible deer hunters. All we can do is educate new hunters on the importance of common courtesy amongst fellow hunters. Many of us take deer hunting quite seriously, but we have to be able to step back and see it for what it is. Killing that buck your after is not a life or death situation and we should never take things so seriously, that we stop showing kindness and consideration to fellow hunters.
The poacher, by definition, is not a hunter at all. He's a thief. He steals game from all of us law-abiding hunters for his own personal gain. His selfish acts often get the attention of the media, where he is all-too-often referred to as a hunter rather than a criminal. His actions reflect poorly on all deer hunters and slowly erodes the support we have from the non-hunting public.
The poacher is a bigger threat to the future of our sport than any of the others listed here, which is why we must do what we can to put a stop to their illegal actions. This means making sure we personally respect and follow our state's game laws and reporting any violations we witness. It also means lobbying for tougher penalties for those who choose to disregard those game laws.
Obviously, this has been a somewhat lighthearted look at five deer hunters who tick everyone off. Many of us, at one time or another, have been that guy. It's okay. We'll never see eye-to-eye on everything. Deer hunting is a personal experience and we each have our own preferences when it comes to equipment and technique. The point is we have to all learn to accept our differences and respect one another as hunters, first and foremost. The future of deer hunting depends on it.
Editor's note: This article was originally published November 1, 2016.
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