Hunting in the Social Media Era
I can remember as a young man kneeling behind a small five point whitetail that I harvested with a rifle while my younger brother snapped a picture. As the flash went off it was followed by the distinct sound of the Polaroid camera processing the picture. We then anxiously waited while the image started to appear before our eyes! Heck, we would even shake it to hurry the process along! I can also remember the amount of pride that we took in filling out the little white section out under the picture with the date, county and weapon of the harvest. That was about all you could write in that little area. The picture was placed in a photo album that actually had pages that you turned and placed on a shelf. We were so proud of that moment in our lives that we would show that picture off to all of our immediate friends and family when that would stop in to visit. I would share every detail of the hunt when I would tell the story. I told about the weather conditions, the sounds I heard, the shot, tracking even field dressing and dragging the deer. At that time deer hunting was very intimate. Your success was shared with just a few people and in my opinion we had a better appreciation for the sport and the animals we harvested.
Fast forward to today, social media has pretty much taken over every aspect of our life including the sport we all love. Though social media can be a good thing, in some parts I believe it has deteriorated some of the fabric of our sport. Now our hunting pictures are taken with telephones and within minutes they are shared with all of our friends miles away. It is then shared on social media and the description area that we used to fill out on the Polaroid picture is now littered with things known as hashtags. Within these hashtags are brands and phrases of outdoor companies whose products were used to harvest the animal. Once the picture is posted on social media we then anxiously wait, not for the image to appear like we used to but the comments and likes to start pouring in. There is nothing at all wrong with this, it is just the times we are in now. The part that I feel is deteriorating our sport is when the hunter starts making excuses for the reason he or she took the animal. It really bothers me when I see a post of a nice deer that the hunter should be proud of and they start their post with "not my best deer but it will do" or "Decided to take this management buck". I can't help but feel that these are just ways for some people to shield themselves from negative comments for taking a smaller deer. I also feel that comments like this are degrading to other hunters that would call these deer a trophy. It really bothers me when I scroll through the comments of these posts and I see someone say "He probably needed one more year" or "He would have been a stud next year!". These condescending comments are really unnecessary. I always stay positive if I comment on another hunters' success, after all, they are the ones who decided by their definition of trophy to harvest the animal. It was through their excitement and enthusiasm to share their experience with everyone on social media. As long as the animal was taken within the legal words of the law, the least we can do as hunters is to stay positive and keep that natural high going for them.
As we have moved deeper into the social media era I believe we have diverted more attention to things that used to not matter as much back 25 years ago. We have put more emphasis on inches of horns and age of the animal, this is just something that just didn't matter as much then. The dawn of the trail camera has made this such a fad now. The social media era has also brought on the "Pro Staffers". It seems now days there are outdoor companies behind every corner, this includes myself and our company. In most cases the businesses are giving up about $20 on average of their profit margins on a product to their Pro Staffer, the staffer will then post and advertise for the business in the proper demographics. This is a very savvy business move to help promote their products. These small discounts are an incentive in hopes the Pro Staffer will bring additional customers and traffic to your page or website. As a business owner you when you select a Pro Staffer you try to target sincere people with good morals that has knowledge of the product you are trying to sell. Though there are so many great hunters out there and people that sincerely want to help promote a product. However, there are those who use this to satisfy their hunting egos or are just wanting a hunting product at a discount. It has almost become a game to some to see how many logos the can put around a dead deer, which is very unfortunate. They are completely missing the point in my opinion and it is almost exhausting to look at their posts and in some cases just right down obnoxious. There are many products out there that does the same thing just as well as the other. It bothers me to see other hunters make negative comments or bash products that other hunters choose to use. Pro staff posts should be kept humble, classy and respectful. My outlook on pro staffing is not so much about the product but about the relationship that I can build with the business owner who shares the same passion as I do.
Another thing the social media era has brought on are the hunting selfies. Years ago the word "selfie" was not even a part of our vocabulary. It seems every time we turn around there is another picture of a hunter setting in a tree stand that was taken by them selves. They can be a lot of fun and are definitely fun to share among friends but they are one of these new aspects of hunting now that just wasn't around a few years ago. Though some of these hunting selfies are actually pretty good pictures, some on the other hand just make you think "Oh please" and want to tell the hunter to put his or her phone down and just hunt! I have tried taking a selfie while hunting and most of the time I can't get past how silly I look to share it on social media.
Nevertheless, social media is here to stay and though I have pointed out some points that I feel have had a negative impact on hunting from what is was years ago. It is also fun to look back at how things have evolved to where they are today. Social media has brought me a lot more positive things. With social media now I chat with hunters all the time from all over the nation. Most of these people I have never met in person but have chatted with them on the phone or through text. We share ideas, hunting stories, tips, and most importantly the passion. I have found that no matter what you hunt or where you hunt this passion is the same everywhere. This passion is so deep that it feels like a brotherhood and without social media I could not have broadened my horizons like I have.