As surely as there are death and taxes, you can bet that however, wherever, and whatever you choose to hunt that there will be someone out there that knows how to find fault with the way you do it.
I long ago got used to the opinions, taunts, jibes, and snide remarks of the taciturn, illogical anti-hunter or the misinformed and self-assured non-hunter (which are two distinct sides to the same coin), but it was not until I started this pseudo-public, completely unprofitable forum for my hunting stories, opinions, and general bunk that I came to realize how much hunters truly hate other hunters.
Now before you send the hate mail which would only go to prove my thesis, hear me out. I’ll also apologize for a moderate use of salty language in the following.
In observing this, I’ve found that there are a few ‘classifications’ for this hunting community ill-will and for lack of a better term, bullying, which I’ll outline now.
Some people don’t get to hunt as much as they would like, and others don’t get to hunt the species or areas that they would like. Sometimes this is a function of time, occasionally this is a function of funds, and sometimes it is mixture of both. Regardless of the cause, jealousy at the opportunity, success, or enjoyment that other hunters experience can be a catalyst for much resentment. The jealous hunter will scoff at others, and disparage their skills or outcomes, solely because the jealous hunter cannot or has not yet had that opportunity themselves. Consistently successful hunters have to deal with this as well, and can fall prey to all sorts of accusations of unethical hunting or benefiting from being in a ‘target-rich’ environment.
Related to jealousy, but with its own distinctive patter, hunters that don’t hone, respect, or value their own abilities often find every opportunity they can to denigrate and humiliate those with skills, no matter how modest or extravagant those skills are. This type of hater calls the seasoned marksman ‘lucky’ or ‘nothing without a scope on their rifle’. They may have never placed a decoy in their life, but they’ll tell you how your pattern isn’t working. They tell you you’re doing everything wrong, or too much, or too little, but they don’t ever do it themselves.
Competitive hunters attempt, and are sometimes successful in their efforts to suck all the joy out of hunting for others. You shot a 10-point buck? They’ll make it their life goal to shoot a 12-pointer. Shot a banded mallard? They shot ten of them. Trying for a wild turkey Grand Slam? Well they have five of those and are working on an Ultra-Super-Extra-Difficult-Intercontinental-Mega Slam. I don’t have any issues with hunters driven to succeed; I know and hunt with plenty of those and in some ways I’m one of those myself. But when every personal goal comes at the comparison of the outcomes of others, I fear you may be missing the point of hunting altogether, or worse, you are using hunting to compensate for some psychological deficiency (see Low Self Esteem above).
Unbelievably, I missed a deer this year. Several factors I could not control, and one that I could (my decision to shoot at all), contributed to this. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to shoot deer, so I can safely say I was ticked. Maybe even angry. It happens. But within two hours, a steak, and a couple of beers later, I was fine. What I’m referring to here is not the attendant frustration that comes when you make a mistake. No, no, what I’m talking about now is the hunter that is always mad at something. They are mad at the weather, they are mad that game isn’t moving, they are mad that game is moving when they themselves aren’t there, and most of all they are mad at other hunters for having the temerity to hunt with, near, or remotely adjacent to them. They want all the hunting to themselves, and they are visibly and permanently enraged that anyone else impinges on their ‘right’. These people are not fun at all to be around, and if you find that no one wants to spend a lunch hour in a cabin with you, odds are you’re an angry hunter too.
It is the job of the puritan to keep hunting elite. Do you use a turkey box call? They use their voice, and think you should too. Do you shoot rifles at deer? They bow hunt and are smug about it. Did you pack mule into an elk or sheep hunt? Sacrilege, why you should have been doing it on foot, humping all your equipment in on your own back you lazy schmuck. See where I’m going with this? The puritan not only understand ‘fair chase’ but they feel it is their sole responsibility to define and enforce the standard.
Now, there is a difference between adherence to a high ethical standard and puritanical ways of viewing hunting, and this is often the grey area of the debate. Laser guided scopes, ultra-high quality electronic game calls, and high-definition camouflage and scent elimination systems often push that ‘traditional’ envelop, but there is a reason we aren’t all still chucking pointy sticks at mammoths. Progress happens and you can only avoid it for so long. Likewise pride is different from puritanism, but when you value ‘your way’ as the ‘right way’ or worse the ‘only way’, well then I haven’t really got any time for you.
Hypocritical hunters will criticize and lambaste other hunters for things that, admittedly, they have no problem with. Their issue and argument always seems to be that there is only a problem when you shoot a duck on the water instead of on the wing, when you shoot a big whitetail over a bait pile, or when you enlist an outfitter for a trophy hunt. They like to reserve special privilege to their own situation and worldview. Again, we all recognize hypocrisy when we see it, so start identifying it and cutting it out of the hunting dialogue.
The most insidious of the groups of hunters hating hunters are the “Experts”, both of the self-proclaimed variety, as well as those acclaimed as experts by consensus. I would wager that the ‘expert’ class, or the ‘expert’ mindset is responsible for reducing hunter enjoyment more than any other of the above. I’m not talking about the benevolent, avuncular mentor that guided you to your first deer or took you pheasant hunting for the first time when you were a child. I’m talking about the ‘expert’ that finds fault in the methods, ethics, and outcomes of even the most earnest and experienced hunters. They are in your hunting camp and they are in magazines. They are online and on TV, and part of the hunting ‘industry’ at large is based on this servile toadying to the “expert” caste. These people hold others to a moral standard that they themselves have defined, and only they will ever be above their own judgment. They know the better way, the secrets, and the overall fashion of how this sport of hunting should be done because they are experts, and you never will know those things, because you won’t ever meet their standard of excellence. They take the democratic equality out of hunting, and they boil it down to a contest. In short these people are the embodiment of all the above types of unpleasant person, which makes them assholes to be around. Avoid them.
I guess all of the above is somehow tied up in the psychology of the kill in some way; maybe seeing someone else’s success or enjoyment of the hunting pursuit somehow diminishes the self-worth of people with the above character traits, forcing them to belittle others so as to aggrandize themselves.
I don’t know…maybe some people are just jerks and cannot help themselves. The truth is probably a fraction of both at play. The worst part about all of it is every one of the above traits (and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t discovered yet) is that they all serve the same purpose; to divide hunters against hunters. It may well prove the downfall of the modern hunting culture.
I also guess that there is a bit of irony in me taking the pulpit to sermonize and decry these types of hunters, but that’s not really what I’m doing with this piece (or at least I hope it isn’t what I’m doing with this piece). My policy has long been that so long as it is legal, safe, and that it most importantly does not negatively impact the public perception of the hunting tradition, then I don’t really care how you hunt, so long as you’re enjoying yourself, and I’ve been on record in this forum and other social media with that stance for a long time. I think we all have a bit of enviousness, puritanism, or self-exalting expertise about ourselves; that’s just how people are hooked up. The hard part is to set those traits aside when we’re discoursing and involved with other hunters.
Hunting is an intensely personal thing, and people forget their impact on others when it comes to things they are passionate about. I get it, and I know that it’s a fine line, but it may be the only chance hunters have to see the common ground between themselves.