If any of you are like me, you cannot wait to spend time with your hunting bud- dies at deer, elk, or turkey camp. There is just something about this gathering of like-minded individuals who happen to share a passion for the outdoors. The camaraderie, swapping of hunting stories, formulating plans, sharing pictures of past hunts, and good food, combined with the anticipation of the hunt ahead, is something special. It’s something that many sportsmen look forward to more than the hunt itself in many ways. For some of us, this occasion may only be once or twice a year, and it usually is featured prominent- ly on the calendar at home.
When I started hunting, I didn’t get to experience the good times that are to be had in hunting camp. I woke up early in the morning and made the drive to my hunting grounds only to return home at the end of the day. Today, I am fortunate enough to have some good friends and relatives who open their camps up to me to enjoy this special time of the year.
In today’s world, however, this is one fac- et of our hunting heritage that has been radically altered with the rapid expansion of social media. As we develop cyber relationships with individuals and groups with similar interests, this outlet becomes a camp away from camp. In the virtual realm, someone is always there to greet you when you arrive back from a day in the field. Whenever I successfully harvest an animal, the first thing I want to do is share it with my friends. I can’t wait to show it to them and tell the story of my experience in great detail. Social media, in many ways, is that new frontier. It’s where many pictures and hunt stories find their way into the hunting community.
Now, I don’t think the intentions of most are to gloat about their hunting prowess as some would imply. I believe the explosion of social networking sites, catering to hunters, is really because sharing our hunts and showing others our accomplishments is just something that we have embedded into our cores. It’s also a great way for hunters to network and spend more time enjoying a principal part of their passion for the sport—the sharing of our experiences.
All is not so well, however, with this new frontier and we are seeing that to- day. When you choose to put yourself out there to the masses, it does not take long to find out that there are many folks on these sites that can make your camp away from camp a dreaded experience. It is much easier to type words than to speak those words directly to an individual. Combining that with the relative anonymity of social sites and message boards, it is clear to see why these “virtual” attacks are so common. Most times they come from individuals that have no clue who you are, where you hunt, why you chose your bow, who you hunt with, how you hunt, or the circumstances of your hunt.
I go out of my way to congratulate or help others regardless of what they chose to harvest or how they chose to harvest it. As long as their hunt took place within the game laws of that particular state, I am ecstatic for them. It seems that we have a certain segment of our online hunting fraternity that uses cyberspace as an easy way to criticize, accuse, second guess, or somehow diminish the success- es of others.
I often see pictures of button bucks post- ed in front of smiling hunters and then see comments stating that “the deer would have been a good one if it were allowed to grow up.” There are many hunters across this country that look down upon other hunters that shoot does. With growing deer populations in many parts of this country, why some folks feel the need to demean someone for shooting a doe is beyond me. I even once saw a moderator of a popular message board post that if someone felt that they needed to shoot a doe for the freezer, he would take them to Mcdonald’s and buy them a happy meal. Really?
A few years ago a proud dad posted a picture of a nice piebald buck that his son managed to stalk within range of and make a well-placed shot. He later asked that his post be taken down because he was getting private messages from folks that had something negative to say about the post. Then we have the internet cops. You have got to love them. Constantly questioning everyone’s hunting techniques and tag application. Go into several popular archery forums and you will surely find knockout, drag them down, cyber fights over whose bow is the best. And, don’t get me started on the attacks against those that use crossbows. Yes, I know. I am not a real archer and I am too lazy to learn to shoot a tricked-out com- pound.
Do some hunters feel the need to have to degrade others on social sites for all to see? Apparently, they do. After all, banging keys behind the LCD display is pretty easy compared to a round table discussion. This is one aspect of social media that I would like to see disappear, but being a realist I understand that it won’t. All we can do, for those of us that continue to enjoy these deer camps away from deer camps, is keep our chins up and make these sites as pleasurable to visit as they can be. Let’s not let the bad eggs drag us, or our great sport down—in our eyes, or the eyes of others.
The anti-hunting crowd loves to see this stuff. Nothing tears apart a group like wedges from within. I am not so sure that the antis are not among us doing their dirty work behind screen names. But, with that said, there are plenty of hunters willing to do the same work in a very public way. That is unfortunate, but it is the truth of the matter these days.
I will continue to enjoy participating in those cyber deer camps that are every- where today. I suspect that these sites will continue to grow and prosper as time goes on and I do believe they will be good for our sport in the long term. But I have to ask, for those that feel that their work is done after they slight fellow hunters, does it make you feel superior?