Tag Archives: buck fever

The Rise of Identity Politics in Hunting

By Jack Kredell

Somewhere around the time of Larry the Cable Guy­ hunting became a lot more than a seasonal pursuit. There were hints of the progression in the 90s, but overall it was a decidedly post-9/11 shift. As hunter participation was actually decreasing (and continues to decline), the visibility and commercial viability of hunting suddenly exploded. Hunting was now something more than a lifestyle: It was a brand.

You began to see as much camouflage in the mall as you did in the field. Decals of bucks with double drop tines, a characteristic rare enough in the wild that most of us will never encounter one, became plastered on the windows of F-250s everywhere. Camouflage went from performing the task of making you unseen to making you seen. Sure enough, pink camouflage was quick to follow for female hunters to be seen and counted, too.

Hunter

Image: http://www.trbimg.com/

Larry the Cable Guy’s use of redneck blackface made him a millionaire by branding the “blue collar” identity that was also the source of his comedy. People felt represented by him because he fully identified with the thing being made fun of: them.

After 9/11, as a result of cultural forces that are probably still too new to understand fully (social media being one of them), hunting evolved into a fixed and marketable identity with a defined set of politics. Hunting became just another popular identity, one of many in the popular cultural landscape. A reality television show about duck hunters becomes one of the most watched in TV history. For the first time, you could identify as a hunter (even without actually being one) and it made sense. It came with a known set of cultural and political affiliations. All you had to do was wear a Mossy Oak hoodie and people understood who you were. In a way, wearing camo is no different than wearing a your favorite team’s jersey. But what exactly is team hunting, and what does it represent?

In a surplus economy, hunting-as-subsistence is not going to be part of your average hunter’s identity. Very few us can make enough money to live by hunting or trapping. The one way that all of us can identify as hunters is through consumption. Some very smart people figured out that if there’s one thing that hunters seem to enjoy as much as hunting, it’s shopping.

But not everybody was hip to it. Fudds were born. Fudds resisted the rising tide of the monoculture by embracing a more austere post-war approach to hunting. For a Fudd, hunting means fair chase and a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in .270. The arrival of the controversial AR platform made hunting a contested second amendment issue. If you came out against so-called black rifles, you were not only anti-hunting, but indirectly, anti-second amendment as well. Because hunting is not a right, hunters realized they had to bow down to second amendment politics (and its marketplace). Then Jim Zumbo came out against the AR platform and became the sacrificial Fudd. He was struck down by the outdoor powers that be, which seemed at the mercy of the new market for the AR. 

This progression towards a popular hunting identity has lumped hunters into a monolithic group synonymous with powerful rights-based politics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the more unified a group is, the more leverage it tends to have. However, unified and homogenous are not the same thing. Groups that are too homogenous are weak because they alienate members who disagree as well as those like-minded non-members who would help the cause. 

It’s at this moment when, consciously or subconsciously, hunting shows begin to appear that challenge the status quo. You can read the efforts of hunters like Steven Rinella, Randy Newberg, and Remi Warren as in no small part responding to those aspects of hunting that the post-9/11 landscape has downplayed, ignored, or even repressed. In Rinella, it’s the materiality of food consumption and its relationship to history and landscape; for Newberg it’s the egalitarian principles of public land hunting; in “Solo Hunter” Warren invokes a tradition of rugged self-reliance. Independent YouTube also contributed to the changing landscape of outdoor media.

These were not so much rebellions against the status quo of mainstream hunting media as proof that hunting is deeply varied in practice. Hunters do not all agree on what constitutes hunting, nor do we all agree on what the future of hunting should look like.

Which leads to the single biggest problem with hunting today: It is the culture itself that is prohibitive in the way we hunters get to decide how our economic and political power should be used. We can’t agree on the biggest threats to hunting because we’re not allowed to disagree.

Hunting is a deeply regional activity. A whitetail hunter in Iowa will face different roadblocks and conservation issues than an elk hunter in Idaho. This basic fact should invite differences of opinion, even irreconcilable ones, into the hunting discourse. Yet we’ve developed a climate where to disagree with one form of hunting is to disagree with the whole and be labeled an anti-hunter. This behavior is not what’s going to get us through the long nights ahead of us. 

Women Hunt Too: Huntresses We Admire

Often there’s a misconception that only men hunt (or fish), but we want to dispel that myth. Getting down in camo in a hunting blind is not a gender exclusive activity, and there are more than a few awesome huntresses that we admire out there.

Women have been involved in hunting since the beginning of history. Cave drawings displayed women joining in on the hunt, mythological huntresses were depicted in ancient Greek and Roman culture, and ancient Egypt saw queens often hunting from the comfort of their chariots. It’s no surprise that in today’s society there are plenty of noteworthy huntresses paving the way for the outdoorswoman of the future.

Andrea Fisher

Andrea Fisher with a buck.

2011 Prois Award winner, Andrea Fisher. [Image: https://www.pinterest.com/]

Huntress and conservationist Andrea Fisher was the 2011 Prois Award winner, an award that honors women who are dedicated to hunting and conservation with involvement in their community. Fisher won a trip to hunt elk, mule deer, wolf, and whitetail in the Canadian Rockies alongside Diana Rupp, the editor-in-chief for Savage Encounters and Sports Afield.

Eva Shockey

Eva Shockey and a whitetail buck.

Eva Shockey and a beautiful whitetail buck. [Image: http://outdoorchannel.com/]

Canadian huntress and daughter of Jim Shockey, Eva was featured on the May 2014 issue of Field & Stream Magazine, the first woman to be featured in 30 years. Eva has grown up in the face of hunting media, following in her father’s footsteps. It’s no surprise that she is now a cohost of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures, blazing the trail for huntresses worldwide.

Debra Card

Debra Card and her moose.

Debra Card and her amazingly antlered moose. [Image: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/]

In 1999, Debra Card snagged a number one Safari Club International (SCI) spot for an Alaska moose she killed right outside of Cordova. Its antlers spanned over six feet with 39 points and scored her 731 1/8-inches. This monster has held the number one spot for more than a decade now!

Mary Cabela

Mary Cabela and a bighorn sheep.

Mary Cabela and a beautiful bighorn sheep she shot. [Image: http://www.outdoorlife.com/]

Everyone’s at least heard of Cabela’s, and it’s not surprising that co-owner Mary Cabela is an impressive huntress. She has records for more than 200 animals, many of which are SCI trophies. Some of her kills include cape buffalo, caribou, Dall sheep, elk, and much more.