By Jack Kredell
When did hunters become so sensitive? Every other week some think piece comes out in one of the major outdoor publications warning hunters about the dangers of criticizing other hunters. In the big hunting forum I frequent, whenever somebody posts something critical of high fence operations or comes out in favor of wolves, they get called an anti-hunter. You’d think we were the most sensitive group in America. Most recently, “Outdoor Life” published an article by hunter and blogger Tyler Freel that faithfully repeats the dogma:
Worse than any anti-hunter’s criticism is friendly fire, attacks from within our community of hunters. The only thing anti-hunters would love more than to see us destroy hunting from within is to see all hunting gone. I don’t know if hunters attacking and belittling each other’s methods is more common now than in the past, but it is certainly more audible and visible. And it’s often reduced to a simple and damning phrase: “That’s not hunting.”
This appeal to self-censorship is a disturbing trend within the outdoor community. It’s disturbing for several reasons, the most obvious being the apparent inability of hunters to deal with criticism. Another disturbing pattern is the deep and self-righteous investment in what non-hunters think of their activities. So much so that hunting is often depicted for them as opposed to other hunters. This kind of extreme reactionary behavior is the real reason why hunters and anti-hunters have a problem with one another. It’s how we’ve arrived at the silliness of people posting bloody grip and grins on Facebook and then getting upset when they’re called a monster. The problem comes from within, not from without.
Within, not from without: Hunters are afraid to pass judgment on one another because the mainstream elements of our culture tend to promote the view that our way of life is under attack from the outside. The modern hunter lives more or less in a constant state of emergency. There isn’t a day that goes by where the modern hunter’s inbox isn’t bombarded with emails begging for attention and money about this or that politician and this or that company refusing to accommodate gun owners. It follows a logic that we should all be familiar with from this political cycle: Blame anything or anybody for our problems except ourselves. Not enough jobs? Build a wall. Elk are all gone? Kill the wolves.
The idea is that we have to band together to combat this external threat, a threat that never actually occurs (meanwhile the guns and ammo fly off the shelves, and it’s a victory for the NRA). It’s ironic how the prohibition on judgment reproduces the very political correctness that annoys conservatives.
Does PETA want to end hunting? Yes. Are there lots of groups that would like to see an end to hunting? Sure. Is the EPA part of a liberal conspiracy to weaken industry from within and close rivers and streams to fishing? No. Did the auto insurance industry, in cahoots with state fish and wildlife agencies, introduce wolf-hybrid coyotes to the eastern United States to reduce deer vehicle collisions (many hunters in my state believe this)? Doubtful. The only way we’re going to get out of this insane deadlock between hunter-conservationists and environmentalists and between hunters and anti-hunters is if we mutually disown the more irrational elements of our respective sides and really come to terms with what we both want. Because I really do believe that the majority of us want a similar thing: Land that belongs to everyone and no one simultaneously and that anybody can enjoy the way they see fit.