“Mother brings daughter along as she slaughters animals,” the headline read in bold letters. Underneath was a photo of me at full draw, with my then one year old daughter peering over my shoulder from her backpack carrier.
The article Itself was neutral, reporting on my recent hunts with my daughter in tow; the title however presented as clickbait and had drawn quite the array of comments from anti-hunters.
It wasn’t the first time I’d come under fire from the anti-hunting crowd. In 2014, following a successful coyote hunt, I was the subject of contempt on the Facebook page of Ricky Gervais. This generated thousands of hate filled comments in my direction, some threats towards me and some simply disdain for hunting. To this day it never fails to amuse me how many people were convinced that I had shot a baby wolf instead of a coyote. The whole debacle was based on pure ignorance, and lack of knowledge on their part.
I have never been one to care much about what people say on social media, so I never lost sleep over it. However, I did learn a few things about how to deal with the hate towards hunting. I’ve dealt with negativity in real life as well as social media and it’s not really that different when it comes to how you respond.
My first instinct is always to ignore. I mean, usually if you ignore someone they go away right? Comments are often made to get some kind of reaction from you (and a surprising amount of comments end up being about appearance which makes no sense). If there is no reaction then they often get bored. Plus, I’m a big fan of the “block” button on social media.
However, ignoring someone doesn’t always work, particularly if it’s a conversation you’re having in person. And when this happens, it’s often the best policy to use logic and explain exactly why we hunt, and why it’s important to us.
There are several angles to take when talking about the many positive aspects of hunting and why we do what we do. The biggest argument that most people make is that hunting and killing animals for meat is no different than buying a pack of meat from the grocery store – and the meat we hunt is often taken in a far more humane way than much of what is found at the grocery store. The deer steak on our plates were acquired in a different way than prepackaged meat, and the animal certainly lived a beautiful life before serving it’s purpose as food for our families.
However, when hunting predators for example, the food argument isn’t something that is really logical – although there are certainly a select few hunters who boast the preparation and consumptions of coyotes and their kin. I am not one of those few. Enter, the explanation of conservation and what it means in the outside world. Not only are hunters doing other animal populations a favor by helping keep predator populations in check, but the money we spend on our hunting license and permits also goes back into wildlife and the places they live.
I’ve found that it’s best not to get too long winded – make your explanation honest and to the point. If they want you to expand, they will often follow up with questions. If they aren’t listening with an open mind, it won’t matter what you say anyway.
Although many of us choose hunting as an escape from the hustle and bustle of work life, personal problems, or depression, explaining this to an anti hunter often makes little impact. They don’t often want to hear that sitting in the woods brings us peace – they’re expecting you to come up with a justifiable reason for killing an animal, and in their mind the joy of the outdoors isn’t enough.
In a way, it seems ridiculous to even try and explain hunting to someone who has never done it and who looks at it with an already jaded opinion. Yet, I believe giving someone the benefit of the doubt and sharing thoughts on hunting can never hurt if they are willing to listen.
Keeping the conversation civil and leading by example is also far better than stooping to a lower level and name calling. Reverting to that type of behavior only puts hunters in a bad light and makes us look no better than the anti-hunters spewing hate towards a stranger doing something they have little knowledge about.
The worst comments I received over the past few years were ones directed towards who I was as a mother. Many declared that I was unfit as a mother and that I was endangering and even scarring my child emotionally by letting her witness my hunts. Comments can definitely sting – yet I chose not to let them get into my head and instead took the high road.
Several years ago, I saw a news article on a female hunter who took her own life after dealing with backlash and threats from anti-hunters. This was deeply saddening, and also a reminder to try and not take things personally when a stranger makes derogatory comments about how we choose to live. Stepping away from social media temporarily is always an option to save your mental state, and there is no shame in doing so.
Last year, I did a podcast with a hunting company, and was asked about the backlash I have received over the years and how I dealt with it – and if it ever made me want to quit hunting. Although it’s certainly not for everyone, I believe standing strong in our beliefs, both on and off social media, is important as hunters. Set an example of how hunters handle themselves under fire of negativity, and you will inspire others as well.