The perception of the hunting world today is so much different from the years past of our fathers and their fathers. Hunting used to be a fully accepted way of life and still is for many, yet we seem to end up justifying ourselves to so many around us. People say, “How can you do that? Why don’t you go buy meat?” And other various questions as they attempt to attack the morality of the issue while they eat a burger from a cow from a feedlot in Nebraska. People have become so out of touch with the reality of food and where it comes from that it can be painful. I am not here to defend or attack the morality of hunters and what we do year in and year out to feed our family high-quality meat. I am not going to tell you what to say or how to say it in order to convince your friends, family members or complete strangers to come to our side or not. Instead, I am going to remind you of our responsibilities as hunters and why these responsibilities are so important to the way others view us (our branding) and the decisions that are made in the years ahead.
It may be strange to think of hunting as a brand; however, it truly is and should be considered that way. Branding is so important to any industry or business and the survival of it. To wrap your head around branding, think about that hunting jacket you bought, maybe a SITKA one. You might have paid more than $300 for a SITKA jacket a few years ago. To some, that might be crazy because there are jackets on sale at Walmart for one-tenth of that price. The reason you bought it is because you are confident in the brand SITKA. You know that a SITKA jacket will never fail you, a SITKA jacket is warm and SITKA offers an amazing warranty on their products, among other things. SITKA has done an excellent job branding themselves as a reliable product — such a reliable product that you are willing to pay top dollar for it. Now, look at hunting. Hunting as a brand has lost millions of supporters and hunters over the past few decades due to old age and lack of hunter recruitment. Hunting, in general, has never been more under attack than it is today. It is our job as hunters to be the athletes, lobbyists and superheroes of our passion. Here are your responsibilities that will easily help you do that.
Ethics can be described as a person's moral principles that guide their behavior or how they do an activity, such as hunting. It is your responsibility as a hunter to be ethical and give hunting a good name. To do this, you do what you know is right in all situations and you will be a shining example of ethics. This means that you pay attention to private land boundaries, harvest and tag your game legally, report your harvest and eat what you kill, among other things. I think one of the biggest things that is important to non-hunters and anti-hunters is meat consumption. I have heard people say that the only thing a hunter cares about is the size of the rack. Do not get me wrong, I love to kill mature animals with big racks; however, I truly love and respect eating what I harvest. This is why it is so important that I bring home and consume as much meat as I can from that animal. If you have done everything right to harvest it and then take home all the meat, no one can say you are not ethical. Personally, I love having non-hunters over for dinner while I prepare wild game in a way that is delicious and only tell them what it is after the compliments. If they respect the meat the way that we do, they will respect the process a lot more as well.
The hunting definition of sportsmanship is described as the fair, kind and generous treatment and behavior towards others and animals while engaged in any hunting-related activity. Most hunters are excellent sportsmen who harvest the animals fairly, quickly and effectively. Most hunters treat other hunters with respect — whether they are in the field, the range or the sporting good store. If you are just good to others and the animals you hunt, you will be a great sportsman and a great example of a hunter. Whenever we encounter other hunters, we need to remember that they are our teammates in the sport of hunting. If we treat them fairly, kindly and generously, others will respect us and our sport. Most people are used to seeing the way professional athletes push others down to allow themselves to shine. As sportsmen, we should be helping others as a way to help the industry shine. This may mean helping a new hunter get into hunting and helping them be successful.
The final responsibility of us as hunters is the conservation side of the animals, the seasons and the land. We are responsible for making sure hunting is a sustainable way of life for our kids, grandkids and future generations. To do this, we can volunteer our voices, time, finances and vote for conservation. At the very least, there are organizations that we can get involved in that will help go to bat for hunters, animals and our way of life. Many non-hunters do not realize how much of the hunting license fees actually go toward conservation and that hunters are the biggest contributors in sustaining the wilderness as wilderness.
Hunting is quickly losing popularity in America, losing millions of hunters over the past decade. Though western hunting has increased in popularity, we need to be concerned about the overall voice that we have in our democracy. The number of people hunting in America will never be a majority; however, we need to make sure there are non-hunters who respect us and our way of life. To do this, every hunter needs to care about the branding of hunting. Be ethical in the way you hunt, harvest, eat and what you post on the internet for all to see. Be good sportsmen to fellow hunters and non-hunters alike by being fair, kind and generous towards them. Ask someone new to go hunting with you or ask a non-hunter over for a venison stew. Get involved in conservation in one way or another. You do not have to be an activist, but Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Muley Fanatic Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation or similar organization membership will help fund what you love as well as keep you informed on current events. Through being responsible in what we do, what we say and the way we post on the internet, we can help others want to be hunters and help non-hunters respect us and our way of life.