Apologizing for being a hunter? What?!
Believe it or not, I was once afraid of posting hunting photos. Yes, ME. I was afraid of the backlash and what my “friends” or acquaintances would think of me. I had grown up in a hunting family, but back in college, had never outwardly shared the lifestyle. Would I be offending people?
Wow, has my life changed since then.
Let me just say that I don’t purposely try to share “gruesome” photos of hunting, I mostly focus on showing the lifestyle in a positive way. But, if I harvest an animal while hunting, you can bet I’ll post a photo of it. Many hunters feel (and I agree) that tasteful “grip and grin” shots are taken out of respect for the animal. Also, hunting can be a TON of work, months worth, and I’ll be damned if I dim my excitement for other people’s feelings. On the other hand, I get it. I get that some people don’t want to see dead animals while they scroll through their newsfeed. That’s one of the reasons I started a couple of business pages on Facebook; Ali Juten for my hunting/professional work, and Empower Outdoors for my podcast.
I’m sharing this now because I just had a conversation with a recent college grad looking for some advice on how to get a job in the outdoor industry. Similarly to me, she explained how passionate she is about the outdoors, hunting, and fishing but has only recently started to “share” her lifestyle online. At her university, many of the friends she had in school were non-hunters and uneducated about firearms. But now, she says she finally feels like she can be more of herself.
Which made me dig up THIS photo from 2012.
Throwback to 21 year-old me...back when I was afraid of the backlash I would receive from posting a photo like this. (Also when sweatpants, rather than yoga pants, were life). It may not seem like much, but this photo is one I’ve never posted to Instagram. I had shared other photos of that night with the girls and the dogs, but not this one. At the time I felt like people wouldn’t understand it. I wasn’t going to eat the raccoon, so I thought I would receive harsh criticism. Honestly, people may still judge me for it but, at this point, I know what I stand for and I am not ashamed of it.
I sure have come a long way.
It was an ethical hunt.
Sharing this photo now, I can explain that this hunt was one where farmers were grateful. The raccoons in this particular area of Wisconsin were damaging crops and farmers welcomed hunters on their land to take care of the issue. The hunt was organized as a sort-of, local competition, and I was able to tag along and hunt with my college roommate and her friends from back home. The raccoons were simply used for their pelts and tails because people don’t typically eat them for fear of rabies or other diseases. I had never hunted raccoons before this, but I can say that it was one heck of a good time, one that I find no shame in sharing about now.
The Power of Positivity
Since I’ve started sharing more about my hunting adventures, I have definitely dealt with my fair share of online trolls saying pretty horrific things about me and my lifestyle. Sometimes I’ll respond respectfully to educate but, other times, I’ve had to block people. On the flip-side, though, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with some amazing outdoorsmen and women online and in real life. Some I now consider to be true friends. I’ve also had people that I’ve never met leave me positive comments and messages simply because they appreciate the fact that I am sharing my story. I shared a few screenshots from those messages below.
Share why you hunt, but don’t apologize for it.
So, for those of you out there, in college or beyond that love the hunting lifestyle and want to share about it but are afraid of backlash, I hear you; I was you.
I’ve found that explaining the “why’s” behind hunting and sharing how you use the animal after the hunt can go a long ways for people that are unsure of the sport. Talk about how hunting helps conservation, the Pittman-Robertson Act, or how gosh-darn great it tastes! Share WHY you do it. Because we all know that the truth behind this lifestyle is much more than what meets the eye and, in the end, your real friends will understand that and support you. And if they don’t, you’ll find your tribe eventually.