Why Hunters Drag Each Other Down

If you ask any state wildlife agency, you’ll find that the most disturbing trend for them is the number of hunters dropping every single season. We’ve seen little bumps in participation, mainly during 2020 and the COVID-19 era; but after that was mostly over, the numbers started slumping again almost immediately. There’s no doubt in my mind that hunting is on a downward spiral, one that will likely eventually spell the end of the tradition sometime in the next 100 years or so. There’s a bevy of different places that hunters point the finger of blame at for this sad fact. I usually see technology and the internet getting the blame.

However, I truly feel it’s time for hunters to look inwardly at themselves. That’s because, over the past decade, I’ve noticed an even more disturbing trend of hunters constantly tearing one another down. It’s gotten especially bad in the era of social media, and I’ve noticed no other outdoor activity does this to their fellow enthusiasts, except in rare circumstances. It has me wondering why hunters are constantly ripping on one another about everything from their choice in camo to the size of the buck they chose to shoot.

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Hunting Wasn’t Always This Way

Granted, I haven’t been hunting for as long as many of the people I know. My first deer hunt was in 1999. However, I’ve been doing this long enough to see the weird shift that happened from where most state wildlife agencies say hunter numbers peaked around 1995-1998. Looking back, maybe some hunters decided to be not so trusting of their fellow man anymore in the wake of the Rompola buck scandal. That was the first major hunting controversy I can remember, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

Maybe the internet exposed some deep-seated resentments hunters had with one another all along. I do suspect the rise of high-fence canned hunt operations played a big part in the distrust of many hunters in what they were seeing. I’ve written about that extensively in the past; but I do remember that as a kid, even before I started hunting, no one ever accused anyone of having killed a penned deer until high-fence operations were exposed for what they were.

Whatever the root cause, it seems as if no hunter is immune to criticism from the ever-cynical hunters of today, and it’s sad how it got this way. But at the end of the day, I think there’s an even bigger factor here no one seems willing to say. It’s always been here, but it’s only now–in an age when these hunters can hide their jealousy under the anonymous veil that the internet provides–that the behavior has become emboldened and even celebrated to a certain degree.

It’s The Jealousy

Truly, I think it’s the single biggest reason hunters drag one another down. It’s why hunters who score a world-class buck are immediately accused of having either poached it or having paid to shoot it in a pen somewhere. Some hunters just cannot stand the fact that someone else was more successful than they were, and apparently the only thing that makes them feel better about themselves is bringing down those who were fortunate enough to have a great season.

The hunters who get upset about these things will look for any opening they can to take a shot, especially on social media. It’s especially bad if you choose to take out a crossbow in states where it’s legal for anyone. And don’t start with the “It’s harder with a compound because of the extra movements” argument. Any big buck can just as easily spot you raising a gun or crossbow to your shoulder as it can when drawing back your bow. You still need to get close enough for the shot, which isn’t easy with any weapon–I don’t care what area you are hunting. The excuses on ease of use are just another crutch some hunters lean on to knock others down about a successful harvest.

Probably the worst examples of hunter jealousy I see involve the youth seasons. I’ve seen so many hunters rip on youngsters because their state’s early youth season messed up “their” hunt. I get the frustration to a certain degree. There wasn’t a youth hunting season when I was growing up either. But that’s no reason to tear into a youngster who was just fortunate enough to bag the deer of a lifetime on their first hunt. In fact, doing so might be a good way to turn them from hunting forever after a moment that otherwise may have had them hooked.

It’s always interesting when someone accuses someone of poaching or buying a penned deer. Because if the deer is proved to be legitimate, then the accuser will just shift to some tangent to attack a lawful harvest. Usually, it’s an accusation of poaching of some kind. The big one I noticed in the early days of the internet was hunters jumping on one another if their harvest photo didn’t have a very clear tag visible in the picture. I wonder how many people have called the real law on their fellow hunters simply because they couldn’t see it in a picture, only to waste a conservation officer’s time checking a legitimate deer.

I really can’t see any of these ridiculous accusations coming from anywhere other than a place of jealously. And it’s really tiring to watch people play internet game warden on social media. At the end of the day, all of these attacks on hunters seem to come from a place of bitter resentment toward others.

If you’re wondering why that matters, it’s simply because I don’t think the greater hunting community is a very welcoming place to outsiders right now. How can we be expected to bring new hunters into our ranks when we can’t even treat the ones who are already here with the proper respect?

I guess the larger point I want to make here is that if you feel the need to tear into another hunter over their harvest, look inward before you say something or post something online. Because most of the time, it’s completely unnecessary, and it’s just going to make you look like a jerk if you do it. Hunting has enough issues without us showing we can’t be happy for the successes of our fellow outdoorsmen and women these days. We’re all adults here–let’s act like it.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram. For original videos, check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels


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