When did bowhunter start being so snobbish and nasty to one another? I’m asking a serious question because I’ve noticed an alarming trend in the hunting community over the past 20 years or so where hunters do nothing but endlessly bash one another or accuse others of unlawful acts simply because they didn’t shoot a deer up to the other person’s personal standards. Or they’ll be rude to another hunter simply because they’re using a piece of hunting gear they would never use themselves. It’s a problem that seems especially prevalent in the world of bowhunting and it’s to the point that it makes me want to step away from social media completely due to all the negativity that’s thrown around these days.
Maybe it’s just the petty, divided world we live in these days, but I suspect there’s something more to it. What that might be is hard to put a finger on, but there’s no doubt that many hunters are extremely quick to judge when it comes to bowhunting gear. I feel bad for the people who work hard for legitimate harvests only for them to get dogged by trolls online because they dared to use a crossbow or a specific brand of sights. Let’s look at this issue a little more in-depth today as I try to explain how this type of division in bad for bowhunting and hunting in general.
Internet and Pro Shop Snobbery Towards Newbies
These days almost everyone who becomes interested in trying something new starts with research on the Internet. It’s a vast, endless resource that can answer almost every question you might have about any subject. However, I’ve noticed some real nasty elitist attitudes in hunting forums and sub-reddit threads over the years dealing with archery and bowhunting. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some good people who are willing to help newbies out posting advice on these things. I just wish they weren’t so few and far between, because a few bad eggs can make the whole basket stink. I’ve seen the same kinds of attitudes towards new people in pro shops from time to time just for asking basic questions. It’s like these people forget what it was like to get started in bowhunting and how much information there is to absorb. They don’t take a moment to consider how overwhelming all that information can be to someone just starting out, especially if they don’t have someone to help mentor them in the hobby.
Hunter numbers are declining everywhere, and I imagine more than one aspiring new hunter has decided the pastime isn’t for them after being treated poorly by a snobbish staffer at an archery pro shop, or after having people pile on snarky replies after asking a question in an archery forum. I have a lot of hobbies, but none of them seem to actively drive away newbies like bowhunting. Some hunters act like bowhunting is some sort of elite club where if you don’t already know the answer, you don’t belong. I mention this because I don’t remember it being this way when I was growing up in hunting. Archers didn’t sneer and look down their nose at one another because they dared to use a different brand of arrow rest or because they prefer a ladder stand to a tree saddle. I don’t know where this attitude came from, but if I were just getting interested in hunting today, I’m not sure I’d feel welcome based on how many seasoned hunters answer simple questions. It’s like some of them are actively trying to drive new people away from bowhunting.
The Crossbow Conundrum
Most states have legalized crossbows completely for anyone to use during regular archery season these days. In the past, they used to be restricted to people who had problems drawing a regular bow. Which was great at the time, but it seems like many hunters today treat those old regulations like they were chiseled in stone like the ten commandments. They immediately attack and chastise anyone who dares to use a crossbow that doesn’t “look disabled.” For me this is frustrating because I don’t know every hunter’s reason for using a crossbow over a compound or other archery gear. Maybe that’s what they feel more confident in using. Maybe they just want a cleaner kill because of the faster speeds and potential for a pass-through. Maybe they want one for their kid who isn’t quite ready for a compound just yet. For that matter, why do we need to make an excuse at all to use one? Maybe someone wants to use one because they can. If the state’s regulations say it’s legal, who are we to judge? I know a huge part of the argument is that crossbows “aren’t bows,” but until a state agency starts a crossbow-only season or restricts their use to firearms season only, it would seem they fall under the definition of a bow as far as the law is concerned.
Whether you are pro or anti-crossbow, I think we can all agree the argument has clearly divided hunters in the last 30 years or so that it’s been a topic of debate. United we stand, divided we fall. A divided hunting populace is going to have a much harder time attracting new hunters and retaining older ones. Some newbies just aren’t going to want to deal with the hassle. And plenty of older hunters may just be tired of arguing about it and step away from hunting forever. In the end, we all lose. The states get less money for conservation from decreased sales of licenses, the chances of passing down the tradition of hunting decrease, and our hard-working conservation officers who enforce our game laws might get hit with budget cuts or outright job loss if not enough money is coming into the state.
That’s not even taking into consideration the lack of public access areas for current hunters. A lack of a place to hunt is one of the leading reasons for people dropping out of hunting or even taking it up in the first place. If the goal of these hunters was to prevent their state from acquiring new pieces of public land by driving people away from hunting, congratulations, mission accomplished.
Advancements in Technology
There’s a certain irony in someone bashing someone for using a crossbow when the person doing the bashing uses a modern compound bow. They just seem to forget all the modern advances that make today’s crossbows lighter, faster, and more powerful than ever before. They conveniently forget that most of today’s modern compound bows make things like the archer’s paradox practically non-existent these days. And the modern carbon fiber and aluminum materials in the limbs and cams mean less vibration, noise, more range, and more energy. We could argue until the cows come home about how much let-off is acceptable for a modern compound. Although I applaud Pope and Young Club for finally eliminating their rules on that, even if they add an asterisk next to listings for animals taken with greater than 65 percent.
A lot of these arguments over what is acceptable in bowhunting just seem, well, petty these days. It’s not like archery technology is going to just stop evolving. Are we just supposed to forget how Fred Bear tinkered around in the 1950s to develop some of the first fiberglass recurve bows when the materials for wooden ones were readily available? In my mind it’s a little naïve to think that if Fred Bear was still alive today that he wouldn’t still be tinkering with modern materials in a never-ending quest to build a better bow. That’s just how the engineers who develop these types of technology think. Nothing is ever perfect, they need to keep innovating and improving upon their designs.
It’s not just the technology of the limbs and cams either. Now we’re starting to see new developments like electronic bowsights with LED pins and range finding technology built into the sight itself. Some of them even compensate for the angle from your treestand and indicate whether you are holding bow level to improve your form. We’ve heard plenty of complaining the past few years that developments like these are taking things too far. However, I’d argue it’s a good thing. Archery has a huge learning curve already before you throw the challenge of taking an animal with a bow into the mix. Why wouldn’t we want to make this curve easier? Especially for someone without a good mentor.
Personally, I’d rather see hunters taking more confident shots that result in more animals harvested quickly and humanely than for someone to go through years of growing pains figuring things out with more outdated and less effective tech on their bows. It means more success for hunters, increasing the odds they’ll stick around and contribute to conservation. It’s also better for the herds because it means fewer injured animals.
People may not like technology, but it’s helping to improve hunting. We get it when someone wants to challenge themselves by using a recurve or longbow. However, some people just want to make things easier for themselves using modern archery technology. So long as they are legal in using that equipment, what’s the real harm? I’d personally rather see more hunters in the woods contributing hunting license dollars to conservation than people hanging up their camo and boots forever, but that’s just me.
I guess I’m just confused as to why so many hunters feel the need to be so judgmental about others and the ways they hunt. I don’t always remember things being this way. People used to be happy for other hunters when they were successful with a bow regardless of the type of equipment. These days you’re more likely to get some snide remarks if someone notices you used an expandable over a fixed blade, or if your draw weight is lower than what someone else is using. The equipment snobbery of many hunters grows more concerns as our numbers drop to increasingly lower levels. We’re already very near the point of no recovery for hunter numbers, so why make things harder on ourselves by tearing down the few of us left just based on what equipment we choose to use? At the very least I hope every hunter will at least consider that question the next time they feel the need to commentate on how others are choosing to bowhunt.