Are trophy photos on social media discouraging new hunters?

Are trophy photos on social media discouraging new hunters?

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Hunters want to celebrate their successes in the field by showcasing photos of their trophies and hunts, often on social media. And that’s totally normal. But at what point are we no longer merely sharing our excitement, but instead discouraging new hunters by building up a seemingly unachievable hunting mythos?

There is no more natural feeling than being proud of a successful hunt. Perhaps you spent arduous days or even weeks tracking a monster buck over rough terrain, overcame your rapidly beating heart and shaking hands as you lined up the crosshairs, and successfully made a difficult shot. That’s something to celebrate, certainly. Or perhaps you saved up for years, buying preference points and planning the hunt of a lifetime. When that hunt comes together and you take a photo of you standing atop a mountain alongside your hard-fought trophy, you no doubt want to share that moment with your friends and fellow hunters on social media. And you have every right to do so. But it seems that lately, our feeds have become inundated by photos of only the most successful or exotic hunts.

Users are barraged daily by images of seemingly endless rows of brilliantly colored greenheads and mature rooster pheasants, or elk with racks so tall they wouldn’t fit inside most homes. The question is, what affect does this have on more casual hunters or someone just getting started? Are they inspired? Made jealous? Or worse, does the sheer volume and frequency of such posts cause them to believe that they’re inadequate hunters, or that they’ll never be able to achieve such success?

Much like the concern that young people struggle with their appearance because they’ve been conditioned to believe they should look like the celebrity models or actors they see on screen or in print, one could argue that this endless stream of extraordinary trophy photos may ultimately drive new hunters away from the sport or diminish their enthusiasm simply because they believe anything less than those trophies is a failure.

Now, we would never suggest that you should keep photos of your hard-earned trophies to yourself to spare the feelings of others, nor would we expect outfitters to make a habit of showcasing anything but their clients’ most successful hunts, but perhaps we need to normalize hunting mediocrity, too. Don’t be afraid to show that smaller-bodied deer you took to fill the freezer. Don’t hesitate to show how few birds you bagged or celebrate the tag soup you’re eating. Take a photo of you and your hunting partners on a bluebird day when nothing’s flying, or sitting back at camp without a downed deer in sight. Inexperienced hunters need to see those things, too.

Sure, it’s inspiring to see those once-in-a-lifetime trophies and photos of exotic hunts in distant countries, but they don’t tell the entire story, as most experienced hunters already know. The reality is, most hunts end with empty freezers, but that doesn’t make them any less successful or meaningful. The experiences and stories we take away, the time we spend in nature with friends and family, and the inimitable feeling of honoring and better understanding our shared human history are the true prizes.

It’d be nice to see more of that.

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