Categories: Philosophy + PoliticsPopular

Why We Created Modern Hunters

The other night a few friends gathered around our kitchen table to share the first piece of backstrap from my very first deer. It was a beautiful and delicious experience that, just six years ago, I never would have imagined happening in my life. I didn’t grow up hunting and neither did Nick. In fact, up through early adulthood I didn’t know a single person who hunted. I didn’t know a single person who even owned a gun or a bow.

Now in my late 20’s, here I am — a new hunter with a new blog. There’s certainly no shortage of hunting websites and blogs out there. Was there really need for another? I think the answer is ‘yes’, and here’s why.

When Nick and I finally decided that we wanted to harvest our own wild game, we were just two city-dwelling adult vegans living on grad student salaries with social networks full of non-hunters. Without a mentor to guide us along, we turned to cheap or free books, articles, videos, and internet forums to teach ourselves how to hunt. Along the way, we found a number of excellent resources. But we also found deficiencies in the online hunting literature.

Unfortunately almost all existing hunting sites are designed for those who already hunt. As a complete newbie, I felt like an outsider looking in. I had some basic questions — very basic. For example, I didn’t know the first thing about shooting and didn’t know any firearm-related terminology beyond “gun”, “trigger”, and “bullet”. I hadn’t a clue about how to turn a whole animal into edible bits. In fact, I was so deeply ignorant to the mechanics of hunting that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure what questions I needed to ask. I wasn’t just starting from square one — I truly felt like I was starting from square zero.

When hunters write for other hunters, a lot of background knowledge is taken for granted and assumed to be shared by the reader and writer. It’s completely understandable. When core assumptions and basic skills are fully integrated into our cultural upbringing, it can be easy to forget that others may need to explicitly learn this information.

Now that I’ve been initiated into the world of hunting, I find myself committing this same error from time to time when talking to non-hunter friends. I’ll forget that language that’s part of my everyday life sounds completely foreign to them. For example, they’ll kindly ask how hunting is going and I’ll start talking rapid fire about how Nick has X sort of tag and I have Y sort of tag and how rifle season is ending and archery season is starting without realizing that my poor friend got lost at the first mention of this mysterious concept known as a “tag” (After this happened a couple of times I figured I should write an article about it). For those who don’t already speak the language of hunting, many existing sites can feel a little alienating.

Studying hard. Wait, Predator Calling wasn’t on the class syllabus? Oops…

In my own journey I managed eventually to wade through the jargon such that reading about hunting-related skills became a favorite evening and weekend activity. Over time, valuable information was found, organized, and synthesized, but it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes critical tips were buried in long threads of conversation on a forum. Sometimes it took an obscure book combined with a couple of YouTube videos and some personal experience in the field to truly grasp a concept. And some how-tos were just too vague or too advanced for total neophytes.

For new hunters, there were very few accessible, comprehensive resources. We wanted to change that. With Modern Hunters we are able to write articles for the true beginner. I write most of my articles with my former self in mind. Few hunting sites prioritize this perspective.

Even fewer hunting sites focus on the perspective of another important group: the “hunting curious”. The hunting curious are interested in procuring their own wild meat but are still on the fence about if or when they’ll give it a try. With the rise of the local food movement, more and more people are turning away from the grocery store and turning toward farms, gardens, and the wilderness to provide part of their regular diet. This growing interest may be a boon for American modern hunters who have seen their ranks dwindle over the past few decades.

But when it comes to harvesting a wild animal, a number of barriers can stand in the way for the hunting curious. Perhaps they have mixed feelings about guns and hunting culture. Maybe they don’t yet have enough information about the nitty-gritty details of hunting to decide if it’s a good fit for them. Possibly they are held back by the feeling that they just don’t belong — that they aren’t the right age, the right gender, the right race, the right religion, or the right political affiliation to feel comfortable in the American hunting scene. Or maybe they feel like the task of learning how to hunt is too insurmountable without someone to teach and mentor them. Those who don’t know any other hunters might feel stuck in the role of a curious but distant observer. As much as newbie modern hunters are met with scattered resources, even fewer hunting sites create in-depth content for the hunting curious.

Nick and I hope that we can use Modern Hunters to help break down some of these barriers for new hunters and the hunting curious.

When I write articles for this site, I think back to my anxieties and concerns before I started hunting. For example, as a generally sensitive person I worried that I would feel too emotionally distraught directly witnessing a creature’s death. I remember that I was very curious about, though slightly afraid of, guns. And I wasn’t just wary of holding a gun or shooting a gun, but I was intimidated to walk into a gun shop or a shooting range. I was also anxious about what it might mean to identify as a hunter. Would my friends negatively judge me for owning a firearm? Would others malign me or associate me with negative hunter stereotypes? Robyn the Cruel Heartless Murderer was not a label I was looking to adopt. I had philosophical, cultural, and logistical questions. I was in a limbo state — unsure if hunting was for me — and couldn’t readily find others writing from that same position.

When I’m brainstorming for Modern Hunters I also think about the challenges I faced once I decided that hunting was worth a try. While my Hunter Education class was great, there are many things it couldn’t teach me. For instance, I had a long way to go in figuring out how to shoot accurately and improving my rifle marksmanship. I also felt overwhelmed by the task of figuring out where I should go hunting. The regulations for public lands felt dizzying and no one on the internet was about to divulge their recommended hunting spots. I remember about the challenges Nick and I encountered and all the trial-and-error lessons we’ve learned in our journey. We spent a whole season just trying to see a deer, never mind shoot one.

Finally, as I write I also consider all the conversations I’ve had over the years with non-hunters. What do they want to understand? What misconceptions might non-hunters have? What sort of content would allow them to access hunting culture in a productive way? Topics such as why would a vegan want to start hunting? and is it disrespectful to keep and display the hide or antlers from an animal I kill for food? have been covered with the non-hunter in mind. We would love to engage non-hunters with the hunting community in a way that fosters mutual understanding and respect.

So, is Modern Hunters really all that different from most hunting sites out there? Perhaps. With this site Nick and I hope to write the articles we wish we could have read three or four years ago. We strive to prioritize content for true beginners and the hunting curious. Maybe our journey as self-taught hunters can help other do-it-yourselfers working to forge the same path. Overall, we believe that supporting newcomers — especially those from non-hunting families and non-traditional backgrounds — is critically important to the future of American hunting. We’re proud to contribute our support in any way we can. Thanks for joining us.

Robyn :