Hunters, Tourism, and Civic Pride

It has been some time since I clackety-clacked the keys on my laptop for this forum.  It’s been an off-season filled with not too much hunting, but with many other things.  A new role at my ‘real job’, the obligatory summer vacation with the kids and the in-laws, and tinkering and practicing and preparing for waterfowl season in just a few short weeks.  If you’ve been following along, we’ve also gotten further along with social media and are now on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so that takes up some time too. I started to write a novel, and then lost the plot…literally.

It always seems I’m writing something, just nothing about hunting. Sorry about that, and here’s something about hunting now.

You see, I like to hunt. A lot. And I like to let people know that I like to hunt, if they are interested, and sometimes I do it politely, even if they aren’t interested. And for the most part, people just smile cordially at me and move on.  If they hunt too, then we converse and smile and share some stories, and maybe we become friends, or at least become that on Facebook, and everyone is happy. However, I’ve lately gotten a few firmly worded warnings that I should be more cautious in what I post to social media, especially from a few people who think I’m infringing on their right to not see dead animals.

(Sidebar: I’m not going to even broach the recent PETA Facebook Frame controversy, because others have written more adequately than I on the topic.)

You see, I’m proud of the places I get to go and pursue game in, and no place is more front and centre than the Bruce Peninsula for me.  It is where I cut my teeth hunting, and although I’ve haunted other areas in search of turkeys, and waterfowl, and grouse, and deer, “The Bruce” is my preferred locale; my ‘hunting grounds’ in a metaphorical way.

My extended family lives there.  My friends live there. And several hundred other people live there that I have not met yet, but hope to one day.  But I do not live there, regretfully.

You see I guess I’m just a tourist.

And that’s the thing at issue here.  There are thousands of other tourists that frequent the area, and deservedly so.  It is as rugged, picturesque, wild, and awe-inspiring as anywhere I’ve been.  It is vastly under-appreciated in my estimation, and I advertise it to everyone I can.  I brag about my (sometimes tenuous) historic and genealogical connections to the area, and I point at maps like a 4th grade kid doing show-and-tell to point the spot out where I shot my first deer or folded up my first mallard to anyone who is listening.  I scan print and web media for stories about the area, and one of the greatest thrills of my life was flying over top of the family farmstead at 22,000 feet on my way to a business trip in Saskatchewan a few years ago. But I’m still just a tourist. Like the other tourists, I spend my money locally and I try to be as polite and friendly to the (they themselves) polite and friendly inhabitants of the area.

But I hunt.  And that rubs a few people the wrong way.

Recently I received a message through social media telling me (not asking me, mind you) to stop using #brucepeninsula in my posts, because this would make my pictures and stories about sunrises, forests, fields, and harvested wild game show up for the litany of people searching that hashtag.  I presume their issue would not be with the sunrises, forests, and fields.  And I get it, not everyone wants to see a ‘grip and grin’ of a fish, or a Canada Goose, or a rabbit, or a deer. To them that makes me a taker, a slob hunter, some sort of redneck, and not at all like “them”, who based on my research of the hashtag, are young eco-tourists, hikers, campers, and amateur historians who have every right to turn a blind eye to the historic hunting roots of the area.

I understand.  I try to make the posts as respectful as possible to the animal and as non-gruesome as I can.

But messages like that still trouble me and messages like that are important, because positive hunter representation is important.  If you want to get self-important about it and call me a “snowflake” or say that I’ve caved to political-correctness, or whatever other pejorative you want to fling at me for actually taking into consideration the thoughts and feelings of others, then so be it.  I’m past caring about that.

The fact is, a ‘screw you’ attitude towards non-hunters (or even towards anti-hunters) is counter-productive at best, because even if it doesn’t feel like it, hunters in modern society are a minority that exists through the conservation work we do with our dollars and our blood, sweat and tears.  A simple political decision, even though it would likely be incredibly unpopular, could end that tradition rapidly.  So how we conduct ourselves and portray what we do should be considered.

But this post is about the Bruce Peninsula…and I also have a right to share the WHOLE story about the area, a story that is inextricably linked to the outdoors.

The villages of Lion’s Head and Stokes Bay (as well as dozens of other villages that dot the east and west sides of the peninsula) were built on commercial fishing, even if they are pretty, quaint tourist stops now. Charter fishing still brings valuable money into the areas micro-economies every year.  All those photogenic farms? I defy you to find one with a family history that did not involve supplementing the farming operations with wild game, especially during lean years. This is to say nothing of the historic timbering and clearing required to make some of those farms the size that they are. The cottages and cabins you apply a sepia-tone filter to on social media did not just grow organically like mushrooms.  Trees were cut, some animals were displaced, while other animals made their way into the ovens of those rural and woodland homesteads.  Those areas boasted a low per-capita “vegan” population at the time…likely still do.

What I’m asserting here is that you cannot simply have the beauty and the raw scenery while filtering out the resource extraction that made the initial existence of these communities possible.

Well, you can, but it just makes you wrong.

So, you see, I’m not going to stop going there, hunting there, or talking the place up.  And I’m certainly not going to stop using #brucepeninsula when I post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram about the region, because the hunting and outdoors tradition of the area is undeniable. The game in the area is abundant. Opportunities to enjoy pursuing that game can also be had for those willing to put in the time on public land, or those willing to respectfully earn their way into the trust of a private landowner.

And for a hunter in the area, there is plenty of goodwill and plenty of like-minded people that share your passion.  So, if you are in the area and you’re hunting, and you are on social media, go ahead and use #brucepeninsula all day long, get it trending, and share the tradition with others.  And if you aren’t hunting up there, please keep using #brucepeninsula because I like seeing photos of The Grotto, and Flowerpot Island, and Greig’s Caves, and Lion’s Head Harbour.

I, for one, welcome the opportunity to see what all of you are doing up there and I’m glad you are supporting those local communities full of people I call friends and family.

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