I should probably sleep on this, or edit it, or something. But then this would look like some sort of “professional writing outfit” and who wants that? We do not wade into politics often or at all in this forum, and this may be our only shot at it. Buckle up.
So many who self-affiliate as the “hunting industry” (whatever that even means any more) have more or less, and without a shred of irony, proven why the PC’s did not win a majority in the Canadian federal election last night.
No nuance, no insight, no civil discourse, and pretty thin on facts. A lot of bruised egos, and a whole lot of re-confirmed confirmation bias, but that’s about it. Doom and gloom. Conspiracy theories. Overt racism. Pouting and sour grapes. Threats of violence. Blaming the enemy. Typical internet stuff, really.
Our fault really for looking to the internet for reaction.
Not to trot out the old cliché (but we’re about to) but if the sporting community made a bridge instead of a wall, to try to get people to understand instead of to ostracize them as the enemy, then maybe this would be a bit easier.
But no. We’d rather be a base. A pawn. A tribe.
To go out on a limb and stating something that will make us exceedingly unpopular.
There are hunters who like hunting and there are people who want to be identified as hunters but who really prioritize guns…or at least like conflict and catering to a base who prioritize guns. The latter are much, much, much louder than the former, and they usually have some economic skin in the game.
Because here’s the deal: let’s say that in a broad sweeping motion, on January 2020 all guns are banned. I’ll hunt with archery equipment. Of course the slippery slope argument will come up that “ARCHERY EQUIPMENT IS THE NEXT TO BE BANNED!!”. Guess I’ll hunt with a slingshot then, or take up trapping, or whatever it takes. Because here is the difference. The gun is way down the line in the equation. For me it’s the wilderness, the wildlife, the encounters, then the kill.
Then we feast.
Sure as hell is hot, there are irrational people who will never be pro-hunting, or pro-gun, but they are the minority, just like the strident and irrational gun-nuts that want an NRA North are also the minority. Both groups want polarization, they want a faceless enemy that they can group as ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘conservative’ against ‘liberal’, ‘populist’ versus ‘elite’, whatever labels they can to give their world view validation and a reason to exist. Add in the many (conflicting) lobbyists that want your allegiance and your money, and it is a colossal, bloody mess and frankly, exhausting to wade through. But I believe that they do not represent the sizeable, rational, and reasonable middle ground.
And we are not special. There are thousands and thousands of hunters and gun owners just like us. To whom the gun is the tool, not the focus. To whom calculating rationality may be preferable to hysteria.
Conservation is the focus. $13+ billion dollars contributed to the Canadian economy by the outdoors is the focus. Providing clean protein and wilderness experiences to our families in an increasingly urbanized culture have become the focus. Not what the fringe on either side thinks of us.
But then again maybe we just read too many books.
I personally remember, just after I turned sixteen and had started hunting, I still militantly believed in things. Bill C-68 came into effect that December and every gun-aligned group again decried that it was going to be the end of hunting, the start of widespread firearms confiscation, and the general start of an anarchy-driven class war between rural and urban/suburban Canadians. I wrote a letter to Allan Rock as part of a high-school political science class, haranguing the minister like only a semi-informed but embarrassingly emotional high school aged firebrand could. I later came to realize that my outrage, much like the hand-wringing from the gun lobby and various pundits, was well overwrought and generally proven false.
Was Bill C-68 bad legislation? That’s debatable. Was the long-gun registry an absolute waste of time and money. Absolutely, and I applaud its demise. But did it legitimately impact anyone’s hunting experience, or was that just a dog-whistle call to stoke fear?
Were you moderately inconvenienced with trigger locks? Was it a bad idea that perhaps firearms should be in a safe? Did you not go hunting because ‘the government’ made you register your Browning?
I never seem to get an honest answer to those questions.
So call this elegant social media suicide if you like, and call us personally what you will. We can handle it.
This is hardly the end. It is hardly hunting’s “death by a thousand cuts”. It is not the tipping point of a revolution. But what it is, maybe, is a chance to take a sober, rational look at how we portray ourselves. Maybe this is an opportunity to be less insular. Maybe we can go back to things that I thought hunters cared about, like securing public lands for hunting, sound science-based wildlife management and environmental policy, and a focus on growing the tradition as opposed to making it an exclusive enterprise open only to those that think the “correct way”.
Spend your license dollars, not begrudgingly, but knowing you are contributing where thousands of others are not. Eat at the small-town diner that profits off of hunters, act civilly, and tip generously. Take a kid hunting and tell them what you know, as well as what you don’t know. Without arrogance, offer to share some wild game harvest with an open-minded neighbor and take no offense if they aren’t up for it. Start a polite conversation where maybe, just maybe, you come from an angle where you don’t know everything. And stop caring about who someone voted for and maybe focus on why they believe what they believe. You’ll find the irreconcilable, sure, but you’ll find it less often than you’ll find a connection.
To anyone who reads this that is furious. Sorry about that…as you were, thanks for stopping in.
To anyone who reads this that is curious. We are listening.
We are not the foremost experts on anything really, but we love to hunt and tell the stories, we love wild game, we are civil to talk to, and we don’t hate you. If you’re in that middle ground, if you have an open mind, and you have some ideas to bring to the table, that’s a far better starting point than what I’ve seen in the last ninety days from those who profess to be “protecting the tradition” and can’t figure out why we aren’t on “their side”.
And lord knows, that would be damn refreshing right about now.