I was introduced to hunting at an early age; my first experience was when I was four, hunting ducks with my father in the Kiewa Valley. Waking up on a cold morning in March. As the mornings mist is burnt off by the breaking of dawn, time slowly moving toward the opening of duck season. As you lay on the edge of the dam you hear the odd gunshot echo up the valley as an excited crew jumps the start by a few minuets, the sounds of ducks on the other side of the dam wall growing louder as the excitement builds.
The day becomes light signifying the legal start of duck season, the hunt master crouches into a stand and signals to the group to start to crest the hill. You move as one, everyone trying to see just how many ducks are on the dam. As you crest the dam wall the ducks break into flight, the shotgun comes into the shoulder, with one swing the duck is identified the appropriate lead is calculated and pressure applied to the trigger. This for many is a vivid image that will forever creates a longing to be out in the bush, sharing experiences with people who hold a value just as strong as their own.
My passion for hunting grew into an addiction as I found a love for the bush, the animals, and the pressure associated with hunting the elusive Sambar deer. The more I grew to love the sport the more I wanted to defend my sport and the more I wanted to educate others around me. I wanted the educate those who would normally be opposed to or, just oblivious to the idea of hunting in the beautiful Australian bush. Like many others nowadays, the best way to share my adventures is through social media. Facebook has offered the best platform to be able to share in other hunter’s triumphs, with some more avid users sharing the entire saga of a particular monster stag. Starting the journey with a few trail camera photos of a big stag wallowing with the caption “this is the new target for the rest of the year”. Anyone is able to follow this hunt from the initial discovery phases, following the hunters every success and sharing in the excitement of finding last years cast antler, the first footprint, a close encounter that almost saw him mounted on the wall until the eventual climax of seeing this beautiful stag laying down next to a rifle with a smiling hunter sitting beside it.
It is this ability to be able to share the full hunting experience with people all over the world that has seen an explosion of new hunters heading to the bush for the first time searching for the same unbelievable experiences they have read about.
As the photos from everyone’s weekend come flooding in on a Monday morning it is hard not to be inspired by the endless adventures that are posted. A hound crew all gathered around a big stag, smiles as big as the antlers, a father and son sharing the experience of his son’s first deer, a family gathered around a camp fire, a hunter packing out meat after a successful trip or a young child with a fishing rod in their hand. As a viewer you cannot help but be inspired to load up the car and head for the hills. All of these photos have one key thread running though them and it is the reason we are all so keen to share our photos. Whether you are sharing photos of a fishing trip, hunting trip or camping trip with the family, we are all sharing them for the same reason. We are sharing these photos out of love. Love for the hunt, love of that feeling of hooking up to a big fish and most importantly the love for the outdoors.
Unfortunately the social media universe is not limited to hunters and fisherman. Many times these happy memories will be tarnished and slandered by people who do not share the same views as us. It is a persons right to believe in what they want to believe in. They can research and formulate an opinion about anything they want and most importantly with social media, they can voice that opinion to a global audience. With the rising trend of hunters sharing what was once an activity surrounded with a cloud of mystery there has been a rise in, personal attacks over these users choice of lifestyle.
We have seen this many times on the news and through online articles, a young woman posing next to an animal is hit with volley after volley of offensive, vulgar and disturbing messages. It has been seen with Kendall Jones, Eva Shockey,Melissa Bachman and Gavin Dingman just to name a few. These comments are not just limited to attacks on the targets choice of lifestyle, No. They are attacks of every aspect of the person’s life. Comments ranging from, “I hope that animal mauls you to death” to “Someone put a bullet in those bitches”. In the case of Gavin Dingman, an 11 year old boy who shot an albino whitetail deer “Hopefully the father and son kill each other on the next trip.” This level of distain is normally reserved for the worst criminals in our society, not someone who is partaking in a legal practice.
Sadly none of the people making these ridiculous and dangerous comments are ever named and shamed, they are free to keep threatening and bullying members of the public. We see the instances of cyber bullying where the aggressor is formally charged. Why has this never happened when a hunter is attacked?
This is bullying in its rawest form and something needs to be done to stop this disgusting behaviour. I hope the catalyst for change is not a young hunter committing suicide after receiving a torrent of abuse.
It is clear by the level of intellect in the comments, that they are from people who are either uneducated in the topic that they are so violently attacking, or they are close minded individuals who are following the crowd by not formulating their own opinion and researching what they are commenting on.
Ricky Gervais’ attack on Rebecca Francis is one such example. With the foul language that was used it was clear to see that this post was designed to invoke a negative emotional response from his followers who went out on in mass to attack this woman like she was a criminal.
I have liked Ricky Gervais for a long time, I enjoyed his comedy and more so felt that he was an educated man making constructed arguments about topics he knew. That was until I read his post. When an international star who is a role model and source of inspiration to millions comes out with such obscenity it leads much to be desired for who we as a society class as a role model.
Social media delivers snip its of information to a potential reader. It is this delivery method that leads to the problem of emotionally driven responses. With the Internet relying predominantly on a visual aid to lure the reader in to the full article it is hard to intrigue the reader enough to want to learn the full story behind the picture that they are commenting on. If someone was to scroll through their newsfeed and see a picture of a hunter sitting behind a Lion it is too easy for them to quickly voice their disgust at this repugnant human being that would want to kill a Lion for fun. As hunters we have a vested interest in making sure our sport continues, this leads us to want to find out all the ins and outs of this hunt. Who the hunter is, where did they shoot it, how old was the Loin, what happened to the Lion after the hunt. The people who post the most vulgar of comments almost never ask these questions.
This has been seen very recently with Cecil the lion. The international community and the Facebook advocates attacked Walter Palmerfor killing the world’s most well know Lion. This poor man’s life is ruined. He is forced to close his dental practice, go into hiding and completely change is life over a legal, ethical lion hunt. When the initial story broke the ‘facts’ that flooded the internet were; Cecil was lured out of the national park by dragging a dead elephant along the border, he was shot tracked for 40 hours, decapitated and the GPS tracking collar was damaged in an attempt to destroy it. This was the story that social media and the world media latched on to, with no attempt to find out the facts about the story. After a Zimbabwe hunting ban and a lengthy court hearing the true story has emerged.
Cecil the lion had been pushed out of his pride a long time ago and was a lone lion. A blind was set up on an already dead elephant that was know to be frequented by Cecil, a bad shot was place on the lion and he was tracked further into the conservancy where a follow up shot was placed, the hide was then removed because the Mr Palmer was worried that the hide might rot. The GPS was place in a tree and the proper authorities were notified that the collared lion was taken.
This true story in my mind does not warrant the type of abuse this man has received.
Social media, and the invention of instant connection with the entire world is, with out a doubt, an amazing phenomenon. This doesn’t mean however that we are at all aware of its ability to drastically change a person’s life. There needs to be greater education around what we as hunters value, why we hunt and the benefits of being in the outdoors. We as hunters need to be that educator. It is our job when we come across those people on social media to offer them a structured, logical and articulated argument. It is so important that we as hunters have the image of respectable, honest, decent people. We cannot construct an argument around profanities and attacks on the person. If we stoop to their level the only thing that we are doing is justifying in their mind that we are as bad as they think we are.
For too long hunters have divided each other into groups and these groups have fought, hound hunters fighting stalkers bow hunters fighting rifle hunters. This infighting only weakens our cause and strengthens the anti hunting movement. If this does not stop and a united front is not formed soon, I see our hunting opportunities in this country and around the world being diminished as a result of public pressure to government bodies and no voice in the hunting community being loud enough to stop it.
Hunting and being out in the Victorian High Country is for some of us the only way that we can get through the working week. With the possibility of that next trip just around the corner it makes the working week go just that little bit faster, makes the early morning start just that bit easier. It is this love that drives us to defend our sport so passionately. It is this love that should make us as hunters want to convert as many anti hunters as we can, to build support and financial backing for our sport and most of all to make people realise that hunting is one of the most vital parts of conservation and environmental management.
Enver Ozkara (Hunting.com.au Member)