March 15, 2022
Such a simple statement, but one that carries a lot of weight in just a few words. I can’t take credit it for it. It popped up on my social media feed and stuck in my head. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. It really is okay if the bird (or bear or other game animal) wins. In fact, sometimes it’s even better that way.
We all understand the endgame when going afield with a gun in hand is to kill something. But is that really the ultimate goal? Or is there something else—another motivation for hunting or a different measure of success we should subscribe to?
I should probably back up. The statement relating to getting beat by a bird—a turkey, in this case—comes from a guy who goes by the Instagram handle @theoldproturkeyhunter. I have no idea who this gentleman is, or, I guess, if he really is a gentleman. I can tell you, from his posts and his comments on my posts, that we agree on a lot of things. I’m not sure, but I would bet we disagree on a few as well. But the common ground we do share is that social media has led to a phenomenon I call “killing for clout.”
I’m sure there have always been hunters who will do whatever it takes to kill an animal, whether that action is smart, safe, or, sometimes, even legal. They’re in it for the glory, for the story they can tell their friends, and for the photo they can post to social media. A good photo with a dead animal can garner lots of likes, and in today’s world, likes and follows, better known as clout, are increasingly the currency people prefer to trade in. Enough followers can lead to sponsorships, which then can lead to that mythical title so many people chase: “professional hunter.”
So people do stupid things to kill for clout. One of the most grievous examples is a photo that’s going around of a guy with a turkey fan on his head. He’s holding a dead turkey and wearing a smile I can only describe as gloating. He went head to literal head with this bird and won. Sure, he risked getting shot in the face, but it must have been worth it for the clout.
Now, you’ll never hear me tell anyone not to smile with a trophy they’ve killed. We should all be happy and celebrate success. But can we stop celebrating stupidity? Can we go back to the days when respect for our quarry was a thing to be admired? I didn’t kill a turkey for the first two seasons I hunted them, despite having World Champion caller Ray Eye and his equally talented brother Marty as my mentors. I got close, though, and I still have the memory of a giant Eastern, fully fanned out, not 20 yards in front of me with his head and neck completely obscured by a small sapling. The bird won that day. And I’ve been beaten by a lot more in the 20 years since, but I remember each one vividly, and every time, I promise, I walked out of the woods with a humble respect for the bird and a smile on my face knowing I gave each hunt my best effort. That’s the only kind of clout that should matter to hunters.
See you around the campfire.