On Tuesday, a hunting story appeared on the front page of the New York Times. That in itself caused me to take note. I was thrilled because seldom does hunting ever get the front page, except when politicians pull the trigger at the wrong time.
The story is titled A New Breed of Hunter Shoots, Eats and Tells. It's about four new books that follow the paths of two men and two women who started hunting largely for ethical reasons (I've read all four books and agree with them wholeheartedly).
Without a doubt, the story in the newspaper will bring hunting across the bow of folks who likely have never thought much about it. The New York Times has some clout. It was founded in 1851, has 108 Pulitzer Prizes under its belt and is read by more than 1.5 million people during the week. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter lit up with the story, along with comments both good and bad.
But it's not all good news. While reading, I started to notice a definite anti-hunting tone creep into the story. Phrases like "blood-flecked new heights", "blasting that elk" and "blow things away" were rubbing me the wrong way. Most of the folks I spoke with this week also noticed the tone and weren't happy about it. But we agreed that aside from the writer's tendencies, some good would come out of this story.
The fact that a hunting story appeared in a high-profile publication is something to celebrate. I called on four members of the hunting community -- two of whom authored the books featured -- and asked for their thoughts.
"I think the best thing about this new exposure is that it busts stereotypes. As more and more people read and think about hunting, or discover that there are hunters among their friends and co-workers, hunters and hunting are getting harder to pigeonhole. When someone or something gets harder to pigeonhole, we have to go beyond simple black-and-white ideas. We have to think with more depth and nuance, and reconsider our own viewpoints and prejudices. I'm a big fan of shattered stereotypes."
--Tovar Cerulli, author, The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance
"In my experience, hunters' reactions to all this recent attention have been as diverse as hunters themselves. I've heard from some who are thrilled to see hunting written about in a way that could lead to wider social acceptance. I've heard from others who find this recent fascination to be kind of condescending. I suspect that many of the latter don't object to newcomers like me, per se, but to the language used in some articles and Tweets about us. Every longtime hunter that I've met has been supportive of my decision to start hunting. They're excited that even though I was raised in a city, afraid of guns, I have come to embrace this tradition. It validates the worth of something they deeply care about. And it gives them hope that if someone like me can become a hunter, anyone can."
-- Lily Raff McCaulou, author of Call of the Mild
"I believe this is a very positive trend for the hunting community and conservation community. Especially given the health concerns around commercially processed meat (recent beef recall), I believe that we'll continue to see growth in this trend of people wanting to be actively engaged in knowing where their food comes from and taking part in all that is involved in bringing it to the table. It's hard to identify more organic, hormone-free and local food than wild game. And as people with a more diverse background are exposed to hunting, I have no doubt that the connection to healthy habitat and conservation of land and water will be an obvious priority for them."
-- Scott Stephens, PhD, Director of Regional Operations, Prairies, Ducks Unlimited Canada
"I am encouraged to see high profile exposure of hunting in a positive manner.
We that uphold the tradition already know of the value associated with conservation and management of our natural resources and the importance of the connection between human and nature. In this day and age where 'celebrities' seem to be in the news 24/7, I see a huge opportunity to get a positive message out to the masses regarding healthy diet and lifestyle, connection with the outdoors and appreciation of our natural world. I see real value in having as much positive exposure out there as we can get."
--Reid Woods, President, Manitoba Wildlife Federation
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Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org