Summertime for the bowhunter can be challenging.
Many of us tune in to hunting shows to get through until opening day. Like anything in life, hunting shows aren't perfect and binge watching too many may cause a person to believe they need to have or do certain things to be a real bowhunter.
Here are six messages you might need to hear to avoid buying into all that advertising.
1. Your life doesn't need to be dipped in camo.
I love camo. I get why people enjoy wearing it. It's a statement that says something. How you wear it determines just what it says to others, but nonetheless, you're identifying as a hunter.
But square inches of camo is not a test for being a hunter. TV personalities wear it because it's part of their brand and many of them have promotional deals that require it. Wear as much or as little as you like, just know that you don't need to have a single bit of it to be a real hunter.
Ever see pictures of Fred Bear clad in a flannel shirt at full draw?
2. You don't have to shoot next year's bow just because it's the newest technology.
My dad used to drop pretty consistent groups at 90 yards in the 1980s with his wood-limbed Golden Eagle while shooting finger release. I know shooters today with rigs that put their children's college fund in jeopardy fling a shotgun pattern at 20.
They spent more money on their setup than they did time becoming a proficient archer. Buy the best bow you can, but don't feel like you aren't a legitimate hunter unless your bare bow price was four digits.
Guys in the outdoor television shows are usually compensated to shoot the bows that they do. In some cases, they may even prefer to stick with an older bow that's dialed in and comfortable, but due to agreements, are obligated to shoot the newest model.
Be proud of your rig no matter what it costs. You make it shoot well. The sticker price on a bow won't make you any more or any less of a real bowhunter.
3. You don't need a pickup truck.
Contrary to what hunting shows and a lot of the music coming out Nashville tell you, you can get to and from your hunting spot, and transport your game back home in a vehicle that isn't a pickup truck.
Pickups are awesome, but most regular folks have other considerations besides hunting when buying a vehicle...like kids or MPGs. In fact, when I see a deer strapped to the trunk of a Honda Civic, I can't help but admire that hunter.
4. You don't need to record every hunt.
Not everyone needs or should have a hunting show. Just visit YouTube.
Admittedly, I've cycled through a number of search results for "archery hunting" or "bowhunting whitetails" and some clips are really great, though many appear to have been recorded on an old flip phone.
Grainy video, bad audio, lifeless facial expressions, monotonous voices and risky shots are all showcased. Maybe it's another manifestation of the social media generation, but not everything needs to be on video.
Having pictures and videos of your time in the woods is great, it's just another version of a photo album (see 1839 to the 1990s), but you can be a real bowhunter without uploading all of your exploits.
5. You don't need to apologize for your deer.
Taking any animal with a bow is a trophy. When people start downplaying their animal, it sends a message that only certain deer count. In some parts of our country, guys are just happy to see something with hooves and a four-chambered stomach.
Not every trophy is recorded in the Pope & Young books. The ten-pointer I have above our fireplace wouldn't qualify, but my pulse still spikes when I look at him and relive those tense moments when he materialized out of the October woods.
It's an awesome responsibility we have as hunters to value the lives of the animals we harvest. Antler scores or sex don't impact the amount of dead that deer had to become to harvest it.
Acting disappointed about your animal doesn't mean you're a real hunter. It means you're still learning the discipline of contentedness.
6. You don't need to bash other bow manufacturers.
Most people who hunt for a living are sponsored by a bow company. The folks I know in the industry agree that it's really hard to buy a bad bow these days. Some bows are better than others and some are better suited for certain applications.
Jumping on the brand wagon with blinders to other products is one level of ignorance. One level deeper and you're in "[Insert brand name] sucks!" territory.
In no instance has this pseudo-elitism ever made anyone a better marksman or hunter. In most cases the person hasn't even shot another brand or has only heard second-hand feedback of someone's negative experience with one bow, then extrapolated that out beyond the reach of logic.
You can believe in and support a particular bow, product or brand all day long. But keep an open mind about what else is out there.
There's probably one question remaining after you've read through this list. "If all these aren't requirements for being a real bowhunter, then what does it take?"
The problem now is that I have to recognize that I too am a (small) component of outdoor media. It's like when your Internet goes down and the customer service rep wants to send you an email with instructions on how to resolve the issue. The answer as to what makes a true bowhunter isn't found here.
What I can say is this; don't worry about being a "real" anything. Simply do what you love, learn from those you respect and you will be a real bowhunter who doesn't care about being known as a real bowhunter.