Here is why anti-hunters shouldn't be your biggest concern.
Anti-hunter. Just the word is enough to immediately make most hunters mad and put them on the defensive. It is understandable. If someone attacks something you love, you're going to want to defend it.
In fact, I used to be the same way. But after thinking about it a while, I quit worrying about anti-hunters and PETA members, and now I ignore them completely. Before you go nuts on me, asking why I would do that, hear me out first.
You aren't "putting anti-hunters in their place" when you attack them.
So many hunters, professionals especially, have fallen into this trap. Michael Waddell, Tim Wells and countless others have all filmed or posted "rants" that many hunters have chalked up as "wins" for our side.
Guess what? It's a waste of time, all of it. The antis aren't listening.
Human beings are stubborn. This is just a fact. Someone who has aligned themselves with PETA or any of the other anti-hunting groups out there doesn't care about the facts. They don't care about how much money hunting contributes to conservation. They don't care about wild animal management. They're never going to be suddenly swayed by your opinion, just like you'll never be swayed by their opinion.
Anti-hunters are, in my opinion, too far gone. They've chosen a side and are fully entrenched; they're not going to get up and switch teams because you posted a bunch of facts on PETA's Facebook page or caught an anti-hunting co-worker in a sudden moment of cognitive dissonance.
You're not going to suddenly get up and attend a vegan cookout, so don't expect them to come over when you roast up a feral hog. This just isn't how humans beings function. It is in our nature. If anything, attacking these people only helps them, which brings me to my next point.
Anti-hunters aren't as stupid as you think, and they're masters at trolling.
In the digital age, a horrible bit of human behavior has emerged and that is online trolling. These are people who take joy in posting things online with no other goal than to make other people angry. And PETA members are the masters at it.
In fact, I'd go so far to say they are playing us for fools. Take for instance when they made a "Shoot selfies, not animals," Facebook and Instagram photo frame. Hundreds of hunters immediately started posting photos of themselves with their harvests in this frame.
While many deer hunters laughed at this, I'm pretty sure that this was PETA's goal all along. They aren't that dumb. They knew what would happen. They immediately turned the trend into more propaganda on their blog.
The trend of hunters using the filter was big. So big in fact, it was picked up by a number of larger news outlets, spreading PETA's name further. Mission accomplished for them. You just spread PETA's name far and wide. This did what for hunting?
Too many hunters assume anti-hunters are just stupid, and that is a mistake. Yes, they do outlandish, stupid things to bait in hunters and grab headlines. But they aren't serious about the things they are doing, like the "condoms for hunters," company that PETA set up. It is all about how they can use the media to spread their message and the best way to do that, is to do something crazy.
Don't believe me? Look at what happened when they sent a letter to a bear-mauling victim asking her to re-think her hunting ways. Or when Ann Arbor, Michigan deer cull protestors held a vigil in memory of deer killed in the city's animal control efforts.
They knew EXACTLY what they were doing when they put up a billboard mocking a bear attack victim. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing when they submitted a design in a contest the Georgia DNR held to design a new hunting license. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing when they attacked Prince William for his stance on hunting.
Have you ever heard of the phrase "man bites dog?" It is an old saying in journalism where a dog biting a man isn't a news story because it is a common occurrence. But if you flip that around to man bites dog, it is immediately news because it is such a weird and unusual event. It is the same principle with animal rights activists.
PETA members won't get the interest of the media by writing letters to their congressman or talking to lawmakers. But dress a half-nude vegetarian in a mermaid costume and have them protest on their capitol steps? That will bring your local reporters to the scene with their cameras.
And that is what it is all about. They don't really want to erect roadside memorials to killed fish. They KNOW this stuff is stupid and will never happen. It is all about getting the headline and getting their name, message, and propaganda out there. And we as hunters and fishermen, fall for it FAR too often.
When you share a link to an animal rights video and laugh at them saying "Ha Ha, look how stupid they are!" You're still driving views and traffic to their video and their website. This plays right into their hands. Stop it.
The law is on our side.
Some will say anti-hunters threaten hunting and fishing by changing laws and dissolving rights. But if you start looking at many of the lawsuits filed by PETA and other groups, by and large, they fail. Bringing up Ann Arbor, Michigan and their deer culls again, judges threw out multiple deer cull protester lawsuits again and again. Wildlife agencies are very good at shutting down the ridiculous efforts of animal rights groups.
In Ann Arbor, anti-hunting activists were successful in getting a deer sterilization program put in place. But it has not fared well. In fact, Michigan lawmakers are considering banning the practice altogether. Hunters won this round.
Add into the fact that almost every state has a hunter harassment law on the books to protect sportsmen and women afield. Then there are the states that have made hunting and fishing constitutional rights. More and more of these laws are being put on the books every year.
There have been attempts to take these laws down by animal rights groups, but again and again, they have failed. In fact, I can't find any examples of PETA winning a hunting lawsuit, probably because so many of their lawsuits are ridiculous in nature. (Again, see my point above about man bites dog.)
Hunters outnumber anti-hunters.
PETA proudly boasts they have 6.5 million members worldwide. But here in the U.S., there are approximately 11.5 million hunters. Even with hunter participation numbers going down, we grossly outnumber the entire worldwide membership of the biggest animal rights organization just here in the U.S. alone.
I'm willing to concede that the number of American hunters is declining and that should be a serious topic of discussion, but when you add in the number of hunters around the world to these figures, anti-hunters are in an extreme minority.
And it is unlikely that minority is going to be able to bring about any extreme change that would alter hunting or fishing in any great capacity anytime in the foreseeable future, especially in North America. So please tell me why are we so worried about them again?
So who should we really be worried about?
You might be wondering, if I'm not worried about anti-hunters, is there anyone I am concerned about when it comes to our favorite pastime? There is and it is something far too few hunters think about. That is the non-hunting public at large.
Going back to the numbers just for a second, there are 325 million people in the United States. That makes PETA's member numbers even more of an extreme minority. Take out the hunters and you probably have over 300 million people who don't hunt wild animals and who may not even have an opinion on the matter.
If you don't believe the public is seriously under-informed about hunting and hunting ethics, just look back at the Cecil the Lion incident. There were hordes of people who were shocked trophy hunting of lions was still going on in African countries. Many non-hunters just assumed natural predators like lions were protected and the hunting of them was something that went out with Teddy Roosevelt.
All it takes is one incident like this to push someone to the other side. Some of these non-hunters may eat meat, but their only exposure to it is at the grocery store. Believe it or not, I've talked to vegetarians before who were NOT anti-hunting. Surely every hunter can think of at least one person in their life who isn't a hunter and may hold no opinion on it whatsoever.
Understand that I'm not bashing anyone who did it, but I do worry things like hunters using PETA's photo filter could push people on the fence over to the side of the antis because it stoops us to their level rather than help us stand above it.
We WANT to keep the non-hunting public on our side, because that's the real vast majority who can can sway opinions and change laws.
So what should you do to keep people from ending up on the opposing side? I can think of a number of things. Online, instead of filling your social media with memes and insults about anti-hunters and vegetarians, ignore them and fill it instead with the real articles and facts about hunting, wildlife management, and conservation programs.
Share stories of hunters doing positive things for the environment and their community. Think before you post your big game photos. Are you setting a good example of hunters for the non-hunters in your circle of friends?
In your community, become a shining example. Donate some extra venison every year to help feed the hungry. Pick up trash in your local state parks and public lands, especially National Forests and National Parks.
Even better, organize a group of hunters to do it and invite the local media. Let's counteract the stereotype of the slob hunter. Volunteer to help introduce and educate young people on hunting and fishing and the outdoors. Hunters are losing youth and most hunters are not nearly concerned enough about it.
Most of all, show respect to the animals you are hunting and utilize every part of the animal that you can. Most of the general, non-hunting population seems to be in support of hunting, so long as people are actually utilizing the meat. Let's keep them on our side.
But perhaps most important of all, whatever you do, don't engage the trolls. This is what they want. We can and SHOULD be better people than the animal rights activists. I'm not saying you should like anti-hunters, but we shouldn't have to resort to their extreme levels and under-handed, deceptive tactics.
As I've said before in this article, they're already in the minority. Let them alienate themselves with their silly antics. Let's stop worrying about those who disagree and let our actions speak louder than words.
I don't know about you, but my time is far too valuable to be wasted on worrying about anti-hunters anymore, especially during hunting season!