Last fall’s deer season was an epic one for me, and, yes, I know and do believe the word “epic” gets tossed around pretty loosely at times. This isn’t one of them. From August through December I was blessed to pluck four whitetail bucks from four separate states. Along the way I also skewered a pair of fall turkeys and a number of freezer-filling does. Yes, it was epic.
It all didn’t really hit me until January. I was snuggled in my bed in a hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky, unwinding after a busy day on the ATA Trade Show floor. I had Facebook pulled up on my phone and was scanning through some of the fall posts from my closest bowhunting friends, as well as some my own posts. One thing was pretty consistent … we all posted piles of grip-and-grin photos. Each photo I glanced at had hundreds of Likes and numerous comments. Most comments were positive, but there were plenty of the “How dare you?” and “Why do you bowhunt for meat?” comments as well. It was these comments that sparked my interest. I decided to expand my research.
I punched the names of some well-known bowhunting celebs into my Facebook search engine. It was more of the same. Tons of grip-and-grin photos, thousands of Likes and enough comments to take up a full hour of my evening. Most comments, as was the case with me and my friends, were positive, but there were numerous negative comments as well. Some were very, very negative. Stay with me here.
It took more time and research (these posts are few and far between), but I did manage to find 20 separate posts that showed “from the hunt” and “before the hunt” verbiage and images. These weren’t kill images. Instead, they were taken while at camp, sitting in a treestand, inspecting a rub, shooting at a local range and even unraveling a blood trail. The difference: These 20 photos didn’t boast a single negative comment. In fact, many had just the opposite. Here are three I keyed in on:
- I’ve never bowhunted a day in my life. I’ve never even hunted. I had no idea an arrow could produce that type of hemorrhaging. That deer couldn’t have lived long, right?
- I’m an avid outdoorsman. I’m more into the watching than the killing. Just wanted to say that is a cool image of a whitetail scrape and rub together. Seeing your effort makes the end result a little more digestible.
- I’m a bird watcher, not a deer killer. I hate the killing of deer, but the image of you and your family sitting around the table enjoying what nature provided you may have altered my thinking just a bit. How many pounds of meat do you typically get off a deer?
Now for the sad part: Not one of these comments merited a response from the poster. I’m not criticizing. One of the posters who didn’t respond was me! Why is it sad? Because I had an epiphany, and I’m only going to point the finger at myself here. I’m using social media (Facebook and Instagram) simply to boast about my in-the-field accomplishments. Typically, I only make a bowhunting-related post when I kill something. I’m going to be brutally honest here: it’s because I want to get the most Likes for a post as I possibly can. Can you relate?
Social media is growing. You can’t stop it. It’s driving a huge chunk of the archery and bowhunting industry, and it’s a big part of the day-to-day life of the archery/bowhunting enthusiast. The thing to keep in mind is that social media is also the driving force behind throngs of other industries as well, and it’s part of the day-to-day life of other people with interests outside of archery/bowhunting realm. These other people – some anti-hunters and some who know nothing about what we all love – are living in the same “social” world we are. They are seeing our posts. They are commenting. The anti-crowd is simply looking for more fuel to pour on their fire. The crowd that knows nothing about archery/bowhunting is learning about what we all love and cherish from what we post.
So, what am I getting at here? What was my epiphany? Being that social media is such a driving force in the world today, how we as archers/bowhunters represent ourselves on social media sites is going to have a direct impact on the future of our bowhunting heritage.
No, I’m not saying we scale back on the grip-and-grin photos or go out of our way to appease the anti-crowd. Some of them are just too far gone. What I am saying is that if used correctly, social media can help us inform those who are on the fence or simply know nothing about our sport in a positive way. Through our social media posts, we can teach them about conservation, ethics, passion and responsibility.
For about a year now I’ve been blogging a “Life Of A Bowhunter” series on our Grand View Outdoors website. In this blog I post daily about the ups and downs, success and failures that come with the bowhunting lifestyle. I take the reader along on a journey – a journey that if they stay tuned will educate, inform and, hopefully, inspire. Over the past year I’ve gotten a number of emails about my blog, and several of them were from non-bowhunters. Here are some of their comments:
“Jace, great blog. I don’t bowhunt and never have. What I appreciate about your blog is that you are educating me while entertaining me. I never knew so much passion, drive and knowledge was needed to go out and kill a mature deer. Best of all, you often talk about the meat you get from these animals and show pictures in your blog of you and your family cooking up the food. I think I’m going to look into bowhunting.
Keep up the good work!”
— Rodger F., Austin, Texas
“Jace, thanks for taking me along on the hunt. I’m a rifle hunter and have never bowhunted a day in my life. I’m going to be real honest, I don’t read every blog, but I love the pictures you post. The pictures show me and others that there is so much more to bowhunting than just going out and killing an animal. The time you spend in a tree is incredible. I doubt I will ever pick up archery simply because of the limited amount of free time I have, but I have a new respect for the sport and am overwhelmed by the dedication it takes. Thanks for teaching me something.”
— Bill Styles, Abbeville, Louisiana
“Jace, I am an avid 3-gunner and stumbled upon your ‘Life Of A Bowhunter’ deer blog. Good stuff here, man. To be honest, I was totally against archery simply because I believe archers wound a lot of animals. I have zero facts to back this up, but it’s ‘what I’ve heard.’ The pictures you posted about you practicing and the specific blog about your yearly practice routine was just awesome. If all archers are as dedicated as you, there just can’t be that many animals getting wounded by arrows. You also do a good job of posting pictures of the gear you use. I appreciate this and am now looking at getting my son and I involved in archery. I’m not sure we will hunt, as we both have trouble “killing things,” but I respect what you do and would love to do some target and 3-D shooting.”
— L. Bellisuh, Little Rock, Arkansas
Is the light bulb starting to flicker? Are you seeing my epiphany? Yes, I’m saying we as archers/bowhunters should use our social media presence for more than just grip-and-grin photos. Let’s educate, inform and inspire the “other” crowd with our posts. Let’s show them the lifestyle we all live and love, and invite them in with open arms. It’s not hard to do, and it doesn’t take much extra work. All we need to do is post more about our hunts – the preparation, scouting, shooting, meat care and the like – and wrap things up with those “Like-getting” grip-and-grins. Take those that follow you along on your bowhunting journey. And for those of you (and, yes, I’m as guilty as anyone) that enjoy getting those Likes and followers, check out this information from a study conducted by Time magazine.
According to Time, “the act of creating” is what will ultimately help you gain more followers and get more Likes. If you’re creating interesting content – content you are an expert in and are very familiar with – you will ultimately draw more attention to yourself. Time notes that you should, “Create amazing things and be a leader in your industry.” If you’re posting regularly about the archery/bowhunting lifestyle and your posts are purposeful and don’t just show you with a picture of a dead critter once a month, I think you’ll be surprised with your social growth. And as an added bonus, we will all be doing our part to ensure the future of our sport and drawing in new members.
For questions or comments, drop Bauserman a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.