The Birth of a Giant
The outdoor industry, particularly the archery side, as a whole has transformed itself into a multi-billion dollar industry. But this change didn't happen overnight. It started in the early 1900's with the mass production of archery equipment by the now world renowned Bear Archery Co. Another drastic leap happened in the 1980's with the introduction of cutting edge camouflage systems from the makers of Realtree, Mossy Oak, and TreeBark. Then came the Saturday outdoor shows on TNN. Who can forget watching Bill Jordan and David Blanton alongside famous MLB and NASCAR celebrities shooting bigger bucks than we ever knew existed? Hot on its tail was the Monster Buck VHS tapes. From those videos the likes of Michael Waddell, T-Bone, and other now household names were introduced to the world and so on and so on.
Fast Forward to 2016. Social Media has completely changed the way we perceive ourselves and each other; particularly when it comes to hunting. It has been undeviating in giving every human in the world a metaphorical microphone and a podium. While social media supplies us with so many great opportunities to share and keep in touch it has also fanned the flame of human nature to self indulge; and that wasn't on accident. Facebook and the like feed off of our need for "Me." To make matters worse a growing number of outdoor companies are hopping on the narcissist train by "employing" field and pro staffers who have never once used their products. A 15% discount off a product you've never used gets you a title, and a reason to start an "athlete" Facebook page or claim you're the new "owner" of a company. The companies that are exploiting the selfish by completely destroying the once proud title of Pro Staff are as much of the problem as the hunters who have nothing good to say about anyone but themselves.
Not all Pro Staff's are Bad
I personally am on a few of them. I take pride in the companies I represent and do what I can to hold up my end of the deal. I recently signed on with OnXMaps. That staff lead by Edward Gramza is what a pro staff should be like; carefully picked team members who are familiar with and use the product, involved in personalizing the product based on real life and live data from the field, and participates in marketing, media, and sales. True experts on what they're representing. I saw a post on Instagram just today that a company I have never heard of proudly displayed a picture of a "field staffer" with their first buck. I'm not saying everyone has to be a PRO. In fact the "pro" in pro staff means "promotion", NOT professional. But what is a person doing representing and attempting to sell a piece of equipment that has never succeeded at doing what the product is intended for? And what value does a company find in someone like this?
Not all Self Starters Are Bad
Team Hardcore Hunters. Team Backstrap Hilly Billy. Team Dead Eye Duck Hunters. Yeah there are some really dumb ones out there. (I swear I picked those names at random. My apologies if you're offended) But it seems like everyone feels the need to be on a team, or own their own brand, or be on a staff or film and narrate every little thing they do. It's pretty annoying at times. But a lot of these guys and gals are just enjoying what they love to do to the Nth degree. That is perfectly fine and pretty American if you ask me. I can't help but question my own motives for starting Louisiana Bowhunter when writing something like this. But it keeps us in check. It keeps me humble and focused on making a difference and giving back. It's not about me, or anyone else on the team. It's about promoting ethical bowhunting and encouraging others to be proactive with the relationships we make and the decisions that we execute in the woods that will affect our deer herd and our children for generations to come.
Change Can Happen... Again
With negativity and hate around every corner why not be the difference maker? If you really wanna stand out stop doing what everyone else is already getting pretty good at. Encourage! Do you remember how it was when we were little? No cell phone pictures, no big buck contests, no prostaffs to add to our non existent social media profiles. Hunters gathered around the campfire to joke and laugh and pick, and brag. We didn't gather in chat rooms or forums to bash and hate, and condemn each others hunting practices. No one cared how you killed your buck, or how many inches it was. They just slapped you on the back and said "Its about time you found one dumb enough to walk by you."
It's time we get off our high horses, and promote comradery instead of promoting ourselves.
It's time we began building each other up, and encouraging each other and being real with ourselves and our fellow hunters. It's time we started hunting because we love to hunt. Not because we love to take pictures of ourselves and post them on Facebook. It's time we got back to the basics. Hunt the way you want as long as its legal, ethical, and leads to a positive change for your local herd. Volunteer to help your local WLF instead of constantly critiquing the decisions they make. Have positive conversations with hunters who do things differently by asking questions and trying to understand why.
Hunt for YOU. Not for anyone else. Take pride in building other hunters up, not yourself. Either build up the image of the sport and the people that participate in it, or take up tennis.