Worth saving and worth eating, blacktail deer are often at the heart of conservation debates, many of which take place in the unrefined, hyper-partisan, social media realm. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

Worth saving and worth eating, blacktail deer are often at the heart of conservation debates, many of which take place in the unrefined, hyper-partisan, social media realm. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

Hunting in the age of internet trolls

Don’t make us the enemy.

So a guy got mauled by a brown bear and told the story on a podcast. He told the story about the … tender areas … where he was bit. It was incredible not only that he lived, but that he was so lucid during the experience. He said he reasoned himself through the bites and knew he had to stay quiet to avoid inciting more aggression.

Even more incredible, when a picture of the victim was posted on Instagram to direct viewers to the podcast, an amateur social media doctor weighed in, analyzing the wounds and declaring the guy was lucky he didn’t sustain further injuries.

I was incredulous. The guy had clearly not listened to the podcast, because if he had, he wouldn’t have posted what he did.

This is the same type of guy who would post, “I know where this is” when someone catches a fish or takes a buck. You just have to make it about you, don’t you? You can’t just be happy for a fellow outdoorsperson?

[A hunter’s guide to making the most out of life]

The real problem here is that by getting upset, I have allowed the troll to win. The mission of this type of person is to disrupt the normal function of the reader. I am the sucker.

It’s the same principle as people saying outrageous things knowing we will spread it and grow their name with free advertising. Modern marketing — whip the suckers into a frenzy.

A few years ago, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) created a profile frame that read “Shoot Selfies, Not Animals.” It was brilliant because hunters trolled PETA with photos of dead animals, which then spread PETA’s message while making hunters look even more like villains. It was either accidental or intentional brilliance, but brilliance nonetheless. I wonder how many more people became sympathetic to PETA’s cause since it appeared that hunters would jump at any opportunity to offend organizations that fight on behalf of animals.

[This is how the animal kingdom reproduces]

I’ll never be a member of PETA, but I respect that a percentage of the membership is putting its money toward something they’re passionate about. I’m sure I would agree with much of what those type of organizations want.

Do I think the meat industry is disgusting? Yes.

Do I care about my health? Yes.

Do I care about the earth? Yes.

Do I think organic and free-range food is healthier, and should be preferred? Yes.

[Meditations on deer hunting]

This is where I would say hunting, therefore, makes sense. To avoid antibiotic-laced, artificially-fattened, methane-producing cattle ranches, I climb mountains looking for deer. In the process, I get in shape by making footprints on mountains, reducing my carbon footprint by not supporting methane fields and eating quality food.

It’s an ethical stalemate at this point. I’ll still want to hunt. That doesn’t mean anyone who doesn’t has to be my enemy or that I have to be the enemy.

Of course, that’s no fun. It’s no fun to allow people to live within their own freedom to see and live as they see fit. It’s more fun to troll. More fun to draw battle lines. But we lose more than a word when we lose the ability to understand, or the desire to consider nuance, and instead lob oversimplified, amateur shots from social media accounts.


• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.


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