In the old days, when under attack, it was standard practice to “circle the wagons”. Before that, it was roll up the drawbridge, lock the gate. Even the Neanderthals knew there was safety in numbers, as the first tribes were formed. Not so in the modern hunting community, where we bicker constantly about long shots, baits, modern muzzleloaders, hounds, the use of Guides and now – trail cameras.
Game and Fish recently met to discuss amongst other things, the use of trail cameras. Purportedly, they cite “fair chase” as the reason for their concern. 5-0 the Commissioners voted to move ahead proposed rule changes which would ban the use of trail cameras. Social media immediately came alive with posts, counter-posts, slams and arguments – all around the use of trail cameras. Now, you may already know what I think of the Internet; it is a double-edged sword. On one hand it is a tremendous source of knowledge and has a communication power that can spread a message worldwide in minutes. On the other hand, it is a medium where every conversation is quickly reduced to the lowest common denominator. Where anyone who can tap keyboard keys can pass themselves off as an expert on nearly every topic. A place where we communicate with others in ways we would never get away with face-to-face. Memes and quotes and easy snide comments have polarized hunting topics just like politics, vaccines, or anything else worth discussing on social media.
There’s a quote attributed to Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy—including, by his own admission, Niemöller himself—following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group. The quote states,
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The lack of unity in the hunting racks is appalling but not surprising. One may blame the internet. We might blame the commercialization of hunting. We could blame the urbanization of North America. Or, we could just say it is the general, prevalent spread of selfishness and lack of civility that plague modern society. “Not my monkey, not my circus”. Maybe it’s cancel culture. If I don’t like trail cameras, nobody should use them. If I’ve never used a Guide, anyone who does is lazy. If I don’t take 800-yard shots, then no one should. And those very arguments rage on Facebook and other forms of Social Media.
We’ve been here before in Arizona. Trapping was banned. Predator hunting contests. Deer urine and bait. Other things that only affected part of the outdoor community have been successfully curtailed, or at least attacked. Politically, Arizona turned this past election and mark my words – attitudes about hunting are changing too. Sooner or later, all forms of hunting will be threatened. Some people shrug off the changing political landscape. Some mock those who raise the specter of the anti-hunters. Make no mistake – the times they are a changin’. The anti-hunters are organized, and most of all – they are united. They want all forms of hunting gone. Then fishing. And rodeos. Circuses are pretty much a thing of the past. You’ll see. It won’t be next month, it won’t be next year. Probably won’t even be this decade. But sooner or later – how you hunt – will be threatened. And we will have no one to thank but ourselves.
Trail cameras aren’t just used for hunting. There are lots of people who use them for a variety of reasons. Hunters use them to verify the presence, type and quantity/quality of game in a given location. Cameras have become so popular that there are Facebook Groups dedicated to sharing trail camera photos. That being said, it would be a bit of a stretch to say that trail cameras directly contribute or assist in the taking of game. One wonders if Game and Fish are not tired of game cameras so much as the bad behavior associated with them – dozens of cameras on top of each other at waterholes. Near-continuous instances of theft, damage and tampering with trail cameras. It’s lunacy, and representative of the childish and selfish behavior that is present in the hunting community today.
There are still some amazing individuals in the hunting community. Knowledgeable folks who are always ready to mentor, coach or offer some tips. People who are willing to give up time and energy helping new hunters, educating youth, or improving habitat. There are some fabulous conservation groups in Arizona who spend thousand of hours every year helping kids and veterans, and doing projects that help all of Arizona’s wildlife. But those people, those groups – are the minority. At the end of the day, I just don’t think it will be enough.