I bought my first bow on impulse, in the summer of 2017. My childhood fantasy came true after walking the aisles of an oversized sporting goods store. But the idea of hunting with that bow never crossed my mind until I discovered the Instagram account of the Shooting Trade Association—while they were running a smack in the middle of their annual trade fair. Fabulous, I believed. An entire convention dedicated to hunting?
I’m a bit geek, and yes, he attends comic book conventions every year. Little did I know that hunting trade fairs are taking place all over the United States as well. This was something I could totally get into. And I did. I’m still relatively new to hunting, with two spring seasons for turkey and three seasons for deer under my belt in the hunting-intensive woods of New York State. I’m an adult fisherman or, as I like to say because this sounds like a chronic contagious condition, I’ve been late to my hunt.
Now that I have a few seasons of hunting experience, you might ask, “Why should I keep reading this?” And here’s my point: I’m a test case of how new hunters often approach social media. Because when I finally decided to learn about bow hunting, I first took to social media to meet other anglers and learn more about the outdoors. I’ve relied on YouTube, Instagram, and several podcasts to introduce me to the fishing community. And that’s what I’ve learned. I hope this helps guide fellow adult fishermen who are late to the party, and provide insight to lifelong fishermen who have discussed the advantages of fishing on social media.
Seek, and you will find…maybe
When I decided to bow hunting, the first thing I did was jump on social media. why? I wanted to see if there were any bow hunters that looked like me and were where I come from. Who did you find? Nobody. Then I did a Google search for the phrase: “famous bow hunters list”. There was no colored person on the list. None of the people on the list were from urban areas. I mean, how many middle-aged black men from large urban areas do You are Do you know who Bohonte is? exactly.
What is my point? Not all the fishing related pictures posted on social media are there just to hit that same fisherman. My private social media account is only in place to allow people like me to see a middle-aged black man from NYC sharing his journey on a less crowded route. Since creating my account, I’ve met four other fishermen of color within the five boroughs of New York City. You have managed to help them start their fishing journey. Acting is important. How can someone become something they haven’t seen before? It’s natural to look for people you can relate to. It makes a new adventure, like fishing, less nerve-wracking.
By now, any experienced hunter or veterinarian is familiar with men like Cam Hans, John Dudley and Steve Rinella. I like to think of them as the “holy trinity” of bow hunting. As famous and interesting as they may be, I can’t relate to any of them.
It may or may not be the same for you. Just don’t accept role models that you don’t match with. Connect with different people. Ask questions. (You’d be surprised how many people in the fishing community like to answer questions.) But be careful, too. There is more beef in the online fishing community than there is among rappers. Don’t get caught up in it. Find out what you can, have fun, and try to follow the legitimate hunters not for how much or how often they kill something, but for the information they hand out along the way.
One of the platforms I used to “teach” fishing was a podcast. (And I won’t go in front: I still listen to them. All day. Every day.) They have been instrumental in developing my hunting vocabulary. All the phrases and jargon I needed to know were thrown in during the episodes I played. There was one podcast I listened to religiously. Although the group of men were from a rural town, I could relate to them. They were funny as hell, and according to their stories, they regularly killed deer. So, when I noticed that they all portray a certain brand of arc, I was like I should get me one of these! So I did. I realized that if this brand was good enough for them, it would work for me. (There’s a little baby born every minute. I’m just a victim, I swear.) While it was a huge upgrade, I honestly didn’t throw my bow any better than I did before. But I felt like I finally got a “legitimate” bow, and that made me more confident when shooting. I also binned my first turkey with this new bow. So at the end of the day, this is how I justify the purchase.
Social media influencers have been on the rise for years. The fishing community is no stranger to them, and the fishing industry usually has no qualms about “employing” them. Some people might make you think that a large part of society is made up of reckless and gullible consumers. And sure, we “victims” exist, but we also learn a lot along the way. Critics don’t think we’ve discovered that maybe…maybe…some of our favorite hunters don’t hunt on public lands? Or is there a workload being done in the search process that is not captured in a caption?
I know my hunting influencers also follow something: money. They go where the money goes. Whatever gear they use is often, but not always, dictated by the person writing the largest check (or, in some cases, any check at all). This is the product your favorite fisherman is pushing this year? It may not be the same next year. So the next time you see your favorite YouTube hunter shooting some broadswords, do some research…and then do some more. Trust me. Your bank account will appreciate it. Furthermore: At the end of the day, a fisherman matters more than his equipment. In my three years hunting with a bow, I purchased two bows, three different sights, and fired three different types of stock. And I photographed well with all of them. Not because they are great products, but because I practice shooting with them.
When you venture into the world of fishing via social media, you are more likely to come across posts that smell of privilege. I’ve found that this content can be created by people who think hunting is supposed to be done a certain way: their way.
When you come across these gatekeepers, you will instantly recognize them. They are the people who will tell you how often, how much, and how hard it is to fish to call yourself a fisherman. If you come across anyone like this, on any platform, immediately take advantage of the User Blocking feature. Trust me. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. You decide if you are a hunter or not. And you do it with fishing.
A couple of years ago, I was a guest on a podcast where I was called “Damned Rhino” because I was a young black guy from a big city and wanted to play a Bowhunt. I didn’t get along with the idea of the typical hunter. But there are a lot of people like me. People who were not born into a hunting family. People who did not know hunting as a tradition or even a way of life.
read the following: Is it time for hunters and shooters to ditch social media?
At the end of the day, social media is like The Force. It can be used for good or evil. Your experience with it depends on what you are looking to achieve. If you are looking to break into the fishing industry, social media is a great marketing tool. If you are an experienced fisherman, this is a great way to access, educate and share your experiences. If you’re new to the game, it’s a great way to learn, and can help you form some lasting relationships. There is no one way to hunt. You don’t have to travel far and wide to become a hunter, and you don’t have to buy the best equipment. Don’t pressure someone else to believe what the catch should be. Instead, have fun and focus on what fishing can be like for you.