Well, here we go again. For some time, I have been lecturing you about the lack of hunter unity these days. I told one of my bear hunting contacts the other day that I was so naïve (dumb), I thought if I kept harping on this subject things might actually get a little better. If anything, I think the situation of hunters coming together on important issues is getting worse.
This past week there was a little tremor in the hunting and outdoor media world that is worth talking about. The Meateater website (www.themeateater.com) posted an article titled “The Case Against Hunter Recruitment”. The article is written by Meateater founder Steven Rinella’s brother Matt Rinella.
In case you don’t know, Steven Rinella founded Meateater several years ago and it has been very successful. Rinella has written several books on hunting, preparing wild game for cooking and cooking game animals. Meateater has a hunting-related show on Netflix and the Meateater podcast is one of the most listened to in the hunter podcast world. When Steven Rinella and Meateater talk about something in the hunting and outdoor realm, people listen.
I was as surprised as anyone when the article appeared on Meateater on March 24, basically speaking out against the R3 effort to boost hunter numbers in the United States. R3, as you may recall, is the widely acclaimed effort of Recruitment (that is, bring new hunters into hunting), Retention (finding ways to hold on to the current hunters we have) and Reactivation (seeking out and encouraging those who may have been active hunters at one time but for one reason or another have stopped hunting). R3 is widely seen as the answer for the woes of lost hunter numbers. This effort is well organized and funded in many states by the various game and fish agencies. Criticism of this endeavor, especially from a platform as well known as Meateater, caused a stir in the hunting media world.
To be fair, the article is penned by Steven Rinella’s brother Matt, but Steven commented at the opening of the article and more or less agreed with what his brother had to say.
The first point that Matt Rinella made in the article is he sees his favorite hunting places getting more crowded and he is a hunter who craves solitude. Many of us would say the same thing, but should hunter numbers suffer so we can be more alone in our choice locations? I don’t know, you tell me.
Matt Rinella also takes a pretty deep dive into the numbers reported every year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hunter Participation Survey. As he talks about, these numbers are the standard of how hunter numbers are counted and are published every five years. What Rinella points out on the results of the last survey (2016) is that nobody looks at the error bars on the survey. What has been widely reported is the number of people that say they hunt has dropped, but Rinella argues the number of license and tag holders has not. Which is correct? I don’t know, you tell me.
Four editors from the Outdoor Life website posted a response in the article “Meateater Misses the Point” in Its “Case Against Hunter Recruitment” story (www.outdoorlife.com). Alex Robinson, Andrew McKean, John Snow and Gerry Bethge all gave their take on how they saw the Meateater article. You can imagine the drift of what was said (to quote John Snow, “Gimme a damn break”), but in general these longtime veterans of the outdoor media world weren’t too complimentary of what the Meateater article had to say. Basically, they touched on the point that there is more going on here than the inconvenience of seeing another hunter in your prime hunting spot, and bringing on and mentoring new hunters is still of prime importance for the good of hunting in general. Read the Outdoor Life article and the Meateater entry and decide for yourself.
Now folks, I am not slamming the Rinella boys and Meateater here. I appreciate everything thing that this platform has done for hunting. I may not agree with all they might say and do, but I know they have brought a lot of people into hunting and I am for that. As per usual here, I am pointing out the need for hunter unity and this little argument is not furthering that cause.
The issue I most disagree with in the Meateater article is in the last two lines, “Let friends and family recruit the next generation of hunters. That model has worked since the beginning of time.” Well maybe, but I would submit the major problem we have today is the lack of family and friends in today’s hunting scene. That is the point. We don’t have dads and uncles routinely showing new hunters the ropes of hunting. It is a new world out there.
Again, read the articles, decide for yourself, but I am not going to come off my soapbox for the need of hunters coming together.