The Future of the Outdoors on Social Media is Now

I am a lot of things, mainly a father, husband, friend, hunter, conservationist and I’d like to believe, a thinker.  One thing I am not, however, is a media expert.  I know some media experts and I’ve learned a thing or two from them, but I think the thing that matters when it comes to the future of media and social media is human behavior, which I do know a little bit about, and I believe the technical aspects will follow human behavior.  

We used to live in a world where we could hold our beliefs fairly privately, go to the voting booth and not tell people who we voted for.  That same world allowed us to learn from our mistakes without, for the most part, screwing up our entire life or reputation. Unfortunately, those days are gone and they’re not coming back.  

Examples of this are in our newsfeed every single day.  Sometimes, the crime is egregious, such as Michael Richards being recorded saying a word he shouldn’t have used.  I understand why people were upset at that, however, earlier this week, a professional baseball player was questioned about a five-year-old social media post in which he supported the 2nd amendment. He had to give the obligatory, “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” but refused to back down from his support of the Constitution.  

Those of us involved in hunting, or most of us anyhow, are always involved in two hot button issues: guns and hunting.  

The world is now such that if you were to go apply for a job, you could be denied because there’s a photo of you teaching your child how to safely shoot a gun on your Facebook page.  All that needs to happen is there to be someone in Human Resources who is anti-gun or a vegan.  It’s not fair and it’s not right, but that’s the world we now live in.  Some of us, we choose to be outspoken about our rights, our passions and we’re not afraid of the consequences.  I honor and respect that choice and it’s a choice I’ve made myself. I applied for a ton of jobs in the time we’ve lived in Colorado and didn’t even get a phone call for about a dozen that I was perfectly suited for.  Is it because of my social media presence?  I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in at least a few cases.  

Another recent issue is social media censoring or banning conservative content.  I keep hearing conservatives say, “Why won’t a billionaire conservative step up and create a platform that honors free speech?”.  It’s a good question, it really is.  The good news for outdoors enthusiasts is that some non-billionaires have stepped up to the plate and created a platform for us, it’s called GoWild. 

GoWild is more than just guns, hunting and fishing.  It encourages you to share your gardening, hiking, ATVing and other experiences as well.  They want to see you and your kids outside.  It’s also a place where you can share without worrying about hate mail and threats from those who disagree with you.  If someone is not into hunting, the way the app works, they’ll probably not see your picture unless they’re following you.  If you don’t like a picture you see, you scroll right past it. However, if you see something you don’t agree with, the folks at GoWild encourage its users to talk about it in the comments.  Maybe it’s a new hunter or a young kid and no one told them what they’re doing isn’t ethical. Instead of having them banned or saying nasty things to them, we (the users) encourage them to think about what they’re doing and to make better decisions in the future.  They’re trying to keep some of the old school mentality of using mistakes as an opportunity to grow and be mentored rather than an opportunity to shame the person.  

One of the cooler things about the app is the ability to connect with folks outside your core group.  While most of us hunters prepare for hunting season all year long, the things we do also overlap into other hobbies.  We backpack, canoe, target shoot, train our bodies, and just generally love being outdoors. We also appreciate the responsibility of producing our own food and often have gardens.  These other activities, the way the app is built, allow us find common ground with other folks who might not be hunters.  This is of the utmost importance, because as I and many others have written, we’re about 5% of the population and both hunters and animal rights activists are small minorities fighting for the approval of the vast majority.  

So, the question is, are you going to focus your social media energy on apps owned by California urbanites who are trying to control what you see and hear so that it fits their agenda or are you going to engage with others in the outdoor community in a way that grants you the freedom to share what you choose to share?  I’m not saying you should leave Facebook or Instagram, those are still great places to be connected to people personally and professionally and share parts of your life, I’m simply asking if you want to be a part of the solution to the attacks on our lifestyle and be a part of growing the next generation of conservationists?  

We might be waiting for a long time for a place of political free speech on social media, but for a place where you can share your grip ‘n grins without fear of death threats on your family, the future is now.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way professionally involved in GoWild other than as a user.  I do know a couple folks from the company and they are based in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky so I would be a big supporter of them even if they had a knitting app because I’m always supportive of good people doing good things.  However, my passion for their product and the community it fosters is legitimate and I encourage anyone reading this to go to Apple, Google or wherever you download apps and give it a try and I also recommend checking out their podcast, Restless Native. 

When Those Disconnected from Nature Attempt to Interact with the Wild

Yesterday, it was reportedthat the Oregon man who harassed bison in Yellowstone was convicted of the crime.  Earlier in the week, it was reported that the Governor of New Jersey, through executive order and not legislative action, ended bear hunting on public land in spite of New Jersey having the highest bear population density in the United States.  These are just the two latest examples of people ignorant of the wild making stupid decisions in or about the wild.

Forgive me if I sound like I’m preaching, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t endlessly irritating to me.  

In the case of the man from Oregon, most of us have seen this play out in person, especially if you’ve been to Yellowstone.  I’ve been to Yellowstone three times in the last year and if I’m being honest, I don’t need to go back no matter how beautiful it is.  I’ve had multiple bad experiences with people; everything from interfering with wildlife on the roads to incredible rudeness at Old Faithful.  However, this happens at every park and most recently I saw people lose their minds at the sight of a black bear in the Great Smoky Mountains, completely shutting down a road and wandering of within a few feet of a sow and her cubs just so they could get a closer picture.  

I’m mindful of the fact that for a lot of these people, it may be the first time they’ve seen a bear or a bison in the wild.  I understand and share their excitement.  It’s still incredibly cool to me after all these years and numerous bison and black bears I’ve seen – it never gets old.  However, people need to be aware that this is not the city, nor the suburbs.  These are very large and very powerful wild animals, they are not pets or domesticated farm animals.  More so than that, we’re on their turf, not the other way around.  

While this problem is multi-cultural, as a few scenes from the first season of Yellowstone shows, I expect more of Americans than I do our foreign visitors.  Most folks around the world have little to no wild places or animals and no way to know how to respect such places and things. Americans, on the other hand, should be taught about the North American Wildlife Model in either history or science class.  I know that this is probably never done, but it should be.  While it is impossible for one to know everything about every place and everything in a country as large as ours, if you’re touring national parks for the summer, shouldn’t you know at least a little something about what you’re getting yourself into?  Shouldn’t you research how to be safe and show respect wherever you go?

Furthermore, these are the same people susceptible to slick public relations campaigns funded by organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and PETA that cherry pick data and play on people’s emotions rather than presenting a scientific argument.  Then these people vote, either directly in some states, or at least for candidates who support radical anti-wildlife regulations.  This is how the people of New Jersey got Governor Phil Murphy.  

New Jersey and California are great examples of what is to come, especially here in Colorado as the liberal Front Range continues to grow with California refugees (most of whom are not like the Climers).  These states have incredibly wild areas but are politically controlled by densely populated urban areas.  Many of these urban people hike, climb, etc., they should understand how our wild places and wild animals are managed, but they don’t for the most part.  Most of us, myself often included, only care about and learn about things that directly affect ourselves.  All these people know is they want to go for a hike during the rut and not see hunters, they don’t understand the consequences of letting things “return to the wild” without human management.

Predator-Human interactions are increasing all the time.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing.  Obviously, these areas have healthy populations, but once that population grows to a certain size it will pass its carrying capacity, or the ability for the land to support the population of animals.  This is when bears, mountain lions and other predators will start migrating to new areas to look for food and once an animal, like a bear or mountain lion, learns that houses and cars are a great place to find food, they’ll keep coming back to those places.  This costs a lot of money to citizens, government agencies and insurance companies, not to mention the risk of direct human interaction with these creatures, especially small children.  Once an animal learns this, the only option is for the local government is to catch it, and in most cases, put it down.  

As I always say, these are nuanced issues with many causes, correlations and factors, but it is important that for the safety of citizens and visitors that we understand these issues and contribute to the management of our wonderful resources.  For those that wish us to leave things be and let “nature take care of its own”, beware of becoming a victim to the Law of Unintended Consequences.  

BEWARE: The Anti-Apex Predator and the Pro-Apex Predator

The Wyoming Grizzly Hunt and the Virtue Signaling of Animal Rights Activists

As I have discussed on this page many times, the real world is nuanced. Human beings like simple solutions to problems so that we can carve our reality into simple little boxes that we can label with words like; good, bad, right, wrong, conservative, liberal, etc., etc. Unfortunately for us, Mother Nature, God, the forces of the universe, whatever you want to call it, doesn’t play by our rules or feels the need to make things easy for us.  Therefore, it’s probably best we just roll with it, put in the extra time that’s needed to learn about something and then think critically about it. Making decisions based off of how you might feel about something without gathering data is going to lead to a lot of bad decision making.

Which leads us to the topic of the day, something else I’ve said many, many times: beware the man who hates the coyote too much and equally, beware the man who loves the coyote too much.  Now, I’m picking on the coyote here, but this could really apply to any apex predator such as wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, etc.  The man who wants to kill every wolf is equally as foolish as the man who thinks there’s no justification for killing one ever, or, both the idiot hunter (I hate to say it, but they exist) and the animal rights activist.

Recently, a few animal rights activists made nationwide news by claiming they had won one of the few grizzly bear tags handed out in Wyoming this year. They claim they are only bringing their cameras and not using that tag to kill a bear, therefore showing their great virtue to the world.  There are only a couple problems with this. First of all, it shows an ignorance of our wildlife management system.  A tag does not equate to a kill nor is it a guarantee of harvest.  Many hunters get tags every year that are not filled, we refer to this as “tag soup” because that is all that we have to eat that year. This particular tag for grizzlies in Wyoming has one more layer to it: there’s a quota.  Once the quota is met, even if you have a valid tag, your hunt is over.  The good folks at Wyoming Fish and Game are looking to limit the number of bears taken to a very small number, just to manage the population in their area.

The second problem with this is that these folks are doing almost nothing to help grizzly bears or other animals.  The cost of their tag will help fund conservation, which is more than what most animal rights activists are willing to pay for.  However, what they’re really doing is nothing more than signaling to the rest of the world, “look at me!  I’m a good person!”.  It’s narcissistic and selfish, it’s not pro-animal by any means.  It’s about them, not the animal.  

I do hope they bring bear spray and perhaps lay off the lavender-honey body spray.

Even if you disagree with hunting as “sport”, and I hate to use that term, but even if that’s your position, there should be plenty of gray area still. Farmers or ranchers killing wolves to protect their livestock for example, though I imagine there are some omnivores out there who do oppose this, in spite of the fact they’d complain about the rising cost of beef should those cows not be protected.  This argument, obviously, will not sway the habitat destroying, bug killing animal rights activists (assuming they all drive cars and live in houses).  

However, on the flip side, is the angry hunter who takes his wildlife management philosophy from early Metallica, “kill ‘em all!” they cry.  These people will cite statistics about calving rates and how wolves are “killing all the deer” and yet, most of them still put meat in the freezer every year.  Wolves were reintroduced to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) in the 1990s and there is still plenty of good hunting in the GYE.  Have they had an impact?  Absolutely.  There are studies that say the entire ecosystem is better off because the elk and deer are now not overgrazing the area and several other factors.  There are studies who don’t quite go so far as well, but I have yet to see a study (doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist) that says wolf reintroduction was awful and a terrible idea.  The only folks I hear say that are this small group of hunters.

I believe that predators need to be managed by state fish and game agencies and the US Fish and Wildlife Service just like all other game animals.  I’m okay with wolves and grizzlies sharing the landscape with me.  In fact, I can’t wait to see my first wild wolf or grizzly and I keep hoping every time I go to Alaska that this time will be the time.  I am not a great hunter, but if I am going to become a great hunter, then I need to compete against the best and that means natural predators other than blaze orange wearing dudes shooting 6.5 Creedmoor.  

Maybe you don’t fall into the exact same spot on this issue (or some other issue) as I do.  That’s okay. There are a lot of respectable places to land in the middle.  It shows you’ve thought about the issue.  However, I just don’t have a lot of time or respect for those on the two extremes, of this issue, or most others.