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Is Social Media Ruining Bird Hunting?

Between hot-spotting, forum trolling, and keyboard bashing, is there anything left for us to salvage from social media?

Is Social Media Ruining Bird Hunting?

Social media can be a double-edged sword for bird hunters, providing either competition or community, depending on how it's used. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

I stepped into the uplands as an adult, a little later in life than some, during my own “golden era” of social media. It was in the early 2010s and Facebook was my go-to digital source for learning about bird hunting. Aside from the real-world lessons the birds taught me while afield, I filled in the holes by sending friend requests to bird hunters near and far and hung out in every bird hunting group I could find. There was no substitute for the hard-earned knowledge I garnered from my boots-on-the-ground travels, but I did pick up on a few things from the World Wide Web and met some incredible people that were kind enough to share some of their own experiences.

Over the years, I have watched as the now “outdated and old-aged” Facebook faded into the background as hip, new social media platforms began to emerge and dominate my dopamine levels with a ‘Snap, ‘Gram, and ‘Tok sizzle that left me dizzy. Since then, I’ve tried in vain to keep up with posting photos, sharing stories, and feeding my following with interesting and entertaining content—all in hope for the engagement of a few “likes” and comments. It’s daunting work and it’s made me wonder if it’s even worth the effort. Who am I capturing this content for? Is it really for myself or for a virtual crowd of folks I’ve never even met? Aside from our own improperly placed personal struggles to compete for attention and engagement online, is this insatiable search for fitting in potentially sending the wrong message to the upland bird hunting community as a whole?

Lately, I’ve been slightly disheartened with an increase of Facebook follies and social media stupidity that makes me wonder, “Is social media ruining bird hunting?” And if so, is there anything we can do to salvage this important community network for the positive benefits it offers us as bird hunters and sporting dog enthusiasts?

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Digital Dilemmas

If you’re brand new to bird dogs or dreaming of an upland destination road trip hunt, social media can be a great venue for gathering intel. When done the right way, you may end up with a new bird hunting buddy and perhaps even a couch to crash on. But on the flip side, there seems to be a lot of “forum trolling” where lazy bird hunters are looking for freebies and handouts by asking, “Where can I find birds on this particular public parcel.” You be the jury, but if you read through the comments on these plodding posts, the general ruling is pretty clear that this type of passive, self-gratifying conduct is frowned upon. Most of us hunters have a serious amount of sweat equity into discovering bird-rich covers and aren’t willing to give them up for just any trifling transient. The wild uplands are there just waiting to be explored and for you to create your own adventure. Afraid of getting skunked after a few thigh-burning miles of brush busting? Don’t be scared but do share your story on social media. That’s just part of hunting. Tell us how you’re taking it on the chin and getting back at it again tomorrow.

pheasant hunter in orange vest carrying shotgun walking in a snow-covered field
Social media can be used to encourage up-and-coming uplanders rather than antagonize them over their elementary inquiries. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Another downside of recent social media trends is the treatment of newcomers. All too often, an innocent inquiry on a forum about which bird dog breed to get, which shotgun to start on, or a query about a strap vest ends up deploying the armies of keyboard warriors into battle to fiercely defend their coveted breed or brand or otherwise destroy open discussions. This type of bashing and beratement is entirely unnecessary and counterproductive. I’d venture to guess that if you met that humble upland understudy in the field or took them on their first bird hunt, you might respond a little more cordially to their questions.

Insta-cele-bird-y

I didn’t grow up in a family that hunted, and my uphill upland journey was completely self-forged through my own wanderings and what I gathered from my peers on social media. I started at the bottom of the totem pole in the “killing” and “limiting out” stages of the “evolution of a hunter scale,” and these early phases were falsely fortified by the tailgate stacks and grip ‘n grin posts that populated my social media feeds. I felt like I had failed if I didn’t shoot a limit—or even bag a single bird at all. Why would I bother posting about my hunt if I had nothing to show for it? It seems these days that a great deal of hunters are so focused on limits and grandstanding about total days hunted, flushes per hour, or how many points their dog had—I never truly felt successful when comparing myself to others.

upland bird hunter holding three american woodcock in his hands
Are full bag limits the most appropriate way to measure the success of a day’s hunt? (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Of course, killing birds and putting meat on the table has got to be an end goal for us, but it doesn’t have to be the first one, or even the main one. This is especially important when portraying our lifestyle to new hunters. There is so much more that compels us to the uplands that can be showcased on social media, from dog work and camaraderie, to adventure, wild food, and personal connections with nature, just to name a few high points. It’s exhausting seeking perfection and trying to come in first place, but that’s not the reality here. Let’s keep it real and share all of our stories; the good and bad, the triumphs and tragedies, the mistakes and milestones; everything that makes bird hunting and gun dogs special to us.


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Social Media Silver Lining

Don’t get me wrong, while there appears to be a few potential problems with social media, there are of course some benefits for bird hunters. From learning the lingo and mentorship opportunities to planning the road trip of a lifetime, our virtual community is there to help. Several new social media offerings have also been designed specifically for uplanders, like Try Upland and GoWild. On these unique outdoor enthusiast-exclusive platforms, participants are encouraged to ask questions and post about their shared love affair for bird hunting and gun dogs, without a worry of opposition or offending someone, as is the case on the most popular mainstream social outlets.

I’ve personally been blessed to connect with some incredible folks across the country and look forward to taking them up on their “if you ever end up this way” offers—and I reply in the same manner, “mi casa es su casa mis amigos.” We’re fortunate to have quick and easy access to information and opportunity right at our fingertips, and if we keep things in perspective and lead by example, we will be sure keep it fun. So, however you chose to spend your time on social media, consider using it to your advantage, and perhaps using it for impact and not for influence. And just like the wild uplands, perhaps we can try to leave it a little better than we found it for the next one in line.

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