More than anything else, you are an ambassador for hunting.
Remember that. It’s more important than your famous name, than the dozens of trophy heads nailed to the broad side of your barn, than the big company you own, than your millions of dollars. Hunting has been good to you.
But if you ever come to believe hunting is about you, if you ever think the fame, the fortune, the trophies, and the travel come to you because you’re someone special, you’ve lost sight of what’s important. If hunting is about you and not about the game, the habitat, the kids who look up to you, and the future, please quit. At least, stay out of the limelight.
I don’t need to name any names. That’s not the point. Since one of you just last week was handed a sentence for a significant poaching violation, naming you would be piling on, and that’s not my aim. Nor do I want to push you to make excuses. You’ve already done that. What I’m telling you is your name is not important. It never really was, because hunting is bigger than you. What’s important is that you know who you are, and what you are. I hope now you do.
Over the years, lots of hunters have aspired to be hunting celebrities. Some have made the big time. A few have fallen. They’ve fabricated deer antlers, bought a tag after shooting the animal, falsely claimed a set of antlers as their own. All that and more has been done, and it’s all corrupt.
You say, “It’s reality TV! I need footage that makes my viewers say, ‘0Wow!” Yes, you’re expected to kill big bucks, to make amazing shots, and you don’t want to disappoint anyone. But why cheat? Temptation and pressure accompany stardom, but temptation and pressure don’t make you cheat. What makes you cheat is a lack of integrity when the pressure comes.
I used to give my kids my standard lecture about integrity. I told them they are a number. The question was whether they were a whole, undivided number (in mathematics, an “integer”), or only a fraction of a number. Did they have integrity? Or were they divided? A man without integrity is just a fraction of a man.
Back when I was a fledgling outdoor writer my brother told me I should have a website, so I asked him what I should call it. He suggested EverydayHunter.com. That’s what I chose, and it was a valuable gift from him.
Is it worth a lot of money? It’s worth a lot to me because it tells everyone (and reminds me) that I’m not “The Expert Hunter,” or “The Elite Hunter.” I’m “The Everyday Hunter.” And I want to stay “The Everyday Hunter.”
Countless everyday hunters have character. They have the humility to know hunting is not about them. As humble people, they are whole, undivided people.
If you make hunting about yourself, you are a threat to hunting. As a TV hunting show host (or as an everyday hunter) are you a whole person? Or are you willing to let pressure push you to do something that reveals you to be a fraction of a person? Don’t get the idea that hunting— something man has done from ancient times—somehow depends on your success, or on compromising your integrity.
The truth is hunting actually does depend on the impression you make on an audience. What you may forget is that hunting has more than one audience. One of its audiences is its enemies. They watch us. And they smile when one of us shows we are a mere fraction of a person. That’s who they want hunting to depend on—people who lack integrity—because then hunting is doomed.
God, help us protect our integrity. Make us ambassadors for hunting, and for all that is right and good. And out of brokenness, bring wholeness. Out of failure bring redemption.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.