Who Is Your Hunting Hero?

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

In some ways the outdoor world is a lot like Hollywood. People are working hard to become celebrities in the hunting and fishing world, but a celebrity is not a hero.

We have many celebrities. We have few heroes. Unless celebrities maintain what marketers call “top-of-mind awareness,” they are easily replaced. That’s why celebrities hire publicists who get interviews for them, arrange for books to be written by or about them, create targeted access to various publicity channels, and make sure their clients are photographed often. With all that and more, we don’t often know our celebrities and they usually don’t do anything significant. That’s why we sometimes say a celebrity can be famous merely for being famous.

Jim Shockey, speaking at the Great American Outdoor Show. Shockey is a legendary hunter who is both a celebrity and a hero. He often hunts in areas near primitive villages, providing food and protection to the villagers. Most heroes are not so famous. Photo by Steve Sorensen.

Human nature being what it is, the world will always have celebrities, but I hope we know the difference between celebrities and heroes. A hero needs just three things. A hero has character. A hero needs to do something. And a hero is personally invested in others.

First, to have character is to be an undivided person, the same in public and in private. A person with character doesn’t need a practiced smile, and may wish to avoid the spotlight.

Second, heroes do something heroic. It’s more than being a music or fashion icon, or a YouTube star. (Yes, that’s a thing.) It’s more than being a spokesperson hawking a product. A hero doesn’t need to be beautiful, or even more intelligent than others. A heroic role in a movie does not make a hero. A hero isn’t made by touchdown passes, nor by shooting big bucks. A heroic act might be something only one person sees, a selfless and perhaps costly act. Sometimes a hero isn’t recognized until he does that selfless act, and occasionally loses everything in that one act.

Third, a hero is personally invested in others. Fred Bear is a hero to millions because he distinguished himself as a pioneer in modern archery. Teddy Roosevelt is a hero because he set the pattern for public lands and wildlife to be owned by and accessible to all of us. Neither Bear nor Roosevelt is famous for killing trophy animals. But they were men of character, they did something important, and they have an enduring connection to many.

When I was at the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA, I tracked down Jim Shockey, one of today’s best known figures in the hunting world. I asked him to tell me, in one sentence, the difference between a celebrity and a hero. He said, “A hero has done something great; a celebrity is created by the media.” His words align perfectly with what I’m saying.

The NRA brought Shockey to the show to attract people. He was in the role of celebrity there. But he is also a hero to his family, to some of the people who hunt with him, and to people in cultures around the world where he hunts. His hunts provide food and an infusion of economic activity to some of the poorest places on the planet, and sometimes even safety. Shockey is a world changer in those places.

Do you have a hunting hero? Remember, a hero doesn’t need high visibility. It might be a father who taught you to hunt and modeled the value of integrity in the woods when no one was watching. Maybe your hero is an uncle who gave you a deer rifle, or who sacrificed to make it possible for you to kill a nice buck. Being a hero is genderless – mothers and sister are heroes, too. A hero, in the words of singer Randy Travis, “will help you find good in yourself.” A hero will inspire you to do the right thing, and to become a hero to someone else.

We have plenty of celebrities in the outdoor world, but I’d like to ask hunters to know the difference between celebrities and heroes, and to value heroes more. If we do, maybe we’ll have more heroes. We can all find a personal hero or two. And we can all become a hero to someone else, changing the world for that person.

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.