Hunters often criticize other hunters. A common criticism is, “He took a bad shot.” Sometimes out of a strong moral sense, the critic attaches the accusation that it was an unethical shot.
It’s impossible to say hunters always do the right thing because bad decisions and poor ethics are in every field. But let’s be honest. Too often our criticisms come from a motivation to show our expertise. Even though expert information on every topic is easily available today, many of us who like others to think we’re experts are not the experts we think we are.
That’s one reason this column is not called “The Expert Hunter,” or “The Elite Hunter.” It’s called “The Everyday Hunter,” and that means I hope to help my readers get more out of the sport, but I appreciate learning from other everyday hunters, too.
I’ve lived long enough to realize a big dose of humility should accompany almost anything we do or say, but humility seems in short supply these days. Arrogance seems all too common. We all know arrogant people, and most of us don’t like them much.
Remember this: It’s easy to criticize from arrogance. It’s hard to criticize from humility.
Now about those bad shots. We won’t perform flawlessly because deer are living creatures and they do unpredictable things. They seldom give us the perfect shot, especially when they’re alert. No hunter in history (including coyotes, wolves, bears, or any predator you want to put on the list), succeeds every time. Every one of them has failed and allowed a wounded prey animal to escape, sometimes to suffer a lingering death. In fact, in a day when cameras are everywhere, we have opportunities to see prey animals escape, and we enjoy it when it’s not our prey animal.
So unless we have never missed or wounded an animal, let’s stop feeling like we need to be a critic of another hunter’s shot. Let’s get over criticism because we don’t know what happened.
We don’t know how far away the deer was, at what angle he was standing, whether or not he was moving, or how good the light was. We just don’t know. Even if the hunter does his best to describe the situation, his description may not match reality because he does not know everything and his description can’t include what he may not know.
When we’re about to criticize someone, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
Have I ever made a mistake I would like a do-over on? Yes, I have.
Do I know all I need to know to perfectly judge the hunter? Probably not.
Can I be sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing in the same circumstances. Often, I can’t.
Would I like someone to examine every action I take with the aim of finding something wrong? No, definitely not.
We could add other questions to the list, but you get the point.
We think we criticize in order to get people to change, but people who are criticized often resist change. In fact, if you really want to see change, don’t criticize because the one you criticize will probably dig in, not admit fault, and be less likely to change. Instead of being a critic, have some humility.
Humility defies the law of supply and demand. Humility is in short supply. It’s uncommon. But it’s far less costly than arrogance, and in the end humility offers a better return.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.