As Sportsmen We Need To Improve Our Image

One of my big pet peeves in life is seeing a road sign riddled with bullet holes. This senseless act not only destroys property, but it also serves as prima facie evidence to destroy the reputation of all sportsmen. After all, when a non-hunter sees holes in a road sign who then do they automatically attribute the property damage to—that’s right, us sportsmen as a general group.

I contend that as sportsmen we can make great strides in the public relations arena by just using our heads a little bit more. We all know that seeing a shot-up road sign serves no legitimate purpose. In fact, I suggest that any shooter who would conduct such an act doesn’t deserve to even be called a sportsman…the problem is the general public doesn’t make these differentiations…they lump us all into one big group. Over time, our reputation is slowly eroded from gentlemanly folks who believe in gun safety and fair chase…to gun toting criminals who will shoot at a road sign this time and who knows what the next time the trigger is pulled.

Aldo Leopold wrote in his book A Sand County Almanac:

“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”

Not all acts of poor public taste toward sportsmen reflect because of criminal behavior. I’m also sickened by the sportsman who does not take into consideration the feelings of the non-hunting public. Indeed, I am advocating that we can all do a better job when we are wearing the uniform of our trade (camo or blaze) and we place ourselves in public situations.

Case in point is a group of sportsmen sitting in a restaurant eating lunch talking about the day’s events. Sure there’s a time and a place to relive all the exciting events of the day…but loud voices laughing it up describing in vivid detail some of the happenings of the day are probably not what grandma sitting in the next booth wants to hear during her meal. Recognize that being a little sensitive to those who might casually overhear your conversation can make great strides toward improving the reputation for all of us.

Along with this goes one of the age-old traditions of displaying your dead deer when you transport it back home from the big woods. Truthfully, is it really worth it to brag of your success with this public display? For every person you might impress with the display, you will also disgust an equal number of people who simply do not want to see it.

I’m not suggesting, necessarily, that we need to hide the fact that as sportsmen we do kill critters in the woods. No, quite the contrary, there are respectful displays of game taken and there are distasteful ways to transport game. I won’t serve as a judge of how your deer should be brought home…but I will most certainly offer that in most instances game can be transported to minimize adverse reactions by the non-hunting public.

The list really goes on and on how sportsman can make little changes in our behavior to improve the public perception of our activities. It all begins with you. Take pride in the fact you enjoy the sporting life with guns and act accordingly so that pride shows. Once you develop and modify your own behavior, then you can put pressure on your sporting peers to conform in more acceptable ways. The bottom line is increasingly our activities will be under a microscope for those who do not understand or enjoy our form of interaction with the outdoors. We need to make sure we are all putting our “best foot forward” in regards to the image displayed to the general public.

This fall when you’re out and about take a critical look at how the world sees you as a sportsman. Make sure you are presenting a positive image whenever possible, and when things can be improved take those little steps necessary to modify the behavior. And for heaven’s sake, if you are with a fellow shooter who thinks they need a metal target (road sign) to feel good about themselves, go buy them a package of paper targets as a gift and save us all the embarrassment.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.