Hunters as individuals come from different backgrounds and variable walks of life. In spite of this, hunters often get thrown into one category: “Hunters.” On a certain level, this singular categorization is understandable and likely even necessary when championing causes that affect all of us, though “hunters” defined as a singular user group also makes it easier for the non hunting world to judge us. A recent piece featuring Chef Jesse Griffths, author of the tremendously well crafted cookbook “Afield”, made some comments suggesting that American hunting culture essentially consists of two camps: The new school “Hipster” hunter and the old school “Ted Nugent” hunter.
While I understand the need for sensational headlines and claims in order for pieces of media to go viral these days, I have to admit feeling an increasing sense of betrayal from a relatively high profile member of the hunting ranks who consciously created further division amongst hunters by simplistically dividing us into two camps and suggesting that there is a “Civil War” taking place to define the future of American hunting culture.
Even the word “Traditionalist” has numerous meanings within the confines of American hunting culture. The article in question implies that “Traditionalists” is basically interchangeable with a “Redneck Hunter”, whatever that means, but, if you use the term “Traditionalists” in, say, Pennsylvania, you are likely to reference a user group who only hunt deer using flint lock rifles, maybe even do so wear buckskin clothing and may or may not be a self described “hipster.”
While, sure, there is a growing sub-user group of urban based, “Hipster” hunters and a growing influence within the hunting community of focus on food and cooking, the author uses this platform to create a conflict that does not exist and suggests a complete “changing of the guard” that is not actually happening. If, for the sake of simplicity, we are going to divide American hunters into two camps (old and new), then this particular platform could have been constructively served to show what these two camps stand to learn from one another. Its easy to make blanket statement such as “we are returning to the roots of hunting”, but what does that even mean? What are the roots of hunting? That could suggest disregarding modern game management practices such as having seasons and bag limits. That could suggests killing animals en masse with disregard for weapon legalities and ethical considerations. Hunting ethics are a symptom of modernity, a privilege of excess and, within the grand scheme of nature, survival and the ancient roots of hunting, entirely arbitrary. Oh, by the “roots” of hunting, did you mean ~30 years ago before the age of modern hunting media (Hunting shows, magazines etc)? Do you think that nobody was gardening and hunting animals for food in America ~30 years ago? Any direction you go with this Hipsters vs. Traditionalists, there are problems, falsehoods, misunderstandings, and misdirections. Hunting should not about “taking hunting away” from one type of hunter. The piece is critical of a type of hunter who hypothetically spends $1,300 on a duck blind, yet favors the type of hunter who hypothetically spends $13,000 on a Viking outfitted kitchen.
To psychoanalyse those conditions and influences, I think that a lot of young men in recent years have started to look to a previous generation for the definition of masculinity. If you grew up in a rather bland, suburban environment of the 80s, 90s, 2000s where masculine influences were/are largely “tame” compared to examples of masculinity of previous generations, it sort of makes sense. Generation X, Z and Z looked to the the examples of their grandfather’s generations: Those guys had beards, wore dirty work clothes, ground coffee by hand in the morning, shaved with a straight razor, drove vehicles that required a lot of maintenance, maybe they used bacon grease for beard wax. They had tools and implements that required maintenance and were not disposable i.e. you fixed things instead of buying replacements. Look at the popularity of old time string band music these days, or even the late career celebration of Johnny Cash, for example: Grandpappy’s music. Its cool. I get it. And a lot of supposed “Redneck hunters” get it. If you are a self described “hipster” coming to into hunting, consider what you can add to the pursuit, not what you can take away from it.
I am neither a hipster or a Nugent hunter. I think most hunters aren’t in those categories. To simply it that narrowly is to shut out who we really are and what we do collectively.
I am a middle aged woman who hunts to put food on the table. Not because I have to – I raise chickens, ducks, turkeys and pork on my homestead – but because I am a conservationist. When you add conservation into the mix I think most hunters are included. If we’re not hunting to participate consciously in conservation we probably shouldn’t be hunting.
We are who we are, no collective labels needed.