Out of Bounds

Hunting Photo Manifesto

There are many ways hunters demonstrate we are driven by more than bloodlust

By Rob Breeding

Hunters are lousy at public relations. Not all the time, but often enough to give non-hunters the impression we are motivated by bloodlust. 

There are many ways hunters demonstrate we are driven by more than these lesser impulses. Every time one of us buys a box of ammo (if we can find any) we pay excise taxes that fund wildlife conservation. The same goes when we pay our membership dues to a conservation organization or bid up a piece of gear we don’t really need in the silent auction at the annual banquet.

Then there are those days when we get out in the field to assist land managers implementing some needed habitat project by volunteering our time and sweat equity.

All of this is good PR with non-hunters, but sometimes we undermine our hard work with clumsy, offensive photography that conveys anything but the fair chase, conservation ethic that defines most of us. The thousand words the wrong photograph conveys could be our downfall.

So, I suggest the following guidelines for hunters when displaying images in the media, whether it’s traditional, social or any channel that reaches a mass audience. This goes for stills as well as video.

No game farm spring saggers — I know the difference between choosing not to do something and telling others they can’t. If you decide to visit your neighborhood “shoot ’em up” pheasant farm with all your pals, that’s your business. As for that image of dead birds piled on the tailgate so deep your pickup’s suspension has bottomed out. Leave it off social media, please. Gluttony is no virtue. 

No kill shots — Relish that image of you firing skyward at a puff of feathers. I’m sure it was a tough shot. They all are. Frame a still for your home office but don’t post video on YouTube. Many will be dismayed. The same goes for an elk buckling after a well-placed lung shot. 

Show your dogs — If you’re an upland hunter I want to see your birds, and maybe even you and your hunting buddies. Leave the dogs out, however, and you won’t get a second glance from me.

Show the process — If you’re posting on social media, one photo of a dead animal isn’t enough. Plan a slideshow of images including the animal, habitat, other hunters, pointing dogs, tasteful processing techniques, and finally, game meat prepared and artfully presented on the plate. Pro tip: ending your slideshow with a selfie of you rubbing your belly after supper is over the top.

Guns properly displayed — Properly means visibly unloaded. Break action shotguns should be broken. Actions on pumps and semis should be open — leaving it closed, then writing in the description it’s unloaded, isn’t good enough. I think firearms in trophy shots are a nice touch, but guns that appear unsafe are inexcusable. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Follow the law — Make sure your photo displays your adherence to all game laws, limits, ammo types or any other regulations where you are hunting.

No gratuitous dead game, dumb hunter shots — You were finally drawn for your dream hunt. Even better, you filled your tag. A tasteful photo of you with the animal, showing off the epic curl of a bighorn sheep, for instance, is fine and appropriate. But remember, your mug should reflect the solemnity of the moment. After all, a living thing just gave its life so that you can eat and live. If you’re grinning like a Cheshire cat or have your boot on the dead animal’s back while flexing your gun show at the camera, you’re too immature for this. Put your weapons away and spend some time reading “Beyond Fair Chase” or some other book that might help you grow up a bit.

Adulting is hard. Get on with it or go home.

Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.