Hunting culture and the gun culture are rather similar, but also rather different. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the two, there would be a lot of overlap, but there would also be a lot of areas where they don’t meet. For example, a hunter may completely eschew firearms for political reasons, but retain the use of a bow or crossbow. Meanwhile, plenty of people own guns for personal defense but have never traveled into the woods to take any game.
But the overlap is significant, particularly on the hunting side of the equation.
Quartz‘s Oliver Staley is a lot of things, and he knows it. He knows he’s the stereotypical liberal journalist, declaring, “I’m painfully aware of how much I conform to a stereotype of a Northeastern liberal. I’m a journalist. I drive a Subaru. I recycle assiduously. But I also bristle at being pigeon-holed and having my identity determined by my demographics.”
So what did he want to do about it?
Well, he wanted to learn to hunt.
There were other factors behind my desire to start hunting—my eagerness to find a new outdoors challenge; my desire to engage more physically with the world. And if I’m honest, there’s also an element of mid-life crisis, an urge to shake up what about I know about myself and what others think of me. But at least part of the impulse stems from a frustration with America’s polarized political climate, and how uncomfortable I am with the orthodoxies and Shibboleths of our warring tribes.
My politics are my own, and I like to think they’re more nuanced that our two-party system allows. When it comes to guns, I believe in both the need for stricter regulation of firearms, and in the right of Americans to own weapons for hunting and self-defense.
Not long after the Las Vegas shooting last October, I engaged with Second Amendment zealots on Twitter. I tried to convince them of the reasonableness of my positions—that I didn’t believe in banning guns, but that the use of guns should be regulated at least as stringently as cars. I didn’t make much headway. In their eyes, I was just another liberal gun-grabber.
Similarly, in the days that followed February’s Parkland shooting, thoughtful and educated friends shared posts and opinions on Facebook calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. Again, I waded in and tried to reason with them, arguing that America’s gun problem could be cured without tearing apart the Bill of Rights. They listened politely, but I don’t think I persuaded anyone.
Becoming a hunter, I thought, might give my voice more credibility in these debates. It might also give me more insight into the issues, and perhaps a greater understanding of the mindset of gun owners.
Unfortunately, I can tell him that it won’t.
However, Staley continues his piece as he discusses not just his experiences learning to hunt and discussing firearms with people who generally aren’t entrenched–you know, people who aren’t like most of us–and it’s actually an interesting piece.
Staley’s liberal biases rise to the surface in plenty of instances, mind you, but he also shows a prime example of a journalist trying to remain neutral. At the same time, I have to applaud him for stepping outside of his comfort zone in an effort to not just take up a challenge but to understand a different part of American culture.
In this day and age, not many people do that.
Staley’s hunt isn’t a Hemingway-esque recounting of some trophy hunt, and that’s fine. Most hunts aren’t all that. Instead, he describes it just as many of us have experienced it, and that’s important too.
Frankly, I’m going to recommend everyone click that link and take a look.
While I suspect Staley and I would disagree on quite a bit, I still respect the hell out of him for giving hunting a shot, and I hope he keeps it up.