Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When Anti-Hunters Attack

We’ve all been there. Someone finds out that you’re a hunter and you immediately find yourself on the receiving end of a raised eyebrow, a sarcastic comment, a cutting question or, even worse, name-calling and vicious verbal or written attacks. Despite efforts to offer background information and education, some of the attacks are getting bolder, more frequent, and much more abusive—especially when it comes to women.

Waller (left) and Montana
houndsman Ben Wohlers
at the site of an elk kill
Case in point is what happened to Jana Waller, a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and popular host of the TV show Skull Bound. Waller went on a mountain lion hunt in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley in February of 2014. Shortly after daybreak, her hunting party saw a lion run down a ridge. It turns out the big tom was just finishing off an elk kill. They released the hounds which eventually treed the lion on a very steep ridge. Upon arrival, she shot it with her bow at ten yards. 

After packing out the lion, Waller posted a few photos on her Facebook and Twitter pages. And that’s when it started—an avalanche of hate. 

“The comments come in all forms of insults and name-calling from attacking my skull business and personal attire to threats on my life and my family's lives,” said Waller. 

Waller deals with vile and harassing comments on social media by deleting and banning those who make them. Other people are much more aggressive. One man posted his intention leave his home, travel to Montana and kill her. Waller took action to deal with the physical threat. She grabbed a screen shot of her accuser, contacted Facebook and then called law enforcement.

“I had to get an attorney and the district attorney involved last year when a man from Oklahoma was continuing to harass and threaten me online. With the cooperation of the D.A., we sent this particular man a 'cease and desist' letter to end the harassment,” said Waller. “Many people don't understand that it's not very hard to track down a person hiding behind a computer. The FBI and other state agencies have the power to climb through cyberspace and get a lot of information about cyber bullies. In many cases, cyber harassment is often a federal offense and can be prosecuted if one wanted to go to that level. There are also many hunter harassment laws protecting us that can be used if the 'delete and ban' button doesn't stop the behavior.” 

Argys (left) and her husband
Charisa Argys, a Colorado native, watched her horror show play out on a worldwide stage. She, too, shot a mountain lion but an animal rights activist from Germany somehow got a hold of the photo. It eventually spread to dozens of Facebook pages and Internet sites belonging to international anti-hunting organizations. The floodgates opened with specific threats targeting her physical appearance, her life and her family. These were among the comments: 

“Let’s hunt her!”

“This ugly woman is an embarrassment and shame to all women around the world.”

“I hope she knows how much she’s hated. Male or female, I hope they all suffer horrible hunting accidents.”

“I have never been called so many horrible, hateful names in my life.” Argys told The Sportsmen’s Daily. “They even went as far as to post my full name, address and directions to my house.” 

“This has to stop! United we stand divided we fall! We have to get the word out we are under attack!” Argys recently wrote to RMEF. “The meat from this animal fed my family. I was lucky and harvested a large tom.”

See a Denver TV report about Charisa's experience here.

“It's been my experience that predator hunting is the most misunderstood of all hunting,” said Waller. “I'm not saying the anti-hunting community condones any type of hunting but the rude, nasty, ignorant comments come out in full force when sharing predator pictures such as lions, bears, wolves and coyotes.” 

That’s where the need for education comes into play. It’s obvious that there’s no educating or convincing extreme anti-hunters about why people hunt, the link between hunting and wildlife management or the connection between hunting and conservation. There needs to be at least a hint of desire to learn and understand for that to happen. There is, however, a vast segment of the population that is largely ignorant of the facts because they simply don’t know any better or they only act on or react to second-hand information. 

A recent study found that 79 percent of Americans strongly or moderately approve of hunting, marking the highest level of acceptance since research began in 1995, while only 12 percent strongly or moderately disapprove of hunting. Translation: most people think that hunting is okay. But if hunters want the masses to understand why they do what they do, it is up to hunters to provide that education.

Part of that education may include what some refer to as The Great Debate: Trophy Hunting Versus Meat Hunting. At least that’s the title of a recent article written by Argys. She spells out what happened to her, why she hunts and how she honors the animals she kills. She also seeks to reach a middle ground with those that may not understand how or why hunters hunt.

“Controlling predator populations is vitally important, and most hunters understand that importance,” wrote Argys. “I have seen many online comments saying we should just let nature take care of itself. Starvation and disease are the direct result of ‘letting nature take care of itself.’ This is a very slow and painful death for any animal; I would much rather see animals managed and thriving.”

Waller cites a specific study to highlight her reasons why she hunts lions.

“We have an overpopulation of lions in the Bitterroot and thanks to a new DNA type of testing they're doing on cats, Montana's Fish, Wildlife & Parks has just released their findings that the previous cat density numbers were estimated way lower than they now believe,” said Waller. “Not only did the three year elk study (funded by RMEF) show that our cat numbers are causing a significant impact on the elk populations but this new DNA testing is concurring that there are simply too many mountain lions in this area of Montana.” 

"No one would argue that cats are not beautiful, majestic creatures but they simply need to be managed like every other predator population,” Waller continued. “Another interesting fact many people don't know is that mountain lion meat is wonderful. It has the consistency of a pork chop and is simply wonderful on the grill.” 

A recent forum held at the Professional Outdoor Media Association conference in Tennessee offered some key considerations for members of the outdoor media, and hunters alike, in helping non-hunting folks create a connection with hunting. People’s attitudes change as they gain a direct experience with anything else—in this case it’s hunting. Key factors include:
  • Knowing a hunter
  • Eating wild meat
  • Locavore movement
  • Emphasizing social networks and mentoring
  • Separating poaching from legal or regulated hunting
  • 79% of Americans approve of hunting
  • 97% of hunters eat the meat
  • Hunting has a definite and measureable role with conservation
  • Species do not become endangered or extinct from legal, regulated hunting

“Hunters need to stand tall and proud for protecting our herds, habitats, flocks and hunting heritage,” said Waller. “I always recommend people educate themselves on the fact that Hunting IS Conservation and we hunters are the ones giving back every year to our wildlife. Through groups like the RMEF and other conservation-based organizations, through our license and tag purchases, through the Pittman Robertson Act and so on... there are more animals and habitat because of hunters and we need to celebrate that fact.”

RMEF life member Steven Rinella (see video above) from the TV show MeatEater shows that patience and knowledge are the best way to offer education to those who misunderstand hunting. 

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