By Bernie Barringer
It's important to share out love of the outdoors with others. The authors nephew, Corbin, whom the author has taken bear hunting and now he's a great avocate for bear hunting and is studying to be a wildlife biologist. #guardthegate
There are some significant drawbacks to having a bowhunting YouTube channel. Then consider that my channel is largely about bear hunting, and you can double down the number of negative comments that come flying in day after day. Hate speech is a daily part of my life. Most mornings I get up and sit down at my computer while my wife spends the first hour of her day in the bathroom. I use this time to go through the daily assortment of comments on my YouTube channel. I’ve learned not to take it too seriously, because if I let it affect my mood, it would ruin my day most days. YouTube is a world-wide platform, and many of the comments come from Europe.
I get a lot of positive feedback as well, of course, but the death threats and downright vile attacks get a little tiring. It’s the world we live in, where few people understand the role of hunting in wildlife conservation and even fewer understand the North American Model of Conservation which has been so successful in managing abundant populations of game animals in the US and Canada. And that’s where the rub is: the comments are from people who are completely ignorant about bear hunting and bowhunting. In the world we live in today, people think they have the right to express a strong opinion even on subjects they know little to nothing about. If the commenter seems like they just don’t understand, I will usually take a moment to educate them, but most of the time they really don’t care about facts.
The negative comments I delete daily can be grouped into four main categories, so I thought I would take a moment to pass them along to you and give you a short answer to each of them. Even if you don’t have a YouTube channel, chances are, you have run into this on social media or just in your daily life. So here’s a quick way to respond to each of these.
You shouldn’t kill bears because you can’t eat them. This is a shockingly common myth. Another common response goes something like this: “you should never kill what you do not intend to eat.” My first response to that is to ask them if they have ever swatted a mosquito. But beyond that, I take a moment to explain that black bears are actually very good food, and much of the eastern half of North American history is sewn together with the importance of black bears for their food and their skins. This is true both for the indigenous people and the settlers. Black bears were a staple in settlements like Boonesboro. In the west, mountain men and plains Indians relished bears for their fat, meat, and fur. Bears are excellent table fare when cared for properly.
Anything shot with an arrow dies a slow, agonizing death, or doesn’t die at all. There is a lot of misinformation out there spread by the antis. Truth is, any bear shot through both lungs or heart with a sharp broadhead is usually lights out within 10-15 seconds. That’s a much more human death than dying of starvation, disease, or at the hands of a predator. I like to use the phrase “10 seconds to darkness.” It adequately addresses this issue, and when a non-hunting viewer sees an animal run off the screen, he or she has no way of knowing that the animal fell dead less than 100 yards away. I have learned to show enough so they understand the full scope of the experience.
Bears are nearly extinct, so you’re a terrible person for killing them. These comments rarely come from North America but it’s absolutely stunning how many people overseas, particularly in Europe, think almost all wildlife has been wiped out from the face of the earth. The reality is that black bears are more abundant than at any time in the last 100+ years. States are expanding bear hunting opportunities—several more states have added bear hunting seasons in the central and eastern US during the past decade.
Black bear populations—and ranges—are expanding despite more liberal hunting opportunities. Bear hunting is a vital tool to keep their population in check because they prey on moose, caribou calves, and deer fawns, species which are not growing as bear populations are. It’s a great time to be a bear hunter!
Baiting is unethical, unsportsmanlike, and too easy: you should hunt like a real man! Our role as hunter/conservationists requires us to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. Most hunting methods are adaptations to the environment. For example, a spring bear hunt in a western state where bears can be found feeding on open hillsides during the daylight might not require the use of bait, but in the boreal forest of Canada and northern US, baiting is a critical wildlife management tool. The odds of killing a bear without bait in central Canada or Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are so low that no DNR would consider a bear season without bait a viable bear management tool.
I don’t know if we’ll ever get past the belief that baiting bears is easy. I’ve learned that every single person who claims it’s too easy has one thing in common: they’ve never tried it. But if it’s so easy, why do success rates in most states average about 30 percent?
About half of the states that have bear hunting seasons and most of the Canadian provinces use baiting as a tool to help manage bear populations. When people hear this, it usually gives them pause to think they might be wrong about the importance of baiting, and sometimes you can change a person's mind about this. Show them that it’s ethical because it’s necessary for conservation and you may win them over.
Most of the people who leave negative comments on a YouTube channel like mine have minds that are like cement—mixed-up and permanently set. I usually just delete their comments. But, if I see an opportunity to educate someone who is just asking a question about something that they don’t understand or hold a negative view of because of ignorance, I use my platform to educate them. I encourage you to do the same with whatever social media platforms you may be involved in. Our battles will never be won with emotion: they will be won with education.
If you get a chance, check out my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/BowhuntingRoad and join in the conversation!