A Different Kind of “Trophy Shot”
A couple years ago, I went hunting for the first time and as I walked through a beautiful prairie, I panicked at a sudden thought: What if I actually hit a bird?
Obviously, shooting birds is a big part of pheasant hunting, but despite seeing photo after photo of hunters holding birds, rabbits, and the heavy heads of deer, I failed to give deeper thought to actively holding dead game in my hands. Going into my first hunt, I was so focused on learning about guns, where to hunt and who to hunt with, that I had skipped over the anticipation of a successful hunt.
Connecting To My Food
Like many people, I’ve been contemplating my relationship with food. I feel that ultimately, pursuing free-range game on public lands will help fulfill my need to feel good about the meat I’m eating. I want to advance my outdoor skills, to regularly walk off-trail through gorgeous tracts of woods or grasslands in the fall, and of course, pursue wild game that I can consume.
Luckily, I didn’t get a bird during that first hunt. You would think that would be a disappointing result, but honestly, I was relieved. It gave me a chance to think about what to do when I finally got a bird.
As you can see (above), I wasn’t exactly overjoyed when I finally did shoot a pheasant. Once I held it, I was a little shocked at its beauty and, although I should have expected it, the warmth of a recently deceased bird also caught me off guard.
I went to bed that night wondering if I had made the right decision to become a hunter. Hunting is a lot of work and my reward was a slight feeling of guilt at having brought down such a gorgeous, winged creature.
That was before I cooked the meat though. I had been given fancy recipes for how to cook the pheasant, but I went with a tried and true favorite: cilantro-lime tacos. To me, the pheasant tasted like a cross between chicken and turkey, but the good feeling that came with it was totally new. While making the tacos, I had flashbacks of the beautiful day we had. I knew exactly where the bird had come from, I knew what it had been eating, and I knew that my license fees were going to create habitat. Seeing the food on my plate resonated with me and I found myself inspired to get back into the field and do it all again.
With a full belly, I finally felt what I had been seeking: satisfaction.
Most non-hunters who want to start hunting aren’t usually just looking to kill something – they want a better way to feed themselves or their families. Looking back on my perceptions of hunting as a non-hunter, I have a few suggestions for choosing photos targeted towards attracting new folks.
The Trophy Shot Reimagined
- Focus on showing the processed meat or a prepared meal. It’s much more relatable to the average person, who may not currently be a hunter, but could be someday. (refer to the example above)
- If you do show the animal, try showing just part of it. For example, the antlers, hooves, or fins. People are less sensitive to these images. Here’s an example by my friend Aaron.
- Get photos of people smiling as they talk, walk or load up gear. Hunting is very much about camaraderie and this is a good way to visualize it.
- Include as much scenery as possible and explain what the landscape means; many people may not know how to read a landscape for clues about where wildlife live and why they live there.
- Think about getting shots that the average non-hunter can picture themselves in or with people that look like them. This is part of the reason it’s so important to use photos of your target audience. Below is a picture of how some friends and I camped out for a pheasant hunt. Most people can relate to camping and it’s just one more step to head over to the field with a shotgun to chase roosters.Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series by Ashley Peters where she shares her experiences of starting to hunt as an adult woman. She looks at the amazing opportunities, the challenges and also the things that need to evolve and change if we’re to bring new people into these hunting and fishing adventures.