Our readers have always loved one good debate as much (if not more) than the next. Even so, 2021 has been an exceptional year for strong opinions and social media battles on everything from new calibers to the ethics of the hunt. So we’ve rounded up some of our most loved and hated columns from this year to remind you of the topics we covered in 2021. They’re listed below, in no particular order. The good news? There are still things we can all agree on, like the fact that squirrel hunting is woefully underrated.
There’s a lot of criticism to be made when it comes to the negative impacts of social media search for content, says editor-in-chief Tyler Freel, who has had his share of bones to pick up over the years. Whether it’s egomania, over-sexualization, or shameless sponsorship-seeking and attention-seeking behavior, it doesn’t take a lot of research to find content that you’re ashamed to see posted as hunter and social media user himself. When hunting becomes a person’s livelihood on social media, it can easily become a slippery slope to a sewage lagoon at the bottom. So yes, there are certain pitfalls hunters should navigate on social media. But social media isn’t going away anytime soon. Instead, hunters can leverage it to keep our hunting heritage alive and long after the latest Instagram trend. Read Freel’s full story here.
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With so many new anglers entering the fold during the pandemic, writes tournament angler Kristine Fischer, it is paramount that we teach safe and ethical practices for handling fish. For Fischer, this includes sparkling fish. Fizzing is the process of squeezing excess gas out of a fish’s swim bladder after it has been hauled up to deep water, usually to a depth of 20 feet or more. (This is similar to turns, which affect divers who surface too quickly.) There are some anglers who are not in favor of this practice, Fischer admits, but that’s mainly because it takes real skill to sparkle a fish. But it’s not difficult once you figure out how to do it. Read his full case for a bubbly fish here.
This isn’t strictly an opinion piece, but this retrospective draws on the past and present opinions of our former hunting editor, Jim Zumbo. In the days of cable TV, you couldn’t think of yourself as an outdoor enthusiast and not find out who Jim Zumbo was. He took readers and viewers on a moose, bear and turkey hunt, and won the hearts of his large audiences with his approachable personality and easy smile under his black cowboy hat.
But Zumbo’s world imploded in February 2007. He posted a blog on the same site (this was at the start of self-published blogs) that questioned the usefulness, legality and public image of AR in hunting situations. The backlash was comparable to today’s cancellation culture on steroids, and a day after posting the blog, Outdoor Life severed all ties with Zumbo. This fall, our current hunt editor Andrew McKean sat down with Zumbo to set the record straight on the end and re-launch of his career in outside media. Read about the evolving opinions of Zumbo here.
Spoiler alert: Studies show the “fawn” will be fine even if you decide to hang your medallion on the doe that comes with it. As Lindsay Thomas of the National Deer Association explains in this column, antlerless seasons are defined with this specific scenario in mind. But deer hunting is a sport filled with many personal preferences. It’s no surprise, then, that some readers say they always pass on hinds accompanied by mature fawns – and they can’t believe other hunters wouldn’t do the same. Read the full point on doe management here.
Of course, there are plenty of hot shots of the game at longer range and trendy new cartridges that everyone loves to hate. But these debates are not new, as Tyler Freel explains, revisiting some of the columns of former Shooting Editor Jack O’Connor on these topics. While some readers read the article and thought about what O’Connor might have to say if he quarreled over keyboard cowboys in our modern day, others… did not. This story also struck a chord with many of the same readers who say gun writers have given up on their favorite cartridges. Read about JOC’s likely stance on the latest trends here.
We know, we know, these are fighting words. But associate editor Gerry Bethge’s first turkey season in 1984 was also the last time he perched a gobbler the night before a hunt and managed to summon this bird with a gun. Devouring gobblers with the intention of shooting them soon after their flight just doesn’t seem like the proven hunting tactic it once was, Bethge explains. The “why” of that equation is guessable, but here’s why he basically had turkeys roosting – and why he doesn’t regret it at all. Read his anti-roost manifesto here.
Trapping and predator hunting get a bad rap, but this bias is often arbitrary in people who have no problem eating meat. (Yes, that even includes some hunters.) Wisconsin trapper and hunter Skye Goode explains how public views on trapping were skewed in the first place (spoiler: anti-traps have a lot to do with it). Next, she explains why trapping and wearing wild fur – a sustainable, renewable resource – actually makes a lot of sense. Read his full case for fur here.
COVID-19 border closures put the brakes on many hunts in 2020 and 2021, and with many Americans traveling and a good chunk of the money, Canadian outfitters were suffering just as badly, says Jim Shockey. The legendary Canadian outfitter explained in detail how the grim reality of the border closure rocked the guiding industry and how American hunters should try to be more understanding if they can’t get their money back for a hunt. Read Shockey’s full take on the border closure here.
In the age of headlines and sonic stats fueling the social media outrage machine, emotions and half-truths are all you need to overturn the legitimate reasoning of people, businesses, and even governments. . This creates an environment conducive to exploitation by activists who do not care about hunting and trapping. There are a lot of illogical ideas coming out of anti-hunting organizations today, but these three pose a real threat to hunters around the world. Find out about the three threats here.
In a poll last spring, the majority of Wisconsin residents opposed changes to major hunting regulations, such as extending the gun season to 9 days to increase hunter participation. A majority also opposed passing a statewide bait ban to help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease. “The Wisconsin sports community is traditionalist,” said the president of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress at the time. “They want this traditional nine-day Thanksgiving deer season, and they’re not going to let go.”
This dedication to tradition would be nice if deer hunting in Wisconsin were to flourish, says Wisconsin editor and hunter Alex Robinson. But it’s not. Read what happens when tradition threatens the hunt.
It is not uncommon for hunters to preach the ethics of saving every usable piece of meat, skin and hoof of their game these days. Deer tongue? Save it. The tendon of the leg? Save it. And while Arkansan Jonathan Wilkins admits he does exactly that with the waterfowl he hunts, it’s for a whole different reason.
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Pretty much everything about waterfowl is designed to separate your money from your bank account. It’s a heavy chase, with gear like boats and waders spending a ton of time partially submerged and subject to a number of dangers. Gasoline, hotels, food, guns, shells, decoys, and permits all work together to make each trip cost a little more than you expected. That’s not to mention the time and thought invested throughout your year, especially in the fits of madness punctuated during the season. Put simply, if you only feed ducks and geese after a successful hunt, you are dropping a ton of flavors and several phenomenal meals. Read how he turns a few birds into multiple meals here.
You don’t need tree racks, awnings, or other bulky setups to successfully hunt deer in the East and Midwest. This is not new information, emphasizes traditional bow hunter Beka Garris, but it is a good reminder. It doesn’t matter if you are a gun hunter or an archery hunter: ground hunting is a feasible technique regardless of the method or the season. Read his case for hunting from the ground here.