You may have heard Matt Rinella’s name floating around hunting circles recently. Here’s our take on his recent comments about hunting, R3 and social media. Buckle in, it’s a long one.
Dr. Matt Rinella is a research ecologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS). He’s also an avid hunter, fisher, general outdoorsman and Steve Rinella’s older brother. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you’ll remember that Steve is the head honcho over at MeatEater. I’ll be referring to the elder Rinella as Matt in this piece so as to avoid confusion.
Matt has inserted himself into the hunting conversation over the last couple of weeks, but he and his views have been around for a while longer. He made a few waves with his March 24 opinion piece titled, “The Case Against Hunter Recruitment.” His anti-R3 (recruit, retain and reactivate) stance prompted heated rebuttals from Outdoor Life Magazine, the NRA and many others. Prior to that, he tried to start a de-publicize, de-glorify and de-monetize movement.
More recently, he made an appearance on the Blood Origins podcast #144, where he lambasted everything from R3 to Joe Rogan, and he wrote another opinion for Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Free Range American, which was almost immediately pulled from the website. In that piece, titled “Unfollowing Hunting Social Media Will Make Hunting Better,” Matt takes aim at social media influencers, hunting media and those that support either. Not even his brother was safe.
Although Matt’s ‘Free Range American’ piece was pulled, you can view a cached version of the article here. Please note, however, this version will not reflect any updates or revisions that may have been made since.
Author’s note: I know it’s easy to skip over embedded links in blog posts, but I do hope you take the time to familiarize with both sides of the aisle. It’s far too common nowadays to entrench oneself into a singular line of thinking, and I’d much rather be in a room full of free-thinking adults than sit in an echo chamber.
I religiously bowhunt the West’s public lands and have seen first-hand many of the issues Matt Rinella describes. So, what do I think?
Just like the current political environment, the hunting community operates like a pendulum. When the pendulum swings too far in one direction (hunting influencers dominating the ecosystem), we see an equally-outrageous position emanate from the other side. We hope the pendulum eventually finds balance, but it never does.
I don’t think there’s any question that influencers are having a net-negative impact on hunting itself. As Matt describes, not only are we seeing more hunters – we’re seeing the wrong types of hunters. The elk tag I usually apply for is a Wyoming type-9 (archery only). I have seen the draw success for that tag go from 100 percent in 2018 to 90 percent in 2019, and all the way down to roughly 60 percent in 2020 (all due to an increased number of applicants). I can’t imagine what it’ll be this year, and I’m tired of bugling in these goobers dressed to the nines in whatever camo pattern their favorite influencer told them to buy.
Regardless of what the pendulum does, it’s important to understand that influencers, like politicians, aren’t going away. They’ve become a fixture in the hunting industry, and the industry needs them. Remember everything boils down to money, and these companies aren’t just ethereal entities floating around the internet – they’re employers and their employees have mortgages and medical bills just like you. The companies need to make money and the influencers, however cringeworthy they may be, help them do that.
So, if influencers aren’t going anywhere, what can we do? We hold influencers and the companies that utilize them accountable. Be deliberate with the businesses you support and the media you consume. Start by informing those people in your immediate circle – wars are never won on the internet, but you can certainly bring a few more people to the light by filling them in on the reality of hunting and social media. Share this article if you want! Remember, these entities need you, not the other way around. When Black Rifle Coffee Company decides to pull an article with no explanation, ask yourself why. Is there a higher power dictating what those bro-vets can and can’t do? If not, why’d they pull Matt’s piece? Think, people. Think.
If you’re worried that I just insulted BRCC, just remember they’re not the only ones who’ve spent time in the desert. 😉
As much as Matt, I and many others would like to see fewer people parked at the trailhead, that’s probably not going to happen overnight. What we can hope for, though, is a more ethical crop of hunters that are out there for the right reasons. I’ve mentioned this in other articles, but I don’t mind bowhunters. My best friends are bowhunters. I just don’t like the shitty ones. Hunt because it’s a challenge. Hunt for the food. Hunt because it’s a damn fun thing to do. But don’t hunt because you need social media content.
Matt thinks there’s no benefit to posting pictures of dead animals, especially when they’re broadcasted to people you don’t know. I tend to agree with him, but it’s not my place to tell anyone what to do. If you are going to post a picture of your kill, please don’t do anything that will help give away the location. Don’t write a novel about how difficult it was to “get it done.” And, like Matt, I’ll ask you to consider making your account private.
Matt also takes issue with the nature of hunting visual media. From roving bands of bros crashing through the elk woods to the ultra-enlightened solo archer going it “alone,” these homegrown videographers ensure that no basin, drainage or bowl is safe, sacred or secret. FUN FACT: WE CAN SEE YOU BOMBING A RIDGE THREE TIMES BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T GET THE SHOT YOU WANTED.
I get bored during the off-season and dammit, I love watching Uncle Randy, but I’m sick and tired of seeing hunting spots being broadcasted and blown up. If you have a camera and a crew, do us all a favor and stay the fuck out of public lands. I don’t care if they want to film on private land I can’t afford, but to Matt’s point, tell us it’s private and all that entails. You can tell me to keep hammering all you want, but eventually I’m going to run out of areas to hammer to, and then what? I don’t want to see hunting media disappear – I just want them to be honest.
In summary, I hope people open their eyes. Matt makes a lot of great points, but these social institutions aren’t going anywhere. If we want things to change, we need to start with ourselves. Quit blindly following these influencers and think for yourself. Remember what hunting is all about and hold the industry and its puppets to the same standard. Understand where your hard-earned dollar is going, and understand the impacts of social media and visual content. Take a minute to educate someone doing it wrong. It’s not always my nature, but sometimes you do attract more flies with honey. Doing things the right way is a natural barrier to entry, and if more people know what the reality of hunting is, the issue of overcrowded trailheads will sort itself out.