Why do hunters put themselves on YouTube and what happens when they do?
As the video hosting website and mobile application YouTube has grown, so has the platform of many hunting “YouTubers.” And, while many of these content producers appear to be similar, there are stark differences between those who provide a valuable product or service to hunters and those who simply leverage their narcissistic personalities for profit and fame. The latter has an undoubtedly net-negative impact on hunting, while the former typically offsets the harmful side-effects of YouTube content by offering something that makes hunting better. TAB reviewed dozens of YouTubers to determine not only the impact their videos have, but also what motivates them to create these videos in the first place.
Key Motivating Factors
Any time someone willingly puts themselves in the public eye, there’s a degree of narcissism involved. That includes politicians, podcasters, TV show hosts and even me, because here I am thinking people give a shit about what I write. Many YouTubers take narcissism to another level, though, because they’re willing to bet a bunch of people they’ve never met and don’t care about will become emotionally invested in their hunting “journey.” It’s enough to make me want to gouge my eyeballs with a titanium, ultralight spork. On a recent podcast, Eric Chesser of Hushin claimed he started filming his hunts because he wanted to “inspire people.” Inspire people to do what, exactly? Blow up an entire hunting area? BEAT OFF TO A PHOTO OF THE FIRE BULL? No, he started filming his hunts because there was something to be gained. I know, I know it’s too early in the study to be getting worked up like this. I’ll settle down. DO THE EARS REALLY HAVE TO BE TUCKED INTO THE HAT? FUCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!
It’s true the word narcissism doesn’t have a pleasant ring to it, but many YouTubers have something to offer the hunting community that doesn’t explicitly make hunting worse. Take Samong Outdoors (@sy_outside on IG) for example; he put together an awesome, lengthy pack review I found to be super helpful, he doesn’t capture large sweeping landscape shots on camera (keeps the area relatively secret) and gives credit where it’s due when someone helps him on a hunt. I don’t know him from a hole in the ground, but he seems like a cool dude and has every right to make videos.
Would I like to live in a world where no hunting videos existed on the internet? Sure, but I’m also a selfish asshole who generally hates everything, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I just wish many of these YouTubers would be honest and say, “hey everyone, I want you to subscribe to my channel because I like being moderately famous and getting piles of free gear all year long. I don’t care if I inspire you to be a douchebag or if I contribute to overcrowding, this channel is how I pay for my Ford Raptor and get invited to exclusive hunts.” It’s a lot easier to say you care about your subscribers and give away used bows, though.
Most folks are aware YouTube channels can be monetized, but in case you aren’t familiar with the specifics, here’s how it works: YouTubers, while following YouTube’s often not-so-hunter-friendly guidelines, can enroll in the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) and generate revenue through ads, channel memberships, merchandise sales and “super chats,” where viewers can monetarily “support” the channel during a live stream. There are other revenue streams like Amazon Affiliates, merch sales and sponsored videos. It’s a modern day gold rush, I tell ya! The gas station dick pill ads that probably run on this site put an extra $30 per month in my pocket, so thanks a lot you filthy animals.
How much a YouTuber earns through YPP depends on a number of factors including subscriber count, “likes” and views. It’s why you hear so many of them begging you to “smash that subscribe button.” Now, I’m not here to judge anyone for trying to make a buck, but hunters should know oftentimes these YouTubers aren’t in the game to make your life better – it’s about the almighty dollar. THOSE FLIGHTS TO AFRICA AIN’T CHEAP, ARE THEY JOSH?
Here’s the question: if no money was to be made directly from YouTube, would these content producers continue to make videos that make hunting worse? And, would they bring their audience along to their favorite hunting locations? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that question.
Perhaps the noblest of reasons for putting your ass on the internet, marketing products and services on YouTube is an integral part of many companies’ sales pyramid. I don’t know if Aron Snyder gives a shit about YouTube, but he makes a good product and wants to sell it. ‘MERICA! The same goes for Exo Mountain Gear, Stone Glacier and others – I don’t want y’all thinking I’ve got some deal going on with anyone. I’m a nobody just like the rest of you.
And, as much as I like to poke fun at John Dudley, he’s built a business and personalized a line of products people like to use, so more power to him for trying to market those things to his audience. I will say he has some pretty informative videos out there for the beginning archer, but maybe we can lay off the shots on moving antelope? Just a thought.
I’ve got a buddy that thinks we should abandon all technology and go back to hunting with an atlatl. I’m not quite there yet, so it’s still important to me that cool shit is being manufactured. We won’t see great, innovative products if these companies don’t make money, so we’ve got to take the good with the bad. I still hate tag application services that are hell-bent on pillaging hunting units, though.
1. Cultivating Idiots
Set your phone down or step away from your computer, pour yourself a glass of bourbon and take a deep breath; we’re about to dive into the comment sections of some of the most annoying YouTubers out there and see what their mouth-breathing subscribers have to say.
This is the world we live in, folks, and this is how thousands of people are being introduced to hunting. You see, we’re not the target audience for most of these YouTubers. Their audience is the misinformed, uninformed and underinformed. Go check any hunting video and read the comments – it’s frightening. Most of these YouTubers know they’ll never influence the diehard hunters out there, so their goal is to grow a cult-like following of morons. And, that’s why TAB exists to preach to the choir and get unnecessarily pissed off every day!
It’s critical we take a look at the types of hunters we’re bringing into the woods. I went into this in a bit more depth in a previous article titled, “We have Enough Hunters,” but are Brooklyn hipsters really the crowd that’s going to save hunting from the brink of destruction? Is growing one’s audience the only thing that matters now? CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND M.E.
2. Content at any Cost
The race for content is often a race to the bottom. When your livelihood depends on people watching your videos and subscribing to your channel, little care is taken to preserve the secrecy of a hunting area and ensure hunting is presented in a responsible manner. There often isn’t any consideration for how one’s subscribers might act when they get into the field. If a YouTuber wants to take a 90-yard shot on an elk, it doesn’t matter if they’re capable of doing so; Billy Bob in the comment section now believes he can make a 90-yard shot, even though he’s dry-fired his bow twice and doesn’t know it. And, let me tell you, Billy Bob gets really upset when someone calls out his favorite YouTuber. YOU DON’T NO THE WORK THAT WENT INTO HARVESTING THAT ANIMAL. YOUR PROBABLY JUST A HATER CUZ YOU NEVER KILT SOMETHING THAT BIG!
As my website and Instagram account grows, it appears more of these YouTubers and influencers are beginning to catch wind of what I have to say. Well, if any of them are reading this, I want to make sure they understand where I’m coming from: every time you put content out there that blows up a spot, you’re directly fucking me or someone else like me over. Every time you profit off your audience under the guise of helping them “learn how to find the elk,” you’re directly fucking over the hunters who’ve spent a lifetime figuring it out on their own (key word here is “profit.” No YouTuber would help a viewer learn how to hunt if they weren’t making money off of them). And, every time you showcase a shot (without providing context) on an animal that 99.9 percent of your follower base couldn’t or shouldn’t make, you’re directly fucking over an untold number of wildlife. If that makes me the bad guy – cool. Kiss my ass, ya fuckin’ nerds.
YouTube isn’t entirely devoid of good shit to watch, but content for content’s sake is slowly chipping away at what makes hunting great. I get it – there’s immense pressure to keep one’s YouTube channel active and the viewers engaged – but videos shouldn’t be created at the expense of hunting writ large.
3. More YouTubers
The blueprint is there, ladies and gentlemen. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle, and plenty of hunters now believe they could have a successful YouTube channel, too. There are thousands of homegrown videos on the internet where ordinary folks have filmed their hunts. Some of them are harmless, others not so much.
If you want to strap a GoPro to your forehead and film your hunt, go for it, but there’s no need to put it on YouTube. Keep those memories to yourself and your friends – nobody cares about the 5×5 raghorn you gut-shot. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If someone isn’t paying you to film your hunt, you probably shouldn’t be putting it on the internet.
Being an active content producer on YouTube isn’t always a zero-sum game. For every one video that showcases a quality product or highlights an important issue, there’s seemingly 10 more that benefit nobody but the YouTubers themselves. Again, I’m not here to fight against anyone’s right to earn a living or make some side-hustle money, but I do believe it’s important to offer a different perspective than what’s currently popular online. Unlike a YouTube cooking show, there are real-world ramifications when hunts are irresponsibly posted on the internet. If you burn a homemade pizza, you can always make another one. But, we only have so many animals and places to hunt them.
Whatever that thing is that makes people become star-struck by celebrities – I don’t have it. I especially don’t have it when it comes to hunting personalities. None of these YouTubers are inherently better or more special than you, me or anyone else. They’re just people who figured out how to use a camera and Adobe Premiere Pro and decided viewers might like to see them forcing grown men to run 50 yard sprints before an archery practice session (dumb).
All I ask, reader, is for you to have a critical eye and think for yourself. AND DON’T FORGET TO SMASH THAT “SUBSCRIBE” BUTTON ON THE WEBSITE SO YOU KNOW WHEN THE LATEST TAB ARTICLE IS POSTED! SORRY FOR THE DICK PILL ADS.