Guest Column: It’s all “Pay to Play,” and we ain’t Talking about College Football

Not every company can compete on quality.

“Due to a binding endorsement contract that stipulates I mention PowerAde at each grace, I just wanna say that PowerAde is delicious, and it cools you off on a hot summer day and we look forward to PowerAde’s release of mystic mountain blueberry. Thank you for all your power and your grace, Dear Baby God, Amen.” – Ricky Bobby

Is this what the hunting industry has come to? Paid endorsement deals, hunting teams, wrapped vehicles laden with sponsor logos? What happened to the hunting lifestyle of our youth not so long ago?

“Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting goods dealer. He has draped the American Outdoors man with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them.” – Aldo Leopold

The term that always comes to mind when reflecting on hunters and hunting in the collective sense is “Cosa Nostra,” loosely translated as “this thing of ours.” Negative mafia connotations aside, the core tenets of “this thing of ours” holds true; family above all else (the hunting family), loyalty to the death, and never share potentially harmful information outside the family.

Now along comes the hunting industry (the gadgeteer), with its self-serving interests of padding its bottom line at any cost. In its wake are the influencers, YouTubers, and self-proclaimed “experts” clambering for scraps like bottom feeders following a Ray across the ocean floor. They’re desperate for affirmation from the “industry” that their influence is worth some form of compensation, no matter how minuscule.

Their platform, or strutting grounds, to display their prowess are the numerous forms of social media that are available for all to see…including those “outside the family.”

So, you ask yourself the obvious question, “what does it matter? All industries have influencers that endorse, market, or advertise their respective offerings.”

It is this author’s humble opinion that the answer is simply this; nobody is trying to eliminate the shoe industry, the auto industry, electronics, candy bars, energy drinks, etc., nor do any of these products coincide with the taking of another creature’s life.

Hunting is not a sport, a hobby, or a vocation – it is something in and of itself by its very nature. For those who love it for the right reasons, it is “this thing of ours,” and cannot be simplified to a label. So what harm are these paid influencers and their employers actually causing?

It is two-fold in my opinion. First and foremost, it is the sell at any cost and content above all else practice that results in less than tasteful images being plastered across numerous platforms for all to see. Imagery that paints the hunting family as barbaric mouth breathers who kill for the sake of killing and nothing else. Brand and product names that tell those unfamiliar with hunting, “we are just here for blood.”

The “Bloodsports,” “Trained Assassins,” “Grim Reapers,” “Slayers,” “Dirt Nap Dealers;” all just click-bait monikers designed to sell at any cost. Unfortunately, the ultimate cost will be the right to hunt for future generations. For reinforcement, just look at many hunting product companies’ social media pages and it will paint the picture very clear for all to see.

The second offense is against us, the hunting family, by way of supporting only those who are willing to sell their opinion (integrity, I say). Regardless of the quality or effectiveness of the products they promote, these trusted “experts” continue to push these gadgets to the many hunters who are desperate for help in their quest to become more successful.

Let’s face it, this crap is hard and the last thing we need is something that will actually lower our chances for success! Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, the lion share of products from the “industry proper” fall into that category. While the game may be called “sponsorship” to most, it’s still just lying in my book.

Look, I’m a simple guy from the South that’s part of the hunting family and like so many just looking for someone with more experience than myself to help guide me in my progression as a hunter. So how do you navigate through the quagmire of B.S. to get what you actually need? I wish I knew for certain, but what I will say is just pay attention. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…well, you know.

If this is the greatest widget this week, but a different brand widget was the greatest last week, somebody got paid. Most good companies really don’t spend money on influencers and marketing; the quality of their products and their personnel are their advertising strategy.

While those companies may be hard to find because they’re obscured by all the talking heads, once discovered they stand out against the crowd and become a good example of what to look for. Additionally, most really good companies owned and operated by “the good guys” only associate with like-minded people, so their affiliations or recommendations should be weighted accordingly.

How do you make a difference? Vote with your wallet!

Support the “good guys” that are making quality, useful products right here in the U.S.A; not these marketing companies that are just labeling cheap Chinese-made products and selling a “story” with their “pay to play” influencers.

Ask the questions: Where is it made? How is it made? Why is this product going to make me a more successful, and by default, ethical hunter? Because when all the smoke clears, isn’t that what we’re all after?

– Hunter X

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