By Johnny Mack
Five years ago I met my best friend and now my wife through the power of the internet and social media. We didn’t know each other growing up nor did we even know of each other’s existence until we met using the free dating app Plenty Of Fish. It was love at first sight and it has been nothing but love ever since. The irony of it as it relates to hunting is, people have no problem using the internet to meet their spouses and significant others, but how many people will not use it to meet hunting partners or build community in the hunting world?
Whether we want to deny it or not, the way of this world is going digital. It is changing before our eyes. Each new day brings about some sort of change that can be life impacting. We either need to get on board with it and work on our flexibility to accept change, or we can allow life to pass us by as we complain about the hunting community shrinking and dying while we do nothing towards helping its expanse and growth. How many people do you think are out there that are afraid to take the time to mentor, learn or share opportunities that hunting and the great outdoors has to offer because of their fear or unfamiliarity of social media? Is it because they are too scared to engage in any type of so-called online relationship? Or is it that times are changing and the hunting world is always the last to finally realize change and catch up?
Washington Backcountry was founded upon three things: Courage, Mentorship, and Ambassadorship. It is our belief that everyone in their own life needs to work towards improving and embracing the courage that lies within each and every one of us. It takes courage to try new things. It takes courage to help others, to teach, to guide and to mentor. That includes trying new things like digital mentorship and the building of relationships online. I have found two of my hunting partners online. One I found while posting a question about the possibility to hunt coyotes on private land, and the other while looking at a backpack that was for sale on OfferUp. Both turned out to be great and both have helped me in pursuing my goal of becoming a hunter. If it wasn’t for the ability to use social media and the internet for knowledge and relationship building, Washington Backcountry would not be around today.
Social media outlets such as Instagram are changing the game in the ability to access people and companies. When doing research for my book FOUND, I wanted to see what type of mentorship programs there were for adults who wanted to start hunting. Turns out, not much. But when I googled hunter mentorship, I came across an article about one guy mentoring another. Turns out that the mentor had an Instagram account and I reached out to him to ask some questions. After messaging back and forth, it hit me, I was talking with the editor in chief of Outdoor Life magazine! I was in shock! Was it that easy? Could I really just get in contact with people that easily?
When Washington Backcountry became something serious that I was going to pursue, we had just a little over 300 followers. In three months we grew to over 1000, and in that time have made multiple relationships and have connected with numerous hunters that are willing and wanting to collaborate on hunts (something that in the previous 4 years was not something that I could find). It is with the vulnerability to use the internet and social media to build connections and relationships that is going to help bring new hunters into the fold and hopefully strengthen and grow such a wonderful activity and lifestyle.
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