From the cavemen who paved the way for humanity to the frontiersmen who made living in America possible such as Daniel Boone and Lewis and Clark, hunters have historically been revered for their competence as providers, prowess with weapons that aid in harvesting various animals, and ability to read and translate signs in nature. Without the brave and resourceful men throughout history who spent their lives hunting and exploring the wilderness, civilization as we know it today simply would not exist. However, in recent years with food being readily available, the role of a hunter has become disposable in regards to the human survival. The hunter no longer holds the prestigious role it once had. Rather, in today’s world, the hunter is associated with terms such as “hillbilly” and “redneck”. How have hunters gone from holding such a vital role in the human condition to being referred to as hillbillies and rednecks? There is a cultural stereotype regarding the animal killing and redneck hunter, and it must be debunked.
What is a redneck? Well, calling someone a redneck suggests many aspects of one’s character and is often times stereotypical and judgemental. For example, if you’re a redneck you must be an uneducated racist. If you’re a redneck, you must kill animals and spend your free time chewing tobacco. If you’re a redneck, you must hold yourself in high esteem with conservative political views. If you’re a redneck, you must love to roll around in the mud and wrestle pigs. The classic picture of a “redneck” is an overweight man dressed head to toe in camouflage, and being a redneck is often times synonymous with being a hunter. Something went wrong in the course of time that lead hunters to hold such ridiculous and derogatory connotations. To understand why the hunter has evolved into the redneck in the public’s perspective, there must be an evaluation of the public’s experience with the hunting community.
In the past decade, being a redneck and wearing camouflage has increasingly become a fad among many people. These people love to take their jeeps or jacked-up F150s mudding. They also love to have bumper stickers that say “Whack em’ and stack em”, “If it flies it dies”, or “If it’s brown it’s down.” They will exit their muddied truck or jeep with a camo hat and a t-shirt with a 10 point whitetail embroidered on the back. The amazing part about this is that I know more people who fit this description who have never even completed a hunter safety course than those who have. In regards to this contradiction, I blame the “Duck Dynasty Effect”.
What I have dubbed the “Duck Dynasty Effect” is the general name for the media’s role in the redneck fad. Duck Dynasty made being a redneck cool. With witty comments from Jase, infinite backwoods wisdom from the patriarch Phil, and outrageous stories from good old Uncle Si, Duck Dynasty developed itself as one of the most watched shows in all of television. These men all wear camo, are funny and goofy, like to blow things up, and kill animals for food- the perfect rednecks. Soon after the shows release, men and women of all ages began grabbing their Uncle Si shirts, buying Duck Commander decals, and filling their dressers with camo. Duck Dynasty started a redneck revolution, and the people who embodied the redneck image skewed the image of the hunter. Now a days, one cannot tell a hunter because of the Realtree camouflage pattern the person is wearing or the duck decal on the back of their truck, it could just mean they’re fans of Duck Dynasty. What viewers do not know is that although the Robertson’s seem goofy and uneducated on their reality show, these men are actually geniuses in the duck hunting community. Phil Robertson created an empire by developing a unique and realistic duck call. Their duck hunting expertise is unrivaled, as seen through their Duck Commander videos, but only a true hunter can appreciate this. Since Duck Dynasty sparked a redneck revolution, a host of redneck television shows have come to light in pop culture. Although they strayed away from the hunting aspect and are sometimes entertaining, redneck reality such as Party Down South and Buckwild are equally to blame for aiding the redneck stereotype of hunters.
Along with television, contemporary country music aids to the redneck misrepresentation of hunting. Today we have country music stars such as Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean who appear on the Outdoor Channel’s Buck Commander (coincidentally made by Willie Robertson) where they harvest beautiful and well fed monster bucks. When they’re not on the show, they return home to record songs about rednecks. Modern day country singers loves to emphasize living in the backwoods, shooting bucks, trailer parks, being a blue collar “redneck”, and chewing tobacco. Not only is contemporary country repetitive and unoriginal, but it serves a stereotype for the hunting community as a whole.
Now knowing the roots and characteristics of the modern day redneck, and knowing that being a hunter doesn’t mean you are a redneck, what is a hunter? Hunters vary from person to person. Yes some chew tobacco, yes some hold conservative views, and yes some refer to themselves as rednecks. However to categorize these people and the rest of the hunting community as rednecks would be an ignorant classification.
I’ve sat at the lunch table of my high school cafeteria and had to spit out shotgun pellets that were once loaded in a Hypersonic 3” shell from my duck jerky. However I have never referred to myself as a redneck. I’ve openly taken pride in my ability to successfully hunt game animals and then harvest meat off these animals. However I have never referred to myself as a redneck. I refuse to call myself a redneck for a number of reasons, mainly because of the negative suggestions of being uneducated and being disrespectful to the environment that the word holds. I have never said “If it flies it dies” or “If its brown its down.” I have more respect for the animals I hunt than that, but a true redneck will have this on the back of his Ford. I am a Biology student who holds education in the highest regard and will soon be pursuing a Master’s degree, but a true redneck knows that education is unnecessary. Hunters provide a variety of shapes and sizes, genders, educational and economic backgrounds, and personal values. Hunters live in cities and they live in the woods. They are conservatives and liberals. They are rich and poor. More importantly, a hunter does not need to be uneducated or wear camo to fit the role. A hunter needs to be a student of nature, take pride in what he or she does, and never conform to cultural stereotypes. I choose to associate myself with respectful and knowledgeable hunters, but I am not a redneck.