The Age of “Content”

 

 

Arrows

Its 2017 and the amount of traditional archery-related content on the Internet is astounding. Especially compared to what it was when I picked up a bow eight years ago.

Traditionalists hadn’t acknowledged the existence of Facebook as anything other than something “those damn kids” did. If you wanted to learn about bows or argue with like-minded people, you created a handle and joined a forum. That is the way we liked it and the traditional community had three of them: Trad Gang, the Leatherwall, and the Trad Rag. If you shot a bow and didn’t belong to one or all three, you either didn’t own a computer, or “were too busy shooting to mess with that nonsense”.

What we have now is shocking in comparison. New forums have emerged and even the crankiest of traditionalists have made the migration. You can’t go a week without getting added to an archery/bowhunting page or receiving a friend request from a stickbow-wielding stranger that stumbled on to your profile via Suggested Friends. And that is only two networking mediums.

When I started Life and Longbows in 2010, there was nary a stickbow blog to be found. Trust me. I knew how to look and looked often before purchasing a WordPress account. I was in my late 20s, had discovered something special, developed an insatiable hunger for it, and was eager to share my experiences. I wasn’t the best archer, and a novice hunter, but I could write a little bit and was willing to share. There was very little content out there. I could share a post with a terrible photo, not tag anything, and end up on the first page of any search engine with generic keywords like “traditional archery” or “longbow”.

Traditional blogs have multiplied since then, but the timing is terrible. Blogging is fading – like that ratty old hunting hat you keep on a hook in your closet for nostalgia. Most people don’t want to read anymore. They may skim, but prefer content they can multi-task around. You can listen to a podcast at your desk while you’re working, or in the car while you’re driving and no amount of words can describe a bear hunt as well as someone filming one first-hand. Reading something requires imagination and a full investment. We are becoming a society of people that is only half-invested. Sorry, that is the truth of the matter.

We are also experiencing a shift in our demographic. Traditional archery was an older man’s game, but they are getting older. Soon it will be a younger man’s game. It will have to be, or there won’t be anyone left. A friend of mine always says “We are one generation from extinction” and these words are more accurate than I would like them to be. But the community isn’t dying. Its just changing. Technology is improving and is more accessible than ever before. There is no choice but to change with it – our little community included.

And I believe that it is. Our ilk tends to give “millennials” (lets be honest, this is basically a stereotype for people between the age of 25-40 these days) a hard time, but that is the new demographic and it isn’t changing anytime soon. Young, passionate, tech-savvy millennials are doing more to drive our beloved past-time forward than most would care to admit. Trad Geeks, Twisted Stave Media, and The Push are doing wonderful things behind a microphone or through the lens of a camera. They are hungry, eager to teach, and work hard to produce good content. They work even harder to network and engage. And yes, social networking is work. Anyone who says different has obviously never done it. It is a grind.

So here is the real question…

Why aren’t I doing the same? I’m still passionate. I’m savvy. I’m a young marketing professional. I love and understand digital storytelling. And I’m an avid social media user. I also have nine years worth of experience (three of them as the President of the Michigan Longbow Association) and connections. Why aren’t I podcasting? Where are my videos? Why am I not feverishly pushing modern content to the stickbow shooting masses like I did when I began?

Why am I writing this post?

This question has singed the synapses of my brain for over a month. I like to understand things that bother me and I don’t understand this feeling. I suppose this post is my attempt to verbalize it.

I once read about the phases of a hunter. I do not recall the publication, but it discussed the progression from someone making their very first kill, to killing often, to only killing trophy animals, and eventually to not killing at all. It was a fantastic description of the cycle of experience that hunters face as they get older and I think it correlates to what I’m currently experiencing.

I started out wide-eyed and wonderfully overwhelmed. I began to immerse myself in the culture, meeting and engaging with as many people as possible and trying to be somebody in this community. I then trimmed that group down to certain people and created my own social circle. Now I find myself pulling away from that circle and creating an even smaller one. The desire to “be somebody” is no longer there and I find myself wanting to keep some of my experiences closer to the chest.

The drive to learn and share is still there, but not to the degree it used to be and I’m not sure why that is. Did I burn myself somewhere in the middle of my journey? Possibly. Am I lacking the time I used to have to devote to this area of my life? Definitely. But I’d like to think there is more to this than lame excuses.

Part of me believes I’ve passed the torch (not that the aforementioned have any clue as to who I am or are even familiar with this blog) to better hosts. Online traditional content is in good hands and I don’t have the desire to be the host of that content beyond what I am already doing. I love to write, but only about certain things. I tried my hand at product reviews, but that felt like a job. I did an interview or two, but enjoyed the process more than the product. I wrote my share of “How To” articles, but realized I’m far too unorthodox, impulsive, and sloppy to tell people how to do things. There are others who do this far better than I ever could.

DadShooting

I write to capture interactions and experiences. That is what Life and Longbows is. It took me seven years to figure that out – to figure me out – and I am satisfied with that realization. Furthermore, I just want to enjoy all of this. I don’t want to tinker with gear or push product or rant about why hybrid longbows are better than D-style longbows on a podcast. I don’t want to feel obligated to bring a camera with me everywhere I go and miss important stuff while I’m trying to operate it. I don’t want to have deadlines.

Looking at an experience as “content” is exhausting and it takes a little bit of the magic out of it. That doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to. The beauty of an arrow in flight and the people that witness it are what matters the most to me now. Appreciating it fully means sharing it when and how I want to.

This is how I like to do it and will continue to as long as there are people who wish to read it.

To those who have been and continue to do so…thank you.

I’m also in the process of doing something I’ve always dreamed of doing – writing a book. It will be titled Life and Longbows in tribute to this site and will contain a mixture of work from stories published here, in other archery publications, and new content I haven’t yet released. It will be available for Kindle as well as print (in limited copies) and I am hoping to release it this winter. Stay tuned!

 

 

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“The Oath”

JohnTurkeys17

Wikipedia defines an oath as “a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future actions or behavior.” 

While not divine, I was recently a witness to such a promise.

I have a “turkey hunting” friend. He probably isn’t too difficult to imagine if you know someone similar. You are probably thinking of him (or her) right now, in fact. I would wager they are cut from the same cloth – yours and mine – and would get along swimmingly should they ever meet in the real world. (Unless they are the competitive sort. We should pray for the opposite, in that case.)

My turkey hunting friend’s name is John and nothing winds his clock more than a 6 am fly down or a gobble on the roost. John lives for these scenarios. You can see it in his eyes when he’s on a bird, and in his voice when he talks about the one (or two) that got away. There is nothing he’d rather be hunting than the bird, even when he’s hunting something else. I’ve heard too many blasphemous statements in the deer woods to believe otherwise. “Man, I’m seeing turkey scratch all over. If I hear a gobble, its game on, deer be damned!”

“Damned” indeed for making such a statement on a Michigan morning in October. “Beards before bucks? Surely, you must be joking.” But he isn’t. Turkeys are the most sacred of creatures to John and hunting them is the closest to God he could ever be on this Earth. When he isn’t hunting them, he’s reading about hunting them. When he isn’t reading about hunting them, he’s building his own calls. When he isn’t building his own calls, he’s navigating forgotten gravel drives in a rusted out Ford with a watchful eye on every field and hollow.

He loves to eat turkeys too, but that goes without saying.

It was his passion for the pursuit of this bird that made John the perfect candidate for longbow recruitment. He liked to do things the way I liked to do things, only he was using a shotgun. I would send him photos of bows and arrows. He would send me photos of calls he was working on. It was only a matter of time before our addictions crossed. John started shooting a longbow and I started hunting turkeys.

We mentored each other that first year. John made his first bow and I acquired my first calls and shotgun. We were both equally awful at the other’s endeavor. I was making horrible noises in the turkey woods and John was shooting groups the size of a hay bale into his hay bale. Still, the seeds had been planted. Improvement was inevitable. I gave up the shotgun a season later. It felt wrong to be in the woods without my bow. John wasn’t quite there, but a gun was feeling less-and-less “right”. He started the season with his bow, reserving his 12-gauge for a sudden death scenario. He ended up shooting a nice bird that season, but those closest to him could see it didn’t make him feel the way it used to.

What John was feeling, is actually quite common. Once you’ve spent time afield with a stick-and-string, it is very difficult to be in the woods with anything else. It eventually becomes a part of you and everything you do, see, and feel. I was privy to all of this. And I was there when the aforementioned oath was made.

“I’m going after turkeys again this year. And I’m doing it longbow only. I don’t even care if I get a bird.”

“Really…” I said, raising my eyebrows in astonishment. He shot me a look as serious as death, then he nodded. “Oh yes. Longbow. Wood arrows. Public land. Boots on the ground. Going after ’em!” It was a gem of a promise. Something you might hear amidst the inebriated blustering of one of the turkey elite following their 100th kill. But he meant every word and I found that infectious. “I suppose I’d better go with you then.” I sighed. “Can’t let you have all the fun, can I?”

“Sure thing.” He said. “I’ve got just the place. I hope you like to get up early and I hope you like to walk.”

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