"Many hunters are going to think I am crazy, but here is my honest opinion [on how to handle anti-hunters]: Stop ignoring them."
— Aly Shreiber, Anti-Hunter turned Hunter, Conservationist
One of the main reasons we founded GoWild was to help new or inexperienced hunters and anglers learn. It's an effort that's near and dear to our hearts. We've been so proud to see several people actually join our app with no hunting experience, and ask questions as they purchase their first bows, take their first shots, learn how to field dress an animal and so much more. It has honestly been the most rewarding experience we could have asked for.
Along the way, we met Aly Shreiber. Aly is admittedly still learning (aren't we all, though?). Her story is evolving in real time—she's a great hunter, angler and outdoors enthusiast—but it wasn't all that long ago she would have been what we all call the "anti."
Immediately, we knew this was a rare chance to hear what goes through the mind of an "anti" and to talk to Aly about what she was thinking and why. This was a very interesting, and honestly, important, conversation. The more you can understand the opposition, the better you can explain your decisions in a way that will resonate. So thank you, Aly, for taking the time to help us all learn.
Enjoy the read.
GoWild: Aly, you’re the first person we’ve interviewed who has ever gotten mad at someone for posting a photo about hunting on social media. And that’s because you were once strongly opposed to hunting. But you’re now an avid hunter. That kind of pivot takes time, but at some point something triggered your brain to say, “I might be looking at this whole thing wrong.” What was that moment or conversation?
Aly: Growing up, I always heard things like, “I’ve been hunting since I could walk!” Which I know now that these experiences aren't necessary to be a hunter. But hearing things like that was discouraging for me.
The only fishing I had ever really done was in my own backyard, with the push-button reels and some bread as bait (I'm not even kidding). Plus I had never hunted, ever, unless you consider catching frogs with your barehands a “spot and stalk.” Once I got older and I had friends who were willing to take me hunting, or fishing, or noodling, I never went because I was intimidated. Plus I knew some of them were unethical hunters, and that was disheartening because I imagined that every hunter did it the wrong way.
I was 20 years old and had not done a single one of these things, I just told myself it was because I didn’t like them. But luckily for me, I met someone who was patient enough to teach me. And that was a game changer.
Aly with Cody after a deer hunt from this year.
In March of 2016, Cody (who is now my fiancé), caught me when my brain was going through a glitch as I was thinking about hunting, and he managed to convince me that I should at least try to hunt, just once. I agreed, but I told him that I absolutely refused to hunt rabbits, squirrels, or raccoons because they are just so freaking cute and fluffy that I knew I would cry if I killed one. Turkey season was open, and I think we can all agree that turkeys are on the lower end of the “cute scale." Sorry, turkeys.
We woke up early the next morning (too early, in my opinion) and went to Cody's favorite spot. He knew exactly where they set up to roost in the evenings, so when we got there we put the decoy out and hid in a holler. Once the sun started creeping in, Cody started calling. And a turkey immediately gobbled back, over and over, which I had never heard before so I was totally amazed. To this day, I cannot forget how beautiful that moment was. Watching and listening to the world wake up, in the middle of a pasture—It was absolutely breathtaking. And to be honest with you, that is what got me hooked. Cody and I did not harvest a turkey that day. In fact, we never even saw him because he stayed on his roost gobbling. But that didn’t bother me at all. I was so excited and thrilled to have experienced what I did (Cody, not so much).
I wasn’t intrigued by killing the animal we were after, instead, I was addicted to the scenery and the emotions I got to feel out there and I have been ever since. Harvesting an animal is just a plus for me. Since then, I have not been afraid to try anything. Mainly because I realized that if I have a bad experience and I realize that I don’t enjoy it, then I don’t have to do it again. But I have to at least try it to know what it's really about.
Now I love to hunt deer and ducks, too. I'm an avid angler, even doing my share of noodling. I’m addicted to it all and I can not wait to see what I get to try next!
GoWild: Let’s be clear with folks—you really were opposed to hunting, but you weren’t a troll. However, even though you didn’t express those feelings to others online, seeing photos of harvested deer really upset you, right? Can you elaborate on that?
Aly: Unfortunately, yes. And I am embarrassed to admit that now, but there was a time in my life when seeing photos of harvested deer, or any animals for that matter, upset and almost offended me, honestly. I would scroll through my newsfeed and unfollow people that took pride in hunting; but like you mentioned, I never trolled people and I still do not understand how people have the nerve to do that.
The best way to elaborate on that is to say this: What I was interpreting from the pictures I saw was completely different than the message that they were actually conveying as conservationists. The photo I saw was egotistical, heartless, and selfish, but in reality, the photo they captured was respectful, conservative, and justifiable. Other hunters and conservationists saw the photo for what it is, but I saw it for what I wanted it to be. Since some of the hunters I knew were unethical, I projected that other hunters were as well.
It is difficult to explain how I felt to people who were raised in the outdoors, but the best way I know how to justify and spell out my ignorance is that it is extremely easy to dislike something you do not fully understand. I realize now that it is also naive to dislike something just because you do not understand it.
GoWild: What was the peak of your personal anti-hunting persona? Do you have a moment that comes to mind that kind of sums up how you felt about hunting?
Aly: Absolutely, and I am ashamed by it as well. Truthfully, there are several (pathetic) moments that I experienced as an “anti-hunter.” But one that really sticks with me and makes my face turn red with humiliation to this day is this: One time a friend of mine tricked me into eating what I thought was a beef hamburger. I scarfed down the entire thing in like 50 seconds (cause ya homegirl likes to eat) and as soon as my plate was clean, they asked if I liked the burger. My response was something along the lines of, “Well, yeah, you know I love food. I’m not picky.” And their response was something like, “Well it was deer meat so I thought you wouldn’t.”
I cried y'all. I bawled. I was angry. I was confused. I was frustrated. I was heartbroken. Why? I have no freaking idea. I remember feeling like I ate freaking Bambi, or something. Which is clearly ridiculous, but to me it made sense at the time.
Needless to say, I’m beyond happy to eat venison in any way, shape, or form now, thank the Lord.
GoWild: Despite knowing how mean antis can be, you really put your story out there and it’s admirable. Tell me about your journey to become this hunter with over 5,500 social media followers.
Aly: All I can really say about my transition into where I am now is that it would have never occurred if it weren’t for the support from my patient fiancé, my friends, my awesome family, and even a few complete strangers. In just one year I harvested my first doe, shot my first turkey, caught my first massive bass, and noodled several catfish with my barehands. But I know that I could not have done any of it without all of the support and encouragement I have received along the way.
That's what I love about the outdoor industry on social media—everyone takes the time to reach out and support one another. For every negative comment that I receive from anti-hunters,I get double the amount of encouraging and comforting comments from other people in the outdoors! I have connected with so many other outdoorsmen and sportswomen all over the world. And recently, I was fortunate enough to join an awesome group of outdoors-women known as The Huntress View, who have constantly encouraged, supported, and pushed me as a hunter, fisher, and conservationist.
Whenever I have questions, need opinions, or want feedback, I always have someone who is more than happy to provide it to me. I’ve learned that as hunters, we may not all use the same tactics, but we all want the same positive outcome. And that’s all that really matters.
It's not all hunting for Aly—she's rippin' lips, too.
GoWild: What’s your favorite species to hunt, and what’s your favorite to eat?
Aly: I can wholeheartedly and truthfully say that I do not have a “favorite species to hunt.” They are all completely different, and each exciting in their own unique way. I am just as thankful to harvest a turkey as I am an eight-point buck, or 30 pound catfish. I love it all!
With that said, venison is my favorite to eat. I just favor venison because you can do so many different things with it. And I’m not a picky eater, so I enjoy variety and trying new recipes!
GoWild: You’re in a unique position. You probably see both sides better than most. What advice do you give to hunters faced with anti-hunting comments and even the death threats we’re all familiar with today on the big named platforms?
Aly: Many hunters are going to think I am crazy for how I rationalize this, but here is my honest opinion: Stop ignoring them.
What people don’t realize is that (most) of their hateful comments come from a place of misunderstanding, not true hatred. They are either angry at us for hunting because:
A) They probably know people that do it unethically.
B) They were not raised around it. So, they see deer as Bambi, not as meat in the freezer for your family.
C) They are completely ignorant. They have no idea what they are talking about, and they are probably just commenting on your picture to get a rise out of you because they have nothing better to do.
Our job as conservationists is to determine which category they fall into. Once we do that, we give ourselves the opportunity to spread the truth about hunting, educate them on conservation, and hopefully prevent them from harassing another outdoorsmen.
We will never have the ability to change their minds if we respond to their comments with hate. Instead, if we allow ourselves to be the bigger person, and we give them the opportunity to have a productive conversation about it, we could potentially introduce someone to our lifestyle.
If we continue to delete their comments or block them from our page, we have practically done nothing. Because they are just going to go “troll” another hunter, whom of which is more than likely one of our friends. So, I think we should take the time as sportsmen to grab hold and take control of this situation. If we choose not to, we are going to see more photos get trolled, censored, and even deleted because Instagram is not in our favor, which is why I take refuge in the GoWild app.
GoWild: If someone has been debating going hunting for the first time, what would you say to get them to give it a shot?
Aly: One of the most valuable things I have learned through the outdoors is there is no better way to become self-aware than to try new things. You will never know what you are capable of if you don’t try it! And it never hurts to try it.
Aly is partnering with GoWild to help others find the path to the outdoors.
GoWild: For years, hunting was a boy’s club, but strong women like you are starting to come forward and say, “You know what, I’m a woman, I like to hunt and that’s more than just OK. We should accept it and encourage it.” I love that. What would you say to women who are afraid to take that first step towards shooting a bow, casting a line or venturing into the outdoors?
Aly: Honestly, I would tell them to reach out to me. I have been there. I know how intimidating, and even frustrating, it can be. But if they aren’t comfortable with that, there are plenty of other sportswomen who know how they feel and they are all more than willing to guide them through it. Social media is an awesome way to communicate with people in the outdoor industry, and there are several groups that use their page to do just that!
And I would personally tell them that there is certainly nothing to be afraid of. As I mentioned before, it never hurts to try it. It only hurts to never try it.
GoWild: Aly, you’ve now teamed up with GoWild to help people find a platform that supports hunting, fishing and the outdoors. Beyond giving you an accepting and encouraging platform, how can we help you grow as a hunter?
Aly: Beyond giving me an accepting and encouraging platform, you can help me grow by allowing me to share my story, which you have been doing since the day I downloaded the app. Allowing myself—and others—to share my adventures, my experiences, and my knowledge, not only educates other people in the outdoors, but it also allows me to see just how far I have come and how much knowledge I have retained. It shows me where my weaknesses are and where I have room to grow, because we all know there is ALWAYS room to grow. I honestly don’t realize how much I have flourished in the outdoors until I get to talk to others about it. So, thank you for allowing me to do that.
Join Aly on the GoWild app: