Poised with a look of confusion and a glimmer of concern, my wife questioned me, “So you are going to go into the woods with a group of guys you met on the internet, who will all carrying guns?” “Well, when you put it that way…yes, I guess”, I responded with a confident assurance. Not really having thought of it like that, I was more excited to meet up with some new guys who share a common love of the outdoors, and an affinity for chasing birds. After all, I already know all of these guys, as I have been following them all on Instagram for some time now. That makes us all friends, right?
With an ever-increasing number of outdoor sportsmen utilizing social media, even the people you have never met face to face have become more familiar than many people you see every day. We now live in a world where “tweet-ups” and “insta-meets” are commonplace, especially among business professionals, aspiring photographers, and budding entrepreneurs. There is no reason why those of us that engage in social outdoor activities such as grouse hunting can’t also take part in putting faces to account names.
Since I joined the Instagram world five years ago as @sportdogphoto, I have been following quite a few grouse and woodcock aficionados who also love to share their passion through captured moments posted to a timeline. One of those happened to be a guy who exemplifies what if means to be an upland sportsman, despite his online moniker, @upland_lowlife(Jay). He had orchestrated this particular meet-up, as a couple of other guys from out of state had planned to also be in town this particular weekend. I too, had been trying to find a time to hit the woods with Jay for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
I met up with Jay as his Northern Michigan cabin on a Saturday evening, where we were also joined that night by his friends @Smallmouthgrouse(Carson). Jay and Carson had been hunting and fishing buddy’s for a while, so there was some familiarity already there. That night we were also accompanied by one half of the @theNorthwoodsR crew. Garrett, who along with his buddy Nick, are a couple of guys from Minnesota who have teamed up to share stories of their dogs, deer, and grouse adventures via their blog, www.NorthwoodsR.com. That evening as we gathered around the campfire and nursing a few drinks, online handles took on a face and profile pictures morphed into personas. We swapped tales and stories in a way that only old friends could have after years of being apart.
The following morning as we sat around the breakfast table preparing for the day’s hunt, we were joined by a couple more guys from the Insta-world. @the__royal__flush(Sam) drove all the way from New York to try his hand at a few Michigan grouse. A far cry from the coverts he is used to hunting back home, the aspen and young forest habitats of the mitten offered a promising prospect for finding a few elusive birds. The second half of the NorthwoodsR crew, Nick, also rolled in that morning. Nick is probably better known for his latest gig as the voice of the Project Upland Podcast. Nick was also on the tail end of his RGS grouse camp tour, and had seen quite a few new places in the days leading up to this.
As the morning grew brighter, and the coffee began to kick in, we all laced up our boots and packed up the trucks ready for a day in the woods of mid-Michigan. The evening prior, we all walked into that little backwoods cabin merely an online name preceded by an ampersand. By the time we headed into the field that morning, friendships had formed that will last far beyond the glowing screens that brought us together.
Don't be afraid to make friends online, but be sure to meet up with them once in a while. You never know where those friendships will take you.
Adapted from an Article originally posted in Ruffed Grouse Society Magazine