New Research Sheds Light On Future Of Hunting Participation

A man and a boy sitting in a truck with a gun
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An unscrupulous amount of research has been historically collected on the ecological ramifications and benefits of hunting.

Up until recently though, very little research had ever been conducted on hunters themselves.  Revenue generated from hunting is a critical component for financing state fish and wildlife agencies and conservation efforts through the sale of hunting licenses, permits, and tags in addition to the additional excise tax on hunting equipment, firearms, and ammunition.

Given the importance of hunting as a funding source for wildlife conservation, research in recent years has focused more and more on expanding hunting opportunities to more diverse crowds and newer audiences than just the traditional hunting base.

One of the largest research projects ever related to hunting participation focused on the perceptions of college students in particular. The results provide fascinating insights into just how hunting may fit into modern American society moving forward.

As part of the study, researchers surveyed 17,203 students at public universities in 22 states, grouping them into categories of active, potential, lapsed, or non-hunters.

74% of the active hunters surveyed were men, 84 percent of them were white, and most came from rural hometowns.

Students who had never been hunting before, but would be willing to try hunting were a more diverse demographic and more closely reflected America’s general population. Nearly half were women, 38 percent were people of color, and 43 percent came from urban areas.

Even if they had no intention of learning how to hunt, many survey respondents indicated they support of hunting as a way to manage ecosystems or fill the freezer with meat. And all students showed strong support for conservation values.

The study was originally public through a highly respected academic platform, the Journal of Wildlife Management. 

The data provides the kind of applicable information that government agencies and conservation organizations have been seeking in order to start focusing their recruiting efforts on potential audiences they’ve been missing. The results of this project spotlights just how promising of a place college campuses for cultivating the next generation of hunters and conservationists and explores a variety of previously held cultural assumptions about hunting and hunters.

Despite the growing number of learn-to-hunt programs designed specifically to cater to new hunters programs nationwide, there is little data on who hunting-curious adults are, the unique barriers different segments of that population may face, and what will turn them into hunters.

For more information on such programs in your state, the Council to Advance Hunting & The Shooting Sports has compiled a directory of state fish and wildlife agencies who all provide information on public learn-t0-hunt programs.

The recent study was lead by Victoria Valyer, a former graduate student from North Carolina State University. She’s excited about now trying to turn the research she conducted into meaningful changes and progress for the hunting community.

“The biggest gap we’re trying to fill is that a lot of hunting studies in the past have looked at the current population of hunters. That’s not necessarily helping us recruit new hunters.

I think we can leverage this common ground, just in terms of the conservation landscape, that is really promising even if we’re taking recruiting new hunters out of the picture for a moment.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of the study displayed that growing up in a family with a tradition of hunters remains the number common factor for existing hunters and the number one barrier for new hunters.

“If you don’t have someone in your family to teach you those things, it’s hard. It creates more barriers, and you see how the cycle of racial disparity can continue in hunting demographics.”

At first glance, it’s discouraging that 74 percent of aspiring new hunters indicated lacked family support or necessary social relationships for learning how to hunt. Historically those hunting partnerships have always developed organically.

In recent years social networks, like GoWild have been able to start replicating the community-based mentoring ecosystem that hunting participation is it built.

It may ultimately be a promising avenue for recruiting a whole new generation of hunters from a more diverse audience.

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