A new investigation by researchers at North Carolina State University has found that the future of hunting in the United States may be different than it has been in the past.
In The Journal of Wildlife Management, the researchers reported the results of a national survey on college student interest and participation in hunting. They found that current and active hunters were more likely to be white, male, and rural males, and to have family members who hunted. But they also found a group of would-be hunters – with no hunting experience but eager to give it a try – who were more diverse in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity.
“There are a lot of potential hunters out there who look nothing like today’s hunters, which suggests that there are many different paths to hunting,” said study co-author Lincoln Larson, associate professor of management. of parks, recreation and tourism at NC State. “We are working to find messages and strategies that resonate with new and diverse groups.”
In the study, researchers interviewed 17,203 undergraduates at public universities in 22 states from 2018 to 2020 to understand the students’ perspective on hunting. Recruiting new hunters has become a priority for public wildlife agencies, as the decline in hunting participation has also meant a reduction in a vital source of funding for agency operations: hunting license revenues. and excise taxes on hunting gear and ammunition.
“For nearly 100 years, hunting and angling have combined to provide a majority of funding for wildlife conservation in the United States,” said Larson. “Without the people who participate in these activities, our current conservation model will not work. By helping college students connect with public lands and wildlife, we can create a more sustainable source of funding in the future. “
They found that 29% of all students in the survey had hunted at some point in the past, and 11% had accompanied a hunter into the field. The biggest indicator of whether a student was hunting was having an immediate family member who was hunting as well.
When they categorized the students into active, potential, deceased, and non-hunters, they found that approximately 26% of the students were active hunters.
They were 84 percent white, 74 percent male, and many were from rural towns. Additionally, most active hunters had immediate family members who also hunted, and only 7% reported having no social support for hunting.
By comparison, the largest group of students were non-hunters, at 50 percent. The smallest group, at 3 percent, were abandoned hunters. Twenty-two percent of the students were potential hunters, meaning they said they might try it once, or they might hunt infrequently or regularly in the future.
Prospective hunters were a more diverse group than active hunters. Forty-seven percent were female and 38 percent identified as black or African American, Hispanic or Latin American, Asian, Native American or others.
Forty-three percent of potential hunters came from hometowns and 74% had no immediate family members who hunted. Seventy-nine percent specialized in fields other than agriculture or natural resources.
“We have found a lot of potential hunters who don’t share the same attributes as active hunters,” Larson said. “What motivates them, what limits their participation and how can we build a bridge to connect them to hunting and wildlife conservation?”
For the students in the survey, obtaining meat from ethically and locally sourced sources was the biggest motivator for hunting. Students from all groups also supported hunting as a conservation tool. Hunting for social reasons or for sport were more important motivations among active hunters. The biggest constraints they found in non-hunters, potential hunters, and deceased hunters was interest in other activities.
“One of our biggest takeaways is that many students, regardless of their background, support ecological conservation motivations for hunting. They care about controlling overpopulated species and improving personal and environmental health. by eating local game meat, ”said the study’s lead author. Victoria Vayer, former graduate student in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at NC State. “If we use messages that relate to these motivations, instead of focusing on contentious things like trophy hunting, we could attract more potential hunters without eroding the support of people who don’t hunt.”