With all anti-hunting propaganda out there suggesting hunters are nothing but a bunch of cruel, heartless drunks, it's easy to start thinking we might need to keep our mouths shut about exactly what we do on our weekends. Ya wouldn't want the person in the next cubicle to know that you ... gasp! ... hunt to put food on your table, right?
I mean, I've never been a fan of skulking about. Why should I hide my ethical and responsible participation in a legal activity?
But now I've got research that makes it clear why I should be up front about my hunting.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation released a 273-page study this week called "The Future of Hunting and Shooting Sports." It provides a full-fledged feast for thought, including some heartening data and nearly 200 concrete recommendations - many of which ordinary hunters can do - to ensure the survival of our right to hunt and shoot.
I haven't finished reading it yet, but there are a couple things I wanted to share right away:
Talk about what you do. The study found that non-hunters get the most negative impressions of hunting from the media, and the most positive impressions from hunters themselves. That means if they only hear about hunting from the media, they're not hearing any of the positives. "The more hunters and shooters are out there talking about the positive aspects of hunting and shooting, the more support there is for these activities," the report concludes (p. 235). "Hunters and shooters, more than anti-hunters and anti-shooters, hold the key to future public opinion regarding hunting and shooting" (p. 236).
Language matters. The study does note that hunters should be prepared for some extreme reactions when discussing hunting, but that it's important not to respond in kind - stay calm, being neither aggressive, extreme, nor condescending (p. 230). It's also important to distinguish that what we do is legal hunting. Some nonhunters lump the poachers and the ethical hunters into one group. Using the terms "legal hunting" or "regulated hunting" makes it clear that you are not a poacher (p. 231).
Hunting for meat has strong support. I noted this when I got a sneak preview of the data in May, but it's worth repeating: 85 percent of those surveyed support hunting for meat (p. 165). Hunting for sport has a bare majority (53 percent), and hunting for a trophy the least (28 percent). The report doesn't state this explicitly, it it's clear to me that when you talk about hunting to non-hunters, you should always make it clear that you eat what you kill - even if you keep a trophy from that kill. This survey found that 97 percent of hunters eat what they kill.
Combat erroneous information. The survey says 46 percent of Americans believe hunting, as practiced today, causes some species to become endangered (p. 176). They're not aware that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation exists, much less that it has ensured that regulated hunting does not endanger game species (pp. 181-182). This is worth mentioning when you have some of those conversations with non-hunters.
I suspect I'll be chewing on this information for weeks to come. It's definitely going to affect how I talk to non-hunters about what I do.
© Holly A. Heyser 2008