Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hunters: Stop hiding - you're not pariahs

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.

Support for hunting is on the upswing. It's not a huge increase, but the trendline is going the right direction (p. 162).

If you'd like to see some of this report for yourself, I recommend going to chapters 8 (public opinion on hunting) and 9 (implications and action items).

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


Terry Scoville said...

You are absolutely correct about the impact we (as hunters) have with those you do not hunt. I have had many conversations with non-hunters who were buying in to the antis propaganda and slanted views. Where as after our conversation they were thankful in knowing that we have hearts too, and strive for ethical clean kills. It's not as easy as they are lead to believe. It involves a lot of time and work to locate big game.

NorCal Cazadora said...

This study has come at an interesting time for me because I've been having lots of these conversations.

For various reasons, I've been to lots of parties, dinners and happy hours lately, and almost every time, I meet someone new and get the chance to bring up hunting. They're meeting me in a positive environment, where being on the guest list means I've been vetted, that I'm not rabble off the street, so they are receptive to hearing what I have to say. They listen with interest, and almost always say, "Oh really!" at least once or twice as I tell them something positive they've never heard about hunting.

Every time this happens, I know there's one more person out there who will not have a knee-jerk negative reaction next time he or she hears something from the media about hunting. That person will remember hearing something positive from a real human being, and won't have to rely on a carefully sculpted marketing message from organizations like the HSUS. That's pretty powerful stuff.

Brandon Darnell said...

I have found the same things to be true with regard to shooting my old military rifles. People sometimes think it's weird to shoot a gun that was used 'to kill someone,' but when i point out that the same gun was also the only thing keeping a soldier alive, it makes them think.

I'll have to take a look at that report in full when I have some more time.

Finspot said...

Good points. My perspective as a non-hunter (with a gun, at least, and that may change soon) is that hunters need to police their own, if only for better PR. As a forager and general outdoorsman I run into a fair number of hunters...and some of them are--how do I put it?--complete knuckleheads. They give an honest pursuit a bad name. I'm talking about the poachers, drunks, spotlight artists, sign shooters, etc. In my totally unscientific assessment, there is WAY TOO HIGH a percentage of these bad apples in the crop. Or maybe they're just more visible, again, b/c they're drunk & loud. Hey, I like to have a beer (or several) in camp like the best of 'em, but I can't imagine driving around in a pickup with a loaded gun in that condition. There's a culture that turns a blind eye to this sort of thing, and it needs a good cuff on the ear.

Love yr blog!


Anonymous said...

How cool that this report is online. I'll have to sit down and wade through it at some point. Thanks for pointing this out so we can all learn from it. As always, you're thoughts on the subject were spot on.

Native said...

I do so very much agree with you Holly, we need not be embarrassed by our perfectly legal,moral and ethical methods of putting good healthy food upon our table.

Such skulking about will only fuel the erroneous misconceptions which non-hunters have about us, as to where if we continue to educate them (non- confrontationaly) it will serve us a better purpose.

Tom Sorenson said...

@ Finspot - I agree. There is a seemingly high percentage of dopes out there that give the hunting community a black eye - I think that is one of the reasons I need to read this that Holly brings up. It should help me to verbalize to non hunters and help them to distinguish between those people and honest and ethical hunters.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I really don't know how many knuckleheads are out there - I guess I just hunt with a lot of really good people, so I don't see that behavior in person. But I come up against it all the time: drunks, scofflaws and poachers are the dominant image that comes to mind when most non-hunters think "hunter."

What I have done is whenever I see a newspaper article about someone getting busted for poaching, I log on and post comments on the story noting how much ethical hunters hate that crap, and I support really strong punishment for the idiots. (I was actually really pleased last time the Sac Bee had a story about some teenage poachers getting busted - the reporter NEVER referred to them as hunters, only as poachers. I sent her a thank-you note for that.)

Garrett said...

I am intrigued by this wealth of information.