Two recent but very different studies give us an insight to those of us who enjoy the sport of hunting. Can you find
yourself in one of them?
Yale professor Dr Stephen Kellert, in a study of US hunters and their attitudes and characteristics, found that most
hunters in North America today fall into one of three categories that he listed as
”Sport Hunters. (38.5%)"
The sport-hunters group is the one that the nonhunting and antihunting public particularly dislikes and often uses to stereotype or negatively
portray all hunters and hunting. Let's take a look at Dr Kellert's categories.
"Hunting to obtain meat was the most frequently cited primary reason, accounting for 43.8 percent of persons who
hunted ... Utilitarian/meat hunters were significantly more likely to have been raised or presently living in rural,
open-country areas. Utilitarian/meat hunters also reported much greater experience with raising animals for either
slaughter or non-slaughter purposes, and had fathers employed in farm-related occupations. This hunting group includes
a disproportionate number of persons over 65 years of age and significantly more respondents earning less than $6,000.
"Utilitarian/meat hunters appear to perceive animals largely from the perspective of their practical usefulness ... The
utilitarian/meat hunter views hunting as a harvesting activity and wild animals as a harvestable crop not unlike other renewable
"Hunting for the purpose of close contact with nature was the [least often] cited primary reason for hunting, accounting for some
17.7 percent of those who hunted ... Demographically, nature hunters included significantly more persons under 30 years of age and
far fewer over 65. These age characteristics may suggest possible trends in motivation for hunting. Nature
hunters were also of higher socioeconomic status, as indicated by more college-educated respondents and more fathers employed in
professional and business executive occupations.
"Nature hunters reported by far the most adult and childhood wildlife interest, more backpacking and camping-out experience,
and more bird-watching activity. Importantly, nature hunters had far higher knowledge-of-animals scale scores
particularly in comparison to sport hunters.
"[Nature hunters also] ... indicated strong concern and affection for all animals ... [However this affection is] ... somewhat
generalized and not specifically directed at pet animals or manifest in the feeling of ‘loving’ animals. The desire for
an active, participatory role in nature was perhaps the most significant aspect of the nature hunter's approach to
hunting. The goal was the intense involvement with wild animals in their natural habitats. Participation as a
predator was valued for the opportunities it provided to regard oneself as an integral part of nature. The hunt was
appreciated for its forcing of awareness of natural phenomena organized into a coherent, goal-directed framework."
"Sport hunters constitute 38.5 percent of all those who hunted ... They were significantly more likely to reside in cities, and
to have been in the armed forces. Additionally, they differed from utilitarian/meat hunters in reporting far less
experience raising animals for a product, and from nature hunters in reporting significantly less backpacking and bird watching
activities. One outstanding characteristic was their low scores on the knowledge-of-animals
scale. Interestingly, only anti-hunters, of all animal activity groups studied, had equally low knowledge scores.
"It appeared that competition and mastery over animals, in the context of a sporting contest, were the most salient aspects of
the sport hunter's interest in the hunting activity. This group did not reveal strong affections for animals.
"The hunted animal was valued largely for the opportunities it provided to engage in a sporting activity involving mastery,
competition, shooting skill and expressions of prowess. They were not items of food but trophies, something to get and
display to fellow hunters. For the sport hunter, hunting was appreciated more as a human social than as an animal-oriented
The Five Stages of Evolution of a Sport Hunter
As with all things in life, a hunter's perspective of his sport changes as time goes by. According to the Hunter's
Education manual used by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the five stages of a hunter's life are (a) the
Shooter Stage, (b) the Limiting-Out stage, (c) the Trophy stage, (d) the Method stage, and (e) the Sportsman stage.
As the sport of hunting itself changes through the years, so do the factors that determine what "successful hunting"
is. Add to this the changes that take place in each hunter's life, and things can get a bit confusing. Some of
the factors that can determine or influence what kinds of hunters we become are (a) the hunter's age, (b) his hunting companions, (c) his role models, (d) his personal
ethics, and (e) his and years of hunting experience. All of these affect our ideas of "success." Where a hunter fits
into one of the five groups may change as he progresses in his hunting career. What stage are you in now? What
stage would you like to be in?
The Shooter Stage
A hunter who is in the Shooter Stage talks about satisfaction with hunting being closely tied to being able
to "get-in some shooting." The beginning duck hunter says that he had an excellent day if he got-in a lot of
shooting. The beginning deer hunter talks about the number of shooting opportunities. Missing game means
little to hunters in this phase. A beginning hunter wants to pull the trigger and test the capability of his
firearm. A hunter in this stage may be a dangerous hunting partner.
The Limiting-Out Stage
A hunter who is in the Limiting-Out Stage still talks about the satisfaction of shooting. But what seems more
important to him is measuring success through the killing of game and the number of birds or animals that he has shot. Limiting-out or
filling a tag is his absolute measure of success. Do not let your desire to limit-out be stronger than your concern for safe behavior
at all times.
The Trophy Stage
The satisfaction of a hunter in the Trophy stage is determined by the selectivity of game. A duck hunter might
take only greenheads. A deer hunter looks for one special deer. A hunter might travel far to find a real
trophy animal. Shooting opportunity and skills become less important than finding and shooting the coveted trophy.
The Method Stage
When a hunter has reached the Method Stage, he has accumulated all the special equipment that he could conceivably
need. Hunting has become one of the most important things in his life. His satisfaction comes from the method that
enables him to take game. Taking game is important but secondary to how he takes it. This hunter
studies long and hard how best to pick a blind site, how to lay-out decoys, and how to call-in waterfowl. A deer hunter goes one-on-
one with a white-tail deer — studying sign, tracking, and the life habits of the deer. This hunter often handicaps
himself intentionally by hunting only with black-powder firearms or bow and arrow. Bagging game, or limiting, still is a
necessary part of the hunt during this phase.
The Sportsman Stage
Finally, as a hunter ages and after many years of hunting, he tends to "mellow out." He now finds satisfaction in
the total hunting experience. Being in the field, enjoying the company of friends and family, and seeing nature outweigh
the need for taking game.
Not all sport hunters go through all these stages, or go through them in this particular order. It is also possible for
hunters who pursue several species of game to be in a different stage with regard to each species that he hunts. Some hunters feel that
role models of good sportsmen, training, or reading books or magazines helped them pass more quickly through some
of these stages.
There you have it, two studies with two very different ways of looking at hunters and how we approach our sport. Does
one of these categories describe you? Where are you in your hunting career now? Where would you like
to be? Each of us has to decide for himself what kind of hunter he wants to be, and to be the best hunter that he can
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