Survey research shows that American hunters most often name the meat as their most important reason for hunting, and that the percentage of hunters who hunt mainly for the meat continues to grow. Responsive Management, which has tracked hunting participation for almost three decades, recently released the latest results of a survey question put to U.S. hunters since 2008. When asked to choose their single, most important reason for hunting from a list that included:
- For a trophy
- To be close to nature
- To be with family and friends
- For the sport or recreation
- For the meat
About two in five hunters nationwide selected the latter reason—by far the most popular answer.
Rather than any new development, this finding is instead the latest data point in a continuing trend. Whereas the sport or recreation was the most popular reason for hunting roughly a decade ago (when about one in three hunters gave this answer), hunters, beginning in 2013, have most often named the meat as their primary motivation for going afield. And while the percentages of hunters naming one of the other three reasons have declined or remained flat over the past decade, the proportion of hunters who say they hunt mostly for the meat has almost doubled.
The reasons for this emphasis on game meat as a primary motivator for hunting participation range from the economic to the sociocultural—the shift cannot be attributed to a single reason alone. An important benefit of hunting is its potential as a source of food that hunters can acquire for themselves in a cost-effective manner. During times of economic downturn, such as the recession that gripped the country for much of the last decade, hunting is an attractive option for putting food on the table. Certainly, this perspective is represented to some degree within the substantial percentages of individuals who, over the last several years, hunted primarily for the meat.
Another reason for the uptick in hunters who went out mostly for the meat is the locavore movement, a growing national trend reflecting interest in eating locally and taking a more active role in the acquisition of food, especially organic, free-range, chemical- and hormone-free meat. Through the locavore movement, individuals from nontraditional hunting backgrounds have flocked to lessons and seminars offering instruction on how to hunt and process game meat. Locavore hunters are often educated millennials who hail from urban and suburban areas; lacking traditional hunting mentors, they nonetheless have been moved to take up hunting as adults for reasons of self-sufficiency, health, sustainability, or a desire to reconnect with nature.
The growing popularity of the locavore movement is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and an icon of the millennial generation, has taken up hunting as a means of procuring his own meat (Zuckerberg was recently quoted as saying that food “tastes doubly better when you’ve hunted the animal yourself.”) The locavore movement has grown to the point that fish and wildlife agencies are beginning to take seriously the recruitment and retention potential of this new category of hunter. Responsive Management recently worked with the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ (SEAFWA) Committee on Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife-Related Participation and the Midwestern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ (MAFWA) Recruitment and Retention Committee to evaluate the outcomes of a series of pilot programs designed to promote hunting and fishing among young adults in urban/suburban settings. The programs targeted individuals who were interested in locally grown or organic foods.
What is your primary motivation for hunting? Share your answer in the comment section.