By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald
As sportsmen, we live by an ethical code of conduct. We are taught by our mentors not to take our way of life for granted and to be aware of our actions as not to cause offense to others. In short, we are taught to behave in a manner as to not make a non-hunter into an anti-hunter.
When I first started writing and promoting the great outdoors, and the manufacturers who build products that help us to enjoy the outdoors even more so, I was always nervous about how some audiences would perceive the message. It’s hard to talk about deer rifles without talking about deer hunting and all aspects of the sport — the fresh venison has to get wrapped and packaged for the freezer somehow.
But today, it appears hunting has become more mainstream than ever. A recent news release came across my desk that might help illustrate the point a little clearer.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that a new survey shows 79 percent of the American public approves of hunting. This marks the highest level of support for hunting since 1995, according to data compiled by Responsive Management, an independent research firm.
The nationwide scientific survey showed the public’s approval of hunting rose five points in the past year, up from 74 percent in 2011. The survey, conducted in February using random digit dialing and supplemental cellular telephone sampling, was the fifth in a series of similar surveys by Responsive Management to track trends in public approval of hunting since 1995.
Support for hunting has remained generally consistent during this time — 73 percent in 1995; 75 percent in 2003; 78 percent in 2006; 74 percent in 2011; and a peak of 79 percent in 2013.
Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, is still looking at survey results to better understand why approval has increased. Said Duda, “Approval of hunting among Americans is fairly stable and bounces between 73 and 79 percent. The reasons for this increase are still unclear, but it is probably related to the increase in hunting and shooting participation.”
Added Duda, “Since 2006, hunting participation has increased by 9 percent while shooting participation has increased 18 percent since 2009. Other studies we have conducted on public opinion on hunting show that the strongest correlation for approval of hunting is knowing a hunter — over and above demographic variables or anything else. With the increased number of hunters in the field and sport shooters at the range, it is possible that this is being reflected in this uptick in support for hunting.”
One thousand Americans 18 years and older were surveyed to achieve a sampling error of plus or minus 3.00 percentage points. More than half (52 percent) of those surveyed strongly approved of hunting. At the other end of the spectrum, 12 percent of Americans disapprove of hunting. Another 8 percent neither approve nor disapprove (total does not equal 100 percent due to rounding).
Living in West Virginia, chances are you or someone you know is a hunter. We all carry the responsibility to share our passion and love of our outdoor lifestyle in a positive manner and to become a shining example of modern wildlife management practices and, in turn, become good stewards of nature’s bounty. Besides, it’s way too much fun not to.