The Most Important Reason for Hunting
New research indicates that American hunters are returning to their roots and going afield mostly as a means to acquire meat.
In a recently released survey from Responsive Management, 39 percent of respondents listed “for the meat” as their most important reason for hunting. That marks a sharp increase from 2008 survey results, when only 22 percent of hunters chose that answer, and a continuing climb from 2013 results, when 35 percent of respondents said meat was their main concern. And as industry observers point out, that increasing interest in acquiring organic protein should come as no surprise.
“Food interests in general are moving away from factory farms and toward free-range and organic,” said Michael Pendley, author of Realtree.com’s acclaimed Timber 2 Table blog, which features creative wild-game recipes. “What can be more organic than wild game? Rarely does a day go by that I don’t talk to someone about wild-game cooking. Very often, these conversations happen with new hunters who didn’t grow up in hunting families. By and large, they aren’t interested in the trophy aspect of the sport at all. They want to know how to process their game and what to do with it.”
More Responsive Management survey numbers back that up. Just 27 percent of respondents said “for the sport or recreation” was their No. 1 reason for hunting. That’s down from 33 and 31 percent in 2008 and 2013, respectively. “To be with family and friends” was the third-highest-rated answer at 18 percent. That dropped sharply from 27 and 21 percent in 2008 and 2013, respectively. About 11 percent of respondents said being close to nature was their top reason. That was down from 16 percent in 2008 but up slightly from 9 percent in 2013. And only 1 percent of respondents said “for a trophy” was their most important reason for hunting. That number was unchanged from the 2013 survey.
Pendley said the shift likely stems from a greater collective sense of what people are eating. “There has been a big push in the past few years to expose factory farms and meat-production facilities and how they care for the animals before they are processed,” he said. “Due to health concerns, people are questioning what additives might be in their meat. I think this is the main reason we are seeing an increase in organic, free-range farming practices. It isn’t a big jump to go from free-range/grass-fed to wild game. I think the field-to-fork movement has enlightened a lot of non-hunters about the health benefits of wild game. As far as the economy goes, I think there will always be a portion of the hunting community that relies on game to supplement and cut down on grocery bills, but I get the impression that a lot of new hunters are more interested in game meat as a source of healthy protein than as a source of lower-priced meat.”
And from all indications, the locavore/wild-protein/field-to-fork movement won’t slow down soon.
“Not only do I see it continuing, I expect the field-to-fork movement to grow at an even faster rate in the future,” Pendley said. “It will not surprise me to see more hunters listing wild-game meat as their chief reason to hunt than all other categories combined. While the trophy aspect of hunting seems foreign to many non-hunters, the thought of doing it to put healthy food on their family’s table is completely acceptable.”