THE EVERYDAY HUNTER®: Why hunter stereotypes are false

People like to categorize people. That impulse may be negative, coming from our inclination to create stereotypes of others. Or it may be positive, coming from our God-given urge to name things.

In Genesis 2:19-20, God gave man the responsibility for naming the animals, “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.” That tells us it’s human nature to classify things, organize things, and catalog things all in an effort to create order.

Some people categorize hunters. Some extremists are motivated to pigeonhole all hunters as poachers, murderers, even sociopaths. One of their favorite words is “slobs,” and they use it as often as possible. Others make a genuine attempt to understand hunters. They recognize hunting’s positive aspects, and don’t attach disapproving adjectives to the word “hunter.”

Between 1975 and 1980 Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr. Robert Norton from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse campus, studied more than 1000 hunters and their theory of hunter development has become widely accepted. It’s cited often in hunter education classes and hunter behavior research. They identified five stages deer hunters tend to pass through during a lifetime of hunting.

1. Shooting Stage When starting out, hunters want to pull the trigger as often as possible. Success is defined primarily as kills.

2. Limiting Out Stage The hunter defines success in terms of numbers. He wants to harvest as many deer as is legally possible and keeps track of things such as consecutive years of harvests.

3. Trophy Stage Quality becomes more important than quantity, and quality is defined in terms of trophy game animals. A trophy is not necessarily judged by size. And the definition of a trophy does not diminish what the hunter harvested at earlier stages. It might even be defined by the experience of the hunt. The hunter now draws on knowledge acquired in the earlier stages. The hunter is also beginning to see himself as a manager of a wildlife resource.

4. Method Stage The hunter becomes more focused on methods. He becomes more strategic and focuses on his skills and understanding deer behavior. His stories are less about his kills and more about the methods that produced an opportunity. He may begin restricting himself to primitive weapons.

5. Sportsman Stage Others have called this the reflective stage, and even the philosophical stage. The hunter has a broad view of hunting and focuses on sharing it with others. He tends to view quality as what goes into habitat and all that the habitat supports, and he is concerned about the preservation of hunting for future generations.

Those five ways of classifying hunters probably fit people best who start hunting at an early age, and continue hunting for a lifetime. It doesn’t assume hunters quickly transition through the stages, and all hunters might not progress through all of them.

Given these five stages, I make the following seven observations:

The stages may be similar for any enthusiast of any activity. Stamp collectors, for example, probably have their parallel.

These stages do not define a hierarchy of moral values, as none of them is bad. We don’t fault a beginning hunter for being in the Shooting Stage nor do we say a hunter in the Sportsman Stage is morally superior.

Hunters are often part of a peer group, and peer groups have influence. If a hunter has only peers who are in one stage, he might not move to another stage until his peer group changes.

Since these are defined as “stages,” they imply growth. There is no clear line between one and another. Thus, each hunter is unique, and no stereotype of hunters reflects reality.

Not only are hunters all unique, they all change through their careers.

Anti-hunting propaganda fails to recognize that all hunters are different, and it attacks hunters based on stereotypes and caricatures.

All five stages describe legal, ethical hunters and leave no room to consider poachers as being in the ranks of hunters.