Survey Unveils Hunters Motives

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Assumptions can be misleading and sometimes, just plain wrong. For example, a recent study has revealed that hunters are primarily concerned with firearms safety education and providing hunting opportunities for youth - not harvesting game, as is often believed. That's just one of the significant findings in a recent hunter behavior and attitude study commissioned by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

The study, entitled "Behavioral, Attitudinal, and Demographic Characteristics of Spring Turkey Hunters in the U.S.," was released to a diverse group of writers, editors, and communications professionals at a special presentation during the Outdoor Writers Association of America 2003 Conference in Columbia, Mo.

Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management and principal researcher for the study, notes that many of the results of the study were revealing.

"The study reinforces some of our ideas about what motivates and interests hunters, but it also shows that hunters are strongly motivated to hunt for reasons that aren't as obvious," he explains. "For instance, most hunters say that they hunt primarily for recreation and to spend time with family and friends. For most respondents, harvesting turkeys isn't a top reason to hunt."

The top reasons for enjoying the spring turkey hunt were the challenge (42 percent) or to feel close to nature (37 percent). Another interesting discovery was that protecting or enhancing habitat for other wildlife besides wild turkeys ranked high (78 percent) on hunters' lists of priorities.

The study results paint an interesting picture of the spring turkey hunter. A short list of other study findings reveals the following:

turkey hunters are dedicated conservationists who want to share the outdoors with others. An overwhelming majority of turkey hunters rated the following state wildlife agency programs/efforts as very important:

firearm use and safety (89 percent);

providing wild turkey hunting opportunities for youth (81 percent);

conservation projects, such as protecting or enhancing habitat for other wildlife besides wild turkeys (78 percent);

protecting or enhancing habitat for wild turkeys (75 percent); and

providing wild turkey hunting opportunities for disabled hunters (73 percent).

a majority (58 percent) of turkey hunters had hunted each spring for the past five years, the only exception being in the western region of the country.

most turkey hunters have increased their level of turkey hunting (36 percent) or remained about the same (49 percent) over the past five years.

Some of the findings may shed light on the future of hunting.

"One surprising finding is that the largest percentage of respondents (39 percent) say they were self-taught turkey hunters or taught by a friend (26 percent), as opposed to other types of hunting in which they were typically introduced by their father," says Tammy Bristow Sapp, NWTF's vice-president of communications.

"In fact, turkey hunters may be experiencing a role reversal, where grown children are introducing their parents to the sport."

Many of the findings in the study point the way to a bright future for spring turkey hunting and for passing on hunting traditions.

"Based on the study, spring turkey hunting appears to be the next big thing in hunting," Sapp continues. "The study shows that most spring turkey hunters have hunted turkeys for fewer than 12 years, a short time relative to how long most hunters have been hunting in general. This, and the fact that most hunters are spring turkey hunting an average of 7.6 days every year, suggests a young, dedicated hunting movement with lots of growth potential for the future."

The study compiled results from a telephone survey conducted by Responsive Management, Inc., of Harrisonburg, Va., whose research has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

The telephone survey polled 1,410 spring turkey hunters from nine states, including California, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Hunters surveyed in eight of the nine states were taken from the hunting community in general and were identified through hunting license records. California was the exception, where NWTF member database records were used because state license records were not available.

NWTF also has commissioned an economic impact study to complement the behavioral and attitudinal study. Results from the second study - conducted by Southwick Associates, a fish and wildlife economics and business consulting firm - should be available by late summer 2003.

Highlights from the attitudinal/behavioral study can be viewed by visiting the NWTF internet newsroom at www.nwtf.org. Details from the study are available by contacting James Powell or Jonathan Harling at 1-800-THE-NWTF.