Americans continue to support regulated hunting, trapping, and fishing

The latest Responsive Management survey is out, and the results are clear. The majority of Americans still support hunting, trapping, fishing and sport shooting.

The new study, which has been conducted periodically since 1995, says most people across the nation support hunting, trapping, fishing and sport shooting activities. The study cautions that approval tends to ebb and flow based on the motivations of those who engage in these activities.

Overall disapproval of legal hunting has shrunk from 22 percent to 13 percent. These findings seem to line up with our own observations here in the Northeast - a growing movement of people who are both interested and supportive of rural, self-reliant activities in the outdoors. This might also point to Americans having an increasingly supportive attitude towards scientific-based wildlife management.

The findings are not a major surprise to those of us close to the public relations aspect of these self-reliant outdoor activities. The facts may, however, be a factor in upcoming state legislative debates, where politically-imposed bans and frivolous restrictions continue to rear their ugly heads. Especially when a well-funded animal rights industry continues to tout from state to state that the “majority” of Americans don’t hunt or fish, prompting many in those activist camps to prematurely claim majority opinion in their ranks.

Here’s a statistic for the animal rights industry to bring up at the next legislative hearing; when asked “whether or not they hunt, is it OK for others to legally hunt,” 92 percent of Americans affirmed it is fine with them; while a minuscule 6 percent said “no”.

That six percent sure is loud though.

Actions speak louder than words

The purpose of the activity seems to carry the most weight with regard to approval. As the study found, intent matters for the majority of American citizens when it comes to activities in the woods, on the water, and at the shooting range.

For example, hunting game species to acquire sustenance such as food - the report finds that 82% of people (four out of five across the nation) support the activity. Far greater than for reasons related to “hunting for sport”, for the “challenge”, or for the procurement of a “trophy” - which each topped in at 42% approval, 33% approval, and a not-surprising 24% approval, respectively.

There should be no shock there - with less than a third of overall approval, animal rights activists have a knack for labeling almost any form of hunting as “trophy hunting”; with good reason - it sells.

More popular outdoor activities, such as fishing landed the “most accepted” slot out of the four activities, with a 93% approval percentage. Not shocking at all, less popular activities like trapping came in with about 52% approval - still a majority of approval share, if even just a sliver!

Broken down further, citizens are almost twice as likely to support fishing for food as compared to for “sport”, and more than twice as likely to support trapping for wildlife management purposes as for mere recreational hobby.

In fact, there is relatively high approval of trapping for wildlife restoration, population control, food, and property protection according to the study. Which is why those opposed to activities such as trapping skirt management, sustenance, and nuisance control topics when formulating arguments. The painting of licensed trappers as uneducated, greedy, money-driven, and cold-hearted, while using broad, ambiguous terms like “recreational trapping” are far more successful towards an attention-seeking agenda. Since 2006, the study states overall approval has remained consistent but strong disapproval has actually decreased.

While “sport” hunting may be less welcomed, “sport shooting” gets a healthy thumbs-up. 81% of Americans approve of recreational shooting. 65% say it’s “perfectly acceptable” compared to a paltry 9% who say it’s “inappropriate nowadays.”

Other factors from the results

Perception of motivation isn’t the only dictating factor for the latest results. Other important aspects that are impacting support for each activity include things like technique associated around the activity in question, the location of those surveyed, and race/ethnicity of those surveyed.

Americans appear more supportive of hunting, trapping and fishing if the quarry being pursued has a “reasonable chance” to evadee capture. In other words, “canned hunts” are lower on the approval scale. Between 84 and 91 percent approve of fishing with flies, lures and bait; while many are far less supportive of gigging and snagging fish.

Much like hunting, location also seems to matter.

Responsive Management has split the nation into four parts for the study, which includes Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West regions. Midwesterners, followed by those in the Southeast, are more supportive of hunting, fishing, shooting and trapping, across the board, than other Americans. While the Northeast and West Coast trail behind (another not-so-shocking factoid with both California and New York’s metropolises jockeying for opinion), rural residents voiced greater support for the outdoor sports than did urban ones.

No need to play the race card either - but it was a factor in the Responsive Management survey. While caucasians are supportive of each activity in larger numbers, the study finds, than African-Americans or Hispanics, a majority of people of all races support hunting, fishing and shooting. Even with “controversial” subjects like trapping, there is no group of people, based on race, where a majority opposes the activity of trapping. Some in each category expressed indifference. The findings clearly showcase that a majority of Americans (of all races), and in many cases a large majority, support legal hunting, fishing, trapping and sport shooting.

Responsive Management provides data collection for the nation’s top universities, and their research has been upheld in U.S. Courts, used in peer-reviewed journals, and presented at major wildlife and natural resource conferences around the world. The project was funded by a Multistate Conservation Grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.