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Hunter Recruitment: Getting at the Meat of the Issue

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Hunter Recruitment: Getting at the Meat of the Issue

Non-hunters can connect with hunting most tangibly by virtue of food

If I took nothing else away from last week’s North American Deer Summit, I at least came home with a big appetite. Venison steak, roasts or burger – it all sounded good. And now that I’ve eaten my share of venison chili, I can tell you this: meat was definitely on everyone’s mind last week. In fact, meat just might be the key to addressing what Summit attendees identified Thursday as their issue of greatest concern.

On day two of the 2015 Deer Summit, after hearing from numerous speakers and voting on our top concerns, hunter recruitment was identified as the highest priority issue for the National Deer Alliance to address moving forward. And this makes sense: while recent surveys show that nearly 80 percent of the public generally approves of hunting, only about 4 percent of our population actually hunts. So how do we change that?

Interestingly, the two main keynote speakers at the Summit, Steven Rinella and Shane Mahoney, both seemed to have a similar solution in mind. Focus on the meat.

“My home is decorated with trophies…emblems, symbols, totems and they are deeply personal to me,” explained Rinella, “but when people came into my house (non-hunters), they didn’t see what I saw…it just didn’t resonate. But they would sit down at my table and eat a meal of wild game and we would talk about that animal. Where’s that animal from? What does that animal need to survive? What are the threats to that animal? How is that animal managed? How did you kill that animal? And it was again and again and again a revelation to people.”

His point, as I understood it, was that non-hunters can connect with hunting most tangibly by virtue of food. It’s something we have in common. It’s something we’re all interested in. It’s something that’s a part of all of our lives. And there’s an opportunity there for us to engage with them on this.

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