Conservation through Science under God

Column: Good news for hunters/anglers/Trappers
Nov 9, 2020 13:51 ET

[Reprinted from original]

A recent survey shows good numbers on public approval for hunters and that’s a good thing because another survey shows plenty of deer to hunt

There is some good news for hunters and trappers, but there are some warnings, too.

An extensive, reoccurring survey completed by Responsive Management has been released. It has been monitoring public opinion on and attitudes toward hunting, fishing, sport shooting, and trapping since 1995. It has partnered with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), with the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through a Multi-state Conservation Grant to continue monitoring attitudes toward these activities.

The study consisted of a probability-based scientific telephone survey of adult Americans, ages 18 and older. Sampling included both land-line and wireless phone numbers, and were called in their proper state and regional proportions. Responsive Management obtained a total of 3,014 completed interviews, (with a sampling error of plus or minus 1.76 percentage points). The results have a 95% confidence interval.

In the survey the four activities are referred to as follows: legal hunting, legal recreational fishing, legal recreational shooting, and regulated trapping. And here is some very good news.

Overall, 80% of Americans approve of legal hunting. Approval of hunting is highest in the Midwest (at 86% approval) and is lowest in the Northeast (72%). Americans’ level of approval of hunting has remained generally consistent over the past quarter century, with a gradual increase in approval since 1995 when the approval was at 73%.

However, approval of hunting varies considerably depending on the stated reason for hunting. When the reasons are utilitarian in nature (for meat), to protect humans or property or for wildlife management, approval is very high. But people’s attitude toward hunting drops substantially when the reason is for the sport or for the challenge. Less than a third of Americans approve of hunting for a trophy.

The species being hunted also affects approval of hunting. Hunting of deer (including elk and moose) and waterfowl is more accepted than hunting for predator species. And hunting for African big game (African lions, elephants and other “big” game) has even less approval among Americans.

Approval of hunting depends on the technique being used. This is especially true with regard to the extent to which the technique in question allows for fair chase (i.e., whether the animal has a reasonable chance to evade the hunter). For example, more Americans approve of hunting with archery equipment than approve of hunting with high-tech gear or hunting on property that has a high fence around it.

The survey findings suggest that fishing is less controversial than hunting. Over 93% of Americans approve of legal recreational fishing as compared to 80% who approve of legal hunting. Like hunting, however, approval of fishing depends on the motivation.

More Americans approve of fishing for food than fishing for the sport, for the challenge, or attempting to take a trophy fish. And, most methods of fishing have high approval, with the exceptions of gigging and snagging.

The survey also examined attitudes toward shooting, finding that 81% of Americans approve of legal recreational shooting. This finding is consistent with the approval rates for shooting found in previous survey years, with the exception of a slight dip in approval in 2011.

Trapping, however, is far more controversial than the other outdoor recreational activities explored in this study. Public opinion on regulated trapping is split: 52% of Americans approve while 31% disapprove. Again, attitudes appear to be influenced by the stated motivation for the activity. There is relatively high approval of trapping for wildlife restoration, population control, food, or property protection. There is less approval of trapping for money, fur clothing, and recreation.

Higher approval of all four activities (hunting, fishing, shooting, and trapping) is correlated with being male, white, living in a rural area, living in the Midwest or Southeast regions, and growing up with firearms.

Conversely, lower approval of the activities is associated with being female, Hispanic, black, living in an urban area, living in the Northeast or West regions, and not growing up with firearms.

I want to be clear that this “article” essentially came from Responsive Management people. It was so well-written in a style similar to mine that I requested their permission to use most of it as is. For the first time in my 40-plus year outdoor writing career, I cannot in any way claim ownership for what I consider to be really good copy.


And now for my own thoughts on this Fall’s archery and regular big game hunting seasons. I sent out requests to a cadre of local hunters (my friends, one and all) for their opinions on the upcoming deer and bear seasons in the Finger Lakes area. And the replies I have received concerning deer are very encouraging, to say the least.

First of all, everyone that responded to my “deer and bear sightings” request reported seeing more deer this year then at any recent seasons in the past. Some sent along photos (WOW!) of some really big bucks. One 12 pointer definitely qualifies as a real trophy in almost anyone’s opinion.

But it was the number of deer observed that really caught my attention. Everyone responding said they were seeing lots of deer, and some stated they were routinely seeing around twice as many deer this year as compared to this time last year.

As for bear, sightings were far less encouraging. Trail cameras caught several single bears, most rather small in size, and none of them were observed more than twice in any given area. On the brighter side, there were two reports, widely separated by distance, that reported sows with three youngsters each. We can only hope they survive to adult size.

As for places to hunt on NY State (public) lands, Hi-Tor, Stid Hill and the reforestation lands on East Hill all look very promising. But private lands are always the best bet, and getting permission from landowners is the key to success.

Being polite and offering the land owner some of the venison if a kill is made might just help with getting the welcome mat when you try. Being nice is never a bad thing.

And here is the bottom line on current deer populations. Every one of my hunter/sources reported very good to excellent deer populations. And, those reports included not only Ontario and Yates counties but all parts of this general area. That includes parts of Wayne, Seneca and Livingston counties as well as the two already mentioned.

So good luck and good hunting to everyone going out.

Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor columnist. Contact him at