Back in the late 1970s, Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr. Robert Norton of the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse conducted a study of over 1,000 hunters. Among other things, their study found that hunters pass through five distinct stages over their hunting lives in terms of their view of "successful" hunting.
1. Shooter Stage
Hunters at this stage simply want to do a lot of shooting, be it doves, ducks, squirrels, rabbits or even deer (in which case shooting opportunities are acceptable too). They want to test their shooting abilities, as well as that of their rifle or shotgun. These hunters are beginners and are often young as well.
2. Limiting-Out Stage
Eventually, simply burning through a lot of ammunition is no longer sufficient. Hunters at this stage still gain a lot of satisfaction from shooting, but now the number of birds or animals bagged becomes important too, and limiting-out, or filling a tag, is the gold standard.
3. Trophy Stage
Eventually the weight of the game bag becomes less important and the emphasis shifts from quantity to quality. Hunters at this stage gain satisfaction from being selective in taking game, such as a duck hunter who shoots only greenheads, a turkey hunter who only shoots long beards, or a deer hunter who takes only mature bucks. These hunters often travel long distances to hunt trophy animals.
4. Method Stage
For this hunter, taking game is still important, but more important is how that game is taken. True satisfaction comes from the method used to take game, with particular emphasis on more challenging methods such as archery or muzzleloading. This hunter will spend a lot of time scouting and using trail cameras, studying their quarry and practicing hunting skills such as calling and, in the case of a deer hunter, may even choose to target one specific animal.
5. Sportsman Stage
After many years in the field, the hunter begins to place the emphasis on the total hunting experience. Being in the outdoors, enjoying the company of friends and family, and seeing nature in all its beauty, now outweigh the need for taking game. These hunters often turn to mentoring other younger hunters for ultimate satisfaction.
Jackson and Norton found that not all hunters go through all of these stages, or in this particular order. They also found that it's possible for hunters to be at different stages with different species of game that they may pursue. In addition, a hunter's role models, as well as the amount of hunting they are able to do, will impact on how quickly hunters progress through the various stages.
Do you agree with this theory? What stage are you at? Please feel free to let me know in the Comments section below.
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