Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hunting Think Tank Update

Hunting Think Tank II
September 6-8, 2011
Dundee, Illinois

Convened by Orion-The Hunters’ Institute and supported by the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation and the Pope and Young Club
Prepared by Eric Nuse

The value of hunting as a tool of wildlife management and to the economy is well known. However, the intrinsic values of hunting to society and to hunters is not well articulated or researched.
The meaning of the term hunting is regularly contested. Many organizations and writers use descriptors to narrow what they believe hunting to be, such as modern, sport, or subsistence.
At the first Hunting Think Tank we explored these topics in depth. We came up with a list of next steps that led to Think Tank II.

Questions we explored:

1.    Has there ever been a comprehensive literature review of works seeking to define hunting? If not, find a way to do this.
2.    Based on the results of our work, can we frame the word “hunting” so that it is accurately understood by the public and evokes a positive image?
3.    Can we develop mental tools to help with decision making prior to going afield and during the hunt to help hunters make good, ethical choices?

Our first step will be to conduct an exhaustive literature search on hunting, resulting in an annotated bibliography of the hunting literature with a focus on defining hunting, both historically and in the modern era. This work will help us build a better foundation on which to define hunting – both what it is and what it is not. Professor John Edwards at West Virginia University will oversee a graduate student in doing this work starting January 2012.

A working group headed by Dr. Thomas Baumeister will be collaborating to build an “American Model of Hunting” analogous to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.  The Model will be based on the core tenets and principles inculcated in modern hunting that hunters can be proud of and that the conservation community can use to build public support.
By articulating what makes up the core of hunting, organizations and individuals can examine different hunting practices and based on the specific facts, determine if they meet the definition of hunting. The tenets could be incorporated into hunter education training and other hunter curricula.

Currently, several writers who participated in the Think Tank are writing articles based on issues explored that will be published in the outdoor press.  An outdoor writer workshop with a textbook is also being developed.
This information will be made available to professionals, outdoor writers and hunters for distribution and discussion.

The anticipated long term results are: clear, honest thinking on why we hunt; clarifying the values we collectively bring to hunting; recognizing the needs hunting fills for us; and recognizing the individual and societal benefits it brings. This clarity and focus on what is important should result in raising the bar of hunter behavior, enable a rational and clear defense of hunting, assist in recruiting and retaining quality hunters, and increase public support for democratic hunting.


Dr. John Edwards, West Virginia University
Jim Posewitz, Orion-The Hunters’ Institute, author
Galen Geer, author and lecturer
Phil Seng, DJ Case and Associates
Dr. Thomas Baumeister, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Del Benson, Colorado State University and McGraw Wildlife Foundation
Michael Sabbeth, Attorney and author
Jim Dudas, McGraw Wildlife Foundation, writer
Eric Nuse, Orion-The Hunters’ Institute
Also assisting:
Dr. John Organ, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Dr. Jim Tantillo, Cornell University


  1. Sounds like an interesting roundtable.

    I don't know much about the credentials of the group, but who does it intend to represent? Is this new definition of "hunting" supposed to be all-inclusive (the Tovar Cerullis as well as the "bubbas")? Or is it just going to be another ideal that really doesn't describe any hunter, but looks good as a PR campaign? Is this going to be another instance of, "well, we just shouldn't call it 'sport hunting' any more, and that'll make people like us better."

    I don't intend to be overly negative, but I do wonder at the pragmatic application of this sort of thing. Not that everything has to have a practical purpose...

  2. The group don't represent any specific group, they are folks who have been involved in hunter ethics, recruitment, research and writing. We aren't interested in superficial sound bites or phoney PR campaigns. We are interested in bringing together all of the relevant writings and research on the hunt to see if we can put it in a form or model that can help with decision making and build support for hunting. We hope that this work will form the basis for some very practical uses with law makers, conservation leaders and individual hunters.

  3. Thanks, ERic.

    As I said, I don't want to come across as the naysayer, and I think there's value in what you're trying to do. I think my hangup is probably something of a perception issue. You've got some high-powered minds who've all breathed some pretty rarified air talking about something near and dear to the hearts of "the common man", and basing that conversation on literature that is largely written by (and for) that same type of individual. What about Bubba?

    We all know hunting, especially in this age, isn't the cover of a 1950s Field and Stream magazine, with the hearty and hale father taking his towheaded son out into the field for a day of "sport". Sure, that stereotype still exists, but beyond that is a murky, convoluted world of situational ethics, individual motivations, and localized practices. I wonder how much of that is contained in the literature. I expect you'll find more disagreement than agreement, especially if the aim is to say, "this is right and this is wrong," (e.g. informing lawmakers).

    It's a heck of an exercise, and I don't envy you the task of sorting it out.

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