The Gun Culture

Michael Bane has a very excellent post on where the shooting culture has gone, and how the industry has consistently still remained stuck in a hunting mentality. He talks about a suggestion he made here:

In a white paper several years back I argued for a 2-tier recruitment and retention system for the industry and the culture. My argument was that for newcomers participation in formal and informal shooting sports faced 1 major barrier, purchase of a firearm, while participation in hunting had 2 major barriers, purchase of a firearm and killing an animal. Rather than pour huge amounts of money into a 2-barrier jump hunter recruitment with what amounted to very low success rates, I suggested we put the lions’ share of the money into recruitment for target shooting (both formal and informal), focusing on self-defense as the primary driver, and get them past Barrier 1. THEN create a mentoring system — which has been repeatedly shown to work very well — to introduce newcomers who got past the first barrier to the sport of hunting.

I think he’s essentially correct in this, and my experience, the second barrier to get into hunting is far far higher than the first. I am someone who would be willing to go exactly the path Michael is describing. I got into the shooting culture through the first path, and would be willing to make the second jump to hunting. The problem? You have to take hunters education to obtain a hunting license in most states, and hunters education is a multi-day course. Generally speaking you have to be willing to give up a weeknight and weekend day to complete it.

My time is not exactly plentiful, and this represents a fairly significant barrier for me, all things considering. Sure, maybe if I disrupting the blogging schedule for a few days, or took a few days off work, I could get it done. But my interest in hunting is pretty peripheral. I would like to try it, but I’m not driven to try it. But I can tell you for sure if I had not come into the shooting culture at all my interest would be pretty close to zero.

I could be pushed over the number two barrier, given sufficient motivation, which perhaps I will get at some point. I think Michael’s two part strategy is a reasonable one if the industry wants to keep hunting alive.

8 thoughts on “The Gun Culture”

  1. Hunting is a “culture,” and so is shooting. But hunting is perhaps more like sailing. You don’t run out and buy a yacht, you start with a rented dinghy on a protected bay. And then you hang out with other sailors a lot.

    There is a lot to learn — animal behavior, conditioning, reading the land, etc.

    You start small, say with squirrels. You don’t immediately go after elk in Idaho.

    Some state wildlife agencies are starting to take a more educational tack (to keep that sailing metaphor going). I mean to blog soon about what Colorado is doing.

  2. I admit that I would love to go hunting (and I am old enough to not have to take the hunter’s safety course). However, in Texas there is a large barrier to new hunters, finding an affordable place to hunt. We do not have that much public hunting land, and it is crowded. And, the hunting leases are expensive. Since I live in an urban area and have no paid time off at my job, this means my hunting opportunities are severely limited. It is much easier for me to go plinking or attend and IDPA match.

  3. I’ve hunted my entire life and kill deer, antelope and pheasant every year for food. My family has plenty of hunting land but if I never hunted again it wouldn’t devastate me. I mostly use the land for shooting purposes. I’m a gun owner first and a hunter second. I’m passionate about shooting and only “like” hunting. I’ve believed for years that the firearms industry is driven by gun owners and not hunters, much to the chagrin of many Fudds here in Bismarck.
    I am passionate about shooting prairie dogs but I consider that shooting not hunting. Driving up to a 600 acre dog town,folding out my bipod and making red mist out of land destroying varmints ain’t hunting IMHO.

  4. JD brings up a good point: Hunting is a sport that may or may not involve a firearm, while shooting, by its very nature, must include a gun. Archery hunting seems at least as popular as firearms hunting in Arizona, and while many bowhunters are gun owners as well, the two sports can exist separate from each other.

  5. I think that, in addition to the barrier of “killing a critter”, that finding the timer and a place to hunt is increasingly a third barrier. Growing up in Michigan we had a “network” of people with land we could hunt on, or next to public lands we could hunt on.
    For a new hunter, finding that place to hunt is difficult. Heck, being an old hunter in a new state can present the same obstacle! The way many states west of the Mississippi manage game (licenses/tags issued by “management units” that can be difficult to access or accurately identify once you’re there) can also be discouraging, although I suppose that making sure you’re in the right place is easier now, with the ubiquity of GPS.

  6. An interesting statement by Mr. Bane, and reading the follow-up comments on his site makes me seriously wonder whether the NSSF train is about to go off the tracks.

    I do take issue with the “one barrier, two barrier” problem he describes. In many parts of the country, there’s not just one barrier to getting into shooting, there’s two. Ranges aren’t like golf courses – there isn’t one on damn near every corner. Considering the expense and inconvenience of accessing ranges, it’s not uncommon to find new shooters lamenting the fact that they have their gun and nowhere to shoot it.

    Same deal with accessible, worthwhile hunting lands.

  7. Absolutely. For me, killing an animal isn’t freighted with much baggage, and doesn’t make for much of a barrier. But hunting has quite a few more barriers that have prevented me from doing it so far, despite my interest in it. It’s hard to find a place to shoot long arms in heavily-populated NJ (even my local WMA shotgun range only allows birdshot). The laws are complicated, and available hunting land limited. The safety classes are a pain to schedule around. And that’s before getting to the actual hunting, which requires a broad set of skills that are hard to learn if you don’t know somebody who can show you the ropes.

    Hunting has lots and lots of barriers to entry, and any emotional distress over killing an animal is only one part of the difficulty, and varies dramatically with the individual.

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