Date of Award

8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Dr. Bill Norman, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Lincoln Larson, co-chair

Committee Member

Dr. Jeff Hallo

Abstract

Hunting has played a prominent role throughout American history and continues to serve many important social, economic, and ecological functions in our society today. However, hunting participation in the United States is in a gradual state of decline. Today, less than 5% of the population hunts. In hopes of reversing these trends, many state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, and hunting and shooting sports industries have increasingly invested in new programs designed to enhance the recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of new hunters from non-traditional hunting backgrounds. For example, many R3 initiatives have been designed to focus on women, youth, families, local food enthusiasts, and other demographic groups. Yet the long-term efficacy of these programs has yet to be determined. One particular population that warrants increased attention in R3 circles is young adults. College students, in particular, are a prime target because almost half of all young adults attend college, individuals are typically most likely to experiment with new leisure activities during their college years, peer support for activities like hunting is available across college campus, and the activities that many people engage in during college become part of their identity later in life. All of these reasons, plus that fact that college students are in a young adult cohort that will impact the conservation landscape for decades, mean that college students represent a potentially key group when it comes to increasing and sustaining future hunting participation rates on a national scale. Using surveys of undergraduate students at two universities (n = 594) and evaluations of R3 workshops designed specifically for college students (n = 32), this study examined the hunting-related attitudes and behaviors of college students, investigated their receptivity to R3 efforts, and explored their likelihood of becoming future hunters or hunting advocates. Roughly 41% of total students indicated that they had been hunting before compared to 47% of students who said they had never been hunting. Overall participation rates were higher amongst college students than the national average, more surprising, however, was the number of non-hunting students who were contemplating future hunting. Almost half of hunting associates said they would consider hunting in the future and roughly another third said they plan to hunt regularly. Almost half of non-hunters also said they would consider hunting, but less than 10% said they planned do so at some point. This study also demonstrates that, as hypothesized, many college students are readily receptive to R3 efforts and they are willing to attend hunting programs if those programs are offered to them. Not only is this age group receptive to recruiting efforts, but they also tend to be more diverse than some other demographic groups that R3 initiatives have targeted, particularly when it comes to females and individuals from non-hunting backgrounds. As marketing efforts for these programs expands, enthusiasm should be reinforced as hunting-related themes slowly permeate more peer-to-peer interactions on campus.

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