With the fall grizzly bear hunt looming, new research reveals the main target of hunters: achievement

Online hunting forums reveal ‘achievement’ as prominent among multiple hunting ‘satisfactions’, especially when carnivores are targeted

Sidney, BC – Coinciding with British Columbia’s controversial grizzly bear trophy hunt opening for the fall (and possibly final) season, researchers from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the University of Victoria have shed new light on what satisfies hunters. Reporting in the peer-reviewed journal Wildlife Society Bulletin, they found that although appreciation (of nature, etc.) and affiliation (i.e., bonding experiences with friends/family) are important factors commonly discussed, the dominant satisfaction expressed in online hunting stories is achievement.

Researchers found that this pattern is especially strong when carnivores (i.e., wolves, cougars, grizzly bears) are targeted. 86% percent of carnivore hunting stories (compared with 81% of ungulate hunting stories) emphasized achievement as a dominant theme. When carnivores were targeted, appreciation satisfaction was the focus in only 3% of stories.

Most hunting stories discussed multiple satisfactions, indicating that affiliation and appreciation play important secondary roles. However, fewer stories targeting carnivores exhibited these multiple satisfactions (53%, compared with 62% of ungulate stories). Almost half of carnivore stories had only one satisfaction present, 100% of which exhibited only achievement satisfaction. “If these patterns expressed on hunting forums are representative of hunters on a broader scale,” says Alena Ebeling-Schuld, who led this research as an Honours student in UVic’s Applied Conservation Science lab, “then there are clear differences between satisfactions associated with ungulate and carnivore hunts.”

The greater level of difficulty associated with carnivore hunting might be key to understanding why achievement is more important than other satisfactions. These findings, revealed through qualitative methodologies, align with evolutionary theory recently published (Open Access PDF) by co-author Chris Darimont, Science Director at Raincoast and Raincoast Professor at UVic. “Seeking achievement evolved because successful hunts in our ancestral past – and nowadays – display qualities of interest to
competitors and mates, like skill or wealth,” Darimont says.

“Better understanding of hunter behaviour is important to wildlife management,” says Ebeling-Schuld. “Only then can managers design and implement effective wildlife and hunting policies.”

While adding new knowledge to the understanding of hunters, this study can also inform societal debate. “By understanding a hunter’s satisfactions and motivations, we can ask bigger questions about our relationships with wildlife,” notes Darimont. “Is a hunter’s feeling of achievement more important than, say, the life of a grizzly bear?” Darimont continues, noting that hunters do not typically target grizzlies for food. Ebeling-Schuld adds, “Especially for controversial hunts, is there a sustainable solution – like wildlife photography – that could elicit the same feeling of achievement? These are some of the questions that more and more people seem interested in answering.”