Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Do You Hunt Elk?

Why do you hunt elk? According to a recent survey by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), trophies rank low among the main reasons people take to the field. Top motivations? “Just being outdoors,” “seeing an elk in a natural setting,” “being close to nature,” “viewing the scenery” and “being with friends” make up the top five, followed by spending time with family and putting meat on the table. 

As a hunter, this may come as no surprise. But for anyone who has ever been accused of only caring about putting a set of big antlers on the wall—or of conserving elk just so we can kill them—the survey provides hard data that upends common stereotypes. Just 22 percent of respondents ranked harvesting a mature bull as extremely important, with nearly two-thirds placing it as moderately to not important at all. 

For Idaho Fish and Game, the standout finding was the affirmation of how much Idaho hunters prize the opportunity to hunt elk there every year. 

“The number one thing that we drew from the survey is that people really like to be able to go elk hunting every year,” says Toby Boudreau, Idaho’s deer and elk coordinator. 

It’s been a quarter-century since Idaho Fish and Game conducted such a survey. “We’re rewriting Idaho’s statewide elk management plan,” Boudreau says. “Assessing the opinions and attitudes of elk hunters is critical to writing a good plan that will work for people.” 

The last time IDFG updated its plan, the department held public forums but did not do a comprehensive survey like this one. “We rewrote the 1998 plan sort of in a vacuum, and I think this is a better way of actually managing for what people’s expectations and attitudes are,” Boudreau says. 

IDFG sent the survey out as paper copies to more than 6,000 random hunters who bought Idaho elk tags in 2011 (10 percent nonresidents), giving them the option of filling it out online using a unique login number. Almost half responded, completing 2,786 surveys. The median age of surveyed hunters is now 50 years old, a 10-year increase from the survey taken in 1987. 

The department is currently using the feedback from the surveys along with public forums to help formulate a new elk hunting management plan. In fact, the department recently got back a second survey it sent out, to evaluate how hunters like some of the ideas spurred by the first survey. 

While far from shocking, many results that come out of these surveys are essential in guiding state agencies as they consider changes to management plans. “One of the favorite quotes I read on the written responses was, ‘Go ahead and change what you want—just don’t mess it up,’” Boudreau says. “And we’re trying desperately not to mess it up.”

Stephanie Parker, Bugle Intern

(This is a reprint from the September-October issue of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's Bugle magazine. Click here to get your own Bugle subscription by becoming an RMEF member.)

No comments:

Post a Comment