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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why 20% of the hunters take 80% of the game

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, November 15, 2008.)

They don’t hunt a spot just because they always have,
or because they’re familiar with it,
or because it’s convenient.

It’s been said that 20% of the hunters harvest 80% of the game.

That’s one application of a rule of thumb known as the Pareto principle, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who noted that 20% of the people own 80% of the wealth.

The rule is so pervasive that it extends even to the most commonplace issues. We probably wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. We likely devote about 20% of our driving to 80% of the places we go. Even in volunteerism, 20% of the members do 80% of the volunteer work in churches, sportsman’s associations, conservation organizations, and civic clubs.

The 80-20 ratio is merely shorthand for a general principle that seems to be at work virtually everywhere. Don’t get hung up on the numbers -- they express only an approximation and they measure different things, so they don’t need to add up to 100%. It might also be true that 40% of the hunters take 90% of the game.

Some might think that poachers make up a big part of the 20% who take 80% of the game. Those same people probably think that the 20% who own 80% of the wealth have achieved it in unscrupulous ways. Neither is true.

The fact is that when it comes to economics, the 20-80 principle applies as much in controlled economies with redistributionist aims as it does in free enterprise economies. Redistributionist goals have never brought equality -- they just rearrange the people in the equation.

And when it comes to hunting, the Pareto principle is probably as true as it is in any field. The question is, why do 20% of the hunters harvest 80% of the game? Or, why does the Pareto principle apply to hunter success?

Now, I’m not one of the 20% -- so I’m not trying to justify a high harvest rate. I leave plenty of tags unfilled. I’m often just as happy to come home from the hunt without game to clean. When I was younger I heard my father say that, and now I understand it.

The application of the Pareto principle to hunters is actually very simple, and applies to hunting for the same reasons it applies to economics or to any other field. Usually, about 20% are committed to the highest success. They’re the employees who work 60 or 70 hours per week. They’re the basketball players who shoot 100 free throws after their teammates have hit the showers. Every field has performers who focus a major part of their time and energy on just a few specific goals.

Among hunters, the 20% are the hunters who scout more. They develop all the tools at their disposal, and spend hundreds of hours in the field outside of hunting seasons.

They are more prepared because they invest more in equipment. They know its capabilities and understand its limitations.

They read more. They study more. They may not talk about it, but they make it their business to understand as much as possible about the animals, their habits, and the habitat that supports them.

They work harder at finding places to hunt, and don’t hunt a spot just because they always have, or because they’re familiar with it, or because it’s convenient. They hunt it because they’ve taken the time to learn how the animals use the land.

If you’re one of the 20% with a high harvest rate, you’ve made sacrifices that put you in that class. Most highly successful hunters will agree that commitment is the reason. Success has come largely because you’ve made choices that rank other things lower on your priority scale.

And if you’re one of the 80% who bag the remaining 20% of the harvest, you probably have a well-rounded life, healthy relationships, varied interests, and other commitments. You’ve invested your time and energy in other priorities. That’s worthwhile, too.


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