by Steve Sorensen (Originally published in the Warren Times Observer
, September 14, 2013.)
People like to categorize people. That impulse
may be negative, coming from our inclination to create stereotypes of others.
Or it may be positive, coming from our God-given urge to name things.
The five stages of hunters – not one of them is bad.
Genesis 2:19-20, God gave man the responsibility for naming the animals, “Now
the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the
birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them;
and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man
gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild
animals.” That tells us it’s human nature to classify things, organize things,
and catalog things – all in an effort to create order.
people categorize hunters. Some extremists are motivated to pigeonhole all
hunters as poachers, murderers, even sociopaths. One of their favorite words is
“slobs,” and they use it as often as possible. Others make a genuine attempt to
understand hunters. They recognize hunting’s positive aspects, and don’t attach
disapproving adjectives to the word “hunter.”
1975 and 1980 Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr. Robert Norton from the University of
Wisconsin, LaCrosse campus, studied more than 1000 hunters and their theory of
hunter development has become widely accepted. It’s cited often in hunter
education classes and hunter behavior research. They identified five stages
deer hunters tend to pass through during a lifetime of hunting.
Stage – When starting out, hunters want to pull the trigger as often as
possible. Success is defined primarily as kills.
Out Stage – The hunter defines success in terms of numbers. He wants to
harvest as many deer as is legally possible and keeps track of things such as
consecutive years of harvests.
Stage – Quality becomes more important than quantity, and quality is
defined in terms of trophy game animals. A trophy is not necessarily judged by
size. And the definition of a trophy does not diminish what the hunter
harvested at earlier stages. It might even be defined by the experience of the
hunt. The hunter now draws on knowledge acquired in the earlier stages. The
hunter is also beginning to see himself as a manager of a wildlife resource.
Stage – The hunter becomes more focused on methods. He becomes more
strategic and focuses on his skills and understanding deer behavior. His
stories are less about his kills and more about the methods that produced an
opportunity. He may begin restricting himself to primitive weapons.
Stage – Others have called this the reflective stage, and even the
philosophical stage. The hunter has a broad view of hunting and focuses on
sharing it with others. He tends to view quality as what goes into habitat and
all that the habitat supports, and he is concerned about the preservation of
hunting for future generations.
five ways of classifying hunters probably fit people best who start hunting at
an early age, and continue hunting for a lifetime. It doesn’t assume hunters
quickly transition through the stages, and all hunters might not progress
through all of them.
these five stages, I make the following seven observations:
The stages may be similar for any enthusiast of
any activity. Stamp collectors, for example, probably have their parallel.
These stages do not define a hierarchy of moral
values, as none of them is bad. We don’t fault a beginning hunter for being in
the Shooting Stage nor do we say a hunter in the Sportsman Stage is morally
Hunters are often part of a peer group, and peer
groups have influence. If a hunter has only peers who are in one stage, he
might not move to another stage until his peer group changes.
Since these are defined as “stages,” they imply
growth. There is no clear line between one and another. Thus, each hunter is
unique, and no stereotype of hunters reflects reality.
Not only are hunters all unique, they all change
through their careers.
Anti-hunting propaganda fails to recognize that
all hunters are different, and it attacks hunters based on stereotypes and
All five stages describe legal, ethical hunters
and leave no room to consider poachers as being in the ranks of hunters.