Exploring the social habitat of Alabama Public Land Hunters
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Forestry and Wildlife Science
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The United States has been facing a decline in the number of licensed hunters since around 1980, posing a serious threat to state conservation agencies who receive funding from hunting license sales. Recent research suggests that this decline can be tied to demographic trends in the United States - such as urbanization, diversification, and an aging population – because they have altered hunting society, or the “social habitat” for hunting. The social habitat for hunting is comprised of multiple levels of factors influencing hunting behavior, these levels range from individual-level (e.g., family support) to very broad (e.g., world news). Conventional hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) research has been focused on factors at the individual level. While these individual level factors are important, over-emphasis on their influence has created a gap of information concerning the roles of broader social forces on R3. We developed a survey questionnaire to understand the broader social forces affecting R3, such as demographics, socialization into hunting, and public land use. We examined differences in the recruitment and retention for non-traditional hunting populations (e.g., females, adult-onset hunters, urban hunters). The items affecting recruitment and retention for these groups was different than for traditional hunting populations. Additionally, we modelled the preferences of public land hunters for WMAs to determine which attributes drive hunting participation. We found site-specific characteristics that predict visitation. Preferences for certain attributes also varied by type of game species targeted. These findings have practical significance for state agencies, and contribute to the understanding of the social habitat for hunting.