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  • The Five Stages of a Hunter

    Hi folks,

    Someone commented in the meat / trophy poll about the stages a hunter goes through in his / her lifetime. Whether you agree or disagree, it makes for interesting conversation. Here's some information on that:

    Years ago a study of over 1,000 deer hunters was done by Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr. Robert Norton, of the University of Wisconsin. They concluded that hunters pass through the following five stages in their hunting career:

    SHOOTER

    Beginning hunters want to become proficient and are most focused on shooting an animal than on other aspects of the hunt.

    LIMITING OUT

    Most hunters progress to this stage, where the primary goal is to harvest as many animals as is legally allowed. The measure of success for hunters at this stage is in how many animals they’ve killed. Ego often comes into play here, with hunters bragging to each other about their success rate, or how many of which animals they’ve killed.

    TROPHY HUNTER

    Hunters in this stage have enough knowledge and experience that they become more selective, choosing animals with the largest antlers, or animals that he has not hunted yet. Conservation ethics come in to play as the hunter realizes that larger animals are somewhat rare. Ego often plays a part here too, with the hunter feeling a certain sense of pride in shooting the biggest one.

    METHOD

    Hunters at this stage have “been there, done that” and are more focused on hunting technique than large collections of animals. This is one point where some rifle hunters may pick up the bow, or choose other methods that limit themselves and present a greater challenge than methods they’ve already mastered. These hunters often have a very good working knowledge of the life science of the species.

    SPORTSMAN

    This hunter has nothing to prove to anyone. He knows the animal he hunts, has been involved in many kills, and is likely involved in organizations who’s purpose has to do with the preservation of hunting or with wildlife conservation. He is frequently more concerned about the experience of new hunters, and is willing to teach them.

    These stages frequently merge together, and it is common to find hunters that have elements of several stages within themselves all at the same time. This is especially true of stages three through five.

    I think the dynamics are a bit different in places like Alaska, where in some cases the emphasis is on food. But most of us are not primarily focused on the food aspects, according to our poll. So... where do you find yourself? When you see the photo of the black bear below, does your trigger finger itch, or are you content to let him walk away? Or are you, like me, the guy in the next valley sitting there in the rain seeing nothing? :-))

    -Mike
    Michael Strahan
    Site Owner
    Alaska Hunt Consultant
    1 (907) 229-4501

  • #2
    I like black bear

    but I think this one is about to run. Looks curious and young, which brings me to another bear mystery...
    For years I listened to people say "big ears, small bear....small ears, big bear"
    and to a great degree I have found this to be true. There have been more than a few instances, however, that the saying should have been "big ears..big bear!"
    Anyone else found this to be the case?

    Comment


    • #3
      The bear wouldn't leave...

      JDM,

      This guy was about five feet or so. Probably a three or four-year-old. We were hunting spring brown bear in the Iliamna area and this guy kept hanging around camp until we finally wised up and hung our food up in a tree. We though we were going to have to shoot him at one point. He was about 15' from the kitchen. Not afraid of us at all.

      -Mike
      Michael Strahan
      Site Owner
      Alaska Hunt Consultant
      1 (907) 229-4501

      Comment


      • #4
        5 stages

        Mike, this is the 1st time on the new site for me so I hope I do ok. Just an opinion on the the stages of a hunter. While I agree with the aforementioned stages. I have witnessed the younger (please understand no offense intended) groups of hunters tend towards being more intense in the hunt than some of us older guys. I can't say that this(for both groups) is attributed to any particular reasons, but in my opinion it may have to do with the simple facts of youth, hormones and the drive to a successful goal. In the case of older groups of hunters I have seen their enjoyment in the hunt make transition to enjoyment of being part of the hunt, not center stage. Kind of like the old guys get more kick out of passing the wisdom and watching it play out in the younger generation. Neat story along those lines about an old and young native american on a buffalo hunt. They came upon a herd after many days and the young brave said "Let's run down there and shoot a buffalo, I'm hungry. To which the old one said,"no, let's SNEAK down there and feed our whole village". Just some rambling thoughts here but my point is that I believe there are these stages you mention that some/most hunters go through because of the human life cycle. Thanks for the great post, Jeff L

        Comment


        • #5
          Stages

          Michael,

          Great post and glad to see I have not been the only one watching the forum today.

          The past few 10 years or so I have found myself doing much more with youth hunters and disabled hunters and enjoying their hunting experiences while I organize and assist. My own hunting has sacrificed (shot my first deer in 5 years last November) but not the experience. I have enjoyed watching and being a part of so many first deer or turkeys that it has kept me for the most part content.

          The bear hunt I recently took out of Homer was the first I had really taken in years and it truly sparked my desire to get back out into the woods.

          To answer your question I think I am some where between trophy hunter and sportsman. Trophy hunter in the sense that I have a desire to hunt things I never have before and not for size etc. Regarding method, I have not changed gear I have taken the time to learn more about the weapons I prefer, rifles. I tweak, customize to make them better for me. I still hunt for meat as I love wild game and learning new ways to prepare it.

          My favorite part of the hunt has to be the time I spend with close friends and family, this for me makes for the most memorable part of the experience. Nothing like a good friend putting chunks of herring in your boots .

          Doug
          http://www.alaskasgreatoutdoors.com

          Comment


          • #6
            My stages

            Michael, if you don't mind, I'll post the stages I have gone through as a hunter.

            Peer/family hunter

            There were actually two stages of this stage. The first stage I just wanted to be out with my dad and uncles and their friends. I wanted to be a part of the group. I loved listening to their stories of past hunts in the evenings. I soaked up all the knowledge they passed along. I started tagging along when I was six, and at ten passed my hunter safety class and got a license and got the responsibility of a place in the line when we made drives. Once in a while I'd sit on a stand, but I had too much energy for that and not enough patience. I didn't care about shooting anything, I just wanted to be a part of what was going on.

            The second stage of this stage I wanted the respect of these guys so I put more effort into being successful. But I also put more effort into doing more chores around camp, taking care of my gear, doing my share or more of packing duties etc. This was during my late teens and very early 20s.

            Solitary hunter

            In my early 20's I started wondering if my success was from hunting with the group or if I could be successful on my own so I started going my own way. I'd still hunt with the group on occasion and enjoyed the comaraderie, but I wanted to show I could do it on my own. I spent a couple winters camping on Afognak Is near Kodiak and was out among the animals every day. I can't even begin to tell you how much I learned about deer and to some degree bears those two winters, even in non-hunting situations. And I learned a lot about myself. I gained a lot of confidence in my abilities during this stage.

            Experience hunter

            By my late 20s, I wasn't worried about being successful, I just knew I would be. It was how I was successful that mattered more now. I started making hunts in new unfamiliar places because I loved seeing new country and finding new challenges for myself. While I still hunted primarily for meat, being out in the wild meant a lot to me. I guess this might be the method stage to some degree. I did hunt with a bow and a muzzle loader during this stage, but it wasn't so much for the challenge as it was that it gave me more time in the woods. That's how I feel about selective (trophy) hunting too. I don't care about trophies hanging on my walls. A large rack is just another momento of hunts gone by. But passing up other animals for a large one can stretch your season and give you more time in the woods. It can also teach you patience.

            I also started being more of a family/peer hunter again at this stage. It was fun sharing the experience and I helped many friends begin their hunting careers. It's enjoyable watching people go through the learning experience.

            Ethical/respectful hunter

            This stage started long ago for me. It took time to develope. It may have started about the time I went off on my own. I wasn't raised as a totally ethical hunter. It's not that my dad and uncles didn't have their own ethics. In some ways they were more ethical than any hunters I've known. They were products of their time. My dad and uncles grew up in the depression and lost their dad in an accident when they were very young. They fed their family as youngsters by poaching wild game, particularily deer. They party hunted (ie whoever saw a legal animal shot it, no matter if they'd already filled their own tag) There were a lot of families in the area I grew up in who felt the same way and hunted the same way. It was all about food for them, nothing was wasted, great pride was taken with meat care, safe gun handling was stressed. If you shot it you ate it no questions asked. They'd be glad to take friends out, but they had a strict code of conduct that included being responsible for what you kill. I remember two incidences clearly from my early days. In one, my dad was asked by a friend if he could bring a friend along on a deer hunt. Dad said ok. On a drive, a buck and two does ran by dad who dropped the buck. The does ran down the ridge where the friend of a friend was and dad heard 4 shots. Dad hollored to the guy and he claimed he'd seen another buck and had missed it. Dad was suspicious, but went about taking care of his deer. A couple days later we hunted the same area and I came across a dead doe with three bullet holes in her just down the ridge from where dad had shot the buck. Dad came down and checked it out and he was seething. He called his friend that night and told him that not only was his friend not welcome back, but neither was he. That was his punishment for bringing along a guy who would leave an animal to rot. The other incident was during an elk hunt. A friend had begged my uncle to take him elk hunting. We hunted some very rugged country in the mountains of the Olympic Penninsula of Washington and this guy knew we were very successful. Sure enough we got into a herd and one of my uncles got a bull. The friend shot wildly into the herd and killed a cow. He wanted to get out of there right now! We weren't about to leave her to waste, so we quartered her up and put a pack on his back. We were back in 2 or 3 miles and stretched out on the trail as guys headed out as their pack was ready. Shortly into the hike out, one of my uncles came upon the guy who had killed the cow and he had just taken the pack off and was leaving without it. My uncle stopped him and told him to put the pack back on and if he saw him or the pack again on the way out, he was kicking his Azz and he meant it. The guy made it out with his pack, hopped in his car, stopped at the cabin and grabbed his gear and never talked to my uncle again. As I said, they had their own code.

            But I'd feel cheated when I had to put my tag on an animal someone else shot. I think that's where it started. Then I hunted with people who'd stop at nothing to kill an animal. I knew that wasn't right. So I went off on my own and gradually I set my own code. At the bottom line was respect. Sure a guy could spotlight an animal in an apple orchard, but if you did, could you look yourself in the mirror? Was that the only way you could be successful? Was I such a poor hunter that I needed to take shortcuts to be successful? And why would I think so little of something I loved so much? Animals aren't out there for target practice. I don't need to kill them to bolster my ego. They are part of the cycle of my life. When I sell them short, I sell myself short. And if I don't earn my success, nobody else may know it, but I do.
            An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
            - Jef Mallett

            Comment


            • #7
              Jdm

              My first black bear hunt in whittier ended with a thought like this. I stalked up on a black bear to about 80 years and was talking to my partner about the size (we had no idea what to look for except for what people had told us) And I remembered someone had said small ears big bear.... well I glassed this bear for about 30 mins and couldn't even see an ear. I didn't initialy think it was big, but this theroy had to be tested. I shot the bear and found it to be under 5' adn it's ears had been frostbitten off. LOL It was my first black bear and it was a fun hunt, but I've been looking for larger ones ever since. this is my third year hunting blackies and I think I've seen around 120 or so and am finally getting the hang of what to look for as far as ears, walking style, head size, leg showing, and your initial idea as to wether he looked big or not at a glance. I've come to understand that when you see a larger bear you know it almost instantly. I took a 6' length, 6'3" squared blackie this year and is by far my largest. I'm getting more and more selective just like MS's post says. he's at Fosters right now getting made into a rug

              Justin
              Attached Files
              Justin

              Comment


              • #8
                Nice!

                Justin, that's a beautiful animal.

                Strangely enough, though I've guided a lot of black bear hunters and have been on many successful black bear hunts, I've never shot one myself. Lately I've had the desire to hunt them again, so perhaps I'll find one out there.

                Congratulations on some fine memories of your hunt. That bear is a thing of beauty.

                -Mike
                Michael Strahan
                Site Owner
                Alaska Hunt Consultant
                1 (907) 229-4501

                Comment


                • #9
                  Mike

                  That is a little strange. Thanks for the compliments. that was also my first succesful picture post after much moaning and graoning. GL if you head out after a blackie.
                  Justin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My First Bear - 5 footer but beautiful

                    I think you go through each phase with each new animal. With deer I'm a stage 3-5, same with ducks but my first black bear hunt this spring in PWS, I was probably a stage 1. This bear was the third I had stalked, it was the last day of the hunt, and while I knew she wasn't a big bear, I didn't think she was small, she looked medium and that was fine with me. She looked like a huge fuzzy catipillar as she moved through the rocks, the hair on her coat was over 4 inches and soft, not a rub and jet black. I'm happy with the results, and next time I'll hold out for bigger bear or go home empty.

                    I had to shrink the picture to get it to fit, so we lost some quality. Sorry.
                    Last edited by ucohokie; 07-02-2010, 07:48.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Picture Again

                      Repost of picture.
                      Last edited by ucohokie; 07-02-2010, 07:48.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Picture

                        Ucohokie,

                        Trophy is in the eyes of the beholder, nice bear.

                        Doug
                        http://www.alaskasgreatoutdoors.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks

                          It was a great experience. One I hope to pass on to my kids one day.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Different phases, whatever you call them, shaped by experience and maybe age too...

                            Originally posted by twodux View Post
                            Michael, if you don't mind, I'll post the stages I have gone through as a hunter.

                            Peer/family hunter

                            There were actually two stages of this stage. The first stage I just wanted to be out with my dad and uncles and their friends. I wanted to be a part of the group. I loved listening to their stories of past hunts in the evenings. I soaked up all the knowledge they passed along. I started tagging along when I was six, and at ten passed my hunter safety class and got a license and got the responsibility of a place in the line when we made drives. Once in a while I'd sit on a stand, but I had too much energy for that and not enough patience. I didn't care about shooting anything, I just wanted to be a part of what was going on.

                            The second stage of this stage I wanted the respect of these guys so I put more effort into being successful. But I also put more effort into doing more chores around camp, taking care of my gear, doing my share or more of packing duties etc. This was during my late teens and very early 20s.

                            Solitary hunter

                            In my early 20's I started wondering if my success was from hunting with the group or if I could be successful on my own so I started going my own way. I'd still hunt with the group on occasion and enjoyed the comaraderie, but I wanted to show I could do it on my own. I spent a couple winters camping on Afognak Is near Kodiak and was out among the animals every day. I can't even begin to tell you how much I learned about deer and to some degree bears those two winters, even in non-hunting situations. And I learned a lot about myself. I gained a lot of confidence in my abilities during this stage.

                            Experience hunter

                            By my late 20s, I wasn't worried about being successful, I just knew I would be. It was how I was successful that mattered more now. I started making hunts in new unfamiliar places because I loved seeing new country and finding new challenges for myself. While I still hunted primarily for meat, being out in the wild meant a lot to me. I guess this might be the method stage to some degree. I did hunt with a bow and a muzzle loader during this stage, but it wasn't so much for the challenge as it was that it gave me more time in the woods. That's how I feel about selective (trophy) hunting too. I don't care about trophies hanging on my walls. A large rack is just another momento of hunts gone by. But passing up other animals for a large one can stretch your season and give you more time in the woods. It can also teach you patience.

                            I also started being more of a family/peer hunter again at this stage. It was fun sharing the experience and I helped many friends begin their hunting careers. It's enjoyable watching people go through the learning experience.

                            Ethical/respectful hunter

                            This stage started long ago for me. It took time to develope. It may have started about the time I went off on my own. I wasn't raised as a totally ethical hunter. It's not that my dad and uncles didn't have their own ethics. In some ways they were more ethical than any hunters I've known. They were products of their time. My dad and uncles grew up in the depression and lost their dad in an accident when they were very young. They fed their family as youngsters by poaching wild game, particularily deer. They party hunted (ie whoever saw a legal animal shot it, no matter if they'd already filled their own tag) There were a lot of families in the area I grew up in who felt the same way and hunted the same way. It was all about food for them, nothing was wasted, great pride was taken with meat care, safe gun handling was stressed. If you shot it you ate it no questions asked. They'd be glad to take friends out, but they had a strict code of conduct that included being responsible for what you kill. I remember two incidences clearly from my early days. In one, my dad was asked by a friend if he could bring a friend along on a deer hunt. Dad said ok. On a drive, a buck and two does ran by dad who dropped the buck. The does ran down the ridge where the friend of a friend was and dad heard 4 shots. Dad hollored to the guy and he claimed he'd seen another buck and had missed it. Dad was suspicious, but went about taking care of his deer. A couple days later we hunted the same area and I came across a dead doe with three bullet holes in her just down the ridge from where dad had shot the buck. Dad came down and checked it out and he was seething. He called his friend that night and told him that not only was his friend not welcome back, but neither was he. That was his punishment for bringing along a guy who would leave an animal to rot. The other incident was during an elk hunt. A friend had begged my uncle to take him elk hunting. We hunted some very rugged country in the mountains of the Olympic Penninsula of Washington and this guy knew we were very successful. Sure enough we got into a herd and one of my uncles got a bull. The friend shot wildly into the herd and killed a cow. He wanted to get out of there right now! We weren't about to leave her to waste, so we quartered her up and put a pack on his back. We were back in 2 or 3 miles and stretched out on the trail as guys headed out as their pack was ready. Shortly into the hike out, one of my uncles came upon the guy who had killed the cow and he had just taken the pack off and was leaving without it. My uncle stopped him and told him to put the pack back on and if he saw him or the pack again on the way out, he was kicking his Azz and he meant it. The guy made it out with his pack, hopped in his car, stopped at the cabin and grabbed his gear and never talked to my uncle again. As I said, they had their own code.

                            But I'd feel cheated when I had to put my tag on an animal someone else shot. I think that's where it started. Then I hunted with people who'd stop at nothing to kill an animal. I knew that wasn't right. So I went off on my own and gradually I set my own code. At the bottom line was respect. Sure a guy could spotlight an animal in an apple orchard, but if you did, could you look yourself in the mirror? Was that the only way you could be successful? Was I such a poor hunter that I needed to take shortcuts to be successful? And why would I think so little of something I loved so much? Animals aren't out there for target practice. I don't need to kill them to bolster my ego. They are part of the cycle of my life. When I sell them short, I sell myself short. And if I don't earn my success, nobody else may know it, but I do.
                            The idea that a hunter's experience changes over time could explain why hunting holds such appeal for so many years. No doubt for some it's always about the meat, for instance, but the thing is, that the hunt has the potential to be about so much more too. Whatever the stages are called, a new facet captures one's interest maybe. Good thread.
                            No habitat, no hunter.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Wow! Now that's what I call digging up an old thread!
                              Originally posted by northwestalska
                              ... you can’t tell stories about the adventures you wished you had done!

                              Comment

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