New Wave Hunters: What's the Story?
By V.Paul Reynolds

A funny thing happened on the way to the nationwide hunter survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Guess what? In America, there has been a 10 percent increase in licensed hunters since 2006! Wha? How can that be? They have been telling us that recreational hunting - like daily newspapers - has been in an inevitable decline, a vestige of changing times. But the numbers are there, for all of us to see and ponder. So what is the explanation for this social anomaly?

Photo caption: In America, there is a "new breed" of deer hunter taking to the woods in search of truly wild food. (Photo by Josh Reynolds)

Well, for one thing there is a record number of youngsters with junior hunting licenses, and an increasing number of women are finding out that hunting doesn't have to be for men only. There are other causal factors, too. According to USFWS folks, other causes for this thoroughly unexpected statistical turnaround are:

1. More people are hunting and learning that outdoor recreation can be healthy: fresh air and exercise.

2. Economic recessions reduce a family's discretionary income, which drives more people back to basics. Hunting, compared with other recreational endeavors, can be relatively inexpensive.

3. In many states, there has been a so-called "softening" of hunting regulations. This would include provisions for apprentice hunting licenses and a simplifying of some hunting regulations.

4. An increasing number of Americans are adopting the gatherer's instinct: they want to harvest their own food.

The last reason may be one of the more socially significant phenomenons of the aforementioned list. According to New York Times reporter Dwight Garner, there is emerging in America an entirely new breed of hunter. He calls it a New Wave. His Poster Boy for this New Wave hunter is Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of facebook. Writes Garner: "In May 2011 Mr. Zuckerberg made a pledge to consume, for one year, only meat he had hunted or slaughtered himself. He got a hunting license and shot a bison. “My personal challenge,” he explained, is “being thankful for the food I have to eat.” If four new books are any indication, Mr. Zuckerberg is the decidedly nonmacho, non-pickup-driving embodiment of a new breed of American hunter. This new breed of hunter " no longer wishes to have an anonymous hit man between himself and supper," contends Garner.

These New Wave hunters, turned off by the "horrors of industrial meat production," are finding that their personal value system places hunting for your own food on a higher ethical plane than buying a shrink-wrapped chuck roast at the market. Garner supports his social thesis by listing a spate of new books that are catching on:

1. Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner, by Lily McCaulou

2. The Mindful Carnivore, by Tovar Cerulli

3. The Meat Eater, by Steven Rinella

So you just never know. You have vegan converting into carnivore and some feminists contending that to take up the hunt is to cross the final frontier of feminism. Hey, whatever works. Not mentioned by Garner is the added health benefit of eating lean, wild meat as opposed to heavily marbled supermarket beef.

As Maine Guide and outdoor marketing consultant John Rust noted, this is for most traditional, old school hunters old stuff with a new wrapping. Observes Rust: "Their reasons for participating are often reflected in studies about today's nature-based tourists -- to get a genuine, authentic and close connection to nature. In this case, the new hunters are about “adventure, communion with nature, physical activity, a love of process and acquired skill, and a desire for an intimate connection to one’s food. These have always been part of traditional hunters' objectives, and of modern hunter ethics, but perhaps the books being reviewed just describe things differently. Hunters (and fishermen) eat locally grown, organic, "free-range" meat. Sounds trendy, but it's a million year old part of our genetics, and a Maine tradition. Either way, those who are newly discovering and taking a fresh look at the hunting sort are all welcome to the fold."

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is and his new book is "A Maine Deer Hunter's Logbook."

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