Even though many know of someone who hunts or fishes, most have never hunted or fished—or have done them once or twice. The locavores we spoke to generally don’t know where to start to learn. They don’t know what gear to buy. They don’t know how to find a deer or a fish. They don’t know how to harvest it or what to do with it when they do. They may not know how to find their way around in the woods. Many also feel socially different from hunters and anglers, feeling some level of intimidation or “outsider” status.

Understanding the attraction of eating locally sourced food for potential participants

Buying, growing, and consuming locally sourced food appeals to potential participants for personal and societal reasons.

On a personal level, locavores desire a worry-free and trustworthy supply of food that is healthy, quality, nutritious, raised humanely (in the case of animals), grown with few pesticides or chemicals (in the case of plants), and free of fillers. Seeking out and consuming this food not only promotes bodily health, but it also promotes stronger communities. Locavores get to know farmers, butchers, and growers not just as a way to obtain better food, but also as a way to build relationships and communities for their own sake. A common value across locavores is to become self-sufficient.

On a societal level, locavores seek to care for the land and promote healthy habitats. They also seek to create a sustainable market, a resilient food supply, and an economically healthy local community.

Together, these attractions make obtaining, preparing, and consuming locally sourced food more than a way to eat, but also a way to live.

Understanding hunting and fishing—and perceptions of hunters and fishers

Promoting local hunting and fishing among locavores could appeal to several of these motivations, including knowing the origin of their food, ensuring the food they consume has been raised humanely, connecting with nature in the outdoors, promoting healthy land, becoming more locally self-sufficient, and building local relationships within families and with others involved in the hunting process (such as land owners and butchers). The most basic motive to hunt and fish—to obtain a supply of meat—is something most (non-vegetarian) locavores already do when they purchase, prepare, and consume meat from people whom they trust.

Yet designing a “how-to” class for locavores requires more than merely framing the benefits of hunting and fishing in these ways. It is important to note that potential participants already have a particular overlapping group of friends and acquaintances; they hold particular values and know how to live them out; and they are practiced at responding to particular seasons (adjusting their consumption depending on what is in supply), they know how to plan ahead for the future, and much of what they do has become habit.

In contrast, many locavores are not close personal friends with hunters or anglers, and the general perceptions they do have of these groups tend to be negative. Most potential participants will not only be learning a new skill, purchasing new equipment, and learning new regulations, but they will also be potentially putting themselves into situations with people who hold different values, possess different cultural knowledge, and interact with one another in different ways.

Recommendations for creating a class

  1. The approach of hunting and fishing matters. It must be “reverent,” conducted with a conservation ethic, done for a legitimate purpose (i.e., for meat and not for sport or obtaining a trophy), and performed humanely.
  2. The class ought to step through everything involved in the hunting process, from knowledge of regulations to where and when to hunt, from basic technique (walking through a woods and firing a gun or bow) to safety, from packing out an animal to processing and preparing it. The same is true for fishing, including information about rules and regulations, basic techniques and equipment, and processing and preparing the fish.
  3. Assure participants that you will start with the basics, and let them know that no question is a stupid question. Explain that you understand that they can’t know what they’ve never been taught. Most important, you have to mean all that and act accordingly. Instructors have to build trust with participants, most of whom did not grow up hunting or fishing: You can’t roll your eyes when someone can’t find the safety or doesn’t know how to adjust the drag; instructors can’t exchange knowing smiles when a student gets queasy gutting a deer.
  4. The class should provide multiple opportunities for hunting and fishing so that skills and information become familiar. Avoid one-off events that provide generic background information.
  5. Given the amount of time locavores devote to obtaining and preparing their food, time is at a premium. Respect their time-challenged lives by offering usable, specific information and generalizable skills.
  6. Rather than invite single participants, attempt to invite groups of people who share a common connection (such as membership in a CSA or a relationship with a particular farmer). The more the people involved are already trusted and familiar, the lower the perceived intimidation from general others. The class could further foster existing relationships and help to create new ones, perhaps with local land owners, butchers, and others.
  7. In general, opt for a minimalist approach to hunting and angling. Given that many locavores already store frozen or canned food, and that many live in small houses or apartments, physical space is at a premium. Teach them just what equipment they’ll need to be effective, but not so much that the storage or purchase of the gear becomes a burden.
  8. Post information about classes in places and with people who are already trusted and familiar.
    1. Effective places include websites in particular (including video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo), followed by magazines and books. They also include farmers markets and farm stands; seed stores; food co-operatives and any associated newsletters; food stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts; and hiking- and camping-oriented retailers such as REI.
    2. People include respected and trusted farmers, vendors, producers, and heads of CSAs who may already have lists of potential participants.
    3. Less effective places appear to be ads on local radio, on local TV, on websites, or in the newspaper.
    4. Information about how to hunt and fish should be in-depth and locally specific, not broad and general.
  9. Consider combining the class into a larger effort to connect local residents with local landscapes via foraging for mushrooms, nuts, and berries.
  10. Use words or messages that have a positive valence: Sustainable, Local, Providing for family, Self-sufficiency, Getting outdoors, Nutritious, Environmentally responsible
    1. Avoid overused words or messages that have a neutral or negative valence: Wholesome, Healthy, Natural


Surveys conducted as a part of this project

As a part of this project we conducted three online surveys and also asked a group of focus group participants to complete a written survey before their discussion began.

The surveys were administered to:
Recent graduates of the Indiana Hunt Fish Eat Deer Hunting Program
Recent graduates of the Wisconsin Hunt for Food Deer Hunting Program
Readers of Locavore oriented blogs
Participants in a Madison Wisconsin locavore focus group

The survey summaries for all surveys area attached

Locavore Focus Groups conducted as part of this project

We conducted two focus groups with individuals who were part of the local/sustainable food community. One group was in Louisville, KY and the other was in Madison, WI.

Attached are transcripts, audio recordings, a summary document with findings from both groups and a written survey that was administered to the Madison group before the discussion.

Both groups were recruited with the assistance of local food co-ops from their membership.

Let Research Help - Best Practices Hunting Workbook

To date, there has not been very much research conducted specifically on hunting and shooting Recruitment and Retention (R&R). The need for this kind of research has only recently been identified and has not been quick to catch on in most of the hunting and shooting community. For example, the question, “Are we having an impact with our R&R programs?” largely is unanswered.