Hunters in two states are funding pro-hunting public relations campaigns in an effort to beat the antis at their own game.
Back in the 1990s, hunters in Colorado were smarting from a series of anti-hunting ballot initiatives that had recently passed in their state, including one that banned spring bear hunting. A few of them realized that the majority of the voting public didn’t know squat about hunting’s contributions to wildlife management and conservation, nor about the positive impact that hunting has on the economy.
They saw that public sentiment was being shaped by media campaigns run by well-funded anti-hunters and decided it was time to strike back with a PR campaign of their own. These sportsmen banded together with a mission to develop an ongoing media-based program to educate the urban, non-hunting public about the scientific, economic, and conservation benefits of hunting and fishing.
In a recent article, I wrote about what those forward-thinking Coloradoans came up with—legislation establishing a Wildlife Council with a long-term funding mechanism, via a license surcharge, fully dedicated to a pro-hunting mass-media campaign. This resulted in the “Hug a Hunter” ads you might have seen if you’ve been in Colorado recently—friendly, pro-hunting ads geared toward the non-hunting public that run on regular TV and radio channels and appear on billboards (watch them at https://hugahunter.com/watch-our-videos).
This proactive public education program has transformed the hunting landscape in Colorado. Since the “Hug a Hunter” campaign has been running, surveys show that seven out of ten people say they would vote against any new hunting restrictions—a huge change from the 1990s. Further, 30 percent of non-hunters say they are more supportive of sportsmen than they were before they saw the ads. And perhaps most important, since the campaign started, not a single anti-hunting ballot measure has been introduced in Colorado.
Alan Taylor of Michigan, a successful businessman and avid hunter, heard about the Colorado program and thought it was such a good idea he decided to launch a similar initiative in his home state. He formed a group called The Nimrod Society to do just that, and they were successful. In 2013, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed legislation establishing a surcharge of $1 per hunting and fishing license as a dedicated fund for a PR campaign aimed at educating Michigan’s urban, non-sporting public about the benefits of hunting, fishing, and wildlife management. The Council hired a professional ad agency and launched its own pro-sportsman PR campaign (see it at www.hereformioutdoors.com).
“That’s two states down, forty-eight more to go,” said Taylor.
Think about it: If hunters and anglers could get pro-hunting PR campaigns like Colorado’s and Michigan’s started in every state, it could make a huge difference in ensuring the future of wildlife populations and our hunting heritage. Best of all, there is now a proven model in place, and The Nimrod Society is eager to help sportsmen in other states start a program of their own. Learn more at www.nimrodsociety.org.