Hug-a-Hunter campaign shows results (VIDEO)

A campaign to highlight the contributions to conservation made by hunters in Colorado is seeing success in getting the word out.

In 2017, the Colorado Wildlife Council began running spots on TV and Pandora urging the public to “Hug a Hunter” and “Hug an Angler” because of the contribution their activities yield to the preserving and protecting the state’s wildlife and forests.

“When someone buys a hunting license they’re paying for more than just a piece of paper,” says the Hug-a-Hunter spot. “They’re paying to protect our wildlife, to restore our forests and to preserve our public land. The money from hunting licenses pays to conserve Colorado. So chances are, even if you don’t hunt, you still love hunting.”

The nine-member CWC was created by the Colorado legislature in 1998 and is composed of a “coalition of hunters, anglers, and conservationists working together with livestock and agriculture organizations,” with members appointed by the director of the state’s wildlife and parks agency. The group points out that hunting and fishing kick in over $2.8 billion to the state’s economy, supporting some 21,000 jobs. Further, the fees paid by hunters and anglers through licensing– and by extension, any time new shooting or fishing equipment is purchased — goes to fund activities enjoyed by birdwatchers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts who do not contribute to the same degree to conservation.

“In Colorado, hunters and anglers fund more than 70 percent of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s wildlife management programs,” says the Council.

In their latest budget request to the state, the CWC cited recent surveys of urbanites in Denver without hunting licenses who recalled the specific messaging in the Hug-a-Hunter campaign. “It appears that the campaign’s core message is resonating among those who have seen it,” says the Council, urging to continue the program next year.

As a whole, about six in 10 Coloradans said they support hunting, but the CWC’s survey found that few are knowledgeable on hunting regulations and can tend to feel negative towards the sport. “Making the connection between hunting/fishing, and how it actually benefits the animals they empathize with, will be critical moving forward, as this will be the key group to persuade,” said the group.

Diana Rupp, the editor-in-chief of Sports Afield magazine, observed for the NRA’s Hunters’ Leadership Forum that the effort by the CWC in Colorado is important, and is making a difference in the conversation.

“Its efforts are helping to move the needle when it comes to perceptions of hunting and fishing among non-hunters,” said Rupp. “And those perceptions, whether we like it or not, will play an ever-more-critical role in keeping our hunting and angling heritage alive.”

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