Colorado sportsmen ban together to create an ongoing media-based program to educate the urban non-hunting public about the benefits of hunting and fishing.
A decade ago, several anti-hunting ballot initiatives passed, including one that banned spring bear hunting and left Colorado sportsmen scratching their heads. They realized many voters had no idea about hunting’s contributions to wildlife conservation and its positive impact on the economy. Media campaigns funded by anti-hunters appeared to be shaping public votes. So Colorado sportsmen made a plan to strike back with a PR campaign of their own.
First, legislation was put in place that established a Wildlife Council. Then a license surcharge was initiated to create a long-term funding mechanism dedicated to a pro-hunting mass-media campaign. If you have visited Colorado recently, you may have seen the “Hug a Hunter” ads, which are aimed at the non-hunting public and run regularly on T.V. and radio channels, and are featured on billboards. The ads are driven by a friendly, pro-hunting message.
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Colorado has slowly transformed into a majority pro-hunting state since the “Hug a Hunter” ad campaign. Surveys show that seven of 10 people say they would vote against new hunting restrictions. This is a huge change from just 10 years prior. Furthermore, 30 percent of non-hunters say they are more supportive of sportsmen than they were before they saw the ads. Most importantly, no anti-hunting ballot measures have been introduced since the campaign started in Colorado.
Other states are taking notice. In Michigan, the governor signed legislation that put a $1 surcharge on hunting and fishing licenses. The money is earmarked for a dedicated fund that is to be used for a PR campaign to educate the non-hunting and non-fishing public about the benefits of these activities.
The future of wildlife populations and hunting and fishing heritage depend on these models.