What is the public image of hunters?

Hunter taking aim.
Hunter taking aim.
iStockphoto/Ryan Howe

When som­eone asks you to visualize what a hunter looks like, what do you see? Chances are it's a little something like a dour-faced, burly, middle-aged man dressed in overalls and camouflage, holding a rifle in one hand and a dead animal -- or possibly a six-pack -- in the other.

Many people see this image or something like it, not realizing that hunting is actually a sport that is not limited to by age or gender. A survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Association found that 62 percent of participants have negative views towards hunters. They believe most hunters are willing, or do, break hunting laws such as drinking in excess while hunting [source: Rinella]. With a public image like this, it's impressive that hunting has continued to live on as lobbyist groups fight against what they see as an inhumane and unethical pastime.

What seems contradictory regarding the public image of hunters is that even though there is a less than positive association with the sport, 75 percent of Americans approve of "legal hunting" [source: Swan]. This makes it tricky for hunters, because even though there are strong numbers in polls, there's still a negative perception tied to the actual sport. This majority perception could be an indication that hunting may not have the support it needs to remain legal when the debate picks up.

­At this point, hunting doesn't seem to be at the top of any politician's platform, and that's not likely to change any time soon. But that doesn't mean that public image has no bearing on the sport itself, or that hunting is safe from any immediate legislation. There are quite a few reasons that hunters need to focus on building a positive public image.

If hunting has remained legal all this time, why do hunters have to worry about their image now? Read on to find out what's so important about the public image of hunters.