Instead of hunting primarily for the sport of it, most hunters now report their main motivation is to gather meat.
 

A recent national survey by the research firm Responsive Management shows the main reason people hunt has shifted dramatically in the past seven years.

Among this class of hunters are Mike Gamba and his daughter Sofia, who were recently hunting deer last month along the Roaring Fork River near Glenwood Springs, Colo. 

"Dad there’s a group of three down by that tank in the meadow," Sofia said.

"Look at the range there," Mike said in an audio diary they recorded of their hunt. "They're about 450 yards away."

"That's a long shot," Sofia said.

"Yeah, we don't want to try that," Mike said.

They passed on taking a shot.  Mike said later that they shoot only when they’re confident they’ll kill, and not just wound, the animal. 

Mike’s hunted since he was a young boy. His Dad took him, and now he’s passing the tradition to his daughters.

"We are really not interested in trophies or shooting animals we’re not interested in eating," he said. 

Research findings

According to the survey, the Gambas aren’t alone.

The authors of the study noticed a steady increase in the number of hunters over the last several years and asked them their main reason for hunting.  

The survey’s options: Gathering meat, being with friends and family, being close to nature, for the sport of it or gunning for a trophy. 

"Really interestingly, hunting for meat increased the most," Mike Damien Duda, the firm's director, said. "It was actually the biggest single reason why people hunted, about 35 percent, and showed the largest increase from 2006 to 2013."

Hunting for sport or recreation fell to second place with 31 percent.

Duda points to several reasons why but says that some just hunt for the economics of it.  

"We got people who during the recession told me if it wasn’t for hunting they wouldn’t have meat in their freezer," Duda said.

Another reason for the increase is that more women are hunting these days and, according to Duda, women who hunt generally are more interested in the  meat.

Duda says the final reason, and perhaps the main one, has been the impact of the movement to eat food produced locally. 

"That is people who are interested in pesticide-free, hormone-free meat," Duda said. "We’ve seen people who want to eat locally with fruits and vegetables -- that has started to extended to hunters and new people coming into hunting."

Personal motivation

Mike Gamba had extra motivation to hunt for his own meat about a decade ago after his Dad suffered a heart attack.

Gamba’s cardiologist told him he should start reducing his meat consumption, eat more turkey and chicken.  This prompted Gamba to asked about deer and elk.

“Oh you can eat all the deer and elk you want because it’s so lean," Gamba’s doctor told him at the time. 

Gamba has always gotten at least one animal during hunting season and his wife Karin has embraced the creative challenge of what to do with all that deer and elk. 

"Everyone’s heard of beef burgundy, and I make my version which is elk zinfandel, so that’s always a big hit so when we have company I generally pull that recipe out," she said.

During that recent hunt along the Roaring Fork River, the Gambas were never close enough to take a shot.

But just a few days later both Mike and Sofia filled their tags with five-point bucks.