Recreational Hunters

Recreational Hunters, Fishers and Divers in North Canterbury: Outdoor Enthusiasms in Social Contexts


Bob Gidlow
Grant Cushman
Stephen Espiner

This project builds upon a previous study of recreational divers, fisher and hunters in Sydney, NSW and Christchurch, North Canterbury, which was based on in-depth interviews with a small number of outdoor enthusiasts (Gidlow and Cushman, 2008). This follow-up research, funded by SPARC ihi Aotearoa, allowed the research team to widen its scope to include a random sample of Fish and Game North Canterbury season licence holders (which became a ‘Fish & Game’ sub-sample in the research) and the complete membership of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, North Canterbury Branch (becoming an ‘NZDA’ sub-sample). Once again, the researchers’ particular interest is in the social contexts of certain trips-based outdoor recreational activities; in how recreational hunters, fishers and divers negotiate time away from work, and particularly from family responsibilities, to participate in their outdoor enthusiasms.

The self-completed questionnaires used in the project included questions on: the age of first involvement in their preferred outdoor recreational activity; identifying those who were responsible for socialising them into that activity; their motivations for involvement; the work and family contexts of decision making about recreational trips away from home; the financial costs associated with pursuit of the activity; attitudes to clubs and club membership; and opinions about the future ‘health’ of their recreational activities. Socio-demographic data were also collected.

In the case of both sub-groups – NZDA and Fish & Game – the response rate was higher than is often the case for self-completed questionnaires, and although the researchers did not purposively sample for male recreationists only, respondents were overwhelmingly ‘male’. Mostly they were introduced to their preferred recreational activity at a very young age, with ‘Father’ being the most important agent of socialisation in the case of both sub-samples.

Almost all NZDA respondents and most Fish & Game respondents indicated that their activity involved overnight or longer trips away from home. Inspection of types of recreational activity revealed, however, that almost one-third of duck and game-bird shooters and salmon fishers did not need to take overnight trips away from home to pursue the activity.

Respondents reported that arranging trips in the context of their work and family commitments was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’, and the research team explores possible reasons for this response.

Motivators for respondents’ involvement in their preferred activity included ‘Being in wild places/natural environments’, ‘Catching/gathering food’ and ‘Spending quality time with friends/mates’. Some differences in the ranking of motivators were found between the two respondent sub-groups.

When presented with scenarios which describe how decisions about expenditure on recreation are made, respondents indicated that they had either accumulated the financial resources they needed to pursue their activity, viewed themselves as being at a life-stage where they could afford to be ‘self-indulgent’ or believed that their recreational expenditure was a ‘priority’. The researchers note the inconsistency between these and other data in the report.

More than four-fifths of all respondents indicated that the future of their preferred activity was ‘under threat’ in New Zealand, yet only 5.4 percent of the Fish & Game respondents indicated that they belonged to clubs  – one way in which shared interests can be furthered.

In the conclusion to its report on the project, the research team: discusses the implications of the study for SPARC ihi Aotearoa, in terms of the latter’s activity promotion work; notes some methodological weaknesses of the study; and explores possible areas of future enquiry relating to the social contexts in which recreation-participation decisions are made.


Gidlow, B. and Cushman, G. (2008), Bringing men back in?: Male recreational hunters, divers and fly-fishers and the creation of recreational space, Annals of Leisure Research, Vol. 11, No’s 1 & 2, 2008.

Gidlow, B.; Cushman, G. and Espiner, S (2009), Recreational Hunters, Fishers and Divers in North Canterbury:  Outdoor Enthusiasms in Social Contexts.  LEaP 8, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand


Page last updated on: 11/05/2011