Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Richelle Winkler

Committee Member 1

Mark Rouleau

Committee Member 2

Christopher Webster


State wildlife management agencies are funded primarily by revenue from hunting and angling license sales as well as federal excise taxes on equipment. These agencies are also responsible for managing wildlife populations and providing recreational resources to the public. Declines in hunting participation across much of the United States throughout the last two decades have prompted researchers and wildlife professionals to search for explanations and solutions that will ensure a level of funding for state agencies that allows continued management of wildlife within biological and social carrying capacities, engagement in conservation initiatives, and development of recreational opportunities. Most of the current body of research on hunting participation focuses on social-psychological and individual socio-demographic explanations for why people hunt or not, but a new framework, a social habitat of hunting theory, encourages scholars and practitioners to consider the broader social and community contexts within which individuals are situated.

This thesis empirically tests the social habitat theory, investigating how socio-demographic, economic, ecological, and policy variables impact deer hunting in Michigan. The analysis is based on a regression model that investigates individual and community-level variables to analyze the entire population of Michigan in the year 2010 based on population data from the U.S. Census Bureau and hunting license sales data from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. At the individual level, the odds of males purchasing a hunting license was 10 times greater than females, but this varies by age. Community-level factors are also important, however, and appear to have a much greater impact on deer hunting than individual demographic variables. County hunting participation rates are influenced by aggregate measures of education, ethnicity, rurality, and land use characteristics. The results show that a socio-ecological framework may be a useful way to describe the community context that helps shape an individual’s decision to hunt or not, and aid decision-making strategies by policymakers and wildlife managers in recruitment and retention efforts.