The North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (WRC) wanted to better understand the attitudes, values and perceptions about Sunday hunting of users of 93 game lands administered by the state, or in cooperation with partners. Group Solutions was engaged to design and deliver a statewide engagement process to deliver answers and frame potential solutions.
A statewide survey of stakeholders and the general public was posted. Over 30,000 responses were received and analyzed. The web-based survey yielded a plethora of win/lose comments.
Facilitated listening sessions were held across the state to better understand perceptions, issues and concerns related to Sunday hunting on state game lands and, more specifically, if and where Sunday hunting on game land compromise may be possible. Each session included interactive polling on potential alternatives, follow-up questions and the opportunity to participate in additional online input.
Three regional focus groups held to review the summary themes from a statewide survey and regional listening sessions. These virtual sessions:
- Clarified stakeholder perspectives on potential solutions that emerged from the survey and listening sessions.
- Framed and refined evaluation criteria for selecting game lands most suited for Sunday hunting.
- Explored the willingness of non-hunters to support game lands financially.
To balance the need for broad representation and full participation in discussions, focus group sizes were limited and each organization was asked to send a single representative. Separate sessions were scheduled for statewide stakeholder groups. 32 stakeholder groups were selected by WRC to represent:
- Known hunting and non-hunting organizations that currently use game lands.
- Diversity of hunting and non-hunting perspectives.
- Past participation in WRC advisory groups.
- Unique or non-traditional game land user perspective (i.e. climbers, bikers, etc.).
Pre-session briefings were scheduled to answer questions, and confirm technical ability to participate in a virtual meeting. Expectations were set that the focus groups would be focusing on finding middle ground solutions, not win/lose alternatives. The possibility that compromise recommendations might be no one’s preferred alternative was discussed. Participants were encouraged to think about any and all alternatives they could live with and to consider how to make these alternatives safe and workable. All participants expressed support of the process.
During the focus groups, potential options for Sunday hunting on game lands that had been generated by the survey and listening session were discussed and each group arrived at a similar conclusion:
Sunday hunting on a limited number of game lands is supported.
The following criteria were recommended to help the Commission select game lands for an initial effort to allow Sunday hunting:
- Rural game lands that are not heavily used by non-hunters.
- Proximity to other game lands and public lands that allow non-hunting use.
- Current use patterns of game lands. Be sure the value of “precious properties” that are unique to specific user groups is evaluated when selecting suitable Sunday hunting game lands.
- Proximity to urban areas. De-emphasize game lands that are near urban or developing areas if the potential for conflict is judged to be high.
- Avoid game lands where past conflict has been a pattern. These may be in urban areas, or there may be other sources of friction between users. Save these properties for future consideration once lessons are learned.