Psychologist Michael Kruger-Davis says the Australian report showing people who hunt and/or participate in recreational shooting are healthier than the average Australian supports similar studies demonstrating the personal and psychological benefits.
I was very interested when reading Russ Bate’s article in Field & Game magazine, A Family Affair (or Granny get your gun) of the unintended consequences of shared memories and experiences when families take part in shooting, fishing and hunting pursuits.
There are numerous benefits for us all when we engage in shooting sports, whether they be clay targets, duck or quail shooting, deer stalking, culling feral animals or just bagging a few rabbits.
Shooting as a sport and a lifestyle activity has a substantial impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.
The UK Government Office of Science 2008 Foresight Report defined mental well-being as “ … a dynamic state in which the individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to their community. It is enhanced when an individual is able to fulfil their personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose in society.”
There are five basic components of wellbeing:
Connecting with the people around you. For shooters this is easy because we meet lots of people and we all have a common interest. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
Be active: shooting in the field or at the gun club is an active sport. It is outside and involves exercise and is physical as well as mental. Clay target shooting can be done at all ages and at all fitness and ability levels.
Take notice of your surroundings and what you are doing. Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you. Regular readers will have picked up that this is staying with the here and now.
Keep learning Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
Give. Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you. All these components are easy for shooters as most clubs and organisations run on the help of volunteers. Giving something back to the club or organisation makes you a better person and better off mentally than those who take, take and take some more.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), knowing that ‘wellbeing’ is used by policy makers and governments as an indicator and measure of our quality of life, initiated a survey in March 2015 and 1457 people responded. Eighty-six per cent of the respondents were BASC members.
The survey found that shooting actively contributes towards government wellbeing targets by providing personal, social and physical benefits.
The key findings from the survey were:
- Shooting makes an important contribution to health and wellbeing among people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
- Shooting can help to get more adults active through sport and physical activity, reduce social isolation and promote personal wellbeing whilst encouraging people to engage with the natural environment.
- Allowing for variations according to discipline, shooting and its associated activities are moderate to high-intensity physical activities.
In the 2015 Australian Psychological Society Wellbeing Survey the following key facts were noted. The top five causes of stress in Australia over the past five years were:
- personal finances — 49 per cent;
- family issues — 45 per cent;
- personal health — 44 per cent;
- trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle — 40 per cent; and
- issues with the health of others close to us — 38 per cent.
I imagine this finding would not be all that different from the main causes of stress in the UK, USA or Europe. When asked, how do you manage stress, the five most popular ways of managing stress in Australia over the five years were:
- watching television/movies — 85 per cent;
- focusing on the positives — 81 per cent;
- spending time with friends and/or family — 81 per cent;
- listening to music — 80 per cent; and
- reading — 75 per cent.
It is interesting to note here that Australians stress over trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but exercise or sport is not listed in the most popular ways of managing stress.
BASC published the Personal Value of Shooting: The social, physical and personal wellbeing contribution of shooting report, which listed the top three reasons people participated in shooting as relaxation, time outdoors and enjoyment.
Ninety-five per cent said shooting was important for their wellbeing and 91 per cent said they would spend less time outdoors if they couldn’t shoot.
Why is this important to shooters here in Australia? It is difficult to pick up a newspaper lately without someone associated with the gun control lobby making negative and alarming inferences about gun ownership and shooting. As shooting sportspeople we are targeted along with criminals, gang members and terrorists because the media and the gun control lobby want to use the crime statistics to make their case appear significant and give them the moral high ground.
We need to have information at hand that we can use to refute their claims, but this information needs to have a positive community focus. To protect our sport, we need to stress that responsible gun ownership and involvement in shooting sports can be positive and have an overwhelming social benefit. Another focus is the intergenerational involvement in our sport where grandparents, parents and children can play and compete together.
The report on the Economic and social impacts of recreational hunting and shooting not only shows hunters and shooters are more active than the average Australian, but overall, they reported significantly higher subjective wellbeing compared to the adult population (as measured by the Regional Wellbeing Survey), for all age groups and both genders.
These are powerful statistics because they show that shooting is integral to being physically fit, exercising, spending time outdoors, relaxing and being connected with others who share similar interests.
Michael Kruger-Davis is a consulting psychologist who has had more than 35 years’ experience shooting clay targets: trap, skeet and sporting. He is a member of the Wagga Wagga Branch of Field & Game Australia. He uses SAGA ammunition supplied by Hunts Shooting Supplies.