- • Hunting is divided into communities of practice with distinct ethos.
- • These communities frequently lay claim to the ‘right’ form of hunting.
- • Social differentiation of hunters evolve in a dialectic with societal forces.
- • Differentiation is materially enacted in landscape, wildlife and paraphernalia.
Hunting is a social world in which members socially differentiate themselves into smaller social worlds on the basis of adhering to a particular method, aesthetic, or game. Such identity constitution has been understood as forming communities of practice of hunters. Importantly, these communities frequently take pride in their distinct identities and assert theirs is the ‘real’ way of hunting. In this paper, we canvass the diverse factors that make up hunter identities and examine them for patterns and meaning. Our analysis places the phenomenon of social differentiation as it currently takes place in hunting in the context of responses to modernization. On this analysis, hunter identities are found to be rooted in defensive localism, class competition over resources, gender and moral affiliation, and the protection of the social legitimacy of hunting before an increasingly critical society. Our work is at once a synthesis of recurring hunting profiles across literature and field sites in Europe and a critical analysis of the significance of hunting communities of practice in future research, including serious leisure studies, nature-based recreation, criminology and rural sociology.