The decline in hunting is becoming an epidemic. Sadly the day has come when it’s become en vogue for the “Antis” to villainize hunters. They’re painting a picture of hunters as blood-thirsty, animal hating, trophy hunters who want to kill any animal that crosses their path. Hunters across the country have let most of it roll off their collective back for years. You might get into an argument on social media. We’ve all seen the now-infamous hunters who’ve been destroyed by the social media outrage mob. We get a little agitated, but we move on.
Make no mistake about it, hunters and the hunting lifestyle are under attack. The “Antis” are organized, well-funded, and they’re working every day to limit or take away your ability to do what you love. Sadly, it’s working.
The Decline In Hunting Is Real
A 2016 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that only about 5% of Americans, 16 years old and older, actually hunt. That’s half of what it was 50 years ago, and the decline is expected to accelerate over the next decade.
Baby boomers make up the country’s most significant chunk of hunters, and they’re already aging out. The data shows that once a hunter reaches the age of 60-70 years old, they stop hunting and fishing altogether. Within the next 15 years, we’ll lose nearly 30% of all hunters.
It’s Our Responsibility To Bring In New Hunters
For years, states have offered incentive programs, youth hunts, and more to entice new hunters into the field. Unfortunately, these programs aren’t working as intended. Here’s the problem; the only people benefiting from these programs are the sons and daughters of hunting parents. These children would most likely become hunters anyway. The kids that need to learn about the hunting lifestyle are the children of parents who don’t hunt already—Your kid’s best friend.
Find A Hunting Buddy
Maybe the guy at work that you’ve known for years? You know the one, the guy who’s mouth starts watering when you bring in jerky to share with your co-workers but doesn’t actually hunt himself. Have you ever asked why? Maybe he’d love to get started but doesn’t know where to start. He needs a mentor, and that my shotgun owning friend, is you.
Think about it, if you grew up in a household that didn’t hunt, how would you have started unless someone invited you? You wouldn’t have, and you’d be missing out on one of the greatest freedoms American’s have.
My Hunting Buddy
About a decade ago, I met my best friend and hunting buddy. We started coaching baseball together when our boys were around seven years old, and we became fast friends. We had a lot in common, except hunting. He was born and raised in the city and had rarely been to the woods, let alone gone hunting.
It took a few years of busting his balls, but I finally convinced him to come out with me during bow season. Initially, I set him up with my wife’s crossbow. The first season, he wasn’t able to harvest a deer, but he had officially become a hunter.
The following season, he purchased his very own crossbow, we spent a little time at the range getting it sited, and by the time the season arrived, he was ready to go. He took his first buck that year, the craziest looking 7 point buck (4 on one side, and three weird tines on the other) you’ve ever seen.
The look on his face when I explained to him that he was going to need to field dress it was priceless. After I let him sweat it out for about 5 minutes, I took the knives from him and got to work.
He’ll be the first to admit that eating venison was something his family needed to get used to, but now they love it. For some people, it’s not so much the taste, as it is the psychology of it all.
This season, we’re planning on bringing his 16-year-old son for his first hunt. We’re starting him out slow. We’ll let him sit in the stand with his dad, and see firsthand what hunting is about.
The Sacrifice Is Worth It
As you can imagine, when you take a new hunter into the woods, the odds of actually harvesting an animal for yourself are relatively slim. At least initially, you’ll spend more time mentoring than you will be hunting. But it’s worth it when your apprentice takes their first animal.
What You Can Do.
Carve out some time in your season to bring a new hunter into the field this season. If only 30% of the hunters brought in one new apprentice, we would solve this problem in a single season. The following season, we would actually see a net increase in the numbers of hunters. Maybe if more people had experience hunting, or knew someone who hunts, they’d be less likely to throw stones.
Related: How To Choose A Compound Bow