It is a fact that hunters pay most of the costs associated with wildlife management across North America. This system has many shortfalls, but it is clear that hunters are critical to modern wildlife management. Unfortunately, we are losing hunters at an alarming rate. Only 5 percent of the U.S. population hunts, and the average hunter is 43 years old. We are currently losing more hunters to old age than we are gaining from our youth. Why aren’t we recruiting more youth? A company from Harrisonburg, Virginia, may have some answers. Responsive Management (RM) is a nationally recognized public opinion and attitude survey research firm specializing in natural resource and outdoor recreation issues. In 2003, RM completed a survey titled Factors Related to Hunting and Fishing Participation Among the Nation’s Youth. Responsive Management surveyed youths 8 to 18 years old from across the country, and the following information highlights some of the survey’s important findings. Of the youths surveyed:
54 percent had shot a bow at some point in the past.
47 percent had shot a gun at some point in the past.
91 percent had a high or medium interest in wildlife.
56 percent agree that hunting for food is okay.
58 percent approve of legal hunting (33 percent disapprove of legal hunting).
24 percent had been hunting at some point, and 15 percent had hunted in the previous year.
44 percent expressed interest in going hunting.
Those who were very interested in going hunting were significantly more likely to have a family member who hunts. Those who were very interested in going hunting were more likely to have been fishing in the previous year. Those who were interested in going hunting were significantly more likely to live in a rural area or to have grown up in a rural area.
Males were more likely than females to be very interested in going hunting.
88 percent think it is okay for girls to hunt and 91 percent think it is okay for boys to hunt.
50 percent think hunting is unsafe (40 percent think it is safe).
71 percent think hunting is “cool.”
Very few youth see or hear information at school that helps them learn more about hunting or increases their interest in hunting.
61 percent who hear about hunting at school say they hear good things about it (7 percent hear bad things about hunting).
47 percent did not know whether their teachers supported or opposed hunting
Youths from a single-parent household were more likely to have hunted.
Of the surveyed youths who had hunted:
95 percent liked hunting.
69 percent would like to hunt more than they do.
The single most common reason for hunting was to have fun (34 percent) and to be with friends or family (30 percent).
The report also stated youth participation in hunting is positively related to being male, to having a family member who hunts, to having also been fishing, and to living in a rural area or spending time in rural areas. Youth hunters typically had a mentor who had a positive influence on their interest and/or participation in hunting. The top reason given that would encourage youth to go hunting or hunt more was being asked by another person such as his/her father, another family member or a friend.
The report is full of statistics and percentages, but some of the key findings include:
- most youths think hunting is cool.
- many youths would like to hunt more than they do.
- few youths hear much about hunting at school.
- youths that hunt likely fished at an early age.
The above four bullets are a great starting point for anyone to make a positive impact on youth hunter recruitment. Youcan embrace the fact that hunting is “cool” to youths. Youths have the rest of their lives to do their part for wildlife management; let them have fun doing a “cool” activity in the early years. We all have a day or two each year we can forego our own hunting and take a youth to the woods. Being a mentor for merely one day can pay dividends to the youth and you. We all know a teacher or someone who works in a school system. Ask them to mention to the students that it is hunting season or to ask the students how many of them or their parents hunt. A single question may start a productive dialogue about hunting. Lastly, take a child fishing. We all could take a child (or a truck load of kids) to a trout stream or a farm pond full of bluegills. You don’t have to own land to take a youth fishing, and you don’t even have to have much money. A $10 spinning rod and $2 pack of night crawlers are all that are necessary.
This is an clip from QMDA’s Whitetail Report. I think it is worth the education.