For those that love the outdoors, here is some GOOD news, some BAD news, and a solution.
The good news: The vast majority of Americans approve of hunting. A recent study by Responsive Management, an internationally recognized survey research firm, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation revealed the following:
The current approval rating of hunting by adult Americans is the highest it’s been since Responsive Management began monitoring approval rates in 1995. During the past 25 years, overall approval of hunting has steadily grown from 73 percent to 80. During the same time frame, overall disapproval of hunting has declined even more rapidly from 22 percent to only 13.
But the bad news: Participation in hunting and recreational shooting has been generally declining since the 1980s. Hunting license sales produce valuable funding each year for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration, while hunter expenditures generate billions of dollars annually for the national economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. [Sport fishing had a similar negative trend until 2017. Now participation is increasing.]
U.S. hunters have dwindled from nearly 17 million in 1980 to just more than 11 million in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ninety percent of hunters are male and most are 45 years and older — leading to steeper losses as more participants age out.
Those that love the outdoors have an urgent calling: Become a mentor to the sport you love. The sporting industry and the sporting organizations that love the outdoors are already active in their “R3 Program”: Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation. But the program relies on individual volunteers – You.
Following are a few of the programs available to help you recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and anglers and other “outers”. There are many other mentoring opportunities out there; so get involved and enjoy yourself.
Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s (TWF) Hunting and Fishing Academy provides hands-on instruction in the outdoors to novice hunters and anglers of all ages. The Academy’s trained, lifelong hunters and anglers lead participants through courses in: Understanding species’ habits, ethical hunting practices, field safety, wildlife conservation principles, and more. Parents and family can be full participants, helping to create a new family tradition.
The TWF has several mentored deer hunts planned on Jan. 10-12. Get more information on all they do at www.tnwf.org.
“Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors” is a non-profit program that matches caring adults with a passion for the outdoors with youngsters that want to learn about it. Whether it is fishing, camping, hiking, bird watching, archery, hunting, shooting sports, sailing, or any other traditional outdoor activity, Pass It On works to provide opportunities to learn from mentors willing to share their time. Learn more at www.outdoormentors.org.
“Hunters Connect” is a new YouTube channel and social media platform sponsored by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA-USA). It is an entertaining and informative destination for all new hunters to further their interests with an abundance of digital media and videos. Go to http://ihea-usa.org.
The “Field To Fork” hunter recruitment program of the Quality Deer Management Association has introduced “Deer Hunting 101”. This is a YouTube series of 17 videos that describes the complete hunting experience, starting with understanding deer behavior, scouting and hunting techniques, hunter ethics, marksmanship, field-dressing, and processing the harvest for food. For more information see www.qdma.com/fieldtofork.
“Let’s Go Hunting” is a hunter recruitment program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It uses www.LetsGoHunting.org to encourage experienced hunters and target shooters to mentor youths and adults. From small game and upland birds to big game and waterfowl, hunting offers a priceless bond with the natural world, food for the table and a welcome respite from the world’s daily grind.
“Hunting Buddy Finder” is a website that helps hunters find hunting buddies in their state and other states across the U.S. A one-year subscription is $24, allowing you to post your hunter's profile and view others. www.huntingbuddyfinder.com.