When most guys my age were growing up, it was a no-brainer. Come fall and winter, we went hunting. Our dads did; our grandpa’s did; our cousins and neighbors did. As a result, it was a natural coming of age for youngsters back then to take to the woods and fields with rifle or shotgun.
Today, things are not the same as they were during those simpler times. Kids now have so much to compete for their time.
Another thing is that the generation in which parents of today’s youngsters grew up, there is less interest in hunting for many. The result is an overall decline in the number of hunters resulting in a fading of recruitment of new hunters.
I read a statistic recently that is troubling. For every 100 adult hunters, there are only 69 youth hunters coming up to take their places. Lose a hundred guys who get too old or infirm to hunt and only two-thirds of them are being replaced.
The Families Afield web-site has some interesting facts that reveal what a monumental, though often overlooked, impact hunting has on the nation’s economy.
According to the web-site, hunters have poured over $30 billion into the economy. More than 1 million jobs are supported by hunters. Nearly 80 percent of adult hunters today started out as youth hunters.
The question that begs an answer is what can be done to reverse this trend; to be sure that as today’s hunters age, they will have plenty of youngsters stepping up to take their places.
Wildlife biologist and free-lance writer, Brian Grossman of Kentucky offers several suggestions that parents should consider in getting their offspring involved in hunting.
“Make it fun,” writes Grossman. “Regardless of the child’s age, these early days afield with you are probably the most critical in determining whether or not he/she maintains an interest in hunting. These first hunts are where the child is going to form an opinion about hunting. They’ll either decide it’s fun, or it’s boring. It’s up to the adult to make it fun.
“Make the initial outing brief; young kids especially have short attention spans.
“Hunt from a ground blind where excessive movement is not easily detected.
“Don’t push them.”
From personal experience, some of the most gratifying times I have ever had in the outdoors was when I had a youngster sitting alongside me and especially when the kid and I teamed up for success.
Years ago, I guided 12 year old Sarah Hebert on a youth turkey hunt on Jackson Bienville Wildlife Management Area. I called in a gobbler she was able to drop on the spot. The excitement I experienced in her success was right up there with hers.
As discouraging as are the statistics that show a declining interest in hunting for youth, Jeff Simmons, owner of Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop sees some positives about youngsters in our part of the country.
“Kids in this part of the country are more involved in hunting than I’ve seen in recent years. Our number one selling rifle at our store is a youth rifle and the number one selling shotgun is a youth model. People around here are getting their kids into hunting. I can’t speak for the rest of the country but our kids are getting involved,” Simmons said.
Let’s make sure that as hunters in my age bracket are forced to give up the sport because of health or age, there will be plenty of young fresh faces standing ready to take our places.
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.