Over the past five years as a hunting blogger, I have written many hunting articles, but none as important to me as this one. My post is not a revelation; instead, I attempt to shine a light on a worrisome trend in the hunting community: Why are our men hunters who enjoyed hunting for most of their lives, quitting?
Through my real estate business, I meet many people relocating and retiring to our beautiful state of South Carolina, and with certainty, the topic of hunting comes up. I love seeing their reaction when they find out I’m a hunter, and I can’t help but notice the quick double-take. We share a smile, and I watch their eyes twinkle as I listen to them recounting their favorite hunting story. And then, I hear those disappointing words; “Well, I have given up hunting ….”. I soon realized that the majority of the men, who were once avid hunters have moved on, hunting adventures now in the rearview mirror as they travel to their new home. It’s like hunting no longer fits in the latest chapter of their life. Please note, I am specifically talking about men hunters, while female hunters, for the most part, continue to hunt and enjoy shooting sports.
While the hunting community has been laser-focused on recruiting new hunters, we are watching our most excellent resource go by the wayside. `We need to focus on why men are giving up hunting and coming up with specifics as to how we can retain the hunters we already have as lifetime hunters, even if they are not active. These men have a wealth of experience, and mentoring our next generation of hunters will be dramatically impacted if this trend continues. Their continued support for all shooting sports is critical to help preserve our future generation of hunters regardless of whether or not they are able to be as active.
A recent survey by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that only about 5 percent 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.
WHY? WHY? WHY?
This question has been nagging at me for way too long. I have not been able to understand nor accept the concept that a hunter could just give up hunting, so whenever possible, I have asked these men, why? Hunting is an addiction for most of us, so what are the dynamics at play here? Once a hunter always a hunter, right? I set out to drill down on the reasons behind this growing phenomenon of men putting down their guns. With that information, I want to pursue the answer to what specifically can be done to reverse this trend. From the many conversations, I have had over the years, I have listed some comments I have heard from men who no longer hunt as well as other comments from men who are moving from different states.
Reasons why Hunters Have Given Up Hunting
* There is less opportunity to secure hunting land (farmland is disappearing because of sprawling development)
*It is too expensive to hunt
*They are on a retirement budget
*They have health limitations
*They are on medications that limited their activity
*They are intolerant to weather conditions during hunting seasons
*They have more concerns with the dangers involved with hunting as they age
*There is just too much hard work and effort involved in hunting
*They have lost their killer instinct
*The flame died out for hunting
*Their heart changed about killing animals
Some Important Issues for Men Moving to Another State
*They don’t know where to hunt
*Not familiar with our state regulations
*They find the SDNR website is too confusing
*They feel displaced without their familiar surroundings
*They feel it’s not the same without their hunting friends
*They have concerns about crossing state lines with their guns
THE LONGEST OFF-SEASON YOU WILL EVERY EXPERIENCE IS WHEN YOU QUIT HUNTING!
Most of us can relate to the blues that come around when it is the off-season for hunting. I can’t imagine how sad many feel when they give up hunting altogether! I keep myself busy every day of the year with something pertaining to hunting, from preparing beautiful meals from my game meat, wearing camo, and reading, writing, or talking about hunting with my hunting friends. I also love sharing my hunting passion with my grandgirls, ages ten, seven, & four, and grandboy who is almost one! Having added predatory hunting to my game plan, I have something to hunt year- round! I hope that I will hunt as long as I can still breathe.
BE A HUNTER FOREVER – Keep hunting in your heart for a lifetime
Whether or not you are actively hunting, there are many ways to keep hunting in your heart for a lifetime!
*Subscribe online to hunting bloggers- it’s free
*Subscribe to hunting magazines
*Go to trade shows
*Pass down your guns to your children and grandchildren
*Write a journal about your fondest hunting stories to pass down to your children
*Put up a trail camera in your backyard to teach grandchildren about wildlife
*Share vintage photos from past hunts
*Join hunting groups on FaceBook- there are so many and local ones who advertise memberships
*Join an online hunting forum – many available in all states- share your experiences!
*Volunteer at banquets to help raise money for conservation
*Raise awareness through positive social media posts such as sharing a photo of someone with a successful hunt
*Practice at the range
*Work with training hunting dogs
*Sponsor a child – camps/ youth hunts
*Wear something camouflage
*Offer to help cook at a hunting camp
There are many more ideas that will be discussed in Part II of this series that will deal with specifics on how we can help hunters stay active for many more years and ideas for non-active hunters to keep hunting in their hearts for their lifetimes. I will be exploring ways to improve and increase opportunity and accessibility for all hunters who want to hunt. Thank you for any comments or help you can give me to push this conversation forward in a meaningful way.
Happy Hunting! Keep hunting in your heart for your lifetime!