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!
Hey Maggie my name is Eric and I just found you blog on Jim Casada’s web site. I wanted to see what you thought of his latest book. I enjoyed you review and can’t wait to get a copy of my own. I just turned 55 years old last Friday the 18th and starter my hunting carrier when I was 5 years old. For you math folks that is 50 years of hunting!! I still get butter flies of excitement before every hunt. I was taken on my first rabbit hunt when I was 5 and carried 2 big rabbits that day and felt like I had killed them myself. My Dad and my Uncle Thomas treated me like one of the boys and made me feel like I was a very important part of the hunt. I have the same fear you have about hunters stopping in their later years. My biggest concern is the low number of young people that are not getting into hunting at all. My son just turned 19 and has hunted with me sense he was 4 years old. I know the world has changed a lot sense I was a kid, and that I think is one of the issues. Young folks have so many things pulling them in all directions and there lives are moving way to fast. I hope as hunters we can keep the old guys ( like me ) hunting on in to their sunset years, but also hope as hunters we can get more young folks interested in hunting before our time runs out. My son and I still like to hunt squirrels and I still get just as excited about killing a squirrel as I do about killing a deer. My son likes to hunt but doesn’t have the love for it that I had as a kid. That concerns me that he may stop later in life our want teach his kids how to hunt. I plan on being the grandfather that will teach my grand kids how to hunt, so I can pass on my love of hunting and the outdoors. I will never stop hunting until I take my last breath and my prayer is I take it in the woods just after I have killed a big old Gobbler!!! I have enjoyed your blog so for and look forward to reading it often. Keep up the good work. Eric
Hi Eric! I am so tickled that you are enjoying my blog and that you took the time to respond to my article. I completely understand how you feel about the excitement that hunting offers and fear to think of a day when our children and grandchildren no longer know the thrill of the hunt. It is amazing that you have been hunting for 50 years! You are young and praying that your son will hold a passion in his heart and will carry it with him when he has children of his own. I have three grandgirls and my first grandson. Every opportunity I have, I teach them about the outdoors, wildlife, and all the wonders of nature. They love camo and several have been on hunts with our son, so that makes me so happy. Please stay in touch and if you have any ideas, I am going to work on Part Two of this series with some ideas about how we can keep our hunting traditions alive for the next generations. Thank you so very much! Maggie
I did comment 12/1 on your November article in “Waccamaw Outdoors.”
I am challenged by your article to act on preserving the Bill of Rights, the 2nd-A and our American principles that are under assault.
If you are aware of any community members who wish to enliven their school community with these principles, please do contact me.
Thank you Frank for your comment. Anything I can do to preserve our traditions and rights is of great importance to me. If you have any suggestions or actions you want to express, please let me know.
As a very curious nimrod at the early age of 6, my Dad’s best friend, owner of the local general supply store, gifted me on my birthday, with a new puppy (part beagle an part Boston terrier (his name was Skidaddle) and a Daisy Red Rider BB gun, what a day that was! So begins a 60 year love of the outdoors and hunting adventures. Skidaddle and I could write a book about those wonderful days together in the woods. He lived to the amazing age of 17 and to this day I miss him dearly.
As time marched on, my Dad and his friends always included me in every hunt. Ducks, geese, doves, quail and even crows. They schooled me in the lore and skills of wing shooting and at an early age, somewhere around 10, my father gave me his Remington Sportsman 48, 12 gauge automatic shotgun. What? That was in the late 50’s. Different times for sure. The shotgun was taller than me!! At every opportunity, I set out with my dog, shotgun, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, enjoying days alone from sunrise until sunset in the woods learning about woods life, wildlife, survival, and taking game. One rule in our house, “if you take any wildlife, you must cook and eat it”. I can say that blackbird and crow aren’t my favorites, however, I gallantly followed the rules and honed my cooking skills to say the least.
I hunted regularly until joining the military in 1967. During my 4 years of military service, in many parts of the world, I became expert at many weapons, pistols, long guns, machine guns, etc. Later in my military career with a transition into working with several government agencies I was the beneficiary of further enhanced weapons training.
Shortly after my discharge from the military, my Dad became very ill. He was a POW for 4 years in the Philippines, was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and was highly decorated. Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, 2 Presidential unit citations for valor in combat among many others. We hunted and fished as much as possible, however his declining health prevented the robust outings we once enjoyed together. He passed shortly thereafter.
Missing the camaraderie of hunting with my Dad, I took to local skeet shooting competitions and continued to hone my wing shooting skills. Fun and technical, but not quite as challenging as wild wing shooting.
Later and after moving to the Murrells Inlet area, I hunted for years afterward with dear friends from pristine areas such as Annandale Plantation, DW Outdoors, too many dove fields to count, and on the Waccamaw River. Fabulous times, for sure.
Unknowing to me, on my final hunt with another dear friend in a dove field near seasons’ end, I shot a double, which was not uncommon, not to brag, but wing shooting had become very technical and more physics and speed rather than actual hunting. When I reached the two downed birds they were huddled together, alive and cooing the “doves’ cry”. It broke my old and now tender heart. That was it for me!!
I now have a new Nikon Z6 camera and am beginning to “hunt” many live creatures, only not needing to take their lives, I can now enjoy them in perpetuity.
I appreciate all hunters who are conservationists, stewards of wildlife management, and am respectful of their desire to pursue their individual passions. Good luck to you all, stay safe, shoot straight and true, and maybe invite my wife and me to the occasional game dinner. We would be honored.
I loved your story and so appreciate hearing another perspective! Best of luck with your new camera and thank you so much for your comments!
I enjoyed reading this! Great post!
Thank you so much!
Nice article. Keep the flame alive.
Thank you, Edward! You too!
Maggie–The issue you bring to the forefront is an important one, although not as significant as problems with hunter recruitment. Of course the loss of hunters at the upper end of the age spectrum and the failure to groom new hunters are part of a two-edged sword. Historically, senior male hunters have been the mentors, guides, and recruiters for beginners. The finest piece of sporting literature ever produced in this country, Robert Ruark’s “The Old Man and the Boy,” revolves around interaction between a wise hunter (and fisherman) of advanced age and a boisterous young boy eager for adventure. Sadly, that’s vanishing like milkweed spores caught up in an autumn dust devil.
I don’t have any real answers although as someone who fits in the age demographic (although certainly not the ceasing to hunt one), I can readily identify with many of the factors you mention. Had I not had the foresight to acquire some land two decades ago, I’d be struggling to have a place to hunt. I’m increasingly reluctant to hunt alone, and that’s a problem longtime hunters can face. The SCDNR website and regulations are complex, but that’s true in virtually every state. I no longer have the physical ability to eat up ground and cover appreciable distances afoot the way I once did. Having said all of that, for me a world in which I could not hunt would be a lesser place.
Jim- Thanks so much for your feedback. Your perspective is very much valued, not just by me, but by all of your followers. From my perspective, I believe that our aging hunters are valued because they are centers of influence. If we can keep them active longer, they will positively impact the recruitment of new hunters.
In the real estate world, a referral from a client is so much better than a new prospect who has no knowledge or connection to our market. So goes it with hunters. Recruitment of new hunters who have no connection to the sport will be harder to attract.
I will check out Mr. Ruark’s book- it sounds like one I would love to read. I am going to write a follow-up to this post on ways we, as a hunting community, can help our hunters stay active in the sport, whether it be in the field or in spirit. If you have any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate your help, especially since you are active even though you are in this demographic. Thanks so very much!
Interesting for sure. Good read.
Thank you, my biggest fan!