Declining Hunter Numbers

KrisB

Four Pointer
I've been doing some reading about the declining numbers of hunters in the US overall and the R3 (recruit, retain, reactivate) efforts to stem the decline. From what I've read, those of you in the baby boomer generation make up the majority of hunters and y'all hunted/hunt the most out of any generation.

But the numbers of hunters have been declining ever since as baby boomers begin to age out or can't hunt anymore because of health issues, the general population becomes more urbanized, and a lot of young people are not interested in hunting. I read somewhere that new hunters from non-hunting backgrounds are being attracted to the sport, but that the new hunter numbers are nowhere near enough to replace the baby boomer hunters.

So, I wanted to ask: What do y'all think is the solution or a solution to the decline in hunter numbers?
 

Downeast

Ten Pointer
Women!
We need more of them in the woods. Divorce rates are quite high in this day and age. And in the majority of cases the women get the kids and the men get to visit. Now, if dad is a hunter chances are that anything associated with dad is frowned upon by the ex. So hunting is out. And mom most likely will not go to Walmart and buy her 12 year son a firearm, or any other weapon for that matter. So, the kids will grow up to either have a negative attitude about hunting or simply be ambivalent.
Now, put mom (divorced or not) into the woods with a weapon and chances are good that everyone in the family will be out hunting whether they like it or not. ;)

So, we need the mothers out there. But whether that will stem the tide of fewer hunters is problematic. Society has changed, as has our view of the natural world. To many it is in peril, with the planet on the edge of destruction. Hunting is considered an evil enterprise, a throwback to ancient times when barbarians roamed the landscape. A very low-brow activity conducted by perverts and mentally disturbed individuals. Simply put, decent folks don't kill Bambi.

Along with these challenges that hunters face, there is the burden of laws and regulations, limited access to lands, declining mentors, perception of firearms in today's society, and an overall urbanized population that has few ties to nature, wildlife, or even where their foods come from (hamburgers grow on trees, after all). Their only association to things wild comes from the TV. They love nature shows as long as nature is not in their backyard. Have a fox, raccoon, or any other wild animal walk across their lawn and they become frantic and want it either removed or killed. So much for "nature". To many "nature" consists mostly of pigeons and rats.

Growing up I had an old neighbor that used to take the kids in the neighborhood rabbit hunting. He raised beagles and he and his dogs loved chasing bunnies. The old man was always full of saying and stories but thinking back what really struck home was his predictions concerning hunting. He told us on more than one occasion to "enjoy it while it lasts since we were the last generation". At the time I didn't quite understand what he was saying but sadly as I look around today I think he was on to something.
 
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lasttombstone

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
I'm not quite a eloquent as downeast and I can't answer your specific question as to a solution. I can only make a couple of observations. One is, yes, I see a number of folks taking their kids hunting and some taking other folks kids outside. I have also seen quite a number of those same kids, who were started at 9 and 10 having nothing at all to do with outdoor activities after they hit 16 or 17. Not all, but many. I also see a few more 30 somethings coming into the outdoors. Maybe they actually got bored with the life they had or maybe they just got curious and decided to give it a try. When I started hunting in 1958, I had spent my whole life outside. That was where anything to do was. The only thing that kept you inside was being sick. Then along came organized sports beyond the high school level, technology in the form of television for everyone, movie theaters everywhere and things continued to get better, economically, so there was more money to do different things. Those of us who came along in the era of the 50s were drawn to hunting and fishing as a normal, fun activity in the rural areas and although some gave it up for a while, the majority have eventually returned to it. Well this dog probably got off track and took a different rabbit on a long run, but it is where my mind went this morning. Humor and old fart.
 

turkeyfoot

Old Mossy Horns
Yup growing up in mtns you were kicked out the door after breakfast and no one was looking for you till supper the outdoors was our playground. I remember by age 10 building a lean to and sleeping outside how many over protective parents allowing that today. I hate to say it all the blame doesn't lay on the kids parents are buying all these gadgets that keep kids glued to screens. Easier to give them a video game than take your time to spend with em. There are lot parents still getting kids out but just not as many as used to be way to many toys for all these days. And yeah I know I'm outdated
 

302cj

Twelve Pointer
In my area it's progress. Every corner there's a new housing development. Older farmers are passing and their families sell the farms. New owners from NY and Ohio don't let people on their land like the farmers did. This is just around my house as others will not like my comments as I have said on here before. On my last job we constantly had German tech guys in our facility. They said hunting and fishing over there was only for the wealthy. I don't think we are too far behind.
 

aya28ga

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
Unfortunately, the younger hunters among us are going to look back at this period of time and nostalgically long for "the good old days".

Urbanization and pavement, combined with kids absorption with "tech" and losing touch with outdoor activities, are the two driving factors.

Probably well before the end of this century hunting & fishing will be something only wealthy people with access to hunting preserves and private landowners will be able to afford, (look at how much it costs now to take a trip hunting, even just out of state).
 

TravisLH

Old Mossy Horns
I think den east was correct, the more women that join the hunting community will bring in more kids. I grew up in rural MS and as a by if you didn’t hunt, other boys would think less of you.


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Eric Revo

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
Hunting made a bad mistake when it became an elitist sport. It was a sport of the masses and just anyone who wanted to hunt, hunted. Now it's a sport that you have to have the best clothing, the best weapons, the best property, the best vehicles...it's @#$% expensive to be a "hunter" anymore and the average Joe just can't afford all that garbage that it takes to be a "hunter".
Couple that with a drop in interest from almost every age class in anything to do with "killing" and animal since TV has pounded it into their skulls since they were kids that animals are our friends and are equal in status to humans so that killing an animal equates to murder. It's just how it is, that's where the money has been going for years and years. i.e. When's the last time you saw a commercial for anything to do with hunting on a channel that wasn't an outdoor channel? Now, when's the last time you saw a commercial for an anti-hunting organization like the Humane Society of America or similar?
Sadly there's much to overcome to introduce new hunters into the sport and sadly there are few people willing to take the time and put in the effort to do just that. I appreciate your interest in this subject and I hope this helps a little bit. To be educated and informed is to be armed for the conflicts.
 

alt1001

Old Mossy Horns
Urbanization and pavement, combined with kids absorption with "tech" and losing touch with outdoor activities, are the two driving factors.
In my opinion the main driving factor above all others is that people today are busier and do not value what hunting provides like the generations before us and therefore many folks have little desire to put forth effort it takes to hunt. Even many within the hunting community today do not do it for food. The market is driven by growing and harvesting 'big bucks'. We've also marketed the sport out of affordability for new hunters. Can you imagine wanting to take up the sport and walking into a Cabelas? Do I need Ozonics? $200 boots? $400 Sitka jacket? $400 treestand? $150 trail camera? You can get nearly everything you need to kill Deer at Wal-Mart but that isn't how the industry will sell it.

I would like to think it's urbanization and maybe it is where you live but here in WNC where we have over 1 million acres of public land, I am seeing fewer hunters than I did as a kid, especially in the early season.

It's a sad state of affairs.
 

np307

Four Pointer
The break from traditional media by some is going to help I believe. The exposure that MeatEater gets on Netflix or Randy Newberg gets on Amazon or the Hunting Public guys get on youtube is much more likely to reach nonhunters than shows on the outdoor channel. Another big avenue to play on is the emphasis of farm-to-table food. Of any new hunters that I've met (such as a guy I ran into on game lands last year from a large metro area), food seems to be one of the reasons they want to get into the sport. A push for the importance of public lands helps to reduce the perceived burden of entry to the sport. Mentorship opportunities are probably a great avenue to introduce people into the sport without burdening them too much.

I don't think the future is as bleak as some may, but I fully recognize that the future of hunting will not look like it does today. Part of continuing to enjoy the sport will be to recognize those changes on the horizon and adapt to them. Programs like urban archery seem to be one path forward, but it isn't the final solution.

I believe that one good takeaway from the current state of hunting is that, while numbers seem to be dropping, the enthusiasm for the sport from those involved is higher than the past. Furthermore, at least acknowledging that a problem exists allows for a discussion of how to correct that problem moving forward.
 

nchunt101

Ten Pointer
I think the biggest reason for the decline is the focus on duck and deer hunting. Don't get me wrong I love deer hunting and have since I was a kid but small game hunting is what made hunting a passion. I started rabbit hunting 2-3 years ago with a group of guys I went to HS with and it has reminded me that hunting can be fun. I made the mistake of taking my stepson deer hunting for his first time and although he was a trooper being cold,quiet and still isn't the most fun for a seven year old. After I took him squirrel hunting he said "This is a lot more fun and we got to shoot---can we just squirrel hunter from now on?". I am fine with that---the seed has been planted.
 

Frostcat

Twelve Pointer
Due to the increase in the bear population here in the mountains, there has been an increase in the number of bear hunters, and a lot of them are young. I tell them to enjoy it while they can. I have been told " It's our heritage. There will always be dog hunting. I tell them most people do not give a rat's :donk: about your heritage or that your "great grand pappy was a bar hunter." No- the taking of animals will never end. After all, farmers will have to protect their crops, and the need for nuisance control will be much greater. But it will be like the mountain lions in California after hunting them was banned. The nuisance ones are still hunted. The difference being, instead of sportsmen paying for the privilege, the tax payers will pay for the need.
 

JONOV

Ten Pointer
I'm not quite a eloquent as downeast and I can't answer your specific question as to a solution. I can only make a couple of observations. One is, yes, I see a number of folks taking their kids hunting and some taking other folks kids outside. I have also seen quite a number of those same kids, who were started at 9 and 10 having nothing at all to do with outdoor activities after they hit 16 or 17. Not all, but many. I also see a few more 30 somethings coming into the outdoors. Maybe they actually got bored with the life they had or maybe they just got curious and decided to give it a try. When I started hunting in 1958, I had spent my whole life outside. That was where anything to do was. The only thing that kept you inside was being sick. Then along came organized sports beyond the high school level, technology in the form of television for everyone, movie theaters everywhere and things continued to get better, economically, so there was more money to do different things. Those of us who came along in the era of the 50s were drawn to hunting and fishing as a normal, fun activity in the rural areas and although some gave it up for a while, the majority have eventually returned to it. Well this dog probably got off track and took a different rabbit on a long run, but it is where my mind went this morning. Humor and old fart.
A few thoughts on the bolded...Around 16-17 a lot of kids become focused on their social group and the opposite sex. Around 18-30 they are busy "getting started" in life, whether that means learning their career, the Military, College, etc...They also aren't in their peak earning years. Late 20's and 30's they come back to it. I hunted very little in my early 20's. DIdn't have the discretionary income; I took my one trip a year to NoDak and that was about it. With the group I train my dog with, there are a fair amount of folks roughly my age (late 20s-30s) that are settling down, getting back into it in earnest.
 

Ambush

Twelve Pointer
Great points from everyone on this subject. Main difference now and when I was growing up as a kid, it was boring to be inside so we roamed, explored and hunted outdoors. Now, with the internet & games, there's no limit to what kids can do inside to be entertained. It's rare I even see teens outside in my neighborhood. A lot of kids get brain washed that hunting is bad and not PC. Plus, hunting can be expensive, cold, dangerous, boring and pointless. Congrats to the women and kids that are beating the odds and enjoy hunting as we do.
 

alt1001

Old Mossy Horns
Due to the increase in the bear population here in the mountains, there has been an increase in the number of bear hunters, and a lot of them are young. I tell them to enjoy it while they can. I have been told " It's our heritage. There will always be dog hunting. I tell them most people do not give a rat's :donk: about your heritage or that your "great grand pappy was a bar hunter." No- the taking of animals will never end. After all, farmers will have to protect their crops, and the need for nuisance control will be much greater. But it will be like the mountain lions in California after hunting them was banned. The nuisance ones are still hunted. The difference being, instead of sportsmen paying for the privilege, the tax payers will pay for the need.
It's funny you mentioned that. I was at a cattle farmers place this weekend scouting some areas to hunt. The folks were as pro-hunter as you can get. 'Kill all the turkey's and deer you want, just promise me you'll kill all the coyotes you see as well'. The lady asked if I would do her a favor this year and walk her entire property boundary and mark it. The conversation quickly turned to their issues with bear hunters last year. They and their neighbors had to call the game wardens 10+ times last year due to bear hunters releasing their dogs at the head of the valley on a property the bear hunters had permission to be on, and letting them run unconstrained through all their properties in that valley. She picked up 4 dogs last year over the course of the season and placed them in her dog pens until the wardens notified the owners to come pick them up. She said it was a mess!
 

waitup

Button Buck
As someone who grew up hunting then lost interest for about a decade, it came down to land for me. I simply didn't have anywhere I got excited about hunting. I live in Raleigh, so we tried public lands, but I can only deal with people walking under my stand so many times. We're expecting our first child this summer, and now I want to get back into it so I can pass it on. I feel like I'm starting from scratch, but the NCWRC wild turkey seminar this evening should get me off to a good start!
 

45/70 hunter

Ten Pointer
Places to hunt is the number one reason. Very few landowners will give permission anymore, even when suggesting shotgun only when they object to rifles. I suspect I'm in the boat with a lot of people, a single dad with one income who can't afford to lease. I have do have one 10 acre spot that instead of money he has me keep him in venison, squirrles, and the occasional turkey. My 14 yo has zero interest in hunting and I've tried everything. Several guns were bought because he liked them. One time out shooting and he's done with it, ARRRRGGGHH. I know of only one family/extended family member under 30 that hunts or even shoots.
 

dobber

Ten Pointer
Is this based on percentages or actual numbers? i did a quick google and fully understand google may not have all the answers but:
2004 =34.19M licenses/tags/permits/stamps bought in the US
2017 = 36.82M of the same sold
 

BarSinister

Old Mossy Horns
Too expensive, not enough or close enough or too crowded public land, etc. Pretty much what has been said already.

Probably non hunters or people who really do not care much either way are just a bigger group of people and getting bigger all the time. In comparison to hunters.
 

lasttombstone

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
Is this based on percentages or actual numbers? i did a quick google and fully understand google may not have all the answers but:
2004 =34.19M licenses/tags/permits/stamps bought in the US
2017 = 36.82M of the same sold
Hey dobber...... do some math for me since we all know I'm numerically challenged. What was the population increase over that period of time verses the licenses sold, percentage comparison.
 

Homebrewale

Old Mossy Horns
Pretty much all of the above already mentioned. It is not just one thing that is causing it. Internet, video games, lack of land, societal pressure not to hunt, and so on. All of this stuff isn't just affecting hunting. Participation in sports is facing the same decline.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/recruiting-insider/wp/2017/09/06/youth-sports-study-declining-participation-rising-costs-and-unqualified-coaches/?utm_term=.5a0ef25bacbd

We are a society of instant gratification. I want it and I want it now. Hunting is boring to this generation if they don't see a deer within minutes of sitting in a stand. Some of you don't know how lucky you are with the land that you hunt. I participate in the "Live" threads during the season. It'll be 9:00am and some will post they've seen 12 does, 6 bucks and are waiting for Mr. Big. That total is what I may see in a month of hunting. A bad day to you is seeing only 10 year. A good day for me is seeing 2 deer. Try getting people interesting in hunting when on most days they'll see zero deer.
 

Homebrewale

Old Mossy Horns
Hey dobber...... do some math for me since we all know I'm numerically challenged. What was the population increase over that period of time verses the licenses sold, percentage comparison.
Rounding the population estimates
2004 - 293 million
2017 - 326 million

Percent increase = 11.3%.

2004 =34.19M licenses/tags/permits/stamps bought in the US
2017 = 36.82M of the same sold

Percent increase = 7.7% increase

What may or may not be factored in the numbers is any state that has lifetime licenses such as NC. Do they count them in the bought numbers?
 

aya28ga

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
Rounding the population estimates
2004 - 293 million
2017 - 326 million

Percent increase = 11.3%.

2004 =34.19M licenses/tags/permits/stamps bought in the US
2017 = 36.82M of the same sold

Percent increase = 7.7% increase

What may or may not be factored in the numbers is any state that has lifetime licenses such as NC. Do they count them in the bought numbers?
Also, how many hunters are buying licenses in multiple states?

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45/70 hunter

Ten Pointer
Pretty much all of the above already mentioned. It is not just one thing that is causing it. Internet, video games, lack of land, societal pressure not to hunt, and so on. All of this stuff isn't just affecting hunting. Participation in sports is facing the same decline.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/recruiting-insider/wp/2017/09/06/youth-sports-study-declining-participation-rising-costs-and-unqualified-coaches/?utm_term=.5a0ef25bacbd

We are a society of instant gratification. I want it and I want it now. Hunting is boring to this generation if they don't see a deer within minutes of sitting in a stand. Some of you don't know how lucky you are with the land that you hunt. I participate in the "Live" threads during the season. It'll be 9:00am and some will post they've seen 12 does, 6 bucks and are waiting for Mr. Big. That total is what I may see in a month of hunting. A bad day to you is seeing only 10 year. A good day for me is seeing 2 deer. Try getting people interesting in hunting when on most days they'll see zero deer.
I didn't see a deer the entire month of December :(
 

ECU_Pirate

Eight Pointer
Agree with others. I know i dont hunt mainly due to ease of access. If i had my own land i probably would. When i first moved to my area i went and knocked on doors one weekend of land owners who had promising looking duck swamps. All of them said no. I probably asked about 5-6 people all over the county. Made some phone calls to others as well. Nothing worked.
 

Soilman

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
I think the drop in participation of hunting is due to multiple factors. When I was a kid, probably half the city kids my age had access to rural land through their families. I'm betting that percentage has plummeted to around 10% now. When I was growing up and hunting my relatives farms, we even hunted neighbors land because it was a "you can hunt my land if I can hunt yours" mentality. Now, posted signs everywhere. Hunting has become more expensive also. School sports are so competitive that they take up both Saturdays and Sundays during the school year, and if you miss a game or practice, you are out. Negative peer pressure due to the social media against hunting. Most folks and their kids today are urban. Many of these urban kids have a "fear" of the woods. My sister and brother in law live in Charlotte. I bought a lifetime license for my nephew when he was born, hoping to have someone to pass on my love of the outdoors to, along with my equipment. 8 years later, I'm pretty sure I wasted they money.
 

ECU_Pirate

Eight Pointer
Also hunt clubs lease out massive amounts of lands now days. I know back in Greenville a ton of the good duck spots were owned by Tranters creek hunt club. They owned them mostly for deer hunting though. Unless you were part of that club you couldnt hunt a large portion of the land surrounding Tranters creek.
 

nckeith

Eight Pointer
All things being equal it’s just a change. The land and water conservation fund received permanent funding today which is great. There’s plenty of public land out west and now this funding can preserve more for generations. Personally we could probably do without more hunters based on the percent of available land in most eastern states. For those of you used to walking out the back door and hunting, I’m sympathetic. However, apathy is the death of most endeavors.
Look how little people support paying more to fund stuff like the purchase of the Alcoa game lands. As hunters we should demand the Pittman Robertson act be extended to the backpack crowd who share the same land. Guns and ammo fund most if not all conservation efforts, but birdwatchers get a pass. Same tax should apply to binoculars, water filters, tents etc.

Also, take a kid shooting, hunting etc. Most if not all of my sons friends have a curiosity to shoot a bow or gun, however, most if not all of their fathers are emasculated twits. So bring them also. Having a banking analyst by way of New Jersey fire off a 30 round magazine of an ar-22, or bust their first clay, removes a lot of the “fear” of guns.

If you’re scared to even touch a gun, you’re not going to hunt. So stuff like sporting clays is a good introduction.

Along with that, is be a good mentor. I had great friends teach me to hunt. I try to pass it on. For those without land, share it occasionally. Bow only property like I have, I teach them to shoot a crossbow, then take them.

If they are lucky to shoot something I teach them the drag out, skinning, quartering and butchering is all part of it. I’ve had some surprise me and jump right it. I’ve had others cry and never come back. You have to accept it’s not for everyone.

Overall as a kid in the 70’s lots of hunters were slobs plain and simple. I’ll take a quality ethical hunter of today over the orange army of the 70-80’s.

It’s not all doom and gloom

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