Declining Hunter Numbers

sky hawk

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
For “new hunters”, y’all gotta realize in terms of land availability that they’re not gonna miss what they never had. These are people who grew up in subdivisions and spending very little time outdoors. A 5 acre wood lot to them might as well be 100 acre tract to us.
That's partly true, but I would argue that the percentage of properties available to hunting (landowners who will allow it) that are currently being hunted is higher than ever. There's very few properties 5 acres or 100 acres, where the LO hasn't already been bombarded by everyone from his neighbor to his cousin Billy to the UPS man to hunt. It has always taken some kind of relationship usually to gain access, but I'd say it's harder now than ever.

Basically there are next to zero properties not being hunted that could be. If you gain access, it's because someone else got kicked off or lost the lease.
 

Roanoke

Spike
You know what is really sad is that I am in my forty’s and I am a young quail hunter. Most kids know nothing about the sport. I cut my teeth hunting behind bird dogs. I try and take as many kids quail hunting as possible but many do not enjoy it. F51B2F00-746E-493C-9550-EE11AED6A0FA.jpegA18C3181-E35C-4BE8-B469-2B267F061000.jpeg
 
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ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
Hunting is primarily a rural activity, and if you want hunting to stick around then we need to work together to save rural land, via some combination of purchases (game land, national forest land, etc) and private easements. Last I heard, the official projection is for North Carolina to grow from 10 million to 20 million people over the next century or so. If that trend scares you, congrats, you are a wildlife conservationist!

Asking bird-watchers and hikers, etc. to pay their share of land conservation costs is an excellent idea, one that has been floated around a few times since the 90's. Even if some of the land that would get protected is off limits to hunting, as long as it isn't suburbs, it helps buffer the hunting lands and keep them open. And, as the marine fisheries world is discovering, there are big benefits to having local no-take zones that provide safe spaces for target species to reproduce and send out offspring.

The recent passage of permanent funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund is great news for hunting nationwide. Here in NC, if everyone on this forum took a minute to write your state legislators and ask them to fully fund the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (at say $200 million/year), we could really make progress. Full funding for CWMTF would provide matching funds that could leverage the federal money and really protect some great new public lands (and purchase private easements too, keeping rural landowners on their family land to keep traditions alive). Find your reps here: https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation

Hunting suffers from an image problem, and that doesn't help recruit new participants from urban areas. I'd suggest a strong attempt to rebrand hunting as a physically-challenging and ethical sport that gets people out into nature, and as others have said, focus on the clean and organic food side (though sometimes I wonder how organic the suburban deer in my neighborhood would be given the amount of things the neighbors spray!). ATV's and cheap beer and boxy deer stands on the edge of huge fields are probably less appealing to would-be new hunters than the mystique of heading out on foot into the woods to bring back healthy dinner for the family.

Being respectful to other outdoors-minded citizens would allow for some very powerful coalitions to develop, to push for protecting the rural open lands that are so important to hunters and non-hunters alike. The same could be said of the non-hunters too, of course. But instead of insulting urban nature lovers every chance you get, finding common ground and some areas of mutual respect would be a great way of moving things forward, especially as hunters become more and more in the minority in terms of population. When bird-watchers and hunters have worked together on big projects, great conservation outcomes have occurred.

And lastly, yes we need to get our kids (hunters and non-hunters alike) outside more and away from screens as much as possible. Looking at social media on cell phones has essentially eaten up the free time that many people would have once used to pursue outdoor hobbies.
 

KrisB

Six Pointer
Hunting is primarily a rural activity, and if you want hunting to stick around then we need to work together to save rural land, via some combination of purchases (game land, national forest land, etc) and private easements. Last I heard, the official projection is for North Carolina to grow from 10 million to 20 million people over the next century or so. If that trend scares you, congrats, you are a wildlife conservationist!

Asking bird-watchers and hikers, etc. to pay their share of land conservation costs is an excellent idea, one that has been floated around a few times since the 90's. Even if some of the land that would get protected is off limits to hunting, as long as it isn't suburbs, it helps buffer the hunting lands and keep them open. And, as the marine fisheries world is discovering, there are big benefits to having local no-take zones that provide safe spaces for target species to reproduce and send out offspring.

The recent passage of permanent funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund is great news for hunting nationwide. Here in NC, if everyone on this forum took a minute to write your state legislators and ask them to fully fund the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (at say $200 million/year), we could really make progress. Full funding for CWMTF would provide matching funds that could leverage the federal money and really protect some great new public lands (and purchase private easements too, keeping rural landowners on their family land to keep traditions alive). Find your reps here: https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation

Hunting suffers from an image problem, and that doesn't help recruit new participants from urban areas. I'd suggest a strong attempt to rebrand hunting as a physically-challenging and ethical sport that gets people out into nature, and as others have said, focus on the clean and organic food side (though sometimes I wonder how organic the suburban deer in my neighborhood would be given the amount of things the neighbors spray!). ATV's and cheap beer and boxy deer stands on the edge of huge fields are probably less appealing to would-be new hunters than the mystique of heading out on foot into the woods to bring back healthy dinner for the family.

Being respectful to other outdoors-minded citizens would allow for some very powerful coalitions to develop, to push for protecting the rural open lands that are so important to hunters and non-hunters alike. The same could be said of the non-hunters too, of course. But instead of insulting urban nature lovers every chance you get, finding common ground and some areas of mutual respect would be a great way of moving things forward, especially as hunters become more and more in the minority in terms of population. When bird-watchers and hunters have worked together on big projects, great conservation outcomes have occurred.

And lastly, yes we need to get our kids (hunters and non-hunters alike) outside more and away from screens as much as possible. Looking at social media on cell phones has essentially eaten up the free time that many people would have once used to pursue outdoor hobbies.
Very well said. Could not agree more. I think finding common ground with other nature lovers, like hikers and backpackers, birdwatchers and campers, would be a tremendous step forward in land conservation. And from what I've seen of the statistics on demographics, the number of people who visit our public lands for outdoors recreation like birdwatching, hiking, and camping has grown in recent years and continues to grow, whereas people who come to hunt is on the decline. So much so that some places, as you mentioned, are thinking of starting to charge the non-hunting visitors so that they can help fund wildlife conservation efforts just like hunters' purchases of licenses, tags, guns, etc funds it now.

Sharing the cost across these different groups I think would help ensure the future of funding for conservation, but it's not the only thing. I think our cultural image of wildlife needs to shift. Too many people at least in my generation grew up seeing "Bambi" and other animated films ("The Fox and the Hound" springs to mind) where hunters are portrayed in very negative lights. One of the few TV shows I've seen where that is not the case is "The Last Alaskans." That show is really beautifully done, documenting the way of life of the last few remaining families who live, hunt, and trap in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). I wish there were more shows or at least movies like that which would portray hunting in at least an objective light. YouTube seems to be where it's at for that with channels like The Hunting Public, Hushin, etc, etc., who are reaching a large non-hunting audience that seems to really enjoy watching what they are doing and developing a better understanding of what hunting is and why people hunt, even if most of that audience will never go hunting themselves.
 

Soilman

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
I'm a bit skeptical about letting hikers, bird watchers, campers etc. be investors in our game lands. The reason being, if they are investors, then they get a say in how it is managed...and used. Many of these "non-hunting users" will see hunters and hunting season on these land as impediments to THEIR activities. Some are also anti-hunters . What happens when they get a vote due to being vested, and there is more of their votes than hunter votes? We then LOSE game lands instead of increasing them.
 

CRC

Old Mossy Horns
I'm a bit skeptical about letting hikers, bird watchers, campers etc. be investors in our game lands.
They already are.

And many game lands (like national and state forests) aren't owned by the WRC anyway.

The WRC has to partner with many outside conservation or land groups anymore to acquire more game lands or save the ones we have (Alcoa).
 

Helium

Ten Pointer
Lots of good point mentioned... may just be summarizing what has already been said but :

1. Not only is hunting is decline...kids being in outdoors has declined. Both I believe are for several factors.
A . No one to teach them
B. People are too busy (life is busier in a different way than it was years ago.. due to technology)
C. Peer pressure
D. Lack of places to go
 

Helium

Ten Pointer
Overall, if you look at the difference in society in which Baby boomer kids were raised versus now.... hunting declining is a by product of society changing (in my eyes declining overall as a society)
 

CRC

Old Mossy Horns
In many (but not all) places back when baby boomers were kids small game was abundant and big game lacking. Not in all places but many.
 

KrisB

Six Pointer
I'm a bit skeptical about letting hikers, bird watchers, campers etc. be investors in our game lands. The reason being, if they are investors, then they get a say in how it is managed...and used. Many of these "non-hunting users" will see hunters and hunting season on these land as impediments to THEIR activities. Some are also anti-hunters . What happens when they get a vote due to being vested, and there is more of their votes than hunter votes? We then LOSE game lands instead of increasing them.
That's a very fair point. All I can say is, statistically speaking, the people who are adamantly anti-hunting are in the minority, just like hunters, compared to the rest of the population. I remember in our hunter's ed safety course, the instructor, who was a game warden, gave us a rough estimate of the breakdown. He said 10% of the population hunts/is pro-hunting, 10% is anti-hunting, and 80% is neutral, neither for nor against. I think most of the hikers, birdwatchers, campers, etc would fall into the neutral crowd and be OK with people hunting. We might all have different reasons for wanting to conserve the land, but we have the same goal: Saving more land from development, conserving wildlife, etc.
 

Roanoke

Spike
If any of you know any kids that are interested in hunting get them involved with your local Cross Trail Outfitter Chapter. Great resource for taking kids hunting.
 

sky hawk

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
I agree with Kris. The majority sentiment of this board is don't make non-hunters pay and don't give them a voice. While that strategy has maintained our hunting rights on public lands, it has come at a cost of insufficient management and enforcement, and a reduced ability to conserve land. I think we may be at the point where we need to bring in the non-hunters to conserve whatever land we can, even if we have to make some sacrifices about flexibility of use.

It might be more productive to join with others in the outdoor community to conserve the land before it's gone, rather than maintaining sole control and watching it dwindle (like Alcoa). Yes, it carries risk, and may involve compromise, but land development is something that can never be reversed. With every passing year we are permanently losing opportunities. I think with proper laws in place guaranteeing the use for the use of hunting and fishing, it's worth the risk.

Of course, I wouldn't open that can of worms unless, it was likely to result in reaching a significant, attainable goal.
 

Roanoke

Spike
Also important to have kids out working and improving habitat. We do not have cable and my kids get limited screen time. I also am NOT getting trapped into travel ball. Our best family time is hunting and fishing together. It is easy to get youth elk tags. We are all going to Utah this Sept so that the kids can Elk hunt.
 

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alt1001

Old Mossy Horns
I'm a bit skeptical about letting hikers, bird watchers, campers etc. be investors in our game lands. The reason being, if they are investors, then they get a say in how it is managed...and used. Many of these "non-hunting users" will see hunters and hunting season on these land as impediments to THEIR activities. Some are also anti-hunters . What happens when they get a vote due to being vested, and there is more of their votes than hunter votes? We then LOSE game lands instead of increasing them.
That's a fair point but I'm not sure a plan like this could work on the backs of hunters alone ($$$). I'm not sure what the correct balance is. but I do know there are a few organizations that I think hunters could work well beside if given the chance. I know here in WNC, the Audubon Society (bird watchers) are heavily in favor of more wildlife habitat management in our national forests. They understand that birds will not be found (figuratively) in high canopy forests and that early recessional growth is key to providing cover and food sources.
 

Philjam

Spike
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.
But you can hunt/fish/trap any creek out of your boat.
 

300BlkoutLivesMatter

Four Pointer
I do most of my hunting on the gamelands, and I did not have a mentor so it was mostly self-taught. The thing that almost stopped me from hunting was all the laws and regulations with crazy variations depending on where you are.

Wake got you gotta be 8 feet up a tree, but Durham you're ok on the ground. This counties season is open 10/15, but nextdoor its 11/23. Doe only, buck only, bucks only the first week. What chart are we looking at for determining shooting light? What constitutes 360 degrees of orange coverage? You get the point...

I get it that most of those are for safety, but there is one that drives me bonkers and is the most Fudd law on the books. As a busy professional with a 9-5 job, repealing it would double my time I can spend in the woods. No hunting on Sunday. There goes 50% of my season because some boomer can't stand hearing a single gun shot off in the distance while he is making his coffee before church.
 

Mechanic Bob

Eight Pointer
Lots of good point mentioned... may just be summarizing what has already been said but :

1. Not only is hunting is decline...kids being in outdoors has declined. Both I believe are for several factors.
A . No one to teach them
B. People are too busy (life is busier in a different way than it was years ago.. due to technology)
C. Peer pressure
D. Lack of places to go
I totally agree on all points except "B". As you just have to set your priorities!
 

Helium

Ten Pointer
I totally agree on all points except "B". As you just have to set your priorities!
I totally agree with you and average 25 full days of deer hunting per season and another 30 fishing and turkey hunting.

BUT most of society is so busy at the mall, social media, hanging out with friends etc that hunting never crosses their mind
 
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