I couldn’t help but think what will the world look like in the next 50 years. What will the U.S. look like in the next 50 years? What will our culture look like, what will we be doing as humans, what will our technology be like and most importantly, what will our outdoor adventures be? The outdoors right now in America are amazing with vast amounts of public lands, amazing national parks, fantastic conservation areas and some beautiful private areas that we can all enjoy due to cohesive decisions made between people, departments and businesses. One of the things that truly keeps me up at night is knowing that outdoorsman pay for majority of the outdoors yet we are seeing declining participation in hunters out there.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, there was a decrease of 2 million hunters from 2011 to 2016! Holy Smokes~There was a 30% decline based on those numbers with a loss of roughly 10 billion in revenue. That is a huge issue if you think about it and if we do not change course, we are going to be the only ones to blame when we think about the next 10,20,40 years of the outdoors and what that will look like. We have the ability to impact future generations and we are letting it go to the negative. We are letting our society slowly change us with instagram and facebook but we cannot get our butts off the couches and help others get involved because we aren’t seeing the writing on the wall. Well, I am here to paint you a massive picture and hopefully you see some writing..
Here is the positive. We know what is happening and have full control of what we can change. Part of this change is getting more people involved with hunting and seeing those statistics changing course due to our positive impact on others. We will also see the positive impact in our animal populations and our lands that will always need our support due to a growing population of people that become more and more detached form the natural world. I feel that there could be many variable ways to do this but we need participation all together to see this change. Here is the simple and the complex version of my thoughts.
Last year, I vouched to take out at least 1 person onto a hunting trip to have them experience what I see and do on an annual basis. Essentially, I promised to take someone on a backcountry hunt and let them see how amazing it is. Guaranteed that if someone tells me that they always wanted to go hunting and they never had the option to, this was going to be a great way to get them to experience this amazing adventure. Thus far, I know I will be drawing a tag for either Colorado or NV for a mule deer or elk tag. I have spoken to a colleague of mine and promised that I am taking them with me so they need to set aside time on their calendar in September because we are going out. I am 95% certain that 2 days into the hunt, they will be hooked. If for whatever reason, they are not hooked, I also believe that they will speak positively of their experience and know what hunting is all about so there is positive impact regardless. Now, I will be giving them the gear to borrow for the trip, including binoculars, a tent, clothes, etc. They literally just need to show up and enjoy but it is not always that easy.
Building on the simple complex, how could this go on a larger scale? Well, I have a few thoughts that make it a possible but there would be some support needed all around. You see, to take a new person out, they will need some gear. If you take someone out, will they have camo or backpacking gear? What if they aren’t your size in clothing, how will they get clothes if they cannot financially afford to get everything in one season? What about Binoculars or a backpacking bag in case they are going out on a backcountry hunt? What about if they actually wanted to put in for the draw but need to go take the hunter safety course? What if someone just needs a financial boost? All these thoughts come into play because they are real.
When you look at statistics of what people say about why they have difficulty hunting a few things come up.
- It is expensive to get access to areas or people do not know where to get access to hunt.
- There is difficulty knowing how to start. Most people have no clue they need a hunters safety course or that they can’t just go out and blast something on someones private property. There is also a lack of knowledge on licenses and tags. Unless you are heavily involved or have had someone show you the ropes, you have no clue.
- There is a fear of failure. If I don’t know how to workout, it could be a daunting task to just show up at the gym and feel like I am going to be successful. Some people do really well with the challenge while others are so worried about what their failures could look like that they do not even try. If they had some support off the bat to get them comfortable, they now feel much better about what they are doing and they start using the gym more and getting results. Just an example but it does hold true.
- Gear is expensive and going all in can cost a fortune. I know it took me 4 years to piece all my gear together and now it has been all about refinement of my system. That is the exciting part but for someone new, it is daunting.
- Companionship. Some cannot fathom doing something alone. I personally enjoy solo aspects of the hunt while others need the support of others. Having a hunting buddy is big and a great reason to get someone involved with you.
Now I have a thought on fixing the complex issue. If needed, I will personally try and spearhead this because 1 person added by each hunter out there causes us to double nearly as quickly as we lost in the last 5 years.
- How will I fund someone else to go hunting with me?
- Asking others for extra clothes or clothing that they do not use anymore. I believe that if we were to ask others, donations for old gear, clothes and boots would come out of the woodwork real quick. We could easily support one another and create a borrowing impact that would be contagious. (What if, I was to get gear of each size and someone was to call me and need to rent the box of goodies for someone this year? Let’s say to just ship the gear to them and let them use it, it would be the cost of shipping and packaging it?) I think that would be a no brainer to essentially sponsor a hunter with a box for the season and it would be all based on a donated cause.
- Getting someone supported through the hunter ed process.
- Could you as the sponsor, help them set up a time and date to do their in person test out for their course? Most hunter ed classes now are online and then there is an in person component. A $40 sponsor of your fellow new hunter is nothing for the long term aspect of getting them involved.
- Spending time showing them the ropes on applications.
- Sometimes time is our biggest culprit with our busy lives that are non stop. Time is money and we all know it can be pulled in many directions. How about spending 2 hours with someone over the weekend explaining to them the hunting regs, how hunting impacts wildlife populations as well as how they can apply to hunt in their state or how they go about getting a license. This opens up a whole new avenue for someone which is the gateway to enjoying a long life of adventure.
- Your kids could be your sponsor. Getting your children involved are the exact same as getting a friend to go out there. While your children need to grow and be of age to get tags and licenses, there is a fostering of the culture that happens over time and you are the direct role model for them. Heck, in the meantime, get someone else involved and have your children come along as well. You get 2 birds with one stone here.
- Sharing all of this good news. I think it would be important to see our impacts and share it as a group. What if we had this driven through our new technologies in hunter forum groups and all over our social media. Every time we have someone new go out, we post and share it with a hashtag #sponsoredhunter or #firsttimehunter. Just ideas but there again, is a way to get the pendulum swinging to the positive and truly seeing what happens.
In scope, just think about this scenario. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, there were 11.5 million hunters as of 2016. If we this year get someone involved slightly to the point that next year, they went out and purchased their own tags and licenses, we just doubled our size in 24 months! While that is a large undertaking, it is possible if we believe that we could do this. We would hit 23 million hunters and that would be a huge economic impact as well as a massive benefit to wildlife, biologists, our public lands and our favorite pastime. Are you in favor of doing something like this? Then, get out there and help out to ensure that the future generations can have wildlife and public lands to enjoy.
Scout, Hunt, Repeat