Despite the huge explosion of hunting on TV, the national picture of hunters isn't as rosy as it appears on the tube. Why? Numbers of hunters are stagnant or even decreasing in some areas. We're holding our own in the deer hunting venue, but that's the only bright spot, and I don't really think "holding our own" is exactly a rosy picture. Do you?
So I'm asking again: Are you doing enough to recruit new hunters? Look around. There are more activities than ever before to grab, captivate and capture youth attention. Today, kids begin ball sports well before they are out of diapers, and they're playing Angry Birds before they can speak. I'm not against baseball or smartphones, but if you don't introduce your kids to the outdoors and hunting at the same early age, and with the same intensity, you can watch that boat sail and it won't return.
Kids are the most important aspect of growing our base of hunters. They represent the next generation of supporters, voters and taxpayers that will promote and fund the tradition of hunting. That doesn't mean you shouldn't invite your girlfriend, brother-in-law or your retired, nonhunting neighbor to try the sport, but these groups don't have the power or longevity of our youth.
This past weekend I spent one afternoon volunteering at our local county 4-H carnival fundraiser. Yep, I helped out and it was at the shooting sports booth. We used rubber band guns and silhouette targets, along with a prize, to lure kids in for a shooting experience. It was one of the busiest booths at the carnival because kids love to shoot, and when they love to shoot, the next logical step is to introduce them to hunting. If you don't think you can recruit a new youth hunter, think again.
Try one of these tips for recruiting youth hunters:
1. Single parents lead a busy lifestyle and are everywhere around us in society. If you notice a youth watching you as you load and unload your hunting gear on the weekends, ask their parents if you can take them along on an outing or a visit to the shooting range.
2. Volunteer to take some of your kids' friends to a hunter safety course. This course allows youth to hunt, but is also a great class for anyone to take to learn firearm safety.
3. Visit a local Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts or other local youth organization and invite them out to the local firearm range for an afternoon of plinking or trap.
4. Lastly, see if there are any hunter mentoring programs in your community, and if not, team up with a local Boys and Girls Club to start one. Check out South Dakota's program for a great example.
Take a look at the video below to see how I got my own kids hooked on shooting and, ultimately, hunting. It works every time!
Share your tips for youth hunter recruitment below!