Hunter Numbers Declining – 1 Simple Way To Change That

It’s No Secret

Hunter numbers have been in a steady decline for several years. It’s no secret. Google “Hunter Numbers Declining” and you’ll see a whole bunch of articles “breaking down the numbers” of the country’s shrinking number of hunters. Most of these articles will give you statistics, generation trends and conservation dollars related to hunting. Though important, we’re not going to focus on that today. Today, we are going to focus on one extremely simply way to fix the declining number of hunters in America. And that fix starts with YOU.

My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was the first person I mentored. When I got her hooked on hunting, I got myself hooked on mentoring new hunters.
My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was the first person I mentored. When I got her hooked on hunting, I got myself hooked on mentoring new hunters.
A Fix So Simple It’s Almost Complex

Seriously, this issue is so incredibly simple to fix. It really is. Ready for the solution? TAKE A NEW PERSON OUT HUNTING! That’s it! That’s all we as hunters have to do. We NEED to take it upon ourselves to become outdoor mentors and invite others to get involved with the activities we love. And I say “Take A New Person Out Hunting” but ya know what? It doesn’t necessarily have to be hunting only. Take a new person to the gun range, the archery range, scouting, shed hunting, planting a food plot. Any and all of the things YOU do every year, throughout the year, are PERFECT opportunities to recruit new hunters. So why, if it’s so freakin’ easy at face-value, are hunters not doing it? Therein lies the complexity….

Our Brazilian friends and first-time shooters had an absolute blast at the gun range.
Our Brazilian friends and first-time shooters had an absolute blast at the gun range.

Mentoring a new hunter, regardless of the activity, is time and work. In my opinion, that’s why many seasoned veterans opt not bring a newbie along. It’s just easier without them. Well, so are many things in life. Marriage, kids, college, a new career. All of those things take time and work, right? If we all just never kept the same job, in the same spot, never got married, never had kids, never did anything, life would be simple and easy…wouldn’t it? Yet most of us (hunter or not) ALL do those things. Why? Because despite the time, effort and challenges, it’s all worth it in the end. The EXACT same thing is true when it comes to mentoring a new hunter.

Mentoring A New Hunter Is An Investment In The Future Of Hunting

By mentoring a new hunter YOU are making an investment in the future of hunting. And like all investments, watching it grow is a beautiful thing. So what would growth look like in “the hunting investment?” Personally with the people I’ve mentored over the years, I’ve seen right about 50% of them become hunters (meaning, after year 1 of me involving them in hunting/shooting/outdoor activities, 50% of them purchased licenses and participated on their own the following year). But for the sake of this article let’s take a more conservative approach and say 10% will become hunters (which I think is extremely realistic and reasonable). According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services there were 11.5 million hunters in 2016 (lets just assume that is the same for 2018). If every hunter (yeah that includes YOU) mentored 1 new person in 2019 and assume 10% actually take up the sport, that means we would create 1.15 million new hunters in 2020. Whoa. If every year we each mentored 1 new hunter, and “previous new hunters” started recruiting new hunters, image how fast we could grow this sport (good ol’ compound interest).

My friend Chris found instant success on his first turkey hunt in 2017, bagging this big Tom just 40 minutes into our hunt!
My friend Chris found instant success on his first turkey hunt in 2017, bagging this big Tom just 40 minutes into our hunt!
Who Should We Be Targeting

Anyone and everyone, that’s who we should be targeting. Friends, family, coworkers, church members, spouses, anyone who has even a small level of interest. And yes, we absolutely need to get kids involved in the outdoors. But kids alone should not be our focus. There are men, women and youth out there of all ages, races and backgrounds who want to experience hunting/the outdoors, they simply need someone to get them started. Can you think of those people in your life right now? Those people who have said “Hunting seems fun, but my family’s never been into it.” Boom, there’s a perfect recruit! Seriously, just invite them to join in whatever activity works for you. I’m not asking you to put a first-time hunter in your best treestand during a mid-November cold front. But, you could probably take them on a late season doe hunt. Or maybe a squirrel hunt, turkey hunt, predator hunt. Gun range, food plot work, scouting, shed hunting, building a duck blind, the list goes on and on. All they need is an invite from YOU.

A warm February afternoon was the perfect opportunity to get my friends/coworkers Ryan and Eric out for their first squirrel hunt.
A warm February afternoon was the perfect opportunity to get my friends/coworkers Ryan and Eric out for their first squirrel hunt.
Make It Easy For The Newbie

When you find that newbie who’s eager to hit the woods or range with you, make it easy on them. Have fun, don’t put pressure on them, let them borrow some of your gear or clothes. Keep it simple and focus on the experience, not the end result of a day afield. Try (as best you can) to keep initial expenses low for your first-timer so he or she doesn’t obligated to make a big investment just to try something out. And again, most importantly, HAVE FUN.

We As Hunters Own Our Future

The future success or failure of hunting falls on each and every one of us. We own the future of hunting, shooting and outdoor sports. That means each and every one of us needs to shoulder the load, take action and make it a personal responsibility to create new hunters. I love everything hunting/shooting/the outdoors and I’ll be damned if I let hunter numbers wither away to nothing. But I can’t do it alone, I need YOU. This year I ask and challenge you to recruit and mentor a new hunter. It will only be one of the best experiences of the season, but also one of the best investments of your life.

-Matt

 

 

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