The Decline of Young Hunters and the Future of Hunting

Young hunters today face many challenges, including a slew of new technology, poor mentoring and antihunting groups. Learn about the pressures they face and what you can do to place them on the right path of environmental conservation, preservation and ethical hunting.

| July 25, 2012

  • Heartsblood
    In “Heartsblood,” nationally acclaimed nature writer and veteran outdoorsman David Petersen takes a clear-eyed look at humans and hunting, and reaches conclusions sure to challenge everyone’s preconceptions.
  • White Tailed Deer
    As the sun appeared, so did a husky, high-horned pronghorn buck, grazing alongside a dusty road a quarter-mile below me.

  • Heartsblood
  • White Tailed Deer

In a time when hunting is misunderstood as violent and inhumane, author David Petersen draws clear and important distinctions between true hunting and contemporary hunting behavior. While traditional hunting encompasses environmentalism, conservation and preservation, the modern hunting industry advertises new tools and weapons to excess, and antihunting groups decry the conditions of animals without understanding how large groups can negatively impact the environment. In this excerpt from Heartsblood (Johnson Books, 2000), author David Petersen explores the problems with initiating new, young hunters and explains that the solutions to these problems lies within recognizing hunting’s faults and educating the public and future generations. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 16, “Should Kids Hunt? Reflections on the Past and Future of Hunting.” 

“Does it help them connect with their elders and the outdoors; to respect the power of weapons and the realities of life and death, as hunters believe? Or does killing animals, as hunting's opponents claim, damage young psyches, making children indifferent to suffering and ready to see deadly violence as acceptable behavior?” — Lance Morrow 

IT'S TRUE WHAT THEY SAY—that recruitment of young people to hunting has fallen off in recent years. Some cheer this news, proclaiming that children should not hunt. In fact, one of the favored tactics of "animal rights" hunt-disrupters is interfering with special introductory hunts for kids. (Like in-your-face heckling at abortion clinics, this practice is now illegal in most states.)

Others meanwhile—not only hunters but bio-wise nonhunters as well—fear that a continued decline in young hunters bodes ill not only for the future of hunting but for the wildlife and wildlands that hunting helps perpetuate, as well as for all those young Americans who will never know the natural joys and personal epiphanies that only true hard hunting can bring.

Why is this happening? And what, if anything, can be done to reverse the trend? Or should it be reversed?

If we want to influence the future, and do so wisely, we must start by looking back.

Alex Podesta
3/28/2013 1:31:30 PM

Great article as far as it goes. What's left out is the future of hunting, and the repercussions thereof.........Mr Petersen doesn't mention that the number of new hunters coming in does not equal the number of older hunters quitting hunting (death of old age, disability, etc). And THAT'S what's going to come around and bite us on our collective butts............ Deer, being a prey species with only one significant predator -- us humans, have a 40% or so reproductive rate. Without hunting, it takes about 2 1/2 years for the deer population to double............ Before the advent of Europeans, Native Americans had created a long term sustainable continent. So yeah, they lived with bears, wolves, panthers, rattlesnakes and more. Here in the east of the US, they also lived with elk, some bison, passenger pigeons, rivers, estuaries and the seas full of fish and forests filled with mature trees. Kids learned to hunt early with flint tipped arrows, and white tailed deer didn't over populate. And today when things are getting environmentally shaky, young environmentalists are talking about creating a long term sustainable world ....... i'm reading Paradise Found by Steve Nichols who combs the historical records for comments, stories, writings of what nature was like starting with the Vikings around the end of the 1st millennium. Paradise Found is what the early European explorers found when they first arrived here....................Anyway, deer populations out of balance is just one more symptom of American ecosystems out of balance. In our case, hunters are the only check we have. As the number of hunters decreases, deer WILL increase in numbers too great for hunters to keep in check.. and in the way of all ecosystems, there are a cascade of ways to keep a population in check. Next in line is disease -- deer have a couple of population density related diseases -- and after that comes -- eating themselves out of house and home and therefore starving. ....Anyway, we need more deer hunters to keep deer populations in check

Amy Reyes
3/27/2013 6:27:44 PM

I don't know if I qualify as a "young hunter" since I'm in my mid-20s . . . but I've only come to hunting very recently, and still have yet to actually GO hunting. I know I want to hunt. I think it's healthier for me then CAFO meat animals and cheaper than many of the other humane options, it's an essential survival skill (if I were to lose my job, or in a SHTF situation), and I want to practice my 2nd amendment rights to keep and bear arms and to be able to defend myself if that were ever (God Forbid) unnecessary. Though my family raised me with a love of the outdoors, we went camping, hiking and fishing regularly, but we never went hunting. My biggest hurdle right now is acquiring the weapon and the practice and training to hunt. The weapon is probably the biggest hurdle - made even bigger with my state recently becoming one of the states with the tightest gun laws in the country - a HUGE step away from it's former 2nd amendment friendly status. It's expensive, and now made even more so by higher taxes and fees involved in the purchase, regardless of vendor. I couldn't even be given one here without having to PAY for a back ground check. Nevertheless, it's something I know I want to do and I am taking the steps to be prepared in time for the fall hunting season.


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