An Open Letter to Hunters

Fellow Hunters,

It’s never been more clear that now is the time to act. The hunter numbers are in, and they’re not good.  Preliminary findings of U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation indicate a 5-year fall-off of over 2 million hunters. Since 1980, hunter numbers have fallen from nearly 18 million to the current count of 10.5 million. The preliminary findings are summarized well here. The future of conservation in this country relies heavily on our collective ability to reverse a devastating trend in hunter participation.

But what can we do about it?

1. Accept reality. Lack of access is choking us. Land sales and hunting leases are going to continue to eat up large tracts of land, and public land is going to get more pressure than your old honey hole. I miss my old honey hole, too… you know the one… the place we lost when Grandpa sold the farm, or when that trusty old CRP became a corn field. When you do find a good spot on public land there may be other hunters there, fearing running into you as much as you feared running into them. Be gracious, you’re probably a couple kind words from being hunting buddies. And, please if you take nothing else from this letter, ask yourself who really gives a shit whether they shoot a crossbow, or they shoot an autoloader, or they have the wrong brand of camo. They’re on our team, stop focusing so much on what makes us different.

This is a hunting pic.

2. While we’re accepting reality, let’s accept this: The world has changed and will continue to do so. We are not going to rid the world of video games and cell phones. There’s nothing we can do about 80-game soccer leagues for 10 year-olds. People are going to continue to move away from rural areas. Families are going to lose their farms to inheritance taxes. Baby boomers are going to age out of their hunting days in the next 10 years. Anti-hunting and anti-gun organizations are only going to pick up steam during this presidency – just like gun and ammo sales picked up steam during the last presidency. Millennials are going to continue hunting for different reasons than generations-past. As hunters, we need to learn to thrive inside of the constraints of these tectonic realities. Here are some examples of things each of us can do, 1) hold a wild game feed and invite the families from the soccer team, 2) start a trap league, rather than joining a golf league, 3) create hunting opportunities for youth in programs like National Archery in the Schools, and high school trap teams, 4) get your whole family involved in your local Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, or Pheasants Forever chapter.

This is a hunting pic.

3. No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you’re from if you care about the future of hunting, you have to figure out ways to bring a new person this hunting season. It doesn’t need to be a kid, the person doesn’t even need to shoot, but we need to invite them to come along. No one learned to love hunting through a social media post or a hunting show. You and I need to intentionally seek them out, invite them, bring them along and teach them. If each of us brought 1 new person every 10 times we go we could reverse this trend. If you’re up for the challenge, consider taking the National Hunting and Fishing Day Pledge.  When you do so you’ll be entered to win all kinds of really cool experiences from Bass Pro Shops, NASCAR, and more.

This is a hunting pic.

4. Rather than assuming people can feel what we feel from our grip-and-grin pic on Instagram, let’s tell the real story. Take pics of the other things you saw, share how it felt being out with your family, talk about how delicious your venison jerky tastes, share hunting stories even when you don’t fill a tag. Jake, a team member of ours here at Powderhook and as avid of a hunter as you’ll ever meet, recently shared an excellent example of a social post that tells the real story. Check it out here.

This is a hunting pic. Sorry Kenna 🙂

5. Remember what got you into hunting. It’s the only thing that works nearly every time: mentoring. If you have the time to be matched long-term as a mentor, please visit this form and submit your information. From there we’ll introduce you to the closest mentoring program we know of in your area. If you don’t have the time to mentor in-person, please consider becoming a Digital Mentor in the Powderhook app. It’ll take you a minute or two a week.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the “Orange Army” to engage. Each of us needs to do more, and we need to start now.

Sincerely,

Eric Dinger

Founder of Powderhook

Photo Credits: Jake Crnkovich

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7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Hunters”

  1. As someone who wants to start hunting, but with no family that hunt anymore I face an uphill battle getting out there. I had big plans to get out this year for my first deer season but it’s looking grim for my chances to get out and do things due in equal part to not having someone to show me things I am missing or nervous about and other commitments that conflict.

    You mention in this letter that experienced hunters should join mentorship organizations to assist hunters like myself. What would be useful in conjunction with that would be to have a list of those same organizations available for aspiring hunters. And working with those groups to help them increase their presence so that people can find them easier.

    That’s just my two cents on one thing that stood out to me.

  2. The modern version of the North American Conservation Model for Wildlife formally articulated in 2001 is destroying the value of wild land, wildlife, and hunting. Socialism has never protected the value of anything and will not our hunting heritage!
    There is always another elitist cocktail conservationist waiting in the wings to make excuses like the author of this piece. Private game management is the future and savior of hunting. Include and promote the concept in the tenets of our wildlife doctrine like Teddy Roosevelt envisioned and the trend will slow and possibly reverse.
    My guess is the B&C Club and the QDMA will both keep their heads buried in the sand and their minds closed until hunting access is all but gone.
    We are no longer living in a culture where subsistence hunting can fund or drive the conservation mechanism. It is sad to see people like the Canadian socialist Shane Mahouney waxing eloquently in his velvety bare tone voice about a wildlife doctrine that is destined to fail at protecting wildlife in North America. He might as well be on a bulldozer destroying wild lands on private property.
    The primal instincts of man are being marginalized across the board by our culture. Isn’t this why “men” are the ones attacking people like the LV shooter and not women? Our aboriginal instincts are not the same. Look at the exaggerated antlers on the cave drawings. We are trophy hunters. Trophies have the highest value and drive the sustainable wagon of conservation. Men need our instincts to be “needed”and not “marginalized”.

    1. Yeah because private land access is a functional solution to the problems faced. Large public land holdings with regular logging and proper management is the only solution. It’s absurd in the extreme to suggest that privatizing more land will increase hunter access. It’ll only continue to ruin the sport I love. If it weren’t for public land i and most people would have no chance to hunt.

  3. Hunting and fishing saved my life! I was on the wrong path at an early age. Outdoor activities lead to water activities and other “fun” things “cool people” enjoy doing vs. getting involved with rift raft. Now I have a reason not to live on easy street on welfare or in a prison system. Granted, playing poker all day long sounds great, but I like to boat, fish and hunt now.

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