Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hunting in a Digital Age

As mentioned in their Field Notes blog, Field & Stream has made available on-line an article about "Why Johnny Won't Hunt", which looks at the continued decline in the number of hunters and the aging of the hunting population. This is one of those perennial discussions amongst hunters, at least as far as I can recall (over three decades of hunting, now- looks like I'm one of that aging demographic). Another evergreen subject is "gadgets are ruining the sport and people are relying more on equipment than knowledge or skill", something Aldo Leopold was concerned about in 1941, long before ATV's, 4-wheel-drive trucks, optical sights, range finders, compound bows, or camouflage were common or even available. A third such subject is "why hunt?".

The F&S article is a good one that takes a look at the competition for peoples' time and money as well as increasing urbanization, rather than just blaming video games or "kids today". As an aside, here's an interesting discussion of video games and kids today. On point, NorCalCazadora has looked at the declining number of hunters (she spends a lot of time examining hunter/public issues) and over at Querencia, Matt Mullenix has brought up and discussed the issue and also shows some of his own efforts to maintain the tradition.

While hunters are in competition for what feels like a fairly scarce resource, that is to say- places to hunt, and fewer hunters on "my" river or elk mountain feels like a good thing we can't really afford to become too unusual. As our numbers decline hunting will become an increasingly marginalized activity and hunters' ability to gain the ear of resource managers will go away. Even worse, as fewer resource managers and politicians even know anyone who hunts or what all is involved, they won't even have any idea how to address our needs or take advantage of the resources we can contribute. For that matter, no other advocacy group can match hunters' record when it comes to preserving habitat and wildlife. If we apex predators disappear, there will still be whitetails, coyotes, squirrels, raccoons, and other wildlife, but I'm not so sure about mule deer, bighorns, prairie chickens, or a host of other species.

I certainly don't have any answers or thoughts beyond those offered at the links above, other than to say that habitat loss and increasing population are surely the largest causes of our woes. I've only introduced a couple of people, both my own age, to hunting. I suppose more is required. As a general rule it seems inadequate to want to be left alone, rather, you have to advocate for anything you enjoy or else someone is going to come along and take it away or mess it up.

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