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Why hunter recruitment is important

hunting walking in

Photo credit: Josh Kirchner

Every single year as a teenager, I grew increasingly excited about going on my annual deer hunt with my dad. Those were some great hunts and ones that I will not soon forget. We had a lot of laughs, caught plenty of trout, and saw our fair share of deer out there. The first time I was ever around a campfire was on one of these fall deer hunts. So many great memories. When I'd come home, all of my friends would be asking me to tell the story of the hunt and how it went. When I did, I could see it in their eyes that what I was saying was enticing to them. Never once did they act bored or like I lost their attention. And never once was I met with a hunting story from them. Oh, yes. I was indeed in the minority as a child when it came to hunting and the outdoors. Have things changed since then? Is hunter recruitment changing for the better?

Hunting is "cool" now

It might just be the digital age we are living in, but I get the impression hunting is "cool" right now. Because of social media outlets, I see people all over the place touting about the hunting lifestyle and I think that this is inspiring other people to think about hunting. I have had numerous people get a hold of me through these outlets, asking for my guidance on the matter, why do I hunt and telling me how they wanted to start hunting. Whether they are doing it for the experience, wild game meat, or both, it has turned into something far more than what it was when I was a child. We are seeing the likes of folks like Joe Rogan stepping up and trying to educate people on our way of life. I think this is good and something that will help raise our numbers for the better. Even if everyone doesn't stick with it, I know there will be quite a few that will. Some of us are far more susceptible to "the bug" than others.

Why hunter recruitment is important

firstlite young bowhunter

Sadly, it seems that the days of dads taking their kids' hunting have passed. What used to be a tradition has become something that only happens in small circles. It's definitely still there, but not as frequent as far as I see it. Because of this, more and more “adult onset hunters” are showing up on the scene: people who did not grow up in a hunting family, but want to partake in the hunting lifestyle we love. Why is that? I find it fascinating how even when someone wasn't brought up hunting that they can still naturally gravitate towards it.

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Maybe, that is because hunting is one of the most natural things that we can do? Food for thought. Point being, our numbers are dwindling. The less hunters there are, the harder it will be to hear our collective voice. Our voice is what keeps this thing running. There are many people out there who would love to see hunting go away forever. You nor I are likely one of these people, but that is why hunter recruitment is extremely important.

That's "my" spot!

vortex sirui tripod

When I think of hunter recruitment, I am often met with this internal battle. If there are more hunters, then that is going to mean more people in the field. With more people in the field, that means more of a likelihood for someone to be in "my" spot. How selfish of me, right? To put my personal hunting over the greater good of hunting. I get it, trust me. We work our tails off to find these honey holes. Being able to have a place of solace to retreat to and hunt is huge for me. It calms me to know that there are still very wild places out there where you don't matter. The fact of the matter is that everyone out there has just as much right to be on these public lands as you and I do. Whether they are hunters or not. You may disagree and there is a part of me that does as well. That doesn't change what is true.

What you can do

glassing dog

So, if you are on Team Hunter Recruitment, what can you do? It's pretty simple. You don't even have to talk to anyone if you don't want to. Are you ready? Be a good steward for hunting. When making your social media posts and sharing photos, represent hunting in a good light, a positive one where we share a reverence for the animal we have taken and bask in the experience, rather than the blood. The more that non-hunters see what this truly means to us, the more they will understand why we do what we do. Just this could inspire them to go down and buy a tag and bow. For those that do want to talk to people, think where you were when you started out. These folks are not looking for handouts (well, most of them anyway); they are just looking for a bit of guidance. So, I say give it. Take them on a scouting trip to show them how to glass. You don't have to take them to the honey hole you salivate over in the offseason. Go meet them for coffee and talk about animal behavior and habitat. I literally do this on a regular basis with folks and love every second of it. A little can go a long way.

Closing thoughts

bowhunting sunset

We were a minority when I was a child and still are to this day. In all honesty, I really don't think that is going to change. What does need to change, though, is instead of crossing our arms, try opening them. This whole hunting thing is much bigger than you or I and the future of it depends on us doing this right. If we constantly remain hermits and are unwilling to inspire and/or point people in the right direction, I fear that hunting will grow less and less. Heck, it might wither away in the long run. I'd hate to see these amazing opportunities taken away from future generations to come. In this different day and age, where hunters are few and far between, it is up to us to shine a positive light on what we love. If not, nobody will see it for what it is.

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Lita C. - posted 1 month ago on 04-11-2020 09:43:41 am

All the information in this post is awesome and very interesting, and I am glad to see this kind of brilliant post.

Nathan F. - posted 3 months ago on 02-11-2020 06:57:23 pm

We certainly don’t need more hunters. We are destroying ourselves. Public land is overrun, quality hunting is long gone. I’m not talking about killing animals, I’m talking about a quality experience and getting away from people. Used to be able to hike away from people. Now with gear and technology everyone hikes way back. Until we figure out how to manage people hunting will degrade everywhere.

Josh K. - posted 3 months ago on 02-11-2020 12:10:40 pm

@Joshua W.
Sounds like a rough go! I know what you mean about losing our roots. When I was in school, I was a hunter among a vast amount of children that were not. There was always an interest on their part though. When I'd get back in town, everyone wanted to know how the trip went. Better start feeding her friends some venison!! Hahaha! Just tell them it's beef!

Joshua W. - posted 3 months ago on 02-11-2020 11:03:17 am

my problem is finding hunting areas around me that are public. There is only a few spots and the vast majority of the land is privately owned. But that is what it is in the Midwest. Many farmers dont want to give permission for someone to go on their land with a weapon when they dont know you. So that is the biggest challenge. How to get access to areas that are inaccessible due to ownership. Paying for leases can get to be cost prohibitive... We will need to keep trying and bring other in as much as we can.
Interesting, my daughter was telling her friends that her dad is a hunter and we eat venison... they were all like 'gross'... what in the world! We have lost our roots!

Marc M. - posted 7 months ago on 10-29-2019 08:58:04 am

I also believe that public land is gold. The problem is that in Montana it is being managed poorly and hunters are essentially subject to poor hunting on public land. They see game on the ranches and farms on the way to the public land, and for some I guess that is hunting success. It is hard to recruit hunters when they are set up to fail. They can work their butts off and not find success because there are few animals to hunt. 44 years ago I began hunting big game with my father and great grandfather. Since then in our hunting area, I have seen the mule deer go extinct due to lions and now the elk are on the ropes due to over hunting. When you discuss the situation with the area biologist he states he knows that too many elk are being killed, but it is out of his hands because the region is inhabited by some powerful land owners and state legislators. Basically, there are no elk on the national forest yet they allow either sex hunting on a general tag. Public hunters need to quit watching hunting videos on private land, and then dream of replicating that on public land. As hunters we need to make these biologists accountable, as well as, gain some power back in the management of the public's game. I am just saying it is hard to recruit when , in my opinion, hunting is going in a backward direction.

Josh K. - posted 7 months ago on 10-28-2019 05:20:30 pm

@Marc M.

Hey, thanks Marc! I'm sorry you feel that way about public land. In my eyes, public land is gold, and there is plenty of good hunting to be had on it. Hunting numbers are declining each year it seems, so I think hunter recruitment is important in order to, not add more hunters to the pile that already exist, but to even out our numbers for the future, while taking into account the decline. More and more kids aren't growing up with the outdoors as a regular part of their lives. Think about what that means for the future of hunting. Without public land, these kids aren't going to have anywhere to hunt. Without that opportunity, they will cease to exist in the hunting world. There are PLENTY of hunters each and every year that make some irreplaceable memories on public land each year and fill their freezers in the process. Hunter Recruitment and public lands are the very security of our way of life. I know you are speaking just about Montana, but I doubt it is any different than any other western state. Colorado gets a bad rap all of the time, but I can tell you it's an amazing place that holds amazing opportunity, as many other places throughout the west. Good luck out there this season Marc!

Marc M. - posted 7 months ago on 10-28-2019 12:05:14 pm

Nice article, but... Where are these new hunters going to hunt? ( I am speaking about hunting in Montana.) Public land hunting has become a joke due to incompetent management, too many predators, excessive harvest (shoulder seasons), and too much power given to landowners their leases and outfitting. Public land is a joke. If a new hunter is recruited he or she needs to be wealthy or become wealthy to partake in "hunting". I am also talking real hunting. Hiking, camping, scouting, and just putting in time. Not shooting some poor cow elk standing in a farmers field. There needs to be improvement, at least in this state, in the management of the "public's animals", or it will be left only for the wealthy. So, the moral is to recruit the rich.

Josh K. - posted 7 months ago on 10-28-2019 07:11:14 am

@Isaac W.

Issac! That is so great to hear! Congrats to your friend and good on you for getting them out in the field! Glad you liked the article!

Isaac W. - posted 7 months ago on 10-24-2019 02:56:35 pm

Thanks, That was a great article!! This year I was able to help my friend tag his very first deer 2 days ago and was amazing to see his excitement and being able to get him hooked on hunting!!