Rejection of Guns by Young Extends to Hunting
It should surprise no one that the same revulsion against gun culture that erupted among young people after the Florida shooting translates to hunting.
The number of U.S. hunters is dropping about 10 percent a year with the greatest losses among the young. “For every 100 hunters who retire, only 62 take up the sport,” warned former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. The steepest hunter decline in Wisconsin, a big hunting state, is males 25-44–millennials–while teen hunter numbers are also dropping fast reports the State Journal.
Overall, hunting is a “dying” sport with 33 states showing dramatic declines in hunting license sales like New Jersey where yearly sales have dropped by 122,000 since 1971. Hunters now constitute only six percent of the nation and are 89 percent male, 94 percent white and old. Yes, the same demographic as the NRA.
Ask young people about the decline and many will tell you guns and hunting are just not cool anymore. “Only a couple of my friends really hunt,” high school student Jonathan Gibbons told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The rest have never really found the appeal of sitting out in the cold to shoot an animal.”
DNRs have tried everything to hook kids on blood sports a major source of their revenue and their economic lifeline. Deer populations “are the bread-and-butter money-maker for agencies that rely on hunting license sales for large parts of their budgets,” admits a hunting web site.
In the 2000’s, the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, a hunting lobby, launched the Families Afield initiative to reduce “barriers” to youth hunting like age restrictions and preventing kids from shooting big game. (“Research shows that the more we restrict youths from hunting big game, the more they don’t bother hunting at all!” ) Families Afield legislation also legalized apprentice hunting licenses so kids could hunt before taking hunter safety training with a licensed adult hunter.
DNRs have also launched youth hunting days for deer, waterfowl and upland birds and Take a Kid Hunting programs. The Pennsylvania Game Commission enlists kids in raising day-old pheasant chicks in their own backyards to be shot as game in Youth Pheasant Hunts.
Much of the increasingly urban and non-hunting United States laughed at a Wisconsin bill to reduce the “barrier” to eight-year-olds hunting written by gun shop owner State Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford–until it passed the House of Representatives in 2007. Opposing the bill, Wisconsin resident Joe Slattery said eight-year-olds “still believe in Santa Claus” and are too young for guns. Slattery’s own son was killed by a child hunter. The Senate compromised and raised the age to 10.
Ten years later, the Wisconsin state Assembly passed a bill removing minimum age restrictions for child hunting as long as the child is accompanied by an adult who follows certain rules— theoretically even applying to toddlers.
Shawn Meyer, a northern Indiana sportsman and full-time youth pastor thinks kids won’t be hooked on hunting unless there is more blood. “Five-year-olds and under will get more out of an outing if it’s plinking squirrels, catching bluegills, gigging frogs, or blowing a box of shells on doves than if it’s sitting motionless for hours on end,” he says.
Of course hunting has been an American tradition and, when it comes to meat, may be more ethical than “factory farming.” But our national attitudes toward food are also changing. Twelve percent of millennials are now vegetarian versus four percent of Generation Xers and one percent of post-World War II baby boomers. Yes, the numbers are parallel to the hunting drop off.
Martha Rosenberg is author of the award-cited food exposé “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency,” distributed by Random House. A nationally known muckraker, she has lectured at the university and medical school level and appeared on radio and television.