The REAL (REASONS) hunting is declining

Elk Bugler

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Alright, I'm going to preface this by saying if you're easily offended don't read this.

Hunting has been in decline since the 1980's and 1990's depending on what state you live in. While there's probably thousands of reasons I'm going to detail the biggest issues I think hunting in this country faces in terms of the decline of hunting. For some background on me I'm 19 and have been hunting since I've been 15. I'm one of the "New Breed" that is sadly exceedingly rare. I've met a grand total of 3 youngsters in my 4 years hunting public land. I didn't shoot my first buck after following a pair of fresh tracks in the snow for a mile, walking quietly behind my grandfather and uncle (although I wish I could've) and I didn't shoot my first buck after applying for years to a "trophy unit" from a wealthy home in the suburbs. My first buck was taken on a small tract of private land on an unseasonably hot opening day of archery season. I couldn't have been more proud of myself I made a great lung/liver shot and he was down about 25 yards away from me. My first buck was a velvet 3 pointer and I couldn't have been more proud. I hunt both this small tract of private land and a variety of local public lands. My proudest hunting moment was last season when I took a beautiful fat public land doe on a very highly pressured property (probably the most pressured in the state and at least in the county) everything I have learned from hunting has been from the internet, YouTube, my own scouting, trial and error, and from one family friend to a much lesser extent my point is my experience definitely isn't typical and it's a miracle that I even started hunting in the first place. My interest in hunting started when I thought it would be a fun experience to go turkey hunting, so I did and this later evolved in a passion for deer hunting and I've been hooked ever since. I've been fortunate to harvest 4 deer in my 4 years of hunting and am happy to have a freezer full of meat that I spent hours brwaking down and processing myself. It feels good to have a connection to my food, it's healthier and great to know where it comes from.

So enough about me here are the reasons that I personally believe are most detrimental to the hunting community.

(Lack of access to land/perceived lack of access to land.) While it is very true that the days of knocking on a door and asking a member of your community if you can hunt his land is pretty much over, the small property owners don't want people on their property for liability reasons or percived liability reasons and all the large property owners either lease their land to a wealthy individual, a club with a ridiculous membership fee (I'm talking $1000 plus a year) or even hunting product companies to film shows on. And before people start saying that I'm bashing rich people and large companies I'm not and if you can pay 5 grand a year to lease a big property good for you but just know by doing so you're taking away opportunities from other people to hunt the same property. 20 people probably hunted farmer Ed's 1000 acres before it was leased in exchange for help and other favors. Not blaming anybody it's just reality. The next part of this equation is public land. While there is less public land than there was 10 years ago and even less than there was 20 years ago there's still plenty of public land in this country to hunt. (With few exceptions). My heart does go out to those in places like Iowa or Mississippi where there is next to no public land, however there is still some public land to hunt, but in most states access to public land is not as much of an issue as people make it out to be. And yes I'm guilty of exaggerating how hard it is to hunt public land as much as the next guy, however I don't do this anymore because this discourages going people like myself. When I was in high school I was one of the only people to hunt public land if not the only one, the other kids thought public land wasn't worth the time and that is problematic because once these kids graduate and move away, or go to college in another state they're going to stop hunting because they believe public land isn't worth it. There are a few states with very little public land but they are the exception most states have plenty of state forests, parks, national forests, wildlife management areas and a litany of other land open to hunting. We in the United States are blessed with so many millions of acres of public land to recreate on and this makes us unique to the rest of the world (yes I know Canada has similar "crown land"). Public land hunting can be hard and it is definitely harder than private land and there is definitely no comparison to a 1000 acre Illinois "trophy buck" lease, however not all is lost. I used to be one of those people who thought "hunting public land is impossible" and "not worth the effort" but this didn't stop me from trying harder each time. There are a litany of studies that show the vast majority of hunters will not venture more than a 1/3 of a mile from the road. What does this mean? The vast majority of public land especially the big tracts are relatively free from hunting pressure or face light pressure. Studies have also disproven the myth that "all public land deer migrate to private land during deer season" this is not even close to being true, whitetail deer are loyal to their range and simply move deeper into less pressured parts of public land with thicker cover when the pressure gets high. If you put in the work and venture deep into public land you will most likely be successful and I know this first hand. When I hunt public (which is what I hunt most) I go at least a mile in and that is why I'm much more successful than the other guys that set up near the parking lot. My point is if you put in the work you will be successful! This doesn't just pertain to hunting it pertains to everything in life, you don't get far unless you work hard.

(The social media hunters, the online trolls, and cyber bullies) I'm grouping all of these groups together because they have the same effect on young hunters for the most part. Everybody knows the kind of "hunter" I'm talking about, the trust fund kid who acts hyper masculine to compensate for his insecurity and thinks he's all that because daddy gave him money to shoot a 180 inch outfitted land buck or even worse a high fence pet and then brags on social media about it and shames other people often times teens and younger for shooting a doe or young buck. This behavior is detrimental and absolutely needs to stop we need to recruit teenagers and young kids into the hunting community and it doesn't matter if you shoot a doe, spike, monster buck, or an average buck, if you're out there having fun and contributing to conservation it doesn't matter what kind of deer you shoot as long as you follow all the regulations. There are great social media hunters out there that do wonders for the hunting community, however if you go in Instagram and see "trophy bucks" and "trophy elk" all day it gives young hunters unrealistic expectations which is also negative. It's just like teenagers being insecure because everyone on Instagram is a super model or body builder. Anti hunters, trolls, and cyber bullies have the same effect on young hunters as the (bad) social media hunters (and they're fans that shame hunters) they shame hunters for being ethical hunters just because they didn't shoot that 1/100 monster buck. Teenagers and young people live on social media and if they are shamed for being hunters it's a driving factor to stop hunting or more likely never even start hunting all together.

(Video games and Tv) this is pretty straight forward, we live in an instant gratification culture and TV and video games provide just that. It's scientifically proven that playing video games produces pleasure in our brains, most young people these days are so addicted to video games it's like a drug to them. Why sit in a treestand on a hot day or track deer through the snow in 10 degrees and probably not even bring a deer home when you can play video games all day with no effort involved and have a lot of fun.

(Decline of rural America and increase in urbanization and suburbanization) more Americans are moving to major cities or metro areas and suburbs and not having a chance to even go hiking let alone hunting or fishing in the city, hunters for the most part are looked upon and seen as a bunch of "gun toting rednecks) or some other ignorant slur. Ironically from my experience the hunters I have met who traveled from the city to where I live to hunt have all been immigrants from Communist Asian or former Soviet republics for them I think it has something to do with the feeling of freedom hunting gives you but I digress. Urbanization is killing young hunter's opportunities before they even start.
 

Elk Bugler

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(The decline of old breed deer hunters and rise of once a year outiftted trophy hunters) this is going to ruffle a lot of feathers but it has to be said. Hunting is declining in every state except for so called "Western trophy states" there's a lot more people mainly wealthy non residents hunting once a year in places like Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, places like these are seeing a surge in non resident hunters but not residents, yes Idaho is seeing a lot of resident hunters too but that is because it is the fastest growing state and new Idahoans are becoming hunters and good for them. Places like New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota west Virginia, and (insert state here) all have declining numbers of residents hunters. Young people are not hunting anymore and the old breed is sadly dying or becoming too old to hunt. I love hearing stories from the older generations and will miss them dearly. So many wealthy older hunters and to a lesser extent wealthy young hunters don't care for hunting their home state and go out to a "trophy state" once a year to hunt. I've met too many older wealthier hunters that just want to talk about antlers or brag about their last out of state hunt with an outfitter I'm very polite so I listen but deep down I'm not too interested, outiftted trophy hunts aren't my thing and Never will be. The other thing that grinds my gears is the elitist attitude of not all not all not all! But some non resident hunters. Everyone remember when Wyoming wanted to restrict non resident hunters in favor of residents and every entitled non resident freaked out. I saw some people online (not on this fourm most people are respectful) write horrible things about Wyoming and their residents. For what? Wanting to favor residents? Like that's some controversial idea. People were calling Wyoming residents Hicks, rednecks, trailer trash, etc it's not cool I'm not even from Wyoming but I have traveled to many rural states and I'll tell ya rural Americans are the nicest people you'll ever meet many will go out if their way to help you. I've been to places with 4 people a square mile and those places have wonderful people for the most part. The disrespect directed at Wyoming residents and other states non residents hunt is unacceptable!

(Hunting is becoming expensive) new guns, bows, crossbows, boots, camo and everything else is super expensive, outdoor TV and social media makes you think you need Sitka gear, Ravin crossbows, and a $5000 custom made long range rifle with a super magnified scope. You don't need any of these I've been hunting just fine with my Walmart camo and whatever is on sale at Cabela's. My military surplus and tractor supply boots work wonders and Walmart rubber boots work great in the spring turkey season when things are wet and muddy. New hunters get the impression they need all these expensive new gear when they don't and can you blame them? It's what they see on TV and Instagram 24/7

(Some older hunters not all, not the majority but some have an "I don't care attitude") some older hunters have expressed satisfaction that there's less hunters and more game than ever the latter is a positive the former is a negative new hunters need to be recruited to keep hunting alive and in turn keep conservation alive. No hunters means no funding for would animals and wild places period. I've seen this same attitude regarding CWD to a lesser extent, some older hunters say "it won't be a problem on my lifetime" and don't care about following CWD regulations and importation guidelines. If you don't care about the longevity of conservation you shouldn't be a hunter period.

(High fence operations) high fence operations not only give hunters a bad name but are one of the most common ways CWD is spread. High fence operations brought deer and elk with CWD from the west to the east and now most state have CWD. High fence operations trash the image of hunters while playing pretend hunter and make hunters look like a bunch of idiots trying to shoot animals with huge unrealistic cartoon caricature antlers. I've seen people refer to high fence shooters as hunters and it disgusts me, so many people think hunting is shooting a deer that was someone's pet behind a fence and that is detrimental to our community and anti hunters frame hunters as high fence shooters.

There's a million and one more reasons why hunting is dying but I feel these are the most detrimental. We can turn things around by promoting the good image of hunters that most of us are and most importantly recruiting young people, mentor your nephew, niece, son or young family friend and teach them how to hunt, recruiting young people is the forefront of this battle and it is everyone of our responsibilities to recruit other hunters and promote hunting in a positive light
 

Mallardsx2

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-Hunting doesn't have to be expensive. We make it expensive. I know a guy who only owns a climber and 3 guns and a cheap bow. He shoots as many nice bucks as I do.
-Lack of land access is a major issue for us eastern hunters. Gusy who live in western states with good access simply dont understand.
- If you hunt your home state hunting is actually VERY affordable. I spend less on a license than I would spend on a steak dinner.
 

Jape

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Anything that long without a story about a dead animal at the end is tough to swallow. ;)

However, you make some valid points. Tough for some to swallow for various reasons, the first of which is that it isn't translating into more attainable tags.

 
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Elk Bugler

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-Hunting doesn't have to be expensive. We make it expensive. I know a guy who only owns a climber and 3 guns and a cheap bow. He shoots as many nice bucks as I do.
-Lack of land access is a major issue for us eastern hunters.
- If you hunt your home state hunting is actually VERY affordable. I spend leff on a license than I would spend on a steak dinner.
I agree with most of what you're saying I have one climber stand a private land tree stand and two blinds, I don't personally spend a lot of money on hunting but if you turn on outdoor channel or go on Instagram they make it seem like you need the top of the line gear to even think about hunting and it discourages a lot of young people. I don't think lack of public land is that big of an issue for eastern hunters I think the idea that public land hunting is too hard and not worth it is more of the issue. For example new York has countless acres of public land and you can go 6 miles in on some of these wilderness areas new Hampshire and Vermont have massive tracts of public land, Maine doesn't have very much public land but there's still a decent amount and in Maine most timber companies let you hunt on their land for a free or cheap permit fee. New Jersey even has a lot of public land same with Pennsylvania. I know Virginia has a decent amount of public land, as more Massachusetts, Rhode island, and Delaware hunting can more scare and access is more of an issue.
 

Elk Bugler

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Anything that long without a story about a dead animal at the end is tough to swallow.

However, you make some valid points. Tough for some to swallow for various reasons, the first of which is that it isn't translating into more attainable tags.

True tags are harder to come by but at the end of the day non residents are a cash cows and states know there's higher than ever non resident demand and non residents have money. I think the worst offender of tag manipulation by far is the state of Maine. Maine has 70000+ moose and issues 2000 tags a year not only do they auction non resident tags for tens of thousands of dollars and let you buy preference points I think an unlimited amount if I'm not mistaken but could be wrong. Maine moose are so overpopulated winter ticks are massacring them instead of hunters responsibly harvesting them. Maine has so many moose they could probably have a general season open to all residents for a few days with certain restrictions of course like no shooting young bulls and antler restrictions while keeping cow tags limited entry. but Maine like most if not all states puts money before conversation.
 

Elk Bugler

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I think part of the problem is giving a sh__ about what someone else has or thinks. I don't hunt for anyone else it is something personal between me and the animal that I am hunting
More people need to have this attitude I think the same way but most people don't and that's the problem. Young people are so impressionable and they more than anybody else care about what other people think.
 

RidgeRoamingRichard

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The instant gratification thing rings so true for me. I can't peel my peers away from their comfortable pastimes. But it's not just the youngins. I also can't pull my father off his bar stool or convince him that hunting happens outside of a truck.

As a western state resident, I am personally grateful for NR hunters. Our state budget never favors public land. It's tag sales that fund MTs conservation. Sales from out of staters that are willing to pay more for applications and preference points. Most (certainly not all) residents I know apply for one or two special permits, but for the main part they hunt general areas on general tags because we have the time to hunt them (we live here, thank God).

I appreciate a lot of your points in the OP. Some I see as generalizations, some I see as eye opening. I'd say the best thing you can do is ask as many peers as you know as often as you can if they'd like to join you in the woods. Show them what hunting is rather than waiting for someone else to tell them.
 

MTelkHuntress

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I think as well a lot of people that hunt more budget friendly and for meat, arent really big in self promotion (so perhaps new hunters dont see that aspect). They dont care about social media posts or writing articles. For me as a woman in hunting, I see instagram posts and articles that I personally just dont identify with but they are really popular.
In college, I was one of four people that were hunters in the whole school, I found that very odd.

I too get stuck in the rut of complaining about public land sometimes. You cant hunt what's not there, and as much as it is a pain to change up spots, it has to be done. I relied so long on family spots that I never learned what makes an area actually good and why. Now that I've had to, I can see new hunters not really wanting to put in the work. Hunting is a lot of work (and frustration), but its incredibly rewarding.

I would wonder as well if our society is just going through a shift in what's acceptable and what isnt. I'm terrified of applying for graduate school and being denied because I accidentally slip up and mention that I hunt. My advisor told me to delete all my hunting and fishing pictures, even the ones where I'm just hiking with a bow or gun or just wearing camo. It's almost kind of a shameful feeling.

I think you make some good points and reflection in your post though I dont 100% fully agree on some points. People definitely need to get off their screens and enjoy something that allows them to grow as a person rather than spend hours on their FOMO (fear of missing out) apps.
 
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Bigjay73

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I think that there is a disconnect among hunters in regards to a perceived population of hunters, vs a realistic number hunters. Every year it seems that hunting grounds get more and more crowded giving us the impression that there are more than enough people, sometimes seemingly too many people buying licenses. This makes us shy away from wanting to recruit new hunters, when that's what we actually need eed to be doing.
 
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JLS

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I don't personally spend a lot of money on hunting but if you turn on outdoor channel or go on Instagram they make it seem like you need the top of the line gear to even think about hunting and it discourages a lot of young people.
Meh, you could say this about any activity out there. You don't have to drop $4k on a mountain bike to get into trail riding. You don't have to drop $3k on skis and clothes to take up downhill. You don't have to drop $10k into a pickup to take it into the mountains. You don't need a $800 fly rod to learn to fly fish.

All that said, money is still money. I rarely downhill ski anymore because it costs me a shit load of money in lift tickets to take the family. Sometimes you have to prioritize where your money goes. It's not that I'm discouraged, it's just other things are higher priority. The guy who downhill skis all winter probably thinks I'm nuts for driving to rocky canyons to chase birds.
 
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Elk Bugler

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I think that there is a disconnect among hunters in regards to a perceived population of hunters, vs a realistic number hunters. Every year it seems that hunting grounds get more and more crowded giving us the impression that there are more than enough people, sometimes seemingly too many people buying licenses. This makes us shy away from wanting to recruit new hunters, when that's what we actu6need to be doing.
Interesting mind if I ask what state you're in? I talked to a 70 year old hunter about this a few months ago and he said that he used to go into the woods years ago and it was packed now there's nobody out there anymore. I could definitely see this as more of a reality in most Western States but less so in the Northeast and Midwest. And I do think that a lot of the cars we see in parking lots on public land during hunting season aren't hunters I think there's a lot of hikers and fisherman as well as those dreaded Geo-Cachers out there during the fall. I know in my area fishing is very popular and so is hunting but less so than fishing. And I'm not sure but I think Nationwide more people are buying fishing licenses than ever I could be wrong but I know this is the case in certain states.
 

mdhunter

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When I was young there was nothing more that I wanted to do than go hunting, fishing, water skiing, whatever. My and my buddies wanted to use a piece of equipment that burned gasoline and we were going to use it to get outside, explore, and have fun.

I have three kids now and they are just busier in different ways than I was. Travel sports all over, school sports that never end, social media to keep up with people they never see, etc etc etc. I am not saying it’s bad, life is just different.

Do they like to hunt and fish? Absolutely. The problem to me is how they try to be successful. They love me to take them and we have a great time. Why they don’t like is to put the time in (yes, both successfully and unsuccessfully) on their own.

When I was growing up someone told me that’s it’s not that hard to be a doctor and it’s a three step process...”listen, watch, do”. What a lot of young people seem to want is to skip to the “do” and not want the harder part that comes before. Someone said it earlier in this thread that instant gratification seems commonplace.

I try to not bitch and I am always looking to mentor. Times change and another person once told me “you know you are old when you say that you have no idea how these kids will make it.” Those tired lines have been said for many generations and those dang kids always seem to figure it out, lol.
 

np307

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Though I agree with most of the reasons you've stated, I find it laughable for you to call them the "real reasons" when the only thing you have to offer is your subjective opinion and experience. For what it's worth, I'm also in the under 30 yet adult-onset hunter demographic. By far the most common reasons that I have experienced for people not getting into hunting have been 1) unsure of where to go (land access issue) and 2) unsure of what to do (needing a mentor).

And also for what it's worth, hunting licenses here in NC have steadily been increasing (though the per capita number is decreasing).
 

Elk Bugler

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Though I agree with most of the reasons you've stated, I find it laughable for you to call them the "real reasons" when the only thing you have to offer is your subjective opinion and experience. For what it's worth, I'm also in the under 30 yet adult-onset hunter demographic. By far the most common reasons that I have experienced for people not getting into hunting have been 1) unsure of where to go (land access issue) and 2) unsure of what to do (needing a mentor).

And also for what it's worth, hunting licenses here in NC have steadily been increasing (though the per capita number is decreasing).
What I find laughable is you didn't bother reading the whole post before calling it laughable. This isn't entirely based off of "opinion and experience" it's based off of cold hard facts along with my own experience concerning said facts. Anyway if you don't think these are real reasons why hunting is declining... Well I'm not going to make a statement I'll regret so I'll say you're living under a rock. Also instead of calling something "laughable" I'd be more than happy to have a discussion with you on why you think these aren't real reasons but if you want to get into an argument I'm not going to argue. As I said in the post that I wish you would have read, hunting license sales numbers aren't declining in every single state just most of them if yours is in exception good for you, good for your state but that's not representative of hunting license sales nationally.
 
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Elk Bugler

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Is this some report you have to do for one of your college courses? ;)

Good read. Some valid points. I like how a few of us said we need to get off of our screens yet here we are lol.
Nah lol but it should be, wouldn't be surprised if this for gets copied and used in some essay somewhere haha. I just had a few minutes to write what was on my mind and if this posts gets one old timer to become a mentor and recruit one young person or co worker or whatever mission accomplished friend.
 

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