Things ain’t like they used to be, forgive my grammar. I would say if you are over 40 years old it is much more likely you automatically took to hunting and fishing as a kid than kids do now. Since 1991 the percentage of the population in America that hunts has declined from 7.3 to 4.4.
Many reasons are given for this — there are fewer dads at home to take a kid hunting, a growing shortage of places to hunt, sports and other activities which take up leisure time, smart phones, computer games, the internet and who knows what. Regardless of the reasons the fact remains there are less boots on the ground in hunting season than in the past.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service routinely publishes a survey on hunting, fishing, and wildlife-associated recreation. The numbers from the last survey (2016) show angler numbers may have risen a little but hunter numbers are still going the wrong way, down. We have talked about this before, and I’m sure we will again, so how do we address one of the three R’s of dealing with hunter numbers — Recruitment (the other two are Retention and Reactivation of hunters)?
Young people and adults need a positive, fun, and educational first experience in introducing them into the world of hunting, recreational shooting, wildlife conservation and game management. They also need to hear (some of us as hunters need to be reminded) that hunters have always been the ones to pay the bills for all things wildlife conservation oriented.
Since 1937 hunters have paid over $14 billion in excise taxes levied on guns, ammo, and many other types of gear related to hunting. These funds are filtered to the states for a wide variety of wildlife conservation projects. Remember that these projects benefit all wildlife, not just the game animals we wish to hunt. Song birds and nongame animals from turtles to snowy egrets all enjoy the benefit of these programs.
I am happy to say that the Boy Scouts of America have taken on a new imitative which addresses the hunter number problem. The Summit Bechtel Reserve and Boy Scouts of America are excited to announce the launch of their new National Hunters Education program. This new program is a mix of hunter’s education, shooting skill development, firearm safety and wildlife management/conservation. The mission of the program is to directly impact the hunting/outdoor industry by introducing this exciting sport to thousands of new youth each year.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for Summit Bechtel Reserve, the Boy Scouts of America, and the hunting/outdoor industries. As we grow, we are poised to teach more youth the safe, ethical, and moral outdoor responsibilities than any other organization in the country,” said Ryan King, BSA Shooting Sports Program manager. “We’re incredibly thankful for our friends at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for assisting with the instructor training program, and we’re excited to partner with others in the outdoor industry that recognizes the importance of youth in hunting.”
Chris Perkins, the Hunters Education Program manager at SBR, said, “We ultimately want to see more youth in the woods and are fully prepared to give them their first exposure through our education program.” Perkins estimates that over 3,000 youth will complete the course in its first operational year.
As I have said many times before, any time we can get a young person (or an adult) with a shotgun or .22 rifle in their hands and teach them the safe, responsible, and ethical manner of shooting and handling them, it is a good thing. This program initiated by the Boy Scouts will do just that with the added bonus of educating about wildlife conservation and management. It’s a home run!
The Summit Bechtel Reserve is the site host for the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, which will host over 45,000 participants from 120 different countries. How many of that number will go through the National Hunters Education Program? I don’t know, but I bet it will be a lot.
Things ain’t like they used to be, but with programs like this from the Boy Scouts, we are headed in the right direction. More information and other inquiries can be directed to Ryan.King@scouting.org.