Dark Cloud On The Horizon: Is Hunting And Fishing Doomed?
By Mike Lambeth
Recently I read some statistics that were quite alarming to me concerning the number of children aged 6 to 15 getting involved in hunting and fishing. The findings were grim at best. The hunting and fishing traditions that we have enjoyed as a free society are now in real jeopardy. In an effort to due diligence, I did some research on my own, and let me tell you, I shudder when I ponder my findings.
In a nutshell, the survey found some interesting statistics on children aged 6 to 15 years old:
- One study found that rural kids, rather than urban, are more apt to take up fishing than hunting.
- A national news program said that most kids could easily identify the characters in a Pokemon game, but most could not identify the wildlife species in their areas.
- An alarming trend is that the numbers of kids being recruited in the outdoor sports has declined significantly from 10 years ago.
Isn’t too encouraging, huh? I hope this article serves as a sound a wake up call to all who carry the banner for our outdoor hunting and fishing traditions.
Not to wax political, but this upcoming election is one of the most vital elections of our times. Two ideals are represented, one of them is so environmentally centered that it views hunting and fishing as a threat to our outdoor ecosystems. Don’t misunderstand my intentions; I believe as responsible wildlife managers we have a God given responsibility to be good stewards of our environment. One of the biggest tools to increase species numbers, if not the biggest, is controlled hunting.
One political party has an agenda to take away guns, and is quick to support most anti-hunting legislation. This party is funded by the Hollywood elite, as well as many left-wing animal rights activist’s groups. Sportsmen and women must stand up and vote for their freedoms. Remember the famous saying, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.”
Recently, while speaking at a National Shooting Sports Foundation Summit, Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate, stressed the importance of hunting and fishing to our economy. In his speech, Gov. Huckabee stressed the importance of the upcoming presidential election and the future of hunting, noting that hunting contributes greatly to a growing economy, a healthy environment, strong ethics, and a lasting hunting heritage passed on to future generations.
“Sportsmen contribute $30 billion dollars annually to the U.S. economy,” said Huckabee. “There are 986,000 jobs linked to America’s hunters and shooters.”
Huckabee said hunters and anglers are the real environmentalists, due to the fact that they contribute $3 million a day for conservation efforts. “It’s not the people who hug the trees, it’s the people who hide behind the trees and wait for something to come out, they’re the real conservationists,” he noted.
Huckabee concluded his thought-provoking speech by charging the audience with the responsibility of getting more youth involved in the hunting and shooting sports. He said doing so would help foster a strong sense of ethics and responsibilities. “It is important to pass on our hunting and shooting traditions to future generations,” he concluded.
When I was younger, a prevalent saying aimed at recruiting kids to our outdoor sports was, “Hunt with your kids today, so you don’t have to hunt for them tomorrow.” The saying stressed the importance of giving kids healthy outdoor hobbies that keep them from the mischief associated with an idle mind.
So what factors influence the decline of adolescent recruitment to our outdoor traditions? One of the biggest factors is the breakdown of the family unit. The number of single parent homes is occurring at an epidemic rate. These single moms are now left with the task of providing for their households, with some working two jobs in an effort to survive. The task of getting their children involved in the outdoors is daunting. Most would love to introduce their kids to hunting and fishing, but lack the experience or the resources to do so.
Well do I have some good news for you: There are a host of organizations that are available to help foster our hunting, fishing and shooting sports. Most are free of charge and provide their pupils with the tools necessary to learn.
NWTF J.A.K.E.S. & EXTREME J.A.K.E.S. PROGRAMS
The National Wild Turkey Federation implemented an excellent program years ago, in an effort to get more youth involved in the outdoors. J.A.K.E.S., an acronym for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship, is a wildlife program that strives to make hunting, fishing, and just being outdoors, a family-centered adventure.
The program is implemented locally through NWTF chapters in each state, and geared to reach children up to age 12. Local chapters host events with activities ranging from fishing, wildlife identification, turkey calling, shooting BB guns, and a myriad of other fun outdoor activities.
This past spring, Shane Berry’s NWTF chapter in Grove, OK hosted one of the largest J.A.K.E.S. events ever, attracting nearly 400 kids. After a day of fun and games, many children were introduced to the outdoors for the first times.
Recently, the NWTF has started Extreme J.AK.E.S., geared towards reaching kids 13 to 17 years of age. This new program endeavors to foster interest in natural resource conservation in their own communities. In addition, qualified participants can earn scholarships to help with their education. For more information about J.A.K.E.S. or Extreme J.A.K.E.S. contact the National Wild Turkey Federation, 1-800-THE- NWTF.
DUCKS UNLIMITED GREENWINGS PROGRAM
Ducks Unlimited’s Greenwings program is an outstanding program geared to reach youngsters and get them involved in wetlands management. With over 60,000 Greenwing members nationwide, DU’s local chapters in every state hold youth events in which youngsters are taught the fundamentals of shooting and conservation.
For more information on Ducks Unlimited’s youth programs contact them at 1-800-45DUCKS.
NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION
Always at the forefront of hunters and gun owner’s rights is the NRA. Boasting a membership numbering of over 4.3 million, the NRA is one of the most vital advocates today protecting gun owner’s rights.
The NRA also has a myriad of youth programs too numerous to mention, and camps geared to get youth of all ages involved in the shooting sports. There are events taking place near you. For more information, contact the NRA at 1-800-672-3888.
STEP OUTSIDE is a popular program implemented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and strives to help people of all ages get started in hunting, shooting, fishing and archery. Since it began in 1997, the program has reached over a half-million newcomers.
According to Melissa Schilling, STEP OUTSIDE’s national coordinator, “That’s not only 500,000 people who spent a day learning about hunting, shooting, fishing, and archery, that’s potentially a half-million new lifelong participants in these activities.”
To learn more about STEP OUTSIDE contact them at (203) 426-1320.
For parents wanting to get their children involved in fishing, there are a plethora of resources available. Take Me Fishing (703) 519-0013 is a fine organization that introduces people to the sport of fishing.
Another option is to contact your local wildlife department, as most host free fishing clinics geared towards educating youth and first-timers on the virtues of fishing. Several bass clubs are also proactive hosting children’s fishing events in most states, as well.
According to public relations spokesman Gary Dollahon, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s tackle giant Zebco has a complete line of fishing tackle geared towards making fishing fun for kids. For more information contact them at 1-800-444-5581.
Getting kids involved in the outdoors allows them to embark on a lifelong adventure. Those freckle-faced youngsters now spending a large amount of time being entertained by violent video games are the future of our hunting and fishing industry. They will be the caretakers of our outdoors legacy, provided we become proactive and help teach them. We have a serious challenge before us: To educate our youth on our outdoor hunting and fishing traditions.
NSSF President Doug Painter said it best and painted a bright future, “We are seeing an increase in 40 percent of the states in shooting and target sports participation. The NSSF is delivering on their commitment to create more opportunities and to remove barriers to enhance new and added participation.”
With the combined efforts of companies, agencies, organizations, and each one of us doing our parts, the future is looking much brighter for kids wanting to be involved in the outdoors!