HUNTING IN AMERICA - THE FUTURE OF HUNTING
In our previous articles on America’s time-honored hunting traditions, we discussed the history of hunting in America, the reasons why it is beneficial to society, and examined its popularity. 16 million individuals this year will hunt in some form or another, from adults in their golden years all the way down to children under the age of 16 who will be picking up a gun or a bow for the first time. That statistic alone is enough of a reason to tout the success hunting has enjoyed in our country, but there are plenty of other reasons why the future of hunting is bright. When you discuss the popularity of hunting, the first place to look to is the demographics. America is becoming a more diverse landscape. More Hispanics, today, are enjoying the great outdoors, with nearly 1% of America’s Hispanic population participating. African Americans have seen an increase in hunting popularity as well, with 3% of the African American population participating. America’s demographics are shifting, and that is represented clearly in hunting participation statistics. Women have taken a much stronger role, with participation increasing 10 percent from 2008 to 2012 alone. We’ve seen this promising rise in other fields such as agriculture, as well. Female hunters currently make up around 11-12% of the total hunting population, and that number is on the rise. These numbers challenge the perception of traditional gender roles in outdoor activities like hunting and only help to further increase the popularity of hunting among the young female demographic. Female representation in outdoor media has also contributed greatly to the cause, with role models such as Eva Shockey, Tiffany Lakosky, and Julie Kreuter recruiting teenage girls (the fastest growing segment of hunting), and groups such as Women’s Outdoor News and Women’s Outdoor Media Association that are working hard to promote female hunting in the media. An important side-note: Not only are women like these leading the way for the next generation of female hunters, but they are doing so in the face of scrutiny and some level of judgment based on old stereotypes that are fading with time. Many may not realize that female hunters (and children for that matter) are more often than men the recipients of demeaning, hateful comments from vocal animal rights activists about their outdoor activities. The relative anonymity of the internet provides these individuals an outlet for their ignorant attitudes about empowered women and children, but it’s worth pointing out in pursuit of an end to the harmful practice of verbally attacking those who are exercising their legal right to hunt. There are other factors at play when it comes to hunting’s future. Technological advances are streamlining hunting to make it more enjoyable than ever before. The ability to understand animal behavior and track patterns has become much easier over time as trail cameras have improved and information can be sent directly to a smart device from miles away. Gun and bow technology has made shooting easier than ever before. State-of-the-art optics for guns improve sight from long and short distances, traditional bows have become far more advanced, and crossbows are even allowed for hunting in half of the United States! [caption id="attachment_2731" align="aligncenter" width="300"] (Photo courtesy of Field and Stream)[/caption] And then there’s the more divisive technology. Drones are a widely debated topic, with countless number of uses in professional and civilian environments. Drones make scouting easier -- for better or worse, depending on your point of view -- and hunting is certainly included in that. Some states have already banned drones for hunting, but for others, the technology offers even greater animal tracking than that offered by trail cameras. Gun add-ons such as silencers and advanced aiming systems also represent potential game-changers for the 21st Century hunter. [caption id="attachment_2734" align="aligncenter" width="300"] (Photo courtesy of Field and Stream)[/caption] So what does this all mean for wildlife populations? A primary goal of hunting is to manage them at appropriate levels, not just for human safety and ecological balance, but also for long term success of wildlife species. Are our efforts working? The white-tailed deer population totals more than 32,000,000. Duck and waterfowl populations: 46,000,000. Elk: Over 1,000,000. Even turkeys, a staple of Thanksgiving meals, are over 7,000,000. All these numbers were significantly lower just 100 years ago and we expect that they will continue to thrive in the coming years. This can be attributed to appropriate hunting seasons, dedicated sportsmen and sportswomen, and a coordinated effort to ensure that future generations are allowed to experience and uphold the traditions we enjoy. We are extremely excited to see what’s in store in the next few decades. Hunting continues to evolve, yet the spirit of the hunt remains the same. Thank you for following our four part series on Hunting in America. Comment below and tell us what you thought! If we receive a solid response, we’ll gladly prepare future series on fishing, farming, and other segments of the Protect the Harvest community.