Friday, November 08, 2019

New generation of hunters includes urban foodies, women, and younger adults seeking free-range, organic meat

Hunting and fishing licenses fund conservation and wildlife programs and keep wildlife populations manageable, but the number of hunters has fallen sharply over the past few decades, so state officials have been trying to recruit new hunters who don't fit in the usual demographic of older white males.

"U.S. hunters have dwindled from nearly 17 million in 1980 to just more than 11 million in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ninety percent of hunters are male, 97% are white and most are 45 and older — leading to steeper losses as more participants age out and the country diversifies," Alex Brown reports for Stateline. "States have begun targeting new groups to fill the ranks of hunters: foodies, city-dwellers, young adults and women. Rather than counting on family heritage and cultural ties to carry the hunting message, they’re preaching the gospel of ethically sourced food, healthy protein and respect for wildlife."

The need for new hunters is great: nearly 60 percent of state wildlife conservation and wildlife programs comes from hunting and fishing revenue. The decline in such revenues has forced some states to freeze hiring and/or cancel some programs, Brown reports. Wildlife officials acknowledge that recruiting new hunters can be difficult. The equipment and licensing can be expensive, land access is often challenging, and sometimes cultural stereotypes make would-be hunters feel as if they wouldn't fit in around other hunters.

Some hunting advocates note that some minorities have strong hunting traditions, such as African Americans in the rural South and Hispanics in the Southwest. Camilla Simon, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s group Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors, told Brown that hunting culture must be more inclusive of newcomers. "If you want more hunters, make it more welcoming," Simon told Brown. "Is this about the activity and shared common values, or am I going to have to pass some political test to be an authentic hunter? I think that is in question."

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