Youth hunters a bright spot amid downturn

Youth hunters a bright spot amid downturn

NEWTOWN, Conn. - America's oldest outdoor tradition may be growing younger.

New data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that young people represent ever-larger portions of America's ebbing hunting population. The ratio of hunters age 6-15 has grown nearly 4 percent since 2001.

Percentage of Youths Age 6-15 Among Total Participants

  Hunters Anglers Wildlife Watchers
2001 10.9% 23.0% 16.0%
2006 11.3% 21.7% 14.4%
Percent Change +3.7% -5.6% -10.0%

Of the three outdoor activities tracked by the federal conservation agency, only hunting showed an increase in the percentage of youth participation. The ratio of young anglers fell more than 5 percent while young wildlife watchers showed the largest decline at 10 percent.

The statistics are part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The survey shows that hunters age 16 and over slipped more than 3 percent to 12.5 million since the previous survey in 2001, while hunters age 6-15 held steady at 1.6 million.


The shooting, hunting and firearm industry's nonprofit trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), attributes the youth stability to several factors.


"These new data suggest that hunter attrition between 2001 and 2006 centered on aging hunters. Participation among youngsters hasn't wavered, which makes them a larger subset within the total. That's welcome news because hunters have long emphasized the recruitment of youth as critical to the future of hunting and conservation," said Chris Dolnack, senior vice president of NSSF.


Dolnack added that some of the most innovative and promising youth-hunting initiatives, such as Families Afield, are only beginning to bear fruit.

Families Afield, launched in 2004 by NSSF, National Wild Turkey Federation and U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, urges states to eliminate unnecessary hunting age restrictions and ease hunter education mandates for first-time hunters.

Twelve states have changed laws and regulations to enhance future hunting opportunities for youths and their families. Half of those states are already reporting a significant climb in new hunters. Data from Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Ohio reveal that apprentice hunting license programs brought nearly 34,000 new hunters to the field (without a single hunting-related shooting incident) in just two years.


Families Afield states include:

  • Florida: Created a supervised hunting program that permits a newcomer to hunt with a mentor for one year before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Illinois: Created an apprentice-hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers age 10 and higher hunting for one year before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Kansas: Permits newcomers under 16 to hunt with a mentor before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Kentucky: Created a one-year non-renewable exemption from hunter education classes for novices hunting under the supervision of a qualified mentor. Also raised from 10 to 12 the age at which a youth must take a hunter education class prior to hunting.
  • Louisiana: Created an apprentice-hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers age 16 and higher hunting for one year before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Michigan: Lowered the minimum hunting age for small game from 12 to 10, and for big game from 14 to 12. Also created an apprentice hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers age 10 and higher hunting before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Minnesota: Permits new turkey hunters to hunt with a mentor before completing a hunter education course.
  • Mississippi: Created an apprentice-hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers hunting at any age for one year before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Ohio: Created an apprentice-hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers hunting for no more than three years at any age before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Pennsylvania: Created a mentoring license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers hunting at any age for deer, turkey and groundhogs before completion of a hunter education course.
  • Tennessee: Created a program that exempts newcomers age 10 and higher from hunter education requirements for one year.
  • Utah: Eliminated the age minimum for small game hunting.

Recommended for You

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it. Fishing How-To

Why You'll Lose Your Next Big Bass

Larry Larsen

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it.

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications. News

Game & Fish Magazine Names New Editorial Director

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

Mustad

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Memorial Day Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

OutdoorChannel.com Staff

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these...

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

See More Stories

More Stories

Calling all coyotes:'These predators are efficient, so finding and calling them to the gun can Stories

Predator Hunting: 3 Ways to Find Elusive Coyotes

Brad Fitzpatrick - June 26, 2018

Calling all coyotes:'These predators are efficient, so finding and calling them to the gun can

Predator hunters living in more open areas are in a unique position to enjoy coyote hunting at its Stories

Guns & Loads for Long-Range Coyote Hunting

Stephen D. Carpenteri - December 13, 2015

Predator hunters living in more open areas are in a unique position to enjoy coyote hunting at...

We Coyote hunters spend a lot of time ringing the dog's dinner bell when we call. But we are Stories

Call Our Complex Coyotes

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 13, 2017

We Coyote hunters spend a lot of time ringing the dog's dinner bell when we call. But we are

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×