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Three facts are critical to hunting’s future: the number of hunters is declining, the excise dollars collected from hunters are declining and the commitment to hunting by young hunters is fragile. To stop and reverse these undesirable trends, and to nurture long-term hunters, hunting must be experienced, certainly initially, as desirable.


Last hunting season I cooked some pheasant following a classic French recipe for chicken. The key component was the sauce. With lots of ingredients, the preparation time took hours and then three hours more in the oven. The sauce was fantastic!

I have been thinking about that sauce as I write and lecture about 3R and youth hunting programs.  I’ve asked dozens of young hunters why they like to hunt. Without exception, the most frequently stated reason for their attraction is that hunting is fun. Fun—a simple word but a complex concept. When people use words, I want to know precisely what they mean. I’ve gently asked young hunters, “Why is ‘fun’ fun?

That question caused the pheasant sauce to pop into my mind. Most notable about the fabulous sauce —and this is the important point —was that the flavors of any specific ingredient—the shallots or garlic or peppercorns or even the wine, could not be isolated. The flavors from each ingredient had harmonized perfectly into something greater than the parts. The pheasant sauce is an applicable metaphor for ‘fun’ in hunting. As with the sauce, hunting ‘fun’ is the consequence, the cooking, of distinctly different but identifiable ingredients methodically orchestrated. This is important, because if we don’t make hunting fun for young hunters, to be blunt, hunting will not survive.

Here are four tips to make hunting fun:

Don’t Make Initial Hunting Experiences Unreasonably Mentally or Physically Demanding.
Three facts are critical to hunting’s future: the number of hunters is declining, the excise dollars collected from hunters are declining and the commitment to hunting by young hunters is fragile. To stop and reverse these undesirable trends, and to nurture long-term hunters, hunting must be experienced, certainly initially, as desirable.
We have to treat young hunters as customers and be obsessed with learning what they want and what they do not want. Young hunters in confining tree stands for hours, in inclement weather, without seeing game animals, are likely to be unhappily frustrated. A proper fitting firearm without punishing recoil is critical, as is proper food and clothing.

Show that Hunting Is A Worthy Competitor For The New Hunter’s Time.
It’s difficult to get youngsters into the fields and woods. Lots of attractions compete for their time I met then twelve-year-old Luke Schreiner at a charity pheasant hunt sponsored by the marvelous Outdoor Buddies Organization. He explained his love for hunting. Among his reasons was the value gained by choosing to spend his time hunting.  Luke said: “Most of my friends are still sleeping or playing on their computers when I’m outdoors hunting having a good time.”

A persuasive way to show youngsters that hunting is worth their time is to give examples of how hunting is in harmony with their existing values. They want to be challenged; they want to achieve something unique. Luke told me: "If you wait and get your animal, it’s fun and gratifying, because you bring something to the table.” Hunting can be a source of pride, as when you make an ethical shot and the animal does not suffer.

Emphasize The Experience More Than The Animal.“It’s okay if you don’t get an animal,” young hunters tell me. Fun in hunting is not dependent upon the kill. There may be disappointment, of course, for the animal is the point of hunting. Sometimes the most ethical shot is the shot not taken and no animal is wounded. That is a triumph of character that will be remembered a lifetime.

Show the Big Picture: Link Hunting to its Virtuous Cause .
Last but most important, hunting is about more than hunting. Share the contributions hunters have made to conservation: the resurgence of deer, elk, turkey, bison, waterfowl.  Hunting is a noble pursuit. Hunting can encourage complex thinking about the big picture, as illustrated by Luke’s grappling with the hunter’s role in conservation. “I know I am taking a life, but I now understand that Nature is not so simple.” Hunting, he realized, is part of a larger process and he is part of it.

We must become expert at human management. Creating fun, I argue, is one part of human management. Being strong, confident, competent and doing a virtuous activity is fun!!



About the Author: Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, author and consultant in Denver, Colorado. His email is michael@thehonorablehunter.com  See his book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. On Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu and and through Kindle as an EBook.

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