No easy answer to recruiting more adult hunters
Agencies and conservation clubs interested in recruiting and retaining hunters have tried almost every conceivable method, from hunter education embedded in the shield of hunter safety, youth hunting seasons, learn-to-hunt opportunities, and admitting younger and younger people into the ranks.
These methods have met with some successes. But when adults became the target of recruitment, the graduates of those programs accept their diplomas, but not without saying, “Now what? I want a graduate degree. I want more training before I go solo.”
All of sudden there we notice adults who missed the learn-to-hunt stuff and who realize hunting, fishing and gathering may be their golden bullet to understanding food chains, knowing where their food comes from, and obtaining it in a direct way. Or maybe they, all of a sudden, are feeling the impact of a latent gene kicking in.
The buzz these days is to pollinate the system using extended mentors, hunters who will be a surrogate father, grandfather or mom and spend a year or two providing additional training.
Adults who believe they want to hunt are usually blessed, compared to most young folks, with money, transportation and time. No, they don’t necessary have a lot of any of these, but they have more than a high school sophomore has.
If extended mentoring is going to be successful at recruiting and retaining hunters, the mentors, and the agencies who help sponsor them, need to be honest with their subjects and with themselves.
Isn’t the real reason for recruitment of hunters so that society can continue populating the entire community with conservation-minded folks who can stand up to others who do not understand (and refuse to listen) that hunting requires a healthy environment, care of our water, air and land? It requires understanding and practicing Aldo Leopold’s land ethic.
If not, we all may as well just continue to buy our food in a grocery store or kill something during a “canned hunt” for as long as our Earth can accommodate that attitude.
Mentors should continue to stress safety, scouting, and communicating with landowners. They should also sit on a stump and talk about planting a tree, controlling an invasive organism, maintaining ecological balance of all wildlife, as well as the protected plant and animal populations.