Four Fun Tips To Insure Hunting’s Future
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 were emphasized at the recent 3R Symposium in Lincoln, Nebraska sponsored by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports and the National Shooting Sports Foundation: 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.
Chris Willard, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife R3 Coordinator said the hunting industry should be “customer obsessed.” Considering young hunters as our customers, that includes identifying and cultivating their desires, aspirations and dreams and to overcome hunting’s obstacles. Understanding our ‘customer’ is the top priority. Young hunters in confining tree stands for hours, in inclement weather, without seeing game animals, are likely to be unhappily frustrated. Hunt organizers should supply a firearm with which the youngster has practiced, that fits and is without punishing recoil or a bow that can be competently drawn. Good food, plenty of fluids, proper layered clothing and a realistic assessment of getting an animal are vital ingredients of the hunter’s ‘sauce’ that leads to fun.
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. If the adult hunter focuses on fun rather than trying to persuade the youngster to become a hunter, success will be more likely. 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 J Rainold, a ten-year-old hunter made a powerful but sad statement: “A lot of kids don’t do anything that’s fun.” Their words reminded me of a graphic—a posting—showing six or so youngsters in front of a house, each totally engaged on a cell phone, none interacting with each other. The caption was: Children Playing Outdoors.
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.
Comparing benefits from competing uses of time is a productive way to get youngsters to choose hunting. What are the achievements gained from lying on a couch much of the day sharing comments on Facebook or Twitter or whatever or playing video games? Nature’s beauty is not experienced; emotional and mental rewards from vigorous activity are not experienced. The end of the day seems rather similar to the beginning, with nothing accomplished and lacking any deep joy. Not so with hunting, where values are shared, the mind is sharpened and conservation is achieved.
Emphasize The Experience More Than The Animal
”It’s okay if you don’t get an animal.” A J told me. Every young hunter I’ve spoken to made it clear that fun in hunting is not dependent upon the kill. There may be disappointment, of course, for the animal is the point of hunting. But hunting, like Shrek, the Ogre, is multi-layered. Hunting is aligned with ethics and self-discipline. A J said to me, “I don’t want the animal to suffer. I know I have to make a good shot. That’s my responsibility.” 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.
Here’s an analogy to sales. Rather than focusing on the sale, every good sales person focuses its audience on experiences and the mental and emotional connections with the product.
Substituting the harvested animal for the sale, these strategies are applicable to cultivating young hunters. Connections, emotional and cerebral, drive loyalty, and hunting is drenched in honorable connections: the land; to beauty and to conservation.
Show the Big Picture: Link Hunting to its Virtuous Cause
Last but most important, hunting is about more than hunting. The adult doesn’t have to lecture or pontificate on the details of the Pittman-Robertson Act. Simply share that 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.
Just being in the field helps the larger cause, for every bullet purchased contributes to conservation. Hunting advances treasured values and the end of hunting will cause the demise of those values. We all acknowledge the value of wildlife management, but, as Mark Duda said at the Symposium, “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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.