by Leon Archer
For years, the number of American hunters was very noticeably declining as fewer people joined the ranks than were dropping out or dying.
Hunters, far from relishing the fact that there were fewer hunters competing with them in the woods, were almost frantically searching for avenues to introduce non-hunters to the sport they loved so much.
Hunters, as well as fishermen and trappers, had been under assault for decades by national organizations such as PETA and HSUS, and it was beginning to look like the tide might be turning against the sportsmen.
At first, those individuals and organizations that were trying to stem the tide were myoptic, looking only for strategies that would draw young men into the pursuits they cherished and promoted.
It was known and could be demonstrated that the younger a boy could be introduced to hunting and other outdoor sports, the more likely they were to continue on with them into later life.
Fathers and sons formed stronger bonds through fishing and hunting than they did through team sports or video games.
At first, the efforts to bolster the hunting fraternity were well intentioned, but lacked the all-encompassing vision that would be necessary to attain their goal. The rate of decline slowed, but the overall trend continued.
Men were encouraged to take a youngster hunting and to reach out to older non-hunters.
In New York State, sportsmen’s groups advocated and lobbied for lowering the age that youngsters could begin hunting, and following way too many frustrating years of unreasonable legislative resistance or just plain inertia, the age was lowered two years to 12 for small game and 14 for big game.
It really wasn’t low enough; New York still has one of the most restrictive youth hunter age requirements of all 50 states, but something was better than nothing.
The result was that more younger hunters came into the sport and stayed with it than had been the case before.