September 24, 2023

The Decline in Hunting Numbers

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This morning in the Maine Morning Sentinel, Ken Allen has an article sharing his thoughts on why the number of hunting license sales has trended downward over the past 36 years in Maine. He lists his five reasons as 1). The cost of hunting licenses, 2). The expense of hunter orange clothing, 3). Hunter safety course requirement, 4). Reduction in available hunting land, 5). Negative publicity toward hunting and hunters.

Now before you laugh at some or all of his reasons, you should do some research to better understand where he’s coming from. Go read his article. I must admit that at first I giggled a little bit at his idea that the cost of a hunting license would deter someone from hunting. Admittedly, I thoroughly understand about having the money to be able to afford a license. I have been in that situation many times before. I grew up in a rural Maine setting in an extremely poor family. Somehow, my Dad scraped together money for us 4 boys to get a license. The need was more a matter of survival back then – we needed deer meat to eat through the winter.

But Allen goes further than that and does a good job of explaining the present expenses incurred by parents with kids who want to hunt. Remember that the salvation of hunting requires the recruitment of young people to the sport.

If you had a couple of teenagers in your family that wanted to hunt, total up all the expenses necessary to get them prepared before they even hit the woods – guns, ammo, clothing, license, etc. And as Allen points out, what if the two want to muzzle loader hunt, turkey hunt, bear hunt, apply for a moose permit, archery hunt and participate in the expanded hunt? We’re talking the potential of some serious cash.

I ceased my giggling immediately.

Allen discusses the hunter orange clothing issue and by no means does he say that it isn’t necessary. As a matter of fact, he goes to great lengths to credit hundreds of lives being saved because of it. He does though add in the expense of having to have a cap and vest to hunt – even if it is bought at Wal-Mart! (you know. “Always the low price”)

The hunter safety course, required in Maine before anyone can obtain a hunting license, is a much discussed issue. There are varying opinions about it and whether it is even necessary. The article talks more about the difficulties of planning ahead than the effectiveness of the course itself.

Allen tells of his own experiences of dealing with the whims of a 16-year old. It was one of those last minute ideas that she wanted to go hunting but with no course taken, she couldn’t get a license. When the next opportunity rolled around, the teenager was on to other things – for that moment. If you have teenagers or raised them, you surely understand.

Pertaining to the hunter safety course, there have been tons of ideas bantied around about how to make it better, more effective, and done in a way that is less prohibitive toward the recruitment of young people. I believe that something needs to change but I am not loaded with an overabundance of ideas. I do like the idea of a mentor program that would allow kids to get into the woods and get started and then take the hunter satety course. Perhaps before they are old enough to hunt alone. We do allow kids to drive with a parent simply by successfully passing a written test – yikes!

An interesting topic that Allen talks about in his article is the comparison of fishing to hunting. He states that fishing is a more dangerous activity than hunting, citing the number of drownings and accidents from slippery rocks, hooks in the eyes, etc., yet there is no fishing safety course required for that. He wants to know why. I guess when you look at it from that perspective, I would like an answer myself.

The issue of accessibility to land needs little discussion. Simply take a lot around you. I get feedback daily from readers that list that as their number one complaint. Please don’t listen to those who keep up the mantra about there being more than enough land to hunt on. It’s bullpucky!!

Finally, Allen lists the negative publicity that goes with our activity. There could easily be a book written about it. Take for example the Baxter State Park land swap deal that has turned into a controversy. The negative comments and press that has been written directed at hunters is unbelievable and unfairly dumped upon us too I believe.

This is only one example. Multiply that by any and all events that involve hunting each year and you will always get undeserved badmouthing from a small few. Maine is not alone when it comes to negative publicity. As a matter of fact, Maine may receive less than a lot of states.

I have to agree with most all of what Allen has shared with his readers. When you add up each little aspect of what he details as the five reasons hunting numbers are on the decline, it totals many good reasons. I would say that it is time for a few changes if we are going to reverse the trend.

Tom Remington