Recently, we announced new Families Afield numbers that show more than three-quarters of a million apprentice hunting licenses have been sold across the country over the past six years.
I was feeling mighty proud. As USSA’s point person on Families Afield I spend a significant amount time thinking about getting new hunters involved in our sport and working with state legislators to make that happen. After going home that day feeling good about the success we’ve had and the new hunters we’ve created… I was met by the cold reality that I had missed the trees for the forest. In this case, the tree is my longtime girlfriend.
Out of the blue she tells me she wants to shoot a turkey. Now, she’s been shooting with me before on a few occasions and has genuinely enjoyed herself. (She’s not a bad shot either!) But she had never expressed any interest in hunting…actually killing something. And I’d never asked her to go.
For her it was simple – she, like many, was simply too shy to ask. But that was not her fault. It was mine. I never even thought of asking her. Not even once. The whole experience got me thinking about why we sometimes miss the easy target?
What is it that holds us back – consciously or subconsciously – from taking someone hunting?
I began to talk with colleagues in the office. Here are the top three reasons from our conversations for why we don’t take new people hunting:
1) Not Feeling Competent Enough: Many people simply don’t feel they are a good enough hunter to teach someone the ins-and-outs of hunting. It may be fear of a slow day in the woods. Or pressure to produce a quality hunt. In reality it’s about spending time with friends or loved ones. Most new hunters will see past the rough patches and appreciate the time and effort you gave. We shouldn’t worry about making it the perfect hunt (everyone gets shutout some days, right?). Plus, a bad day hunting is always better than a day in the office, so enjoy the time spent in the woods passing on your skills. Chances are they will enjoy it too.
2) Time Commitment: Let’s call a spade, a spade – this is a selfish reason and one that I fully understand and struggle with. Taking someone hunting requires a significant amount of time. For most people, hunting occurs on the weekend, which reduces a 4-week season to just a handful of huntable days. Taking a newcomer hunting cuts our own opportunity to fill a tag. There is no doubt – mentoring is a big commitment. Just remember, someone else took the time and effort to teach us and if we want hunting to be around for our kids and grandkids we have a duty to do the same for someone else. On top of that, watching someone fall in love with hunting is fulfilling.
3) Making Assumptions/Overlooking: I am guilty as charged here. My mistake was assuming that she didn’t have an interest. I don’t know why I never asked. But learn from my mistake – just because someone doesn’t ask doesn’t mean that they are uninterested. They may just be too shy to ask you.
So after a quick shopping trip… some fancy new camo (with pink trim of course)… and an Apprentice Hunting license she’s all set to hit the turkey woods. She may never become a full time hunter. She may never take Hunter Education. She might not have the patience to sit in the turkey woods or a duck blind. But then again she might do all of those things. At least now she will have the chance.
Being too shy to ask shouldn’t condemn someone to being left at home. Recruiting new hunters is more than stats and programs. New hunters are right under our noses and they are made one hunting trip at a time. They can be our friends, our family, or co-workers. These people are the future of hunting, and it’s our duty to find them… just as someone found us. It’s our duty to Protect What’s Right.
What holds you back from taking someone hunting?