From the 02 June 2006 New York Outdoor News


By Bob Confer

The outdoor sports are facing an unknown future.

Hunting and fishing license sales are decreasing at an alarming rate and many analysts are fearful that the population of hunters will be half of what it is now by the year 2020. According to surveys conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the average hunter is now 42 years old and that average continues to rise.

These factors point to one thing: the sports are failing to recruitment new participants. Historically, the ranks of sportsmen were maintained by impressive numbers of youth and young adults who, following in their parents’ footsteps, became outdoorsmen themselves.

This is no longer the case. There are far too many diversions for today’s youth. With so many advances in technology, kids have become veritable shut-ins, scorning the outdoors and preferring to play video games, surf the Internet, use their cell phones, or watch the hundreds of channels available on cable or satellite TV. Youth have a disinterest in the outdoors because it does not fit into their pop culture.

But, all is not lost. By focusing on a variety of tactics mentioned here, you can still get your children to participate in outdoor activities and ultimately, become your best friend afield.



Cornell University recently introduced a study in which they had determined that in order to get people actively involved in the outdoors you have to get them involved early and often. Their findings have indicated parents most expose their children to a myriad of active outdoor pursuits before the age of 11.

This 11-year "deadline" is crucial based upon childhood development. If the teen years are reached without outdoor pursuits it will be too late as this is a time when the youth strive for acceptance amongst their peers. As teens they begin to become sponges for pop culture and then rabidly take to the earlier-mentioned electronic pursuits.

That being said, the elementary school age period is a perfect time in which to really hammer home the importance of outdoor activities. Take your child outdoors and make it active and fun. Cornell’s Nancy Wells, an environmental psychologist, says domestic pursuits like gardening and animal husbandry work to a point, but the greatest benefit of one day turning these kids into environmentally-aware outdoorspeople is garnered from wild activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing.

Make it fun and the kids will become addicted to the outdoors!



It is also true that today’s younger generations don’t take to outdoor sports based upon messages they receive in school or from media and entertainment. From an early age they are taught that guns are bad. Lessons learned in schools lean towards an "environmentally-conscious" approach, indicating all life is precious and implying hunting and fishing are evil. These kids are also bombarded with animal rights commercials and messages in the more liberal films and television of today which indicate the same.

As a parent you must open up discussions with your children to determine if this is what they have been taught or are led to believe. Educate them on the safety and history of firearms. Make it a point to debunk the animal rights myths. Explain what hunting and fishing mean to you.

A child’s education and belief system is just as dependent on you - if not more so – than it is upon schooling.



Traditionally, boys and girls alike gained an interest in the outdoors because of their fathers. Outdoor pursuits had been passed down from generation to generation…if a father hunted his son did as did his.

This domino effect has been strained in recent years because of the growing number of divorces and broken homes. The kids who are the victims of divorce have a limited exposure to the male element in their lives, living only part-time with their fathers. Thusly, time spent with the father is make-up time for that which was lost and the outdoors become an afterthought.

To correct this problem, it is important to get kids involved in outdoors organizations, specifically the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs. The Boy Scouts, being a male-dominated program, gives the boys the male guiding hand they may be lacking as well as constant involvement in outdoors activities, what with monthly campouts and annual summer camps. The Girl Scouts may be lacking the male factor but the GSA has become more active in camping and hiking in recent years, which is just what the girls need.

Not only do these groups expose kids to the outdoors, they also introduce them to like-minded peers who they may develop strong friendships with, giving him or her an added incentive and a companion for fishing, hiking, and hunting.



Youth take more to fishing than they do to hunting. This may be in direct relation to the early exposure concept assessed by Cornell. Adults are more apt to take kids fishing at an early age, because its "easier" and the kids can handle it.

These same adults may also be unsure about taking young kids along as hunting companions because of their inability to remain silent, thus scaring away wary deer or turkeys. So, unfortunately, the kids don’t get to see hunting in action till well into their teens when they can remain silent or carry a gun a field. By then, it may be too late.

To get a youngster indoctrinated in hunting, you as a hunter should take up game that does not require silence and allows movement. You could take a kid rabbit, grouse, or fox hunting. Such hunting is active, allows the kid to be noisy, and allows you to expose the kid to hunting (sans gun) as soon as he/she can handle walking in the woods. That early exposure is key to planting the seed for later interest.

All of these tactics, coupled with a greater focus on getting kids outdoors, will guarantee that you can turn your child into a hunter or fisherman. By carefully exposing youngsters to the same hobbies that you have, you will give them an interest bound to stay with them for the rest of their lives.