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Millennial generation can save hunting

In past columns, I have stated repeatedly there are not enough youth hunters to replace the senior hunters who are leaving this outdoor activity. In the United States, hunter participation dropped by 2.2 million or 16 % between 2011 to 2016, according to the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey.

Some hunting enthusiasts may look at this as good news because it could mean fewer people in, what they consider, their favorite hunting grounds. It also means less revenue being generated for fish and wildlife management through license sales, along with fewer voices in various levels of government who strongly support sport hunting.

It was just few years ago when a well known United States Senator recommended that the revenue being generated from the excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery supplies be used for the victims of gun violence who cannot afford to pay for their medical recovery costs. However, the money from the Pittman-Pittman-Robertson Act is only to be used for conservation and wildlife restoration.

The future of all sport hunting is at a crossroads. The millennial generation could be the people to save it because their numbers are more than 70 million.

Now is the time civic conservation organizations like the Izaak Walton League of America and the National Wild Turkey Federation to be doing volunteer work to educate this youngster generation (ages 20-30) about this noble sport.

Here in Randolph County, the chapter members of the two mentioned conservation groups have been doing, what I consider, more than their fair share to achieve this goal, but a lot more needs to be done at national, state and local levels. In the next few years, the number of individuals who go hunting will most likely decline.

The possibility of a rebound by the year 2025-2030 is there, particularly in the region of West Virginia.

When firearms make national news, it’s never because something good has happened. Here is one the many reasons why millennials get uncomfortable when being around guns for the first time. The same is true about sport hunting. While hunting, shooting accidents have been on a decline for the past 25 years. When it happens, it is most often big news.

It was in the early 1990s, when I talked with a lady, who had to be from a large metropolitan area, at the Izaak Walton League’s buckwheat cake and sausage breakfast during the Forest Festival. She told me and a few others that she thought our acreage and clubhouse were absolutely beautiful, but she did not like the way we supported sport hunting or what she called, “The murder of innocent wild animals.”

This lady was definitely an anti-hunter.

Here is where hunting mentors need to be involved with youth and young adults when it comes to promoting sport hunting. Teaching the basic fundamentals about firearms safety and sport hunting are essential when trying to achieve this goal. Try to emphasize to the possible future hunters, as a matter of hunting ethics, that it is not the kill that is really important, but the hunt itself and being in the great outdoors. When the hunter sees a wild animal that is legal game, the perfection of the shot is what’s really important.

Sport hunting helps connect growing children to the land and to nature itself. Seasoned hunters need to emphasize the value of our forests, streams, wildlife and open space.

When it comes to firearms safety, this is where adults must set a good example for novice and youth hunters to follow. They also need to have plenty of target-shooting opportunities before they take to the fields and forests for a big deer hunt. The more target shooting youth get, the more likely they will want to participate as hunters when they get to be adults.

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I am going to have to inform my readers that I will be taking another leave of absence from this outdoor column because I am scheduled for surgery in Morgantown next week. Just how long the leave will be entirely dependent on how well the surgery goes.

In the meantime, I would like to wish all area sportsmen and women a successful buck-deer gun season that comes in on Monday, Nov. 25, along with a happy Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Season.