As Pogo, the legendary comic strip character, once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Let me explain. Despite it coming from a comic strip character living in Okefenokee Swamp the saying holds a lot of truth. There are few issues that demonstrate this more than the question of why aren’t young people taking a part in hunting? As the sale of hunting licenses take a downward plunge, we who hunt try various solutions to this spiral, such as special hunts for juniors and looking to legalize Sunday hunting. People tend to blame video games and technology that keep the younger person glued to a television or computer for hours on end. Who or what is really to blame? Or better yet, who has the answers?
I believe that if a count was taken in most classrooms, then we would find more of an interest in hunting – and I must include fishing – than most people would believe but that interest lies dormant. Many struggle to find a solution but seldom do we look at some of the real blame by looking inward.
First of all, there is the older generation that encourages the television, phone and computer. We tend to do that to keep the young from bothering us. It takes something more than just words to get the young to understand just what the rewards will be like from taking part in outdoor activities. After all, it can become very boring when standing for hours on a deer stand. As the hours go by without the sight of a deer, the cold sneaks in and one can only watch squirrels for so long. I emphasize deer hunting for that is what I hunt, and we have basically lost the hunting of grouse and wild pheasants.
Secondly, maybe that lack of small game, such as grouse and pheasant, is part of the reason for the decline. You teach a youngster to fish by taking them bluegill fishing not fishing for muskie. The latter will only lead to boredom.
Perhaps it is time to figure out why the problem happened so we can start to fix it. Perhaps it is time to be open and public about what happened a long time ago to the pheasant, and more recently our state bird, the Ruffled Grouse. How many years has it been since you have flushed either one? Remember, I said a truly wild one. When I was young, we took our .22 rifle and looked for groundhogs too. Now, even the groundhog numbers have dropped significantly. They are so tasty and provide many a meal for the coyote population. Proof of this lies in the fact the groundhog numbers are still normal near farm buildings but low in the pastures. Perhaps we would be better off looking for a solution along those lines to lure in the young with special hunts. Or maybe a combination of more small game so it would be interesting.
Much of the problem lies at the feet of development in the areas where people hunted small game. Places where I used to hunt are now covered with shopping centers or houses. To hunt, one needs a place to hunt. It’s that simple. Habitat for wild animals is a necessity. Of course, there are the state game lands. But most large game lands are miles away. The days of coming home from school and grabbing the Iver Johnson and heading outside hunting are history for kids. This is a sad but true fact of today’s society that can’t be changed. But we also need something to hunt and somewhere to hunt.
Next, it would be helpful if the field officers showed a little more understanding when finding a young hunter performing a minor offense. Correcting him or her in a friendly manner rather than giving the youngster a tongue lashing and a fine would be a start.
Lastly, I believe the parent must do his or her part and encourage the young hunter even if they must give up a few hours of their time, which is precious these days. Grandparents need to take a part to ensure the grandchildren are involved instead of always going out with our friends. All too often we worry about our own hunting success and leave the young hunter out. In that case, Pogo was right when he said the enemy is us.