How to introduce someone to bowhunting
The world is a different place than it was 30 years ago. People are losing their connection to wild places and things.
The number of hunters across the U.S. has been on a steady, downward spiral, while urbanization is growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 census, 81 percent of U.S. citizens live in urban areas. That’s up from about 75 percent in 1990.
In 1970, there were about 40 million licensed hunters in the U.S. Last year, there were about 17 million.
A 2010 article by the Associated Press quoted Mark Duda, executive director of the natural resources research group Responsive Management, as saying, “Fifty years ago, a lot of kids would hunt and fish and be outside. Now it’s easier to sit in your playroom and play video games.”
For those who remain in the hunting game, though, the fire still burns. And that can be contagious to others who don’t hunt. Also, as more information is learned – and concerns grow – about the quality of meat produced by factory farms, there is an increasing interest in wild game.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2011 famously announced that in the name of healthy living, for one year he would only eat meat from animals he killed.
Historically, the path to becoming a hunter is laid by family. Young hunters are taught by older members of their family about being safe and about the habits and habitats of wild animals.
What’s happening today as the number of hunters drops, however, is hunting is skipping generations. Some people are developing an interest in hunting, but they have no family to turn to for guidance. And so they turn to hunting friends. Those friends are then faced with the question, “How do I help someone become a hunter?”
And specific to our mission here at Lancaster Archery Supply, “How do I help someone become a bowhunter?”
Coren Jagnow, the human dimensions specialist with the PA Game Commission, has a simple answer.
“Take them with you,” she said.
When you go out scouting, hanging stands, checking trail cameras, hunting, tracking shot game, etc. - take the prospective hunter along.
“Let them see and experience everything that’s involved,” she said.
Take them to the practice range when you go shooting. Maybe let them start out by shooting your equipment or a friend’s – something that is at least close to fitting their size and abilities.
Introducing someone to archery hunting is a bit more involved than gun hunting. Simply put, it takes more time and practice to become proficient with archery equipment than it does shooting firearms. So that’s going to mean more instruction time on your part bringing your novice hunter along.
Taking novice bowhunters to 3-D shoots at your local sportsmen’s club is an excellent way to simulate the act of shooting a bow and arrow at game.
Essentially, Jagnow said, train these people the same way you’d train a kid in the family.
Wildlife agency officials are seeing that the traditional route for people to become licensed hunters – take a hunter-safety training course and then buy a license – can be viewed as a roadblock.
A person might be thinking about taking up hunting, but they don’t want to go through the hunter-education process or buy a license, to find out if it’s a good fit for them.
That’s why many states, including South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Oregon, are creating mentoring programs. Pennsylvania has mentor programs for both kids and adults.
The mentor programs allow prospective, unlicensed hunters to go out hunting under the guidance of licensed hunters.
“The mentor program gives them the chance to see what hunting is like, without having to go through the formal licensing process,” said Travis Lau, the PA Game Commission’s spokesman.
Check with your local state wildlife agency to find out if it offers a mentored-hunting program. If it doesn’t, you can still take someone along with you to experience every aspect of the hunt, except for actually taking the shot.
Start out with small game, Lau suggested. Squirrels, rabbits, grouse and other small game are plentiful, and pursuing them usually is an active adventure that keeps you moving.
Spending all day sitting in a tree stand waiting for deer potentially could turn off a prospective hunter.
“You don’t want them to start out thinking hunting is boring,” Lau said.
Keep the initial hunts relatively short. It takes a while to develop the drive to stay out all day hunting – especially in cold or foul weather. When your mentee shows signs of boredom, call it quits.
Contact your local chapter of organizations such as National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, etc. These groups often have structured mentored programs in place that can help you help your prospective hunter.
If your novice is old enough, direct them to resources such as Archery360.com, Bowhunting.com and LancasterArchery.com, where they can read up on all sorts of bowhunting information. Many of the questions they have can probably be answered on those sites.
“Patience is probably the most important thing you have to have,” Jagnow said. “Be patient with these new hunters. They don’t have your experience.”