As a passionate deer hunter, I fear there will come a day when my children or future grandchildren won’t have the opportunity to enjoy pursuing white-tailed deer the way I do. It seems with each passing year, a little more of our hunting heritage gets chipped away. If that day does come, however, it won’t be the animal rights activists, politicians or state wildlife agencies who are to blame. The only one we will be able to point the finger at is ourselves for standing by and letting it happen. Hunting is a tradition as old as man, but if we want to ensure that future generations are afforded the same opportunities to enjoy it that we have, there are a few steps we each need to take.
Introduce Someone New
There is strength in numbers, and the number of people participating in hunting has dropped significantly over the last 25 years. Today, that number equates to about 6 percent of the U.S. population. In order to ensure a future for deer hunting, we have to reverse this trend. And by “we,” I mean each and every one of us. It is our responsibility to foster the next generation of deer hunters. If fact, I think it should be a personal goal for each of us to introduce at least one new person to deer hunting every year. It may be our child, grandchild, spouse, coworker or next-door neighbor. With the number of single-parent families today, finding a child who has an interest in hunting but no one to take them is not difficult. However, it doesn’t have to be a child. There are plenty of adults out there, as well, who would be more than willing to give hunting a try given the opportunity. All we have to do is ask.
If you’re concerned about the liability or just don’t have someone close to introduce, then find a local QDMA Branch that hosts some type of youth or military hunt, and become a volunteer. Last year 68 Branches hosted over 600 hunters, many of whom had never been deer hunting before. With your help that number can grow exponentially. I can tell you from experience that helping new hunters kill their first deer will make for your most memorable hunts.
Hunt Legally and Ethically
Nothing puts deer hunters and deer hunting in a worse light than a major news story about someone poaching or engaging in some type of unethical hunting. Unfortunately, the media rarely differentiates these people from the vast majority of responsible hunters who follow the laws and hunt ethically. As I mentioned before, only 6 percent of the population hunts, but 78 percent of all Americans currently approve of hunting, and the future of hunting will be determined by how all Americans feel about what we do.
Beyond just hunting legally and ethically, it is also in our best interest to watch how we behave in public while wearing camouflage and representing hunters as a whole. That means watching our language and how we publicly discuss the events of our hunts, avoiding going into public places with blood all over our hands or clothes, and not putting our harvested game on public display in a way that would be offensive to non-hunters. I’m not suggesting that we hide or apologize for the fact that we are hunters; I’m just saying that we should respect those who aren’t, because they ultimately hold the future of deer hunting in their hands.
Nothing makes me question the future of deer hunting more than a scroll through some of the popular Facebook hunting pages. Just click on the comments below just about any post and you’re likely to witness arguments and name-calling. And I’m not referring to those from anti-hunters, I’m talking about hunters arguing among themselves. We argue about everything from equipment to hunting methods, camouflage brands, and even which deer you should or shouldn’t shoot. I realize we are humans, and as such, we are going to have differences in opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as long as your fellow hunters are hunting legally, ethically, and in a way that doesn’t put the resource at risk, then give them the same respect you would expect to receive. Let’s lift each other up as fellow hunters instead of tearing each other down. Again, we are only 6 percent of the U.S. population, so we dang sure better be a united 6 percent if we want to pass on our great deer hunting tradition to future generations.
There is strength in numbers, and that is especially true when those numbers are joined together in one unified voice. That’s why I believe it is vitally important for all deer hunters to be a member of the QDMA. Standing united is crucial, but to effectively lobby for the white-tailed deer and deer hunters, we must be part of a larger organization that can advocate on our behalf to state agencies, legislators and other key players in the world of wildlife conservation. And that is exactly what QDMA does.
Beyond just advocating for deer and deer hunters, the QDMA also works to introduce youth to deer hunting through our Branch and national youth hunts, seeks to educate deer hunters on how to best manage their habitat for deer and other wildlife, and encourages its members to hunt safely and ethically. They are also actively involved in critical whitetail research to help us all to be better deer managers and hunters. To learn more about joining the QDMA, click here.
The future of deer hunting is ours to protect or ours to lose. Whether that 78 percent of the public who supports hunting continues to do so will depend largely on our actions and the actions of the next generation of hunters. If we, as deer hunters, can add to our ranks, hunt legally and ethically, stand united with one another and as part of the QDMA, then deer hunting will continue to be a rich tradition passed on to many generations to come.