By Jordan Hoover, Quest for the King
Most of us have heard, read, or been a part of a conversation about the declining participation in hunting. Many supposed causes for this are thrown around…millennial lack of fortitude, a modern culture built around technology, etc etc etc. What if I told you that while such things may contribute that I don’t think they are the root cause? What if I told you it’s the associated costs of the sport? Lets take a hard look at the truth.
1.) The national median family income is about 60k a year. Obviously that figure does not accurately reflect the majority of the hunting populace. I’d say it’s fair to estimate that throughout the small rural Midwest towns where hunting thrives that the median family income looks a lot more like 35k a year. Subtract from that 35k taxes, insurances, housing, food, fuels, and other necessities and not much is left for disposable income on a yearly basis, and outside of tax refund season lump sums are usually in short supply.
2.) If you bargain shopped, and bought only the sale items and lower quality gear from the ground up…you’re easily going to exceed $1,500 just to get the essentials to hunt between the bow itself, clothing, boots, a blind, etc. While it is possible to find some good used stuff at garage sales or online hubs, that takes some time to do. Likely two or three seasons of watching. On the opposite end of the spectrum buying the highest quality gear that lasts is terribly expensive. You’d spend $1,200 on the bare bow alone, another $800 between a good sight and rest, another $1,000 or more on clothing, etc etc etc. For many that simply isn’t affordable. Most folks buy things over time and work within their budget the best they can to secure good gear. For the individual hunter, $1,500 to get started isn’t terrible…but…what about the families? Sadly kid’s gear isn’t all that much cheaper than adult gear. In my case, I have four sons at home all close in age. I can get away with a few hand me down type things between brothers, but I have to buy much of it. If I had to go down to Cabelas or even the local sporting goods shops I simply could not drop $6,000 to get my boys everything they need in one shot. Likely many folks are in that same boat. I watch for sales, and I get what I can for them when I can.
3.) By now you’re clearly seeing the picture I am painting. Hunting is not a cheap sport. Hunting has become industrialized in a big way! The demands of the top percentages of hunters for better, faster, tougher products every year drives companies to pour a lot of time, effort, and high end materials into making a given product. Thus the costs continue to rise. For most of us the raises we get aren’t enough to offset the rising costs of the products. This sets the industry and the sport itself on a course that is simply not sustainable. That is why we’re seeing a drop off in hunting participation and in particular among the youth.
4.) The question on your mind now must be…”So how do we change it?” Obviously nobody is going to march over to PSE, Sitka, Trophy Ridge, etc and demand they lower their prices…and if you did they’d laugh and tell you to head to Walmart. I believe that the failure is not the free market as much as local organizations. How many sportsman’s clubs or other organizations do you know of that do a kid’s hunting clothing drive? How many local organizations do you know of that fund raise for youth hunting at all? Here I can tell you that there are ZERO. Those are relatively easy things to set up, and something that ANY sportsman should be able to stand behind. The kids are after all the future of the sport. So the answer is to correct the problem we must begin in our own communities, give our own time, our own resources, and roll up our sleeves if we are too see change.
To close…I grew up in a hunting family. I spent a great deal of time at the local sportsman’s club shooting with my dad and his friends. I recall how helpful EVERYONE was, how giving they were. Somebody always had a spare something…nocks, a finger tab, some old arrows, whatever it was. Being raised up in that environment it’s hard for me to see youth hunting struggle. Together we can change it. Together we can foster that environment of generosity and brotherhood. The future of our sport depends upon our actions NOW. It doesn’t have to be the sport of kings, it can again be the sport of the American family. Cheers!