NBS Outdoor Fall Issue 2020

answers.

hunters — kids who would have been exposed to hunting anyway — but took kids out after species like deer, elk, and turkeys. On those hunts, an adult would set up a stand, do any calling needed, then tell the youngster to sit still until given instructions on how and when to pull the trigger. At best those are cool “one and done” activities, Dunfee said. At worst they’re expensive daycare. The problem is that they center around taking a newcomer hunting, rather than going hunting with them. He believes that’s a big — and mostly fatal —difference. Dunfee said children, and newcomers in general, who aren’t involved in the process won’t adopt an activity as their own. The journey must be theirs in some way for it to stick. “We somehow forgot that in youth development, if you make something too easy too quick, our youth will actually choose to do something else because that seems too easy,” Dunfee said. State wildlife agencies and sportsmen bear additional responsibility for marginalizing small game hunters, Dunfee and O’Dell agree. The former — trying to stay alive financially — are more eager to sell expensive big game licenses than cheaper general

There was a time in America when small game hunting was king. In the 1950s, when populations of big game species like white-tailed deer were still rebounding from years of unregulated market hunting and habitat loss, small game hunters outnumbered big game ones by about 2:1. Now the almost exact opposite is true, said Matt Dunfee, director of special programs for the Wildlife Management Institute. The increased availability of big game is partly behind that, he said. But so, too, is a change in hunting culture. Hunters who bag a 10-point buck not only end up with more meat in the freezer, but more accolades, too. “In our culture, there’s no reward system around small game. In other words, you don’t get recognized the same way for your first bag limit of squirrels as you do for shooting your first deer,” Dunfee said. Johnathan O’Dell agreed. Migratory gamebird biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, he points out that outdoor media celebrates big game hunting and hunters to the almost total exclusion of their small game counterparts. Everyone knows big game hunting personalities, from Teddy Roosevelt and Jack O’Connor to Jim Shockey and Randy Newberg, he said. Squirrel hunters, by comparison, are portrayed if at all as caricatures from a Norman Rockwell painting, relics from the realm of “small boys and nostalgic old men.” “Big game has a lot of champions, but it also has a lot of heroes. But small game doesn’t have heroes,” O’Dell said. “It’s tends to be seen as more counterculture or subculture.” Manufacturers of products from binoculars to rifles cater almost exclusively to big game

“ In our culture, there’s no reward

system around small game ... you don’t get recognized the same way for your first bag limit of squirrels as you

do for shooting your first deer . ”

hunters, too, O’Dell said. They just can’t make the same profits selling to small game hunters, outside of those who use and invest heavily in dogs. Then there’s the well-intentioned so-called “R3” efforts. That stands for recruitment, retention, and reactivation. State wildlife agencies, in partnership with sportsmen, increasingly desperate to ensure a steady stream of license buyers into the future have been working hard on R3 programs for the last decade. But they have until recently missed the boat, Dunfee said. Traditionally, most R3 events not only catered to children of existing

With dove populations high, seasons on them are long and bag limits high. Yet few hunters set out decoys or find other ways to hunt them.

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Fall 2020

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