Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Youth Outdoor Participation Declines

© By Othmar Vohringer

According to a new outdoor recreation activity survey released by “The Outdoor Foundation®” youth participation in outdoor activity is in decline following a promising growth in participation in 2008.

The survey included 114 different outdoor activities capturing responses from over 40,000 youth aged six and older. This was the largest survey ever done on youth outdoor activity participation. According to the survey some reasons for the drop are the beginning of adjustments in American lifestyles brought about by a challenging economy, shifting demographics and changing times.

Youth, so the surveys finds, spend more time indoors. The outdoor participation of youth aged 6 to 17 dropped 16.7 percent. The biggest drop was noted among the youngest ( 6 to 12 ) that fell a staggering nine percent. There is a wide gap between ethnic groups in the outdoor participation. Caucasians are more active in the outdoors than any other ethnic groups while African Americans are the lowest ranking.

The report of the survey is critical for the Outdoor Foundation’s development of strategies to promote outdoor activity and get youth.
Among the long list of activities that are loosing favour with youth is hunting. Hunting shows the biggest loss and that to me is troubling.

For years hunting is loosing participants. This is due in part to the baby boomers retiring and not enough youth entering. While we have been very successful at recruiting women, the largest growing hunting segment into our ranks we’re still loosing more hunters than we gain.

To be perfectly frank, if hunters were an animal species we would be on the endangered species list. Organizations would organize fundraisers on our behalf and the governments would implement laws for our protection. Since we’re not an animal species we have to think of ways to attract more new and young hunters. Since, as the survey shows, young people spend more time indoors and on the computers we, the outdoor bloggers, may be able to reach these young people via the computer screen.

How about writing about a young hunter, highlighting the fun and excitement hunting can be for the novice and the guide? It is common for a hunter to bring his or her children into hunting. What about the children or adults that do not have hunter parents, friends or relatives? From personal experience I know that there are a fairly large number of youth and adults that would like to become hunters if they only could find someone that shows then how to get started or is available with advice when needed.

If we want to recruit more hunters we need to think outside the box and beyond our immediate family. Extend the recruitment of hunters to your friends at work and to those of your children. Write about the experiences on your blogs. If young people read about other youth, through your blogs, they might give hunting serious consideration. How well that can work became clear to me a few weeks ago. A young man contacted me after reading through my blog and asked me advice on hunting. We began to communicate by phone and email for several weeks and the other day I got a phone call from that young man telling me that he just shot a big ten-point buck. (The full story of that event will soon be posted on my Whitetail Deer Passion blog.)

This young man was a novice hunter with no hunting background in his family so he could not ask his parents, siblings or relatives for advice on how to hunt. But what really disturbed me was the fact that even fellow hunters seemed to have no time for him when he approached them. Finally, before giving up hunting, he thought that he would take a chance and phone me, a complete stranger, because he read on my blog about my dedication to helping new hunters. The young hunter made his mind up that if I would turn him down too he would give up hunting. But because I blogged about the importance of helping new hunters we gained a hunter.

It doesn’t matter what outdoors activity niche you cover with your blog because the blog can function as a tool to recruit young people back into the outdoors. Show the youth through your words that the outdoors is a great place to have fun, excitement and thrills and it is also a place to celebrate their achievements.

For more information on my efforts to promote hunting to young and new generation of hunters visit my website. Othmar Vohringer Outdoors

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Anonymous said...

You have made several outstanding points with this post, Othmar. I agree that all of us (Outdoor Bloggers) should use our blogs to encourage and enhance the opportunities for our youth to get away from the t.v., video games, text messsaging, etc. We can turn this decline around, but, it will take all of us in partnership with our youth to make it a rewarding experience.

PassItOn said...

Definitely not good news. The Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors program is working to give kids a chance to experience the great outdoors we all know and love. We focus on at-risk kids (typically, those served by organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and other youth mentoring organizations).

My experience is that given the chance, kids today still love getting outdoors and hunting and fishing. They just don't have the same opportunities to do so that we did as kids.

I agree very strongly with your comment that hunters would be on the endangered sjpecies list. I feel that all conservation organizations should be making hunter recruitment at least as high a priority as they do their conservation efforts.

Your efforts to reach kids through your blog is admirable. We also need to encourage more of today's hunters to step up and mentor a child in the outdoors. While some may find their way on their own, that's not going to be the case for most.

For more information on the Pass It On program, visit our website at http://www.outdoormentors.org

SimplyOutdoors said...

While this post started out with some not-so-good news, it definitely turned out very good in the end. Kudos to you, Othmar, for getting this young man in the woods, and for helping him to be successful.

My main outdoor goal I have is to get more kids involved in the outdoors. In fact, we've even managed to get a few adults into the outdoors as well.

I honestly have to say, though, that I've never taken a person outside my family hunting. I think I need to add that to the list. We have made a point to take my brother's step-kids hunting - they had never been before - and I've taken cousins who wouldn't have had the chance any other way, but never a child from outside the family circle.

I need to change that. And all hunters need to do the same thing.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thank you all for your positive comments and the efforts to bring more people into our outdoor sports.


Ken Morrow said...

It is even easier to introduce youth to hunting and fishing via "gateway" outdoor activities and organizations that involve youth in non-consumptive outdoor recreation. The "couch potato" generation (as they are called) are unaccustomed to the outdoors and are often "shocked" by a sudden immersion into hunting. But there are a lot of kids involved in scouting, mountain biking, water sports, camping, and similar activities who make the transition with enthusiasm. Scouting in particular has fishing and shooting merit badge programs that most scoutmasters simply avoid for lack of available expertise. This is an excellent opportunity to step up and make a difference! But you have to seek them out and volunteer.

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