Outdoor activities of Americans shifting away from hunting
Californians tend to become wildlife campers, hikers, and photographers in their outdoor activities. Hunting and fishing attract fewer of them year by year. This is a disturbing trend.
The drop in active, licensed hunters is of concern to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife because of the loss of revenue. Income from hunting licenses and other hunting-related activities finances habitat protection and improvements and hunting programs.
Sadly, millennials prefer virtual hunting at home over working up a sweat and getting dirty hands in the dust and heat of the wilderness. Fishing is undergoing a similar trend yet to a lesser degree.
On the other hand, these trends do not mean that Americans have given up on outdoor activities. Americans continue to love the outdoors, outdoor activities, and the unique experiences and challenges it offers. However, their favorite outdoor activities are shifting to hiking, camping, boating, wildlife photography and the like away from hunting and murdering Bambi.
The United States government asked 58,000 people about their favorite outdoor activities. The results covered a wide range of interests from simple walking in the local park to scuba diving and wildlife photography.
Popular outdoor activities are summed up in the following report.
The most popular outdoor activities of Americans are according to this study:
The same report lists the most favorite American outdoor activities as follows:
Hunting does not show up anywhere on the list. In fact, looking closer we find that it ranks dead last among the outdoor activities of Americans. While over 97 percent (207 million) of our compatriots are engaged in some kind of outdoor activity, only a pitiful 11.1 percent hunt. That’s a measly 23.7 million people.
The following table shows the changing nature of the use of the outdoors and how people’s outdoor activities change over time:
The source of the data is the 1999 – 2002 national survey on recreation and the environment prepared by the University of Tennessee and the USDA Forest Service. True, things changed much in the past decade. Nevertheless, more recent CDFW data for the sale of resident hunting licenses confirm this downward trend for hunting.
Camping is resurging and wildlife photography trending upward
Camping and backpacking are the two most traditional forms of outdoor activities. They have their ups and downs but are at the top of the heap most of the time. Camping outperforms backpacking by a wide margin.
While approximately 11 percent of Americans ( 22.2 million) backpack at least once a year, a total of about 210 million camps in developed or primitive campgrounds, visit wilderness areas (32 percent or 68 million), only about 18 percent of the participants in the survey hunted. That represents approximately 38 million hunters.
A trifle compared to the total of more than 380 million people engaged in outdoor activities. Read our article of February 2019 for more details on the sale of hunting licenses. Look at how much the number of resident hunting licenses fell year by year. Changing attitudes of outdoor users, sustained vicious anti-hunting campaigns, the death of subsistence hunting, and greater emphasis on a healthy environment all affect attitudes towards hunting and hunters negatively. The worst enemy of hunting at this time is trophy hunting. It does no longer sit so well with a public that despises the murder of magnificent animals to satisfy the bragging rights and the ego of an individual. The popularity of hunting will continue to drop as long as hunting is represented by gruesome pictures of dead and bloody animals.
Millennials quo vadis?
Millennial are changing the traditional outdoor activities from their homes to virtual reality. Out in the field, they tend to be more eco-conscious and more eco-friendly than previous generations. They also gravitate towards more challenging outdoor activities in the wilderness that is as untouched by man as possible.
As a consequence, they lean towards camping in the wilderness away from even primitive campgrounds and hike often off established paths in the protected national and state parks.
Those of us hunting wild pigs on public land in the wilderness are well aware of the dangers wilderness can pose to campers, hikers, and hunters.
Camping overnight in the wild depends on a great deal on the safety equipment carried and the survival knowledge of the individual. In other words, while boar hunting with a guide requires hardly any preparation at all, preparedness and wilderness smart can make the difference between life and death.
The dangers of boar hunting season
The most productive months for boar hunting are upon us. Harvest data prove that certain months are more productive than others. Just as some public land and wilderness reserves yield more wild pigs than others. Guided hunting on special “hunting” ranches is the only exception for the simple reason that property owners lure boar to their lands and bribe them with bait to stay there. However, hunting boar on public land comes with its own set of major dangers. No, not the wild pigs themselves but the critters hunters will undoubtedly meet and the environment that is at time outright hostile and lethal. We can classify the life-threatening dangers of wild pig hunting as threats during the active hunt and menaces during the stationary part of a hunt in the wilderness. Hunters and hikers often overlook the need for making a safe camp and keeping it secure. Making and keeping a camp safe
Next to the at-home preparation for the camping or hunting trip, keeping the campsite safe is the most important job regardless of the reason for the camp. A planned camp carries almost all danger that a hunter or a hiker in distress would find.
It is not all that difficult to make your camp safe and keep it that way as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Herpetophobia or better yet Ophidiophobia is the fear of reptiles and snakes. It is the most common phobia humans have. Outdoor lovers and hunter are more likely to encounter any one of the two than couch potatoes. Keeping a campsite free of snakes goes, therefore, a long way towards peace of mind.
To secure a site is relatively easy, at least in theory. First of all, make sure that your camp stays free of snakes. You do this by establishing a camp in an area snake do not like.
Snakes have many predators. Therefore, they live in areas that offer lots of cover and hiding places. Long grass, bushes, fallen trees, brush, water and, last but not least, rocky spots are great places for snakes to secrete themselves away from danger.
Don’t intrude into their territory with your campsite. Instead, go for the short grass, clean and clear open stretches of land, no water, and no fallen trees or rocks. Rocks make great hiding places and also let the snakes warm up in the rays of the sun. They make a bad area for a human campsite.
Good and relatively safe spots for your camp are:
- wide open spaces,
- short grass only,
- areas without fallen trees and brush,
- no rocks piles and no outcrops,
- away from water.
Make sure they are well-lit at night to avoid stepping on one of them. And, often said and just as often disregarded by outdoor lovers and hunter alike, do not reach with bare hands into piles of firewood that has been undisturbed for at least 24 hours. You might find unwelcome guests in there.
You see, finding a relatively snake-proof campsite is not that difficult. Securing an established site during the night and staying safe in the morning are two different stories.
In a nutshell, everything comes down to common sense. In snake country, there is always a chance that one of them finds its way into your tent.
- A fire goes a long way to tell snakes and other small critters that they are not welcome here.
- Check your tent for small holes before every use.
- Snakes love the warmth and comfort of a sleeping bag just like you. They get into your sleeping bag by exploiting even the smallest hole in your tent.
- Shake the sleeping bag out well before you climb into it. Invite visitors politely to leave before you use your bag.
- Never leave your boots uncovered outside. Shoes make great sleeping places for tired snakes. Turn the shoes over and shake them well to get rid of any uninvited guests – not only of snakes but also scorpions and the like. Your socks are great critter repellents.
Do not leave food outside and uncovered.
Snakes are not interested in your food. However, they have an enormous interest in the small rodents that feast on leftovers.
Checking for snakes in camp?
Now we have to consider one more important aspect of camping in the wilderness. Checking for snakes that managed to get into your campsite. But how?
Besides the precautions above, there are only a very few more places to check and precautions to take.
Zip your tent whenever you leave, even for a few minutes only.
Snakes take a few seconds to slip in through a tiny hole while you are doing something else on your camp.
Check underneath the tent.
Snakes are not only attracted by the sun and potential food but also by the shade found under your tent. Check it out without reaching in with bare hands.
Follow these few simple guidelines and you should be reasonably safe. The safety procedures apply to all outdoor lovers regardless of their favorite activity. You can find a compilation of other safety tips and how to handle encounters with a venomous snake in several of our earlier articles. This is a good place to start. And do not forget your hunting dogs. They need to be trained as well for their safety
A little common sense goes a long way towards becoming a safe still hunter or outdoor lover.