Study Rejects Myths About Kids’ Hunting Attitudes
The “Bambi Myth” can be put to rest. Results of a three-year nationwide survey presented during the 7th Governor’s Symposium on North America’s Hunting Heritage show that kids support hunting and are not being misinformed in schools about the role of hunting.
“The first myth is that kids don’t support hunting,” said Mark Duda, whose Virginia-based Responsive Management market research firm recently completed a study for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gauging the attitudes of youth toward hunting and fishing. “The information we gleaned from over 2,000 youth ages 8 to 18 shows that 58 percent support hunting, and that support increases as they get older.”
The survey, which was funded through a grant from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration program, carries a confidence level of plus or minus 2 percent.
“The other myth is that people seem to think teachers are speaking negatively about hunting,” said Duda, “when, in fact, most kids don’t know if their teachers support hunting. But, those that had an opinion said they knew their teachers do support hunting.”
The research findings gave leaders of North America’s hunting and wildlife conservation community new resolve in their discussions about hunter recruitment and retention issues during the three-day Symposium.
“A common misconception among hunters has been that the classroom was a breeding ground for anti-hunting doctrine,” said Mike Berger, Wildlife Division Director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “In reality, the study showed, kids get very little exposure to hunting at school. I believe this shows clearly that we have an opportunity and a mandate to do a better job of educating our youth about hunting and wildlife conservation.”
Steve Hall, education director for TPWD stated, “We’ve had much success in Texas integrating hunter education into high school curricula; primarily because of the agriculture science curriculum which trains students in outdoor recreation and wildlife management practices. At the elementary level, we train teachers in programs such as Project WILD that teach kids about the facts regarding conservation, wildlife and the environment.” He added, “still, we can do much more working with professional educators to help them understand why the North American Conservation Model, which includes hunting as an integral tool of wildlife management, is the greatest conservation success story on the planet.”
One of the more important findings, according to Duda, is that kids who hunt or fish tend to have greater knowledge levels about wildlife. Exposure to hunting is a very positive thing.
The study showed that 92 percent of children who hunt come from hunting families. It also concluded mentoring programs that do not include male family members are not as effective as those with male family members in initiating youth into hunting. It also revealed that hunting families are leaving the kids on the porch — of the kids who came from a hunting family, only 25 percent went hunting during the last year.
“That means 75 percent of hunting families with kids did not involve those kids in hunting activities,” said Duda. “They have all the elements to initiate new hunters, but failed to act. Hunting families produce hunters so programs that invite a youth to hunt need to invite another family member, too. You can’t just drop a kid off at a camp.”
Research also indicated that single-parent households, including female-headed households, are not negatively affecting hunting participation. In fact, the study showed that a youth raised in a single-parent household had a greater likelihood of having hunted in their lifetime and during the last year.
“We can assume several reasons for that,” said Duda. “In mother-headed households, fathers still play an active role in encouraging children to hunt, but when the father does not do so, other male family members, particularly uncles and grandfathers, step in to fill that role.”
The most common reasons youth gave for going hunting were to have fun and to be with friends and family.
Not only do children approve of hunting, but also 44 percent of those surveyed went so far as to express an interest in going hunting and one in five were very interested in going hunting. Rob Keck, National Wild Turkey Federation CEO, views this as a recruitment opportunity.
“It’s time to wake up and let the kids do more than just sit on the porch and smell the gunpowder,” Keck urged. “Over half the states and some Canadian provinces do not allow kids to get a hunting license until they are 12 years of age and in New York, you have to be 16 years of age to hunt white-tailed deer. Some states do not allow Sunday hunting. That’s a barrier. There are 32 million youth in America who participate in outdoor sports and we need to reach those kids. We have to make hunting cool.”