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Has upland hunting been abandoned?


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I saw this piece this morning on the Outdoor Wire, which is a hunting/fishing industry site devoted mostly to PR flackery. Not a helluva lot of original or inspired writing goes on there, but they do have a "feature" every day where someone opines about...something.

And lo and behold, today's opine was about the decline of upland hunting as a market, and about how the scene needs to be re-made, re-invented and re-invigorated, perhaps through an "upland commander" type bird-hunting show.

The story can be found here

http://www.theoutdoorwire.com/

And in the interests of full disclosure, the Field & Stream blog the writer references is mine

http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs....rs-down

So anyway, thought it might make an interesting topic of discussion...

(In hindsight I didn't want to take the chance of running afoul of copyright law so I edited my original post by adding a link to Outdoor Wire and cut some some of the story I originally pasted...the rest of the story can be found at the Outdoor Wire website...)

Editor's Note: Today, Jay Kumar asks the question: why has the hunting industry given up on the upland bird market? It's a provocative question, and Jay offers some ideas as to why this highly enjoyable sport seems to be in decline.

Why Has Everyone Given Up on the Upland Bird Market?

Why has the hunting industry given up on the upland bird market? Yes, given up. Not entirely, but largely, emotionally, passionately. Whether you recognize it or not -- or want to recognize it or not -- it's the truth. And before you get to feeling bad about it, it's largely deserved. Because the upland market has not been remade, reinvented or reinvigorated. Ever.

This jumped out at me in stark relief while researching a book my company recently published called Serious Grouse Hunting, Book 1. As I was reading bird-hunting books published in the 1940s on up to the 1970s, I realized I was reading material that was the same or better than upland bird hunting information I had recently read in magazines or seen on TV. Incredible!

Here we are in the age of media -- really a media explosion -- which the outdoors (though a bit belatedly) has benefited from: deer hunting and bass fishing in particular, but also saltwater fishing, duck hunting and other verticals. But not the upland market.

So we are now again at the initial question: Why? The answer is in the previous paragraph: Media.

Media in the upland space have not evolved. They have not been remade, reinvented or reinvigorated. And without that critical component -- very critical in the current era -- this market atrophies. Magazine subscribers decline, and so do ad dollars and page counts. The median age of upland bird hunters increases along with the median age of members of bird conservation organizations. TV shows have to cater to this shrinking, less-media-savvy audience and thus have less chance of success.

If you don't believe me, here's a comment left on a Field & Stream blog: "Now everyone is antler and gobbler crazy. It's what's on TV. It's what's hyped up in the ads. There is no record book or super slam for grouse. A fine morning of wingshooting isn't cool or awesome or fist-pumpy. You can't use the latest tech or signature gear. You have to like, walk around in the brush. That's no fun anymore."

Yet it definitely can be made cool and fun, and in fact has to be....

Rest of story can be found here (at bottom of page...)

http://www.theoutdoorwire.com/

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bosco mctavitch

Here we are in the age of media -- really a media explosion -- which the outdoors (though a bit belatedly) has benefited from: deer hunting and bass fishing in particular, but also saltwater fishing, duck hunting and other verticals. But not the upland market.

How has the outdoors benefitted from the media explosion around these sports?  Would having upland hunting be a bigger "market" make it at all better for anyone or anything other than those who make their living selling more crap to upland hunters?  IF there is a problem, is a lack of commercialization really the issue?

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lack of access from urbanites and deer hunting leases are a big problem thats killing it down here
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Oh, boy, I need to digest this one before I regurgitate all I have learned running a public Upland bird hunting board for almost 9 years.
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Correlation does not equal causation.

What I mean by that is, if what is said is true, that upland hunter numbers are falling I am pretty sure the solution is not as simple as more - better PR & TV shows.

I do not watch many, ok any, hunting or fishing shows but are there any fly fishing shows?  I think fly fishing is more analogous to upland hunting then whack and stack type hunting.

Locally I would say "clean" farming practices, lack of support buy Wildlife dept (granted that is politics) and access on private land is the primary cause of drops in numbers (mostly talking about pheasants).  

So I am saying I think lack or access and lack of bird is more and in issue then no 'cool' tv shows

Bill

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northern_hunting_mom

Increasing and upgrading media is a good point but I can see a problem that many people feel is near impossible to overcome. Increasing habitat and access.

Grouse and woodcock need more and better habitat to increase numbers. They are simply not a species that can be seeded to increase numbers in the way pheasant and other species can be. The only way to increase is with political clout but present upland hunters are too scared of increasing the hunter numbers for fear of having their secret coverts getting shot out. A catch 22 situation really.

For forest grouse species especially, its an even greater problem because a lot of their habitat is in areas with higher human populations so losing habitat to development and posted land is going to lose hunter numbers.

Lets face it, forest grouse hunting will have a threshold unless and until habitat is increased and access improved. It may not be a bad thing to have lower hunter numbers shooting for grouse. Its more complicated than just getting the right message out.

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northern_hunting_mom
lack of access from urbanites and deer hunting leases are a big problem thats killing it down here

Excellent point. Land suited for deer hunting such as shown in most TV shows is not good grouse habitat so that means that it will be harder to improve grouse habitat. It becomes not just a political problem but a hunter competition problem. Awfully hard to compete against a $4B industry and hunters hungry for antlers.

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Hunting is alive and well in my state and I think bird hunting is holding its own compared to big game. In my area, the hunting tradition is strong and I’ve seen people move to this area particularly because of that reason. I’ve also known quite a few non-hunters who developed a keen interest in hunting because of the enthusiasm for the sport in this neck of the woods.

As far as bird hunting specifically, I think there is a progression of sorts… it seems like a lot of people who like to fly fish develop an interest in bird hunting…  I haven’t really figured out why that is but the Southwestern Montana start-up kit consists starts with a pickup, then a driftboat, and ultimately a bird dog. I know to a large extent that our BMA program and access to at least decent numbers of upland birds helps keep folks interested in hunting but the cultural aspect of acceptance/enthusiasm helps too.

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It is fine the way it is. There have been sufficient innovations (this board is an example) as are/were Mother's and Wingworks vests, better pants, better boots and innovative shotguns (which may or may not appeal).

"Cool and fun" is largely subjective, but what I see depicted on your average "huntin' show" or other modern media vehicles meets neither definition for me. While the author seems concerned that not much has changed from the writings from 1940 to 1970, not much has changed, other than many states have lost much of their upland bird populations or available access. It isn't a media problem or solution.

The market has always been a very niche market met by a small handful of companies and retailers. Big deal. If the day ever comes where upland hunting resembles a bass masters or deer slayer mentality, I'll probably hang up my guns in embarrassment and the dogs can do agility.

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As far as bird hunting specifically, I think there is a progression of sorts… it seems like a lot of people who like to fly fish develop an interest in bird hunting…  I

I think it is because both sports are similar, in that they are not fist-pumpy, whackem-stackem endeavors reeking of adrenaline and testosterone.  

The day I shoot a bird over a point and begin to jump around screaming, "YEAAHH!!", chest-bumping my dog and high-fiving my partner, that is the day I want someone to shoot me.

I immediately get suspicious of anyone that uses the term "reinvent."  Bird hunting was good enough in its first incarnation; i can't imagine why we need to change it to make it more appealing.  It is what it is; people like it or they don't.  Bringing upland hunting into the ADHD video-addicted era would be doing the sport a disservice.  I don't particularly want to share the woods with some Ritalin popping adrenaline junkie saying things like, "Dude, I'm just totally stoked to be out here slammin' birds to the ground because, like, you know, nailing those gnarly grouse is just totally awsome."

EDIT:  I could have just read nobirdshere's comments above and agreed with him and saved all this useless typing that I did.

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bosco mctavitch
...not much has changed, other than many states have lost much of their upland bird populations or available access. It isn't a media problem or solution.

Yeah, that might have something to do with it.  Don't worry, I'm sure reinventing the upland hunting market will fix that problem though.

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PartridgeCartridge
[i immediately get suspicious of anyone that uses the term "reinvent."  Bird hunting was good enough in its first incarnation; i can't imagine why we need to change it to make it more appealing.  It is what it is; people like it or they don't.  

That pretty well sums it up for me too.

Although............hmmmmm...............

Maybe 'iffin we made Brad grow a ZZTop beard and taught him to shoot, he could become the new Grouse Commander. We could even give him a mascot. Possibly dress Hong up in Sumo outfit with the upturned fu manchu shoes and he could be the Woodcock Whisperer.

We could sell grouse calls and shotguns camoflaged like aspen and alder.

Lotsa posibilities yessirree...

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Oh, boy, I need to digest this one before I regurgitate all I have learned running a public Upland bird hunting board for almost 9 years.

sit down and have a drink first chief.. it could be painful

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The day I shoot a bird over a point and begin to jump around screaming, "YEAAHH!!", chest-bumping my dog and high-fiving my partner, that is the day I want someone to shoot me.

Oh.... I think I did just that the day Chester pointed his first quail. He was shaking like a porcupine in Reelmaker's sights (you old guys know what I mean) but he held point. The quail flushed back over my shoulder but somehow I managed to make the shot. Then I began "to jump around screaming, "YEAAHH!!", chest-bumping my dog and high-fiving my partner." I'm glad nobody shot me.  :<img src=:'>

But all that said, I think upland hunting for birds, all upland hunting for that matter, has been all but abandoned around here. What's the use if you can't score the rack or measure the beard?

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