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prairierat

Has upland hunting been abandoned?

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topdog1961
So why aren't I running into other younger hunters in my home covers? Mainly because its hard to hunt and wingshoot grouse and woodcock.

or because most folks have to work for a living.

Like I'm one to talk...

My point, lack of time amongst the demographic most likely to take up hunting, now more so than in the past.  The changing economic landscape is one of many factors contributing to fewer bird hunters, but a factor nonetheless.  

Statistics on leisure time are inconclusive.  As usual stats can be found to support both sides of any point: “lies, damn lies, and statistics”.  The studies that report an increase in leisure time take into consideration people who are underemployed, un-employed, or not trying to work.  Unfortunately many Americans have more leisure time than they would like.  One insightful report mentioned the growing “inequality of leisure time” whereas those with employment opportunities are working far more hours, and those without opportunities obviously far less.  Neither of these conditions is conducive to taking up bird hunting.  

Economics is even impacting the very demographic that should be hunting more, healthy retirees.  I heard a radio article this morning on the growing number of “retirees” who are returning to work.  75% of the working elderly say they expect to do so until they can no longer.  “Retirement Job” used to be considered an oxymoron, now it is a sad fact for many Americans.  Some work by choice, more and more do not.    

In addition to economic factors, media is at play shaping the minds of our youth, as always.  When is the last time you saw hunting portrayed in a favorable light in any kind of media, other than a niche outdoor channel?  There are no hip reality series featuring young people bird hunting in small South Dakota towns.  Of course not, there aren’t enough idiots* there (some SD UJers may argue this point).  And it starts at a very young age.  As a father of 9 and 10 year olds I have sat through far too many children’s movies and Disney programming over the past few years.  Invariably, hunters and the military are portrayed as blood thirsty, bumbling idiots.

*  “The Situation” from Jersey Shores will make over $5M this year, who's the idiot.

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bosco mctavitch
the demographic most likely to take up hunting

What demographic is that?  Not provoking anything, but from your response I think you mean a different demographic than I would have guessed.

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topdog1961

the demographic most likely to take up hunting

What demographic is that?  Not provoking anything, but from your response I think you mean a different demographic than I would have guessed.

I was refering to family raising working adults, in reference to Lee's comment about most folks having to work for a living.  Those with perhaps the means to pursue the sport, but who have not taken it up yet due to a number of factors, including increasing time pressures.  It is a lot easier for this demographic to hunt deer or turkey.  Slug season here is one week long.  Most anyone ouside urban areas can walk out their door and see deer.  I had turkey on my patio this week.  Unless you are bowhunting for wall hangers, it doesn't take nearly the investment of time that hunting over your own well trained bird dog does.  I am in the working and raising family demographic, though certainly not young.  I manage to scratch out enough time to go bird hunting occasionally, but I sure do not have a well trained bird dog.  No time for off season work.  Belle and I learn as we hunt.  It takes a true passion to pursue the sport in my circumstances.

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bosco mctavitch

I guess I see the reasoning, but I also am not sure I agree with that.  Growing up, all of the people who started me hunting were first and foremost bird hunters...yet none of them had a dog. Most of the bird hunters I run into don't have dogs.  If I look around at an RGS dinner, I see a lot of people who spend a lot of money on bird hunting and have dogs...but when I see bird hunters in the field I see people who live very close to where they are hunting, with inexpensive gear, etc.  They aren't traveling to hunt, they have an inexpensive gun, little "gear" at all--just a pair of shoes, a gun and maybe some cheapie kind of vest if that much.  They simply drive around the corner or walk down the street to hunt some partridge for a few hours.  I just don't think money plays much of a factor in overall numbers of hunters in the areas I mostly go--to me, based on what I see in the field, it comes down to increasingly difficult access for most people.  Deer and turkeys seem to thrive in increasingly suburban places...the birds around me don't.  Couple that with less and less local agriculture and the available public areas reverting to mature forest and there simply aren't viable bird hunting opportunities for most people.

I think we may be approaching the same issue from two different directions...if you don't have the access I am referring to above, hunting becomes a rich mans game involving travel and therefore time...but with good access it doesn't take much time or money at all and is available to every Tom, Dick and Harry with a shotgun and hunting license.

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topdog1961
Well said.  We are talking about the same thing.  The working person is getting squeezed two ways. Working more hours therefore less time to hunt.  And hunting takes more time investment as access dwindles for most of us. Likely access is the bigger impact on the time constraint, at least across much of the nation.

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Larry Brown

My father caught the "upland bug" mainly because that's all there was to hunt in Iowa when he was coming into the sport--rabbits and squirrels, in addition to pheasants.  Waterfowl, but that required an investment in gear etc.  No deer season in Iowa until I was about 8.  But he caught the bug because what he shot meant something on the table.

And speaking of easing into the sport . . . he started me hunting squirrels.  Who can't do that close to home?  Not many folks have to go far to find public timber with some tree rats.  And it's an excellent way to teach gun safety, because the young hunter isn't moving around much.  And reward success, because hitting a squirrel with a 20 gauge is a lot easier than hitting a pheasant--on the wing, at least.  My success got rewarded when I started on pheasants because the first ones I shot were on the ground.

Easier now, or easier back then?  Well, there are more competing activities now for kids, for sure.  On the other hand, we--and most families I knew--were a one vehicle family.  That meant that if there was shopping or other errands that needed doing, which required driving, those had to be done before we could go hunting.  Both parents working also means that both parents have a vehicle, which means the spouse doesn't rely on whatever you take hunting.  You may get tied up with honey-dos one day of the weekend, but you should be able to get out the other one, if you really make an effort.  Of course if you start out with a spouse who doesn't understand hunting, won't eat wild game, or is just plain anti-hunting . . . perhaps divorce is a consideration.

Lots of points on both sides of this equation.  But what it comes down to is that hunting in general, as an activity practiced by a segment of the American population, is becoming increasingly less popular.  (And upland hunting perhaps in particular; maybe waterfowling too.)  Total raw numbers aren't fluctuating much, but the % of Americans who hunt continues to decline.

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200e

I've only read about half the responses, so forgive if this has been covered.  My take on why upland hunting hasn't taken off like big game is this.

Most important fact: record books.  There is no equivalent to B&C, P&Y, Rowland Ward, or SCI.  Americans will compete at anything, but there is very little organized competition in bird hunting.

Second thought, not as much gear involved.  Gear means $, gear means advertisers, gear gets ink in publications.  The universe of rifle calibers is ever-expanding, while the universe of shotgun gauges has been level or declining for decades.  Lately, however, we have seen some attention paid to shotshells, and IMO, there is a lot more innovation for innovation's sake than there has been meaningful improvement (expect for the advent of non-steel non-toxics).

Tv shows won't "fix" it.  Count me in the camp saying that it doesn't need fixing anyway.

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Dave Gowdey

 More work to maintain the same standard of living...

Except that our "standard" of living has, on the whole, gotten much higher.  The size of the typical "middle class" house has tripled.  The number of cars in the family - doubled.  The entertainment budget - cable tv, internet, etc etc.    all way up.   We eat out and eat fancier foods when we are home,  etc.  

Of course not all of us,  but just the "average guy."

Erik,

I suspect if you eliminate the top 5% from those figures you'll find that the average standard of living has actually declined.

We have two cars because it takes two breadwinners to pay the bills.  Until the 1980s, an average mortgage was typically about 3 times the median household income in a community.  In most of the country that is a long distant dream, and people are paying much more for housing than 30% of one income that used to be standard.  With two people working, we have more latchkey kids and more childcare costs.  

More to the point of this discussion - without a parent at home I suspect the odds of children being allowed to go out on their own to go hunting is far more limited.  Especially given how much parents are bombarded with horror stories about kids being killed or molested.  Most of the parents I know now favor more "programmed" activities for their kids that will be supervised and take place in groups.  

It's sad, but for a variety of reasons it doesn't seem that youngsters are allowed to roam the way I and my peers were.

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stephen brown

What we need is a National Pheasant Calling Championship, a World Woodcock Peent Championship, Snipe Hunting Blinds....

Hunting shows are snuff media.

Turn of the tube and read.

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Peterson
after my trip to northern MN to chase grouse, it appears to me that grouse hunting has been replaced by 4-wheeling.

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LostintheOzone
I'm working on the ZZ Top beard and a snear. But I missed a chip shot on a measly Woodcock today so I'm out.

You're out! This the marketing opportunity of a lifetime. You can travel to MN, SD, NM and Idaho to shoot commercials for Browning. They're gonna give you an Ultralite just to snear and cuss your Springer.

OK, but at least offer us a coffee cup with the Upland Commander logo. We have to have  something to identify with to keep the sport alive.

Jim

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North Dakota Hntr
after my trip to northern MN to chase grouse, it appears to me that grouse hunting has been replaced by 4-wheeling.

Ain't that the truth!!

Craig

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gonehuntin

I have not read all of the responses, about half of them. I DO think upland hunting is declining and I believe there are four basic reasons for it.

1.) There are no trophies nor is there pier recognition for taking a grouse compared to a bull elk. No glory in it.

2.) It's boring to film and kids actually have to get out and walk to do it. They can't do it on a computer. They can't ride around in a pickup, rest a gun out the window, and legally kill a bird.

3.) With all of our ethics and sportsman-like ways, we're plain boring the younger kids. There are precious few kids that think it's enjoyable to slog all day through alder choked woods on the hopes of getting a shot at one or two grouse.

It just isn't fun.

4.) We don't have the game we used to, so upland hunting is work. Grouse will never, around us, be what they once were. Pheasant are nearly gone in our state. Most hunting is for planted birds. Woodcock are still declining. It takes a lot of walking to come up with one bird to shoot at.

Our youth today belongs to an "Action" generation. They love bloody, shoot-em-up movies, X Game Sports, BMX bikes and skateboards. I honestly don't think upland hunting is interesting enough for them.

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Fishnfowler

I don't have anything pithy to add except to agree with the above posters.  Dave Gowdey hit the nail on the head with his flyfishing analogy.  

I'm doing what I can to keep tradition alive by raising a killer.  There isn't any TV in our house, and our kids have to play outside every day for an hour.  I took these pictures last Sunday, this is the future of upland hunting:

10-17-10054.jpg

The boy took this goose that evening:

10-17-10065.jpg

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KCShlly

Wow! This is one helluva thread.

Guys like you and the thoughtfulness you've put in to this new-to-me post -- sorry, been away bird hunting -- are the reason wingshooting means so much to me. It is part of my life. The thought of monetizing it in the ways suggested is sickening. But hey, I've made money (a small amount) off of the outdoors, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

And by the way Don, I was the old guy in our group, despite what Matt says about being old. He's just the one with the gray beard.

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