The Four Year Legacy

By Jamie Cook from Pheasants Forever

Today as I watched my three girls run around our yard, the thought hit me; “These kids are my legacy…I hope I don’t screw up!”. I think most parents have uttered those words to themselves. Especially newer parents whose kids haven’t crossed the teenage threshold of all “knowing-ness” yet. Even if you’re not a parent, as humans, we dream about the future, worry about our problems, and ponder the legacies we will one day leave behind. This attention to legacies can center around financial gifts to descendants, land to be set aside, belongings, but most importantly, it is our relationships that should be the recipient of such attention.

As sportsmen and women, we pride ourselves on the way that the outdoors can shape our relationships with others and help create a love of nature in our children and grandchildren. For many of us, we want to protect the future of our freedom to hunt, fish and shoot archery or firearms. What about ensuring the ability to simply see a deer in the morning or a turkey in full strut? What about protecting the vital habitats where those and many other animals and fish live? Yeah, we tell ourselves, we want to protect all of that. In case you didn’t know, those animals and habitats are managed by state fish and wildlife agencies who depend on hunting license sales to fund their work and those funds are in jeopardy.

You see, 70% of wildlife conservation is funded through the federal aid provided by the Pittman Roberston (PR) Act of 1937. PR funding allows states to receive federal reimbursement for eligible wildlife conservation and education programs by reallocating tax monies on firearms, ammo, archery equipment, and handguns. This federal aid is granted to a state based on the number of hunting licenses sold in that state. However, since 1982 hunting participation has been on the decline and it continues to spiral downward taking with it the much-needed federal aid that enables states to conduct vital wildlife programs and services. Fewer licenses, means fewer dollars, and fewer dollars means wildlife conservation suffers. Why the decline? We’re getting older…

One third of hunters in the states are baby boomers. When most of these hunters reach their mid-seventies, they’ll stop hunting because they simply can’t do it anymore. Unfortunately, there won’t be enough new hunters to replace them when this happens and funding for wildlife conservation could be left hanging in the balance. Models suggest that this cliff in hunting participation is about 10 years away. Ominous right? What if I told you there was an easy solution? A solution that would take each of us about 4 years to fix and result in a legacy that would long outlive us all. A legacy our kids and grandkids could benefit from.

If every hunter recruited a new hunter, we’d return to 1982 levels in a year. That’s right! If every hunter recruited a new hunter, we’d fix the problem! Now, here’s where the four year legacy comes in. The same researchers that predict this cliff also suggest that it takes about two to four years to create a hunter. So, if we invest our time, our extra gear, our knowledge, and our love of the outdoors with a new hunter for up to four years, we’ll avoid the cliff altogether. So what’s the catch? No catch, but there are suggestions for making it the best impact and use of your time. Here are two major ones:

• Recruit someone who doesn’t look like you. Most hunters are white, middle aged men. We need to recruit people of color and more women to the hunting ranks if we’re to succeed. This will become more and more important as the number or Caucasians begin to sink into a minority in the U.S., which is predicted to be the situation by 2044.

• Recruit more adults. Studies show that kids are difficult to recruit because they lack transportation and expendable income to truly adopt hunting. Plus, they will have to “figure out who they are” anyway. However, many young adults didn’t have a parent or grandparent to take them hunting and more of them are concerned with where they’re food comes from. Take advantage of this. Many adults want to hunt for their food, but don’t have a clue how. They need mentors!

Four years. That’s it! Four years to leave a legacy that will outlive us all. Let’s commit to recruiting adults that don’t look like us and commit to mentoring them for up to four years. If we do that, then we’ll be ensuring that my young daughters, your kids and grandkids, we’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors just the way we have.