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The More, The Merrier

Survey finds hunter numbers increase; Author says youth push aided gains

By: Steve Rogers,

Hunting numbers are up, reversing a previous downward trend, according to a national survey released this month.

Shawn Meyer, an author of children’s hunting books and a general youth hunting advocate, said increased interest in getting young people involved in hunting is one of the primary reasons for the increase.

“I’m not surprised,” Meyer said. “More kids are getting involved and that helps those numbers.”

The number of people aged 16 and older participating in hunting in the United States increased 9 percent between 2006 and 2011, according to a preliminary report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Series and the Department of Interior. A survey conducted by the USFWS showed an increase from 12.5 million in 2006 to 13.7 million in 2011.

Final data will be included in the USFWS 2011 National Survey Report, which will be available in November. The USFWS has conducted a national survey every five years since 1955.

According to the report, 1.8 million children aged 6 to 15 hunted in 2011, up from 1.6 million in 2006. The National Youth Hunting Association has chapters in every state, providing education and training in hunting and conservation.

Meyer said his interest in authoring children’s hunting books began inside his own home.

Shawn Meyer's first youth hunting book was "Connor's Big Hunt." (Courtesy Shawn Meyer)

“When I initially wrote my first book, my biggest motive was introducing my kids to hunting,” said Meyer, who is the father of seven children, aged 12 to 1. “I went looking for some hunting books for children, and I couldn’t find any.

“Some of my fondest memories were hunting and fishing with my father, and I wanted my children to experience that as well. Now there are lots more children’s hunting books, and I rejoice when I see that – don’t see it as competition.”

Meyer, 41, who lives in Rockford, Ohio, published his first book, “Connor’s Big Hunt,” in 2005. His second, “Connor’s Spring Gobbler,” came in 2007. More books are on the way, he said.

The USFWS survey noted that among nation’s 13.7 million hunters, 11.6 million hunted big game, 4.5 million small game and 2.6 million migratory birds.

Meyer said his children enjoy it all. The game he hunts with his children include deer, turkey and dove.

“Dove hunting is great for kids,” Meyer said. “Lots of action. But my kids are crazy about hunting, no matter what it is.”

The benefits of hunting with children far outweigh one’s own hunting exploits, Meyer said.

“We’ve been hunting all of our lives, and we’ve killed 30, 40 deer,” he said. “Believe me, you get much more satisfaction seeing a 12-year-old getting his first deer than you getting your 50th.”

Meyer said parents must be wary of pushing their children too hard into hunting; more gentle methods typically work much better. Also, he said watching at an early age will result in more joyful participation later for younger children.

“I’m not one to throw a 7-year-old child in a blind with a gun,” he said. “My thing has always been: Watch Dad. They’re with me, watching when they’re young. They gain appreciation and they learn the skills. It also creates more excitement when they do get that first deer.”

Other highlights from the USFWS’s preliminary report include:

  • Hunters spent an average of 21 days in the field during 2011.
  • Expenditures by hunters, fishermen and wildlife recreationists were $145 billion, 1 percent of the gross national product.
  • Total hunter expenditures have increased 27 percent since 2001.
  • Hunting related expenses have increased 30 percent since 2006.
  • Big game attracted 11.6 million hunters, an 8-percent increase since 2006.

For the USFWS preliminary report, click here.

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