Why Your Kids Don’t Hunt

Why Your Kids Don’t Hunt

Above: The author, pictured in the center photo, second from left, and in the far right photo, enjoys taking his kids hunting but says the most important thing we hunters can do is take kids hunting who are not our own who otherwise would never be exposed to the great outdoors.

In previous generations, hunting was a rite of passage for many children—a tradition passed down from parents to offspring, fostering a connection with nature and a deep appreciation for wildlife. I was a lucky kid.

My dad was a hunter, as were almost all of his friends. Because hunting was “normal” in my family, I couldn’t wait to go hunting with my dad, who prioritized my hunting over his own for many years. We also lived in a rural area with convenient access to literally thousands of acres of private land to hunt. Most of the kids I knew either were hunters or at least had several members of their circle of family and friends who hunted.

However, in recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of young hunters.

This shift is driven by a confluence of factors including families’ increasingly hectic schedules, the rising costs associated with hunting, and the growing negative portrayal of guns in society. These issues affect more than just the non-hunting public as they often affect the children of even the most avid outdoorsmen and women—including my own. Understanding these factors is crucial in comprehending the broader cultural changes impacting traditional outdoor activities.

Busy Schedules
Today's youth are busier than ever with schedules filled with academic responsibilities, extracurricular activities and social engagements. The education system places significant pressure on children to excel academically, often leaving little time for leisure activities such as hunting. School hours are typically longer with extra athletic practices, and the volume of homework seems to have increased, further reducing the time available for pursuits outside schoolwork. Extracurricular activities also play a significant role in occupying children's time. Sports, music lessons and various clubs are now integral parts of a child's routine, often prioritized over activities like hunting. Parents encourage these activities because they are perceived to offer social, educational and college preparatory benefits. This societal shift places hunting lower on the list of priorities as families juggle packed schedules and aim to provide their children with diverse experiences that may benefit their future careers and personal development. Moreover, the advent of digital technology has created new forms of entertainment that captivate the younger generation. Video games, social media and streaming services offer instant gratification and have become the preferred way for many children to spend their free time. The allure of these digital distractions makes the physically demanding and time-consuming nature of hunting less appealing.

Rising Costs
The financial barrier associated with hunting also has contributed significantly to its decline among children. Hunting is an expensive hobby, with costs that can be prohibitive for many families. Essential gear such as firearms, ammunition, clothing and equipment can run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars. For example, ammunition has more than doubled in price in the last four years. Additionally, there are costs associated with hunting licenses, permits and, lest we forget, the maintenance of equipment. For families that may be already stretched financially, these expenses can make hunting an unattainable luxury.

Thanks to the pandemic of 2020-2021 and the associated inflation accompanying it, the economic landscape has changed, with many families experiencing significantly tighter budgets due to rising living costs and stagnant wages. In such scenarios, discretionary spending on activities like hunting is often cut back in favor of more immediate necessities like food, shelter and gasoline to take kids everywhere they already need to go. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as noted on this website, access to hunting land has become increasingly restricted and costly. Urbanization and the privatization of land have reduced the availability of public hunting grounds near where most people live, necessitating the purchase of hunting leases or memberships in hunting clubs. These added costs can further deter families from introducing their children to hunting.

Increasing Negative Portrayals of Guns
Perhaps one of the most profound shifts impacting youth participation in hunting is the negative portrayal of firearms by the often-biased media and in local and national politics. In recent decades, guns have become a focal point in discussions about public safety, violence and crime. High-profile incidents of gun violence, including school shootings, have fueled a pervasive fear and mistrust of guns among the general and non-hunting public. This negative perception extends to guns used for hunting, despite the fact America’s gun culture and hunting heritage are steeped in safety and responsibility and that guns are used in a lawful manner. The media often highlights the dangers associated with firearms, overshadowing their use by millions of mainstream Americans in traditional recreational activities. As a result, many non-hunting parents are hesitant to introduce their children to hunting due to concerns about gun safety and the potential stigma associated with gun ownership. Educational institutions and community organizations also increasingly advocate for gun-control measures, further influencing public opinion. Programs that promote hunting and shooting sports have diminished, replaced by initiatives focused on gun safety and violence prevention. This cultural shift has led to a reduction in opportunities for children to learn about firearms in a safe and controlled environment.

Cultural Shifts and Changing Values
Beyond practical and financial considerations, there are broader cultural shifts at play. It seems that, at least with most of the media, modern society places a greater emphasis on environmental conservation and animal rights, which they believe conflicts with the principles of hunting. Many young people are growing up with a heightened awareness of animal welfare and may view hunting as contradictory to these values, unaware of hunting’s role in wildlife conservation and its ecological benefits. Additionally, urbanization has distanced many families from the rural roots where hunting traditions were strongest. Urban and suburban environments offer limited exposure to hunting as a lifestyle, resulting in fewer opportunities for children to be introduced to it. The cultural context in which children are raised now often lacks the historical and familial ties that once made hunting a normative activity. The evolving dynamics of family structures also play a role. Single-parent households, dual-income families and the necessity for parents to work longer hours mean there is less time available for parents to take their children hunting. Without a parent or mentor to guide them, many children never get the opportunity to experience hunting firsthand.

Technological and Recreational Alternatives
Technological advancements and new recreational alternatives provide children with a plethora of options that compete with traditional outdoor activities like hunting. The rise of digital and virtual entertainment options offers immediate and engaging experiences that are often more accessible than the logistical effort required for hunting. Video games, in particular, provide interactive and immersive experiences that captivate the younger audience. Moreover, the increasing availability of organized sports and recreational activities means children have many structured options for spending their free time. Sports teams, martial arts classes and various other clubs provide social and developmental benefits that parents and children might prioritize over hunting. These activities are also more likely to be supported and promoted by schools and communities, further reinforcing their appeal.

Environmental and Ethical Considerations
Today's youth are also more environmentally conscious than previous generations. Influenced by educational curricula and social media, many young people are advocates for wildlife conservation and animal rights. Hunting, despite its regulated nature and contribution to conservation efforts for game and non-game species alike, is often viewed through a lens of animal harm and ethical concerns. This false standpoint is further amplified by a biased media and animal rights extremist groups that portray hunting as something only a “backwoods, hillbilly redneck” would take part in, often adding drunkenness and other irresponsible activities into the mix—despite the fact every responsible adult knows that “firearms and alcohol do not mix” and that hunters are trained to be safe and ethical afield.

Because of these things, many children grow up with a perception of hunting as a contentious issue, making them less likely to participate in or advocate for it. This shift in values reflects a broader societal trend toward prioritizing non-consumptive outdoor activities such as wildlife observation, hiking, camping and photography over consumptive ones like hunting. The role of education and outreach addressing the decline in youth hunting participation requires proactive education and outreach efforts. Schools, community organizations and hunting associations play a crucial role in providing balanced information about hunting, firearm safety and the benefits of hunting and other outdoor activities. Hunter education programs demystify the process and highlight the role of hunting in conservation and wildlife management. Moreover, mentorship programs that pair experienced hunters with beginners can foster interest and provide the necessary guidance for safe and responsible hunting practices. These initiatives can help bridge the gap created by busy schedules, financial barriers and negative perceptions. Promoting the cultural and familial aspects of hunting is also essential.

The big problem with this is that many of these programs are failing. There are never enough classes or volunteers to accommodate the few interested youth that we already have, let alone even more. The national hunter-backed R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation) movement is not enough to save the all-American pastime we so cherish. What can we do about it?

Celebrating the traditions and values associated with hunting can resonate with families and encourage them to preserve this heritage. Highlighting hunting as a means of connecting with nature, understanding wildlife ecosystems and contributing to conservation can reshape its perception among the younger generation.

Perhaps the easiest and most important thing that we as hunters can do is take a kid hunting who isn’t our own. Volunteer to help with a hunter’s safety course field day or even the course itself. At a minimum, take your kids’ friends out to the range with you and let them see how much fun shooting can be.

The decline in youth hunting participation is a multi-faceted issue rooted in busy schedules, financial barriers and the increasingly negative portrayal of guns in society. These factors, combined with broader cultural shifts and the rise of alternative recreational activities, have contributed to a significant reduction in the number of young hunters. Addressing this trend requires a concerted effort to educate and engage the younger generation, emphasizing the importance of hunting traditions, the role of hunting in conservation and the value of responsible firearm use. By doing so, we can hope to preserve this integral part of our heritage and ensure that future generations continue to experience the profound connection with nature, conservation and food that hunting provides.

About the Author
Ace Luciano is a sales and marketing executive, hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, best-selling author, entrepreneur, seminar speaker and fundraising professional who most enjoys his role as a youth mentor as he works to pass down our hunting heritage to the next generation. A dynamic outdoor personality and all around "good guy,” Luciano is a self-described outdoor generalist who is a jack of many trades, and a master of several. To order a copy of his book, "Guns the Right Way: Introducing Kids to Firearm Safety and Shooting," click here: