Sunday, November 26, 2006

Must Read Newsweek Article on the Decline of Hunting

It's not often I get to say something nice about Newsweek, but this beautifully written, heartfelt article on the decline of hunting should be on everyone's must-read list:
Hunting in America has entered a long twilight. The number of license holders—roughly 15 million through 2004—has actually shrunk by about 2 million people since 1982, when the population was 230 million (versus 300 million today). Since 1990, the number of license holders in Massachusetts has dropped by 50,000, or 40 percent; in California since 1980 the number has fallen by almost half, from 540,000 to 300,000. In Michigan, there were 1.2 million licensed hunters in 1992—but fewer than 850,000 in 2004. Hunters are aging: about seven in 10 are older than 35 (in 1980, only four in 10 were over 35). The reasons for hunting's decline are pretty basic: fewer fields and streams and hills full of game to hunt (Census data show that urban America more than doubled in acreage from 1960 to 1990); more restrictions and lawsuits; more videogames and diversions to keep junior (and his dad) on the couch.
...I have a son and daughter of my own now, and I would like the chance to pass on some of what my father taught me. It's hard to write this without sounding a little mawkish, but what I learned from hunting is that things in life aren't always black and white, and that they're not always easy, but the effort put in has a direct correlation to your success. You have to do it right. You respect the gun, you respect the animal and you respect the rules, and that translates to real life. It's hard to kill something, but you develop deep appreciation of animals and the outdoors when you do it regularly. I know nonhunters think that's absurd logic, and I understand why. But if it's part of your culture and part of the road to being a man, you find a way to face up to the hard parts and the raw emotions of it and you do it honorably. Shooting an animal is often a gut-wrenching act, and not one that's taken lightly by anyone I know. You respect it, you honor it and you never waste it. Most of all, you just give thanks for it.
You all already know what I'm going to say next...I was raised a hunter; walked the fields with my father, various uncles, grandfather; schooled in the joys, the trials, the ethics of the hunt. I have fought long and hard against the hypocrites — including those in my own family — who rail about the "inhumanity" of hunting while "enjoying" a double patty Big Mac with bacon.

But I unconditionally believe that it is suicide to hitch all our RKBA wagons to the one horse of hunting! Especially with the Democrats now running the store. The best-selling rifle in America is the AR-15 platform black rifle; the numbers are are harder to come by, but I would wager that the second best-selling rifle in America is the AK-47 and its variants.

As I travel around the country, I have the unique opportunity to go to ranges and talk with shooters...what I hear and see are self-defense handguns, ARs and AKs. Virtually the only context in which I hear hunting mainstay bolt-action rifles even mentioned is long distance precision — sniper — competition; the venerable Winchester '94 30-30, which gave so many young people, including me, their introduction into bigger game hunting, is no longer manufactured...indeed, the "old" Winchester is dead as the dodo...and if you want to talk lever actions, you've got to take up cowboy action shooting.

Self-defense, training and competition reign unchallenged as the drivers for the firearms industry and our best hope of both increasing our numbers and preserving our rights.

We — that is, us as individuals and our representatives in and from the industry — must start making the case that shooting and hunting are not synonymous. We need to promote the vibrant growth of all forms of shooting competition, and we must keep reminding both the nonaligned and our enemies — and those nattering idiots at the New York Times — that our firearms rights have nothing to do with duck hunting.

Why does the industry resist this so vociferously?


Anonymous said...

Interesting that the author also mentioned the wedge you have pointed our prevously of the hunter surrendering rights on handguns as long as his/her hunting rifle is protected.

The author also mentioned the dollars raised through gun sales. What percentage comes from the black rifles? Do you have these figures? does anybody? Also, what percentage from handguns and the related ammo for both? Is that money also going to conservation and support of hunting or does it go to other projects specific to non-hunting shooting? Your insights would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Why does the industry resist?
Theres a multiplicity of answers.
This is the safe way to get a paycheck. Many are not "gunnies" who happened to stumble into jobs that involve firearms.

If they support sporting use, they offend almost no one.

They a have no reason, save principle, to espouse any other use. And who rewards anyone for standing on principle?

Anonymous said...

Interesting indeed. Being that I work in the firearms industry, I must agree with Michael about the sales of AR's and AK's. Their sales are brisk indeed, conversely hunting type bolt's and lever's are more and more a very seasonal item with a spike in numbers in the 4th quarter. Besides, an ever expanding supply of quality used bolt and lever guns keeps retailers shelves full. That used supply also goes a great distance in explaining the high volume of optics sales that fails to match long gun sales.

As a competitive shooter, I hate to see so many industry higher up's and trade groups beat drum so furiously for hunting while generally ignoring other market segments. The companies that pay some attention to competitive shooting and the self defense market segment are richly rewarded so to speak. A few manufacturers are more overt than others, recently some of the marketing types seem to have caught the scent of these additional market segments.

Change has been slow in arriving; witness what has happened in the marketing of guns and allied products to women. Pre-1993 no one aimed any appreciable marketing at female gun owners. The industry collectively owes a big thank you to President Clinton for awakening the other half of the US population. Some of those soccermoms that put him in office wanted to be able to have their own guns for their own reasons.

Enough of my two cents...maybe I should save these thoughts for a masters dissertation...

Middle Man

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that the article quoted USFWS Director Dale Hall reminding us that as Americans we have the unique freedom to hunt. At my previous employer, Siemens Mobile, my German colleagues were astonished that hunting here was open to all and not reserved exclusively for the rich.

The liberals are clearly trying to drive a wedge between hunters and other firearms users, but let's not play into their hands by helping to widen the gap by developing anti-hunting attitudes on our side.

The NRA was very foolish in adopting an anti-habitat policy position, as in their recent opposition to giving wilderness status to Browns Canyon here in Colorado because it would close down an ATV trail. I just turned 50 and my knees snap, crackle and pop too, but as a hunter I'm dedicated to preserving the little habitat we have left.

Nor is it helpful when another local blogger starts referring to hunters as "Fuddites."

Nor when competitive drives slop over from the target range to the hunting field, as with that jackass up in Michigan who has just launched a new hunting "league." Not Nugent, the other jackass from Michigan.

And stop whining about not having access to Pittman-Robertson funds. PR is one of the few financial resources we have for habitat preservation.

I support the Second Amendment and the right of self defense, but remember that hunting is also a precious right that's worth fighting for.

Anonymous said...

You know guys, you can be both a hunter and a shooter. I don't hunt as much as I once did, but I would love to be able to return to it again in the future. I am an avid shooter however -- and I MAKE time to go to the range. If I had more time I would still do both as often as possible.

I am somewhat "old school" in my firearms tastes. I used to own a Bushmaster AR-type rifle, and it was a fine gun; reliable and accurate. I had fun with it, but then I got bored with it. I now mostly enjoy shooting lever action rifles (I'm not involved in CAS at all), revolvers and 1911s. Let me tell you, even today the levergun is a potent weapon and they can be very accurate.

ARs and AKs are good weapons to be sure. But older designs like lever actions and bolt guns still have a lot to offer -- even to serious shooters.

Mark Robinson

Michael Bane said...

Ah, let's talk about "whining" over P-R funds...

I agree with you that habitant protection is a worthy goal, but it is NOT ONE IOTA more of a worthy goal than the expansion of target shooting opportunities.

To an extent, "voluntary" taxation like P-R is a contract between the taxee (me) and the taxor (government in accordance with industry wishes). I agree to pay an additional 11% on my purchases on the stipulation that my tax dollars are used in specific venues, in this case habitat protection, hunter education and expansion of ranges and shooting sports opportunities.

Totally arbitrarily, the contract has been altered on one side...the money overwhelming goes to habitat preservation, with leftovers to hunter education and virtually nothing to the shooting sports.

At the same time, the "taxee mix" has changed radically...when P-R went into place, the taxees were overwhelming hunters; now the majority of the taxees are shooters, who do not see the benefits of the 11% they pay out.

As admirable as habitat preservation might be, taxation withour representation is STILL tyranny.

If the outdoor community decides that habitat preservation is in and of itself a goal worthy of self-taxation, so be it. I would, in fact, happily support such a tax.

But P-R rests purely on outdated information, greed by the people who benefit from the tax and outright lies. If you take my money ostensibly to help promote outdoor activities that I participate in, you damn well better cough up some results if you want my continued support!

I agree that the NRA has been short-sighted on habitat, largely because of pressure from non-gun groups — which, BTW, I refused to work for a few years back, because i ONLY do guns!

In terms of the wedge between us, there has ALWAYS been a fundamental difference between hunters and shooters. And there has always been a minor refrain within the hunting community on the differences between "hunting" guns and "non-hunting" guns. I posted some of the comments along those lines from top hook-and-bullet writers before the election. When I did the media program for NSSF, I included hook-and-bullet writers because we were surprised at how divergent out views were!