Are Hunter Numbers Declining in Alabama | Great Days Outdoors

Why technology may destroy the future of deer hunting.


As the sport of deer hunting continues to evolve, one can almost draw an exact parallel in the evolution of hunting and the changes in our hi-tech society. Are hunter numbers declining in Alabama?

Your initial reaction to this statement might be, “Isn’t that the case with pretty much everything?” Not really. Take fishing, for example. A hundred years ago we had a rod and reel. We baited a hook on the end of our line, cast it into the water and reeled in a fish. Today, we do the exact same thing but with more sophisticated gear.


Deer Hunting Then and Now

Let’s take a look at deer hunting “Then and Now.” Let’s say “Then” was about 45 years ago when I was a young boy just learning to hunt.


Then: I climbed into the bed of a pickup truck with my shotgun and, along with other hunters, was dropped off about 100 yards apart alongside a road or trail. There I stood and waited while a couple of men and a few dogs went crashing through a nearby thicket in an attempt to flush out deer that hid in thickets.

“No cell phones and no GPS, just really loud yelling. And we wore only one kind of camo, the kind used by the military. It looked absolutely nothing like real trees or mossy oaks.”

The idea was to drive a buck past us within range of our 12 gauge. No cell phones and no GPS, just really loud yelling. And we wore only one kind of camo, the kind used by the military. It looked absolutely nothing like real trees or mossy oaks.

Now: We set out on our own, gunning our four-wheelers and golf carts, fully clad in 3-D camo, to set up in an ambush spot we’ve pre-selected. We climb high up in trees or shooting towers with our high-powered rifles outfitted with powerful scopes.

Or we climb up in our bow stands with sophisticated bows and crossbows that shoot over 400 feet per second. We no longer have to make that split-second decision from the ground—at eye level with the deer—to shoot or not to shoot while a deer runs for his life to get away from the dogs and drivers.

Now we can pick them off from hundreds of yards away with the precision of a military sniper, or launch an arrow from a distance 50 yards or more with amazing accuracy.



Modern Hunting a Huge Contrast

To be sure, the contrast between then and now is striking.

Then: We’d hear the dogs suddenly start barking like mad back then. The drivers started yelling, “Here he comes! Here he comes!” Then a shot would ring out nearby and you just knew somebody had taken a buck.

But then we’d wait…wait to be picked back up in the truck and driven back to a central meeting area where it all began. Then we’d wait some more…wait for the rest of the guys to show up and then wait for the guy who shot to show up with his deer and tell the whole story. Sometimes it seemed like hours went by before we got the scoop.

Now: When we hear our buddy shoot nearby, within minutes our cell phones vibrate with a text message telling us what he just shot. He can have the entire story of the hunt out to hundreds of people via social media and even pictures of the deer he shot, all before he even climbs down out of the tree.

Then: We’d all meet up at the end of the day, gather around all the deer that were killed and listen to the stories again. It was a celebration of sorts, not unlike the Indians used to do after a successful buffalo hunt.

Then the deer would be skinned and cut up and the meat would be divvied up between everyone there as we listened to the old timers tell us which cuts of meat were the best, and the best way to cook it.

Now: We shoot a deer and someone helps us load it into the bed of our truck and it’s off to the nearest processor to be dropped off and picked up a few weeks later. The meat is processed into various forms and made to not taste like deer meat.


Are hunter numbers declining in Alabama due to younger generations staying at home?

This photo was taken by Pete Young.


Changes in Choices and Priorities

Another big contrast is in the guns and ammo available then and now.

Then: Any old 12-gauge shotgun was the gun of choice, with 00 buckshot shells or slugs. If you knew someone who actually owned a rifle, that rifle was either a 30-06 or a Marlin 30-30. You could go to the nearest General Store and readily find boxes and boxes of whatever kind of ammo you need sitting on open shelves. You could buy as many as you wanted.

Now: You can roll three dice and whatever numbers come up, you can find a rifle caliber that matches those numbers. And if you can even find the ammo you need, you’ll have to find a store clerk to unlock the glass case it’s in and hand over your limit of three boxes.

Then: We never heard the term “150-inch deer” or “four-and-a-half-year-old deer.” We killed spikes, four-points, eight-points. And if someone killed a ten-point, it was talked about for weeks all over the region, and sometimes made the local newspaper.

There were no TV shows about deer hunting. No “steroid effect” food plots. In fact, there was not much in terms in terms of deer management at all, and scarcely did a buck survive to become a trophy by today’s standards.

Now: High-fenced ranches with “farmed” bucks are the trend. You can pay $12,000 and up to kill a 200” buck named Twin Towers or whatever. Elite hunters with outsized egos are seen on TV 24/7—30-minute extravaganzas that feature five minutes of hunting and 25 minutes of commercials.

That’s just a few of the changes in the last 45 years. Honestly, some of that change sounds pretty good. But with all this change comes an alarming side effect.


Will Young Hunters Replace Older Hunters Fast Enough?

It appears too many youngsters are being left at home when dad takes off to the hunting camp. They sit, usually indoors, to play on their electronic gadgets.

“How can anyone ever truly be a lover of the great outdoors and care deeply about it if they’re never out in it?”

Are Hunter Numbers Declining in Alabama?

Studies show the numbers of young people who are coming to the sport of hunting are nowhere near the number of older hunters leaving the sport. If this trend keeps up, I suppose one day the government will have to step in and take extreme measures to control wild animal populations, thus preventing starvation among them.

I’m not knocking technology. Who knows, maybe one-day wars will be fought on computer screens, and young men and women will no longer have to sacrifice life and limb in combat. Wait, that sounds a little familiar even 45 years ago. ”Hey, you sunk my battleship!”

Seriously, the great outdoors is being lost to the new age of technology. Kids are becoming hostage to it. How can anyone ever truly be a lover of the great outdoors and care deeply about it if they’re never out in it?

I don’t think it’s too late, though. I believe America’s youth, deep down, want to feel a part of grown-up life. Looking back, becoming a hunter for me was like a rite of passage to adulthood.


Sacrifice Could Change the Course of a Kid’s Life

Psychologists tell us that children crave structure. Sure, it takes sacrifice and patience on the part of grown-ups. Imagine dragging a grumpy kid out of the bed at four in the morning. The adolescent is whining and complaining that he doesn’t care about deer hunting.

But as responsible adults, we feel the need to provide a healthy outlet for that child’s energy. It’s also on us to provide incentives. Why not tell him how much it would mean to you if he tagged along? But don’t stop there. Give examples of your own exciting outdoor experiences—not just once but many times. And remember that repetition works best in small doses.

While talking with my dad—the great exemplar—he brought up an interesting point. Violence among youngsters in America is growing. He wondered if the lack of exposure to good clean, outdoor activities might be contributing to their delinquency.

Were these wayward children ever taken hunting or fishing as a child? Were they even offered the opportunity? Paying it forward is not about luck. It’s about caring. Did anyone offer to be their mentor and teach them to respect shotguns as a sporting firearm, not a weapon? As a hunter friend of mine used to say, luck always follows a good game plan.

Hunting, fishing, camping, and experiencing a spirit of camaraderie with grown-ups in an outdoor setting not only makes a kid feel important, it also helps to develop character traits such as generosity, empathy, and appreciation for the gifts of this earth.

We might be tempted to take on the attitude that hunting and the great outdoors is not for our kid. After all, he’s obsessed with hi-tech gadgetry. But how will that child ever know what he’s missing if he’s never exposed to hunting wild game or snagging a lunker bass? Teaching a child about the outdoors is not about convenience. It’s about a mission.


Note: It’s only fair to mention that the timeless tradition of using the dog-drive method is still alive and well. Though I don’t hunt that way myself, I applaud those hunters who keep that tradition going.


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