Youth Gone Wild
Dave Moreland is a Baby Boomer, so he can’t say anything bad about the generation. But, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist admits, Boomers have done a poor job of indoctrinating their offspring in the hunting culture.
Now, our state is starting to see evidence of that, and it’s making the future of the sport seem even bleaker than that of the New Orleans economy.
Moreland has been watching with deep concern over the last seven years a precipitous fall in big-game license sales.
How bad is it? Well, in 1999-2000, the department sold 171,885 big-game licenses. That number fell every year thereafter, all the way down to 129,434 in 2005-06, the most-recently complete fiscal year.
That might seem like good news to hunters who are sick of crowded boat ramps near popular waterfowl areas or who want less competition for deer at their favorite WMAs.
But actually, a fall in hunter numbers could have ramifications that even further limit our opportunities afield.
For one thing, the department relies almost entirely on license sales to fund its projects and programs. With fewer licenses being purchased, the department’s budget falls, and those very WMAs that at times seem so crowded may one day have to be closed because of lack of manpower and dollars to keep them open.
Also, the sport of hunting is, at best, controversial. There are well-funded forces out there who want nothing more than to see Bambi and Thumper making love in a green field while a camo-wearing hunter hangs from a noose in an adjacent tree.
There are people who are paid to spend their days at work coming up with ways to end hunting in America, and the most effective means for them to do that is through the ballot box. If fewer and fewer people hunt, guess which side is going to win those votes.
Based on the department’s numbers, it would seem Baby Boomers have not done a good job replacing themselves. The department sold 3,351 senior licenses in 2000-01, the first year such a license was available. By 2005-06, that number had ballooned to 39,648.
But technically, these men and women aren’t Baby Boomers. The real Baby Boomer generation doesn’t start turning 60 until the current fiscal year.
“The real bulk of the Boomers were born in 1948-1955, so I expect we’re going to see a pretty rapid decline (in license sales) when they reach 60,” Moreland said.
When it comes to hunter recruitment, however, Baby Boomers had the deck stacked against them, Moreland said.
“The biggest problem is that there’s just no connection between this generation and the land,” he said. “We grew up in rural Louisiana, and we hunted wherever we wanted. Now everything’s leased, and if you want to hunt somewhere, you’ve got to get permission.”
Moreland said, also, kids today have so many other diversions competing for their attention — everything from year-round sports to video games. Good hunters have to be able to overcome occasional bouts of boredom, and today’s youth just aren’t willing to invest that time. They’d rather shoot invading cyber Marsians inside their heated living rooms than sit and wait for a possible shot at a rutting deer.
And for that, we’ll all pay a price.