Hunting is in trouble. However, there's a tool that might be able to fix it.
By definition, the word conservation is the act of preserving or protecting something. Therefore, it can be inferred wildlife conservation is a means of protecting a lifestyle that already faces a threat.
The culture surrounding hunting is a very unique one in that it's always supported itself. Most of the knowledge a hunter reverts to comes from prior generations. Firearms, too, are often passed down in this fashion. The stories and experiences are all completely self-developed between a person, their friends, and nature.
The hunting community holds itself together financially, too. Money from hunting and fishing licenses goes directly to state conservation agencies to pay for the upkeep of public land, wildlife research, hunter education, etc.
So, in a nutshell, we just pay for everything ourselves.
There's just one problem. The number of hunters is down--way down. Since 1980, the number of hunters has dropped from 18 million to 10.5 million. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation foresees a fall-off of more than 2 million hunters in just the next five years.
Fewer hunters means less money from licenses. Less money means less sustainability, as well as an inability to pay for resources that make our lifestyle so enjoyable.
Why have the hunting numbers continued to fall? It's really simple. It's becoming harder and harder for beginners to get started. Anyone who doesn't have connections or a fat wallet knows the struggle of having nowhere to hunt.
A couple friends and I recently moved from Virginia to Texas, where we didn't know anyone. The three of us are avid outdoorsmen who seem to always run into the same problem--we have nowhere to go.
As a hunter in Texas, your options are:
- Lease land for a season (which is very expensive and limits you to one place)
- Play your hand in a drawn hunt (we applied for 16 different hunts, didn't get any)
- Hunt on the limited amount of public land there is (and hope to find an area where you don't already see blaze orange)
- Pay to hunt on a ranch (you're paying an arm and a leg for one non-guaranteed hunt)
- Know someone with land that will let you hunt on it (good luck if you're the new guy in town)
This isn't just in Texas, though. Hunters all over the country are having more and more trouble finding places to hunt, and it's a direct result of fewer people hunting.
We have to turn the trend around, and the only way is to make it easier for beginners to get involved. It starts with each of us introducing our passion to new people, whether that means helping them find new places to hunt, showing them the ropes or just inviting them to go shoot. The cool thing is, there's an app for that.
Eric Dinger, the CEO of Powderhook, wanted to do something to protect the lifestyle he's embraced his whole life.
The concept for the app changed a couple times before this one stuck. Dinger first attempted to make the hunter's version of Airbnb, where users could offer land (rather than houses) for others to rent for the day. After swinging and missing a couple times with similar ideas, he finally made contact with Powderhook, which seems to be somewhat of a combination of each.
He predicts baby boomers will begin rapidly aging out of hunting in the next five years or so. Because of this, he says the demand for younger people to get involved in hunting couldn't be higher right now.
"Everything we're working on is to make it suck less," he says. "If you need a place to hunt or you want to learn how to do it, you need a tool like ours."
The app continues to grow as a multi-tool for hunters, and now features one of the most complete maps of areas to hunt and fish. It also serves as modern version of the bulletin board in your local tackle store where you can see local news and events regarding the outdoors.
"I want to be the source of local information about the outdoors, almost like a 'Redneck Reddit,'" Dinger says. "I think you're going to see us lead a culture change in the industry where we stop focusing so much on who killed the biggest deer, but instead how cool it is to bring a new person. The trophy is in the story, and the experience is what matters."
Powderhook is available on Google Play and in the App Store.