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Our Youth Hunters Deserve More

There has been some serious conversation as of late regarding the long-term viability of preference points systems. Many hunters have begun to see the writing on the wall, after years of point creep that there are some serious flaws in these systems mathematically and we may have just slit our own throats as a result of our greed for high-quality big game tags. The final straws to break the camel’s back so to speak were the massive error in judgement in Colorado that more than tripled the amount of hunt applicants to a point where no one entering the system after last April will ever have a hope of drawing a decent tag in their entire lifetime and when some in the Wyoming legislature have yet again began to float the idea of rolling out a point system for resident hunters, well let’s just say the reception for such an idea was less than cool. And here’s one huge reason why.

Nationwide young hunter recruitment is down nearly 20%. This is an extremely alarming trend for those of us who know what that means for the future of hunting. One reason for this catastrophic drop in the West I believe, is the implementation of preference points systems over the past 30 years. For young hunters and newbies to the system the western preference points game has become the barrier to hunting that the lack of public land has become in the East, Midwest and South. The long-term result of a true preference point system like Colorado has is to shut out younger and newer hunters in the system in order to benefit the older and more loyal applicants in the system. The net result, unless you were not on the ground floor of many of these systems, you are screwed! The typical youth hunter in states like Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Oregon will likely never see a sheep tag in their entire lifetime. And the thought of a really high quality fourth season deer tag, or a trophy elk tag during the rut, are probably pipe dreams as well.

Statistics have shown that young hunters adopt hunting early, prior to the age of 15, the reason why many states have begun to lower the minimum legal age to hunt. We need to get these kids and get them early or other activities will capture their interest permanently. Preference point systems tend to push them out past the age of easy adoption which makes hunting compete with video games, sports, and other such activities, which was the case when I was a youngster growing up in Wyoming where the legal age to hunt was 14. Almost none of my high school pals hunted, thank God for my dad and grandfather’s stubbornness.

If this is in fact found to be a major factor to young hunter recruitment, then where on earth do we go from here? That question is as tough as it is difficult to answer as many of us have literally vested decades and tens of thousands of dollars into a system that we thought would someday guarantee us the tag of our dreams, only to find out after 25 years or more of dedication, that mathematically we will probably die before we ever see a coveted tag in our mailbox. There are rough seas ahead for many states as applicants begin to get fed up and give up on these systems both before or after they draw the tag they have been waiting so long for. This along with the lack of hunter recruitment will eventually have a disastrous financial effect on state game and fish agencies throughout the West in the next decade or so.

After publishing an article on the 11 dangerous pitfalls of points systems on our blog at Eastmans.com my inbox soon filled up with feedback from frustrated applicants nation-wide that are rethinking their future contributions to these systems. I don’t have an answer for this problem, certainly not an easy one. But if we don’t figure out a way to get more young and new hunters into the system we will all perish under the weight of our own insatiable lust for the best big game tags in the West.

About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

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Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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  1. I totally agree with the up hill climb that new hunter face, both young of age and new to the sport. Older (65+) hunters also are affected by the true points systems. Side Note: One point of correction is that Oregon Sheep draw (and Mt Goat) is a totally random draw, with no points, so all applicants have the same chances every year. Oregon does have some good youth opportunities with mentor youth program (they can hunt on another’s tag age 9 to 16), youth only tags, and the first time second chance program, where if they are not drawn in the regular draw they can get a tag in most units if they have not drawn one before. Does Wyoming offer youth only opportunities?

  2. David L Hoshour

    The biggest reason for the poor hunter recruitment of young people? The breakdown in the American family. In 1950 only 7% of children did not live in a two-parent household. Now, it is 31%. And today, 42% of children don’t live with both biological parents. Usually it is the dad, especially the biological father that is missing. A single mom is most of the time not going to be the one to instill a love of hunting, she’s too strapped and too exhausted.

    The second biggest reason is addiction to sedentary technology, the cell phone, the computer, the TV or video games. “Want to go hunting?” “Nah, you go (I’m addicted).”

  3. Another issue is expense in getting youth hunters in the field. (Beyond gear and equipment). I have hunted Montana for 30 yrs and have accepted the continuous rise in license fees. This year my 13 year old son wanted to join us in the field. Great!! Except the non-resident youth tag is $530. I begrudgingly paid it, as I feel it’s important to get our next generation in the field. But it seems to be a counter-productive way to help with hunter recruitment. It’s difficult enough to get our next generation off their phones and away from the screen. Why not a reasonable amount for youth hunters? Residents youth license are a tiny fraction of non-resident cost. And I pity the family with 2,3 or 4 youth hunters. They may never get their opportunity to experience the great western outdoors.

  4. WAKE UP FOLKS !!!! The left in the halls of our capitol and some states want to do away with the 2nd. amendment ( all guns) . They will use rules , regulations any yes even point systems and other poly’s to obtain their goal . Don’t under estimate these wolves in sheep’s clothing . How do you figure this you say . Well if young minds are so involved with new age fads and the new technological distraction and can’t critically think for themselves , then in the future there will be less concern and support to keep our constitutional rights .” Dad ; I’am bored with hunting . All we ever see is other hunters, never any animals we can shoot. So i’am going to give up hunting and do something else . And soon these young minds will be confronted with critical choice ( here is where critical thought applies ) of constitutional right’s and just may say , “I DON’T HUNT , I DON’T HAVE A USE FOR A GUN , I DON’t HAVE ANY FRIENDS WHO HAVE GUN”S ! So who cares about ###*****@#@#@# GUN”S . It’s no big deal (chaplaincy) . Now we have less hunters less support for gun rights and the left has just been assured a not to distant victory to remove the 2nd amendment . TO CATCH A PIG , you have to be able to out smart a pig !!!!!

  5. Oregon has a unique system for the young hunter: there are points for Mentored hunters and youth. These also work for a “guaranteed” first time youth hunt–after that, yes, they have to apply and wait. Oregon puts up 25% of all tags for a hunt into lottery–so there is a small chance one could win it–I’ve met and know dozens of first time applicants that have won Once in a Lifetime tags for Bighorn Sheep and Goat in our state.

  6. Not only is the point system a problem but with Wyoming requiring nonresidents to have a guide/outfitter to hunt with an average cost of around $5k it just makes it unrealistic for many to do.

  7. New Mexico IMO is leading the way to growth! Our numbers of Hunter’s are up every year as a state and #1 in the nation last year for new Hunter growth. Check out what New Mexico has for our/your kids! BIGORN SHEEP, IBEX, ORYX, ELK, MULE DEER, ANTELOPE youth only hunts. Elk are in the rut or prime cow dates, mule deer in the ruts, antelope for kids only! Bighorn oryx and ibex for only kids. My son is growing up hunting in one of the toughest states to draw tags in. Kids can’t even hunt in Colorado until they are 12…. At 14 here in NM he has drawn YOUTH ONLY elk 2, antelope 2, ibex, rifle deer3 and now bow deer 2 already! I’m not getting into the point fight on here I’m stuck in it in every Western state already. If you want new Hunter’s get kids involved in your states!

  8. I grew up hunting with my dad and grandfather in Colorado. I’ve been a avid hunter for over 25 years and have been a Colorado resident for my entire life. Unfortunately this article is 100 percent correct. I have a young son that turned 12 this year. This is his first year applying in Colorado and has been a resident his entire life. Unfortunately he didn’t draw any tags he put in for this year. The left over tag day is also a joke. The system year after year gets so overloaded because everyone gets on at the same time. I can’t understand why youths don’t have first shot for any leftover tags. You can’t go hunting if you can’t get a tag. There is no way a resident youth should not draw a deer, elk or antelope tag. We do hunt several other states that have more opportunities for youth hunter. Nebraska offers $8 youth either sex tags. wyoming has lower cost deer tags. It’s crazy to me that other states offer more of an opportunity for a youth hunters then his home state. I know many people can’t afford to hunt multiple states. If that’s the case the youth hunter would be sitting at home playing video games because he doesn’t have a tag. Colorado seems to be more worried about money over priority. They allow more out of state hunters because they make more money on their draw licenses. One other issue is the habitat stamp. People hunting and fishing pay for these stamps. Why are the bikers, hikers, skiers and campers not required to pay for a habitat stamp? They actually use the mountains more then the hunters and fisherman.
    Colorado what have you done? So sad!

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