I call myself an “adult onset hunter,” and it’s just what it sounds like: an adult who has dived into the hunting world without any experience, and without a family or childhood connection to help mentor me. And I’m not alone. Together with many others just like me, we represent a new generation of hunter, bringing fresh blood into this age-old pastime.
There are many reasons for this new surge in the popularity of hunting. For my part, it provides an opportunity to spend more time immersed in the outdoors, while also allowing me a closer relationship with my food and the environment. For others, it’s about the adventure and the thrill of the hunt, or maybe the camaraderie of hunt camp and that extra scotch around the campfire.
Whatever the case, we all may have begun hunting for one or two specific reasons, but we’ve since found countless others for heading afield and forgetting about the nine-to-five world. For you lifelong hunters, this is something you should not only encourage, but also celebrate.
THE NEWBIE UPSIDE
The unfortunate reality is that the number of hunters has been on a steady decline in recent years, and the sport continues to face an uphill battle in the world of public relations. Hunting needs all the support it can get, making the men and women new to its ranks a valuable asset.
For starters, adult onset hunters generally come from middle- to upper-class backgrounds, meaning they have the money to spend at local hunting shops. Think of how much gear you currently own. Now imagine having to buy most of it at one time without the benefit of hand-me-downs. That’s a lot of money, and good news for the outdoors economy.
Also think of how new adult hunters can bolster the ranks of the shooting sports community. Many of us come from the big bad cities, where gun owners are often vilified—what better place to build support for responsible firearms use than behind enemy lines? I held many misinformed ideas before obtaining my firearms and hunting licences, for example, but now target shooting and hunting are two of my favourite hobbies. At a time when gun legislation is a contentious issue, the importance of growing the firearms community can’t be overstated.
Then there’s conservation. An influx of new hunters means more people buying tags and licences, which means more money going toward conservation projects and wildlife management. Rather than worry about us discovering your favourite grouse covey or secret buck bedding area, therefore, consider instead how our fresh contributions could very well lead to the establishment of new hunting grounds and conservation areas.
THE LEARNING CURVE
Of course, it’s not easy for us onset adult hunters to make it on our own—to the inexperienced, hunting as a hobby and lifestyle can often seem unapproachable. Please keep in mind that we didn’t get the chance to learn how to gut and skin a deer from granddad, or track a wounded bear from an uncle. And we didn’t have someone explain to us that hunting grouse on crown land during moose season might lead to a confrontation with a group of heavily armed and very angry locals (true story).
No, we are learning as we go, soaking up whatever useful information we come across, whether it’s from magazines, YouTube or online chatrooms. So please, the next time someone asks what you would consider to be a forehead smacker of a dumb question, just remember that—for some of us—this season could be our first to head out hunting. Those same questions you got to ask your dad in the safety and comfort of the hunting blind are now being asked by some of us through e-mails and texts, often to complete strangers.
To those who reply with patience and kindness, and extend offers of mentorship, thank you. It means the world to us newcomers. We may look a bit lost and dress a little oddly at times—you might even consider some of us to be yuppies, or even hipsters—but please don’t judge us for that. After all, we all have the same interests at heart. Heck, we might even turn out to be good hunting buddies one day. See you on the trails.