Phil Bourjaily: An Important Revelation

Last week some of the New York staff were taken out to Colorado by the National Shooting Sports Foundation who put them up in a glorified Holiday Inn where they spent a couple of days listening to presentations about the problems facing hunting in the 21st century. I didn't go, as it is my policy not to attend industry events that don't involve me shooting stuff. Also, I wasn't invited.

Those who went came back with a newsflash: access to land is the number one issue facing hunters today. No kidding. It took two days in a hotel to figure that out?

We do a pretty good job of recruiting young hunters, through special hunts and seasons. It's when the time comes for those new hunters to strike out on their own that we're failing. If they don't live where hunting land is plentiful, or if they don't have dad's deer lease to hunt on, we won't keep them as hunters. I always remember a conversation I had with someone at Texas Parks and Wildlife about a youth program that took disadvantaged kids hunting. Being that this was Texas, where everyone pays to hunt, I asked, did any of these kids ever hunt again? "No," he said."It's the only time in their lives they get to go."

I live in a place where free access to private land remains relatively common, although that's changing fast. There's a big public area about twenty minutes from town. It gets hunted hard, but it's close. In short, it's possible if you are a high schooler or poor college student - or poor adult for that matter - to find a place to hunt nearby.

But that's true in fewer and fewer places. It doesn't bode well for the future of hunting if we get the next generation all excited about the sport then give them nowhere to go. Exit question: how hard is it for the young, impecunious and unconnected to find a place to hunt where you live?