It’s official, I’m an empty nester. Took the youngest of our five sons to college at Wichita State University late last week. That was a surreal experience.
I suffered from a case of “eye sweating,” as my wife calls it. I mean, it was 104 degrees on the thermometer when we unloaded his stuff just outside his dorm, so it makes sense my eyes were sweating, right?
My wife and I, as parents who’ve had children living with us for the past 27 years, have had an interesting year with a lot of “last time for this” moments. And now we’ve got the “first time for this” moment of living in a home without loud boys to keep us company (or sometimes drive us crazy). I am certain this is going to take some getting used to for both me and the missus. We did bring home a couple of new dogs over the summer though, so we’ve got plenty to keep us busy and keep the house active.
My friend Jim Shepherd said to me the other day, “Once you get accustomed to the echoes where the noise used to be, the empty nest isn’t that bad, Kenyon.” I believe he’s probably accurate in that description and truthfully, I’m as equally excited about the freedom of empty nesting as I’m scared of it. I’m sure it’ll all turn out alright, minus some additional eye sweats.
Speaking of Jim, he had a column in his August 12 issue of The Outdoor Wire that I want to bring to your attention in case you haven’t read it. He summarizes a study recently wrapped up and published that originated out of North Carolina State University. Read Jim’s column, then be sure to check out the study itself.
The study is rather revealing. And it’s pretty evident that we in the industry have our work cut out for us as we look to the future of the shooting sports and hunting in particular. We’ve got to win over the hearts and minds of our younger generation or risk the possibility that many of the activities and open spaces we enjoy today will not be available to us tomorrow.
The study’s intended purpose was to discover what today’s young people (tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers) think about wildlife conservation and how they feel about the funding needed to accomplish these conservation goals. Readers here are surely aware that the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 has been tremendously successful in enhancing wildlife management and habitat conservation efforts. But with the numbers of hunters dwindling by over 2 million people since the 1980’s, there’s reason to be concerned that Pittman-Robertson funds will not be able to sustain the myriad of needs for conservation efforts.
And as Jim points out, and the study clearly articulates, right now we can’t count on our young people to be willing to help fund these important needs with their own money. It’s not exactly that today’s young people (over 17,000 college age kids were questioned) don’t care about wildlife habitat and conservation, it’s just that they don’t appear to care enough to want to pay any of the bill themselves. They believe it should be someone else. And of course, no one’s asked the “someone else” if they’d like to pay up.
What it means for our industry and our access to outdoor activities is hard to say. Sales in our industry remain at record levels, making sure the Pittman-Robertson funds are coming in at a furious pace – for now. But what the study can and does tell us is that if we want our kids, grandkids, and their grandkids to enjoy the same kind of outdoor experiences that we’ve all enjoyed, it’s going to take some serious educating of folks who do not take part in hunting and shooting activities. It’s also going to take some energy and effort on our end to bring people into the fold and invite them to go hunting and shooting with us.
And that brings me to my final point. This month is National Shooting Sports month in America. It’s the time each year when all of us should be helping to spread the good news about all the shooting sports has to offer. With somewhere between 8 to 10 million new gun owners among us, we should be working actively to promote firearm safety, training, and participation. It’s also a great time to remind any and everyone about shooting sports history, heritage and the importance of our 2nd Amendment rights for today, tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come.
If you need some ideas about how you can take part, be sure to check out the NSSF’s website dedicated to the initiative at www.shootingsportsmonth.org. Then, I really encourage you to do all you can to tell the story of our industry. We have a great story, so let’s make sure our future stays bright and not keep that story to ourselves.
Until next time,