It’s a good time to be a hunter. After the difficult winter of 2010/2011, deer populations are rebounding. In the case of elk and moose, these animals are expanding their range in the southern part of our province. On the down side, recruitment is low. There aren’t as many new hunters as a generation or two ago and this can lead some people to question whether or not hunting is a dying sport.
Of course, there are two sides to every story and some experienced sportsmen are glad to see fewer hunters joining the sport because they think this means more tags for them. But let’s not assume quantity means quality.
I think there are a few reasons that explain why there are fewer hunters now compared to the two or three decades following the Second World War. To me, the two main reasons are circumstance and economics.
Many people I’ve spoken with would like to try hunting, but they aren’t sure they could kill an animal because it wasn’t part of their upbringing. Others have expressed interest, but explained to me they never had friends or family members who could take them hunting. That’s what I mean by circumstance. Some people were born into hunting families and some people weren’t. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, that’s just the way the cards were dealt.
Some of us also happened to be born in rural Saskatchewan, which is a great place to live if you enjoy hunting, but our province’s population has flowed from villages to cities for many years now. For the most part, residents of small towns move to the city in pursuit of economic opportunities. Hunting isn’t as popular in cities nor as accepted. It’s also easier to hunt when you live close to where you hunt.
But even if a person is born into a family that hunts, there’s another economic factor to consider – hunting is expensive. Unfortunately, cost is a major limiting factor for young hunters.
Most people start hunting in their teens or twenties – neither of which are periods in life known for personal wealth. At the bare minimum, a new hunter needs a rifle and the proper clothes, this alone will typically cost between $500 and $1,500 depending on the quality of the purchases.
At first, rookies will often borrow a rifle before choosing a make and model they like. The cost of a rifle is high and even more so when you equip it with a scope and sling.
On the other hand, guns are good investments. They hold their value and often appreciate. Firearms also last several generations. I’m sure some of you use guns that belonged to your father or even grandfather.
Even if you’re fully equipped, there’s still fuel to purchase and fuel can easily amount to half of your annual hunting budget.
In relative terms, a casual hunter can maintain a reasonable budget, but if an inexperience hunter is going to get serious, he or she should expect to spend several thousand dollars over the years, but that person may simply accept the expense as the price of enjoying their sport. It comes down to priorities and expectations.
Although there are fewer men hunting than in years past, there are a lot more women in the field. Men still make up the majority of hunters, but when I started hunting in the early 1990s there were no women who hunted. As it stands, there still aren’t a lot of lady hunters in terms of total numbers, but it’s not uncommon to see women hunt.
There probably won’t ever be as many hunters as there once was in this province, but I don’t think hunting will ever die in Saskatchewan. It’s too much a part of the culture, especially in small towns.
This was the first in a two-part series about hunting. If you’d like to read more about hunting, next week’s column will explain how initiating rookies to the sport makes you a better hunter.
PHOTO DOMINIQUE LIBOIRON
Deer populations in the Cypress Hills have rebounded from the difficult winter of 2010/2011 and this translates into more hunting opportunities.