A couple of weeks ago I went to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife In Service Training for hunter’s education instructors. These happen every couple years where all instructors are invited to go over different subjects associated with teaching hunter’s education. The best way to imagine it is a lot of retired hunters hanging out together while a few people under 60 years old run around helping to keep their elders out of trouble.
It really isn’t quite that bad, but it is no joke that the average age of the participants was probably in the 60’s. This really made me think about how the sport of hunting might actually be dying out. This is actually a quite scary proposition for many reasons. Hunting not only helps to maintain the annual surplus of game animals, but hunting and sporting is the main source of revenue for government conservation programs. If you have never heard of the Pittman Robertson Act, you really should do some research. To assist, I have added this video.
As the numbers of hunters, shooters, and sportsmen diminish so do the funds associated with conservation programs. When bird watchers buy a set of binoculars the funds from that sale go to support, but that is only a single sale. The reoccurring sales to hunters and shooters is where the majority of the funds come from. This is actually a scary realization for most because it means that the harder it is for people to shoot and hunt, the less conservation program funds will be coming in.
Along with the realization that we are seeing fewer and fewer young hunters comes the reality that much of the information being passed along in sporting goods stores and gun shops is not that accurate. Let’s use the increase in wolf population and electronic devices on archery equipment as two examples. People talk about how the wolf population in Washington is growing so quickly that the numbers are almost out of control. Some people claim to have seen wolves in town or near towns, watched them take down an elk, or any other sort of bush story. From what I heard from the WDFW representative that is in charge of tracking wolf populations, this really isn’t going to be the case. There are several packs throughout the state, but the numbers are not high enough to cause enough harm to anything (including livestock) to warrant any special programs to control their numbers. There have also been very few reliable sightings by those outside of the WDFW organization. In regard to electronic devices on archery equipment, the law is quite clear: No electronic devices are allowed on archery equipment (excepted lighted arrow nocks). This means that the sights that have battery powered lighting systems for the pins are not legal. Capt. Mann from the enforcement program did say that a sight that has been disabled will not usually warrant a ticket, but it is still an electronic device by definition. Disabled to him did not include just “taking out the battery” of the device. To him a device must actually no longer function as an electronic device to be okay. He stated that it was easy for someone to just take out the battery, put it in their pocket until in the woods, and then reinstall it.
These were just a couple things that really struck me, but there were many other speakers and subjects covered. There should have been a bit more education on the two subjects that are almost never covered in any great length during a class: archery and muzzle loading. This is especially important since there are a few states that require an additional hunting class to enable them the opportunity to bowhunt for instance. Alaska actually just starting requiring all archery hunters to have an approved bowhunter education class with no grandfather clause for those that have already successfully bowhunted in the past. According to WDFW, there are some “Advanced Hunter Education” classes in the works that might help new hunters to be more successful. I do know that the NBEF Bowunting Class that I help teach does double the success of hunters that take it. Maybe there will be more of a push to teach new hunters these skills. One can only hope.
All in all, I was quite pleased with the IST and do plan on going back. It was quite nice to see all the key players in a single room and gathered for the single purpose of passing along information to the instructors and getting it to their students. I would love it if they happened more often than once every three years, but it really was a hard weekend and I am no where near 60 years old.