Kids cultivate skills at Springville Field and Stream's Kids Day
SPRINGVILLE –– Springville Field and Stream Club member and lifelong outdoorsman Bernard Young said he sees more and more Western New York children trading in fresh air for a seat in front of the TV.
“We’re losing hunters every year,” he said, from the club’s main cabin on Aug. 25. “And, as we lose the older hunters, we’re losing even more. It’s a huge concern.”
All around him, children ranging in age from 5 – 17 buzzed around a variety of outside classrooms. Some were learning to tie flies and others were taking in the basics of archery. The pop of rifles echoed through the air.
These classes were part of the Springville club’s first Kids Days event.
Members came up with the concept in, their effort to lure more children into the outdoors and “learn critical – and entertaining – skills in hunting.”
Greg Shurboff brought his son Brandon to the event, saying that he hoped the boy could learn skills beyond fishing, which Brandon was already familiar with.
“[Brandon] caught his breakfast three times this summer,” Greg said. “I caught seaweed.”
Brandon checked out the archery range, shooting a few practice arrows. Stepping back from his bow, he said his aim was a bit off.
“I like it a lot,” he said, of the Kids Days event. “I like tying flies most. If I’m good at it, I want to sell them, when I’m older.”
Young said that he has found it hard to find activities that can compete with electronics and other common childhood activities, including sports. He said a few of the kids in attendance were late because of football practice.
He added that, coupled with the fact that a lot of parents are working more and do not have much time to invest in teaching their children to hunt and trap, as well as the number of single-parent families, the future of hunting may be at risk.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the number of young hunters is declining. Out of every 100 hunters today, 69 young hunters are taking the place of retiring hunters, according to a study taken this year.
The foundation also said that the decline in hunter numbers will affect future wildlife conservation funding and that, by 2025, funding will be reduced by 25 percent.
Springville Highway Department employee Mark Loveless said he saw an even bigger problem for local residents.
“There are more deer [and] more deer-related collisions,” he said. “That’s a result of there being few hunters. It’s sad to see.”
Young said New York has a challenge that most states do not have: an age restriction. In New York, minors younger than 12 years old cannot obtain a hunting license.
He said that this restriction makes it difficult to retain young hunters, because “the younger you get them hunting, the more likely they’ll continue hunting.
“There’s been some progress,” Young added. “[The age limit] was 14, just a couple of years ago.
“We just have to do what we have to do to get them involved,” he said. “Maybe we’ll touch a kid or two, make that connection – and hopefully they’ll tell their friends about us.”