Of the many factors influencing the slow decline of hunting, angling, and other outdoor activties, one of the most powerful is the ever- increasing competition for children's (and thereby families' time) through the paricipation in adult-organized sports, band, and other extracurricular activities. A huge motivation for parents to enroll children in these activities is the feeling that these activities are part of an "achievement ladder" that will help children get better career prospects later in life. Additionally, the collective competitive pressure that both children and families feel to agree to more practices and events, including increasing practices on many days of the week and weekends, makes if hard for many parents to set limits.
There has been a growing movement in opposition to this overscheduling of families by family advocates/family social scientists. Bill Doherty, a family social scientist at the University of Minnesota has been giving presentations on the negative effects of this trend on children and parents. In the Twin Cities suburb of Wayzata, the parents organized a movement for a day every week when there would be NO sports, band, or other extracurricular activities to improve family time.
The intense scheduling of extracurricular activities are greatly influencing the decline in hunting and angling participation. Being involved with recruiting youth to hunting, and a parent of children that are just starting to consider organized activities, it is striking how powerful the pressure is to participate in lots of them. A young hunter I mentored over the past several years missed last season and was only out for opening morning of deer season this year for these very reasons. Luckily, although he hasn't shot a deer yet, he has had several close encounters, including a shot at a buck this past year, that he's hooked.
The issue of overscheduling needs to be addressed collectively, both through a movement and legislation. Given that hunting especially is being negatively effected by this, being the most time-intensive activity of outdoor pursuits, hunters and their organizations should support the Quality Family Time movement. Given that hunting is a great way for families to spend uninterrupted blocks of time together, the family advocates should in exchange actively support/endorse hunting as a positive family activity.
For many hunting and angling organizations, this is "far afield", even though they are acutely aware of the issue through recruiting youth to hunting and angling. Most of what is referred to as the "hook and bullet" crowd usually focuses politically on securing places to hunt and fish, the details of regulations that affect access to places to hunt and fish, as well management of species pursued. There is also frequently "coalition work" with non-hunting and angling conservation/environmental groups to advance legislation that both constituencies consider important. None of this work is off-base, it makes perfect sense. However, broader discussions need to take place about the social trends affecting hunting and angling. If particpiation is low, less of a support base will exist to back up these advocacy groups.
It may be a leap for family advocates as well. I haven't conducted any formal or informal polls, but research by Mark Damian Duda at Responsive Management suggests that higher levels of education in America is associated with anti-hunting sentiment. Typically these advocates are urban and highly educated, which would make them more likely to view hunting negatively or as a value-neutral activity.
But the reality is, both groups have something to gain through such an alliance. We are against powerful social trends, we need all the resources we can get in this fight.