I am going to tell you something that will chill your blood if you are a hunter and outdoorsman.
Fact: The future of hunting and outdoorsmanship is in the process of dying.
That is true and I can prove it. Go to any hunting camp in Texas and look at the people you see there. The vast majority of them will be middle age or older and the most of them will be beyond 50 years of age. The average age of the persons buying hunting licenses in the state of Texas, according to statistics from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is mid-forties. Seeing a youngster in a Texas hunting camp is about as rare as seeing a whooping crane in your front yard.
The reason is simple; hunting in Texas has gotten so expensive that the average person cannot afford the money to take the kids hunting. When an average buck whitetail costs from $1000 to more than $3000, it is extremely difficult for Dad to take Joey hunting. Even cull bucks — pardon me, make that management bucks – which used to be free are now being sold for $1000 and up, sometimes very up. The fact is that hunting in Texas is on the verge of pricing itself completely out of the range of the average hunter. The result is that we are not teaching our children to love the outdoors, because it is just too bloody expensive.
I just did an Internet search using cheap Texas deer hunts for the search parameter. The first one that came up gives the price of a cheap hunt as $2000 for an 8-point buck that would score under 140 B&C points. That is precisely the kind of buck that Junior would probably shoot for his first buck. But he won’t be able to because Dad cannot afford to pay $2000 for the boy to shoot a cull buck. That is simple math. According to the Census Bureau, the average income for a family in Texas is right at $50,000. That means that for Dad to let Junior shoot a buck, it would cost, if my math is correct, 4% of the annual family income. That is, if Dad doesn’t care to hunt. If Dad hunts then the cost rises to at least 8%, or nearly a tenth, of annual family income. I don’t know too many families that would sacrifice that much income to go shoot a cull buck or two.
Another outfitter on the Web advertises management deer hunts for $3750. What a deal — NOT! Still another offers trophy whitetail hunts for $1800.00, but if you shoot one with 10 points or more you get hit for another thousand bucks.
The consequences here are too dire to contemplate. With a dollar driven market for hunting in Texas, there is no new blood being introduced to the wonders of the outdoors. On top of that we have changed in the last 50 years from being a mostly agrarian society to a mostly urban society. This means that the majority of us are not in touch with the realities of making a living, such as the truth that for something to live, something else much die. That is an unshakeable fact. I suppose with the modern technology we could fabricate some type of chemical that would keep us alive, but that point in time has not yet arrived and we must kill to live. That even goes for vegetarians. Vegetables are alive, although they may not be alive in the sense that a deer or turkey is alive.
As hard as it is to believe anyone could be so ignorant and naive, many people today truly do not understand that the beef they buy wrapped in plastic in the supermarket was once a living, breathing, mooing, eating, slobbering, defecating cow that someone had to kill and someone else had to butcher. They don’t even think about where it comes from; they just assume that it is made in some factory, I guess. This has caused a backlash against those of us who hunt, even though we are more humane and probably more sterile than the slaughter houses and butcher shops. Because we kill our own food, and do it with one of those evil guns, we are somehow throwbacks, cruel, mean and heartless. And you will not be able to explain to these people that they are just as guilty, if there really is guilt to be assigned, as we are. Just because someone else does their killing for them does not relieve them of the moral responsibility for that death. Ask any judge as he sentences the person who paid another person to kill someone for him. He is just as guilty as the guy who pulled the trigger.
Sorry, I have digressed.
The point here is that we are losing something so precious that it should be protected like life itself. We are the last nation in the world, that I am aware of, in which Joe Average can buy a hunting license and go hunting. In many states this can take place on publicly owned land, although in Texas it is mostly done on privately owned land. In most of the other nations it is the game of the rich and powerful. In some places they have their own private shooting reserves, like the Shah of Iran and his family used to have. If you aren’t a king you have to be rich. If you aren’t rich, you just don’t hunt. Remember Robin Hood, who was outlawed for killing one of the King’s deer?
We were, in the past, a nation of outdoorsmen who understood the balance of nature, what my Native American ancestors called the Circle of Life. This Circle of Life begins with our own young. When that link is broken the circle flies apart. And it is breaking down, rapidly. I prophesy that within the next 20 years (probably sooner) the “deer boom” in Texas is going to bust. All these deer ranches that were purchased by city dwellers as places to play during the fall will be for sale, if they aren’t already. The sad part is that the big working ranches that these smaller parcels were once a part of no longer exist, and no one can make a living on a 500 acre ranch. In most places at least 5000 acres is required if a working ranch is to succeed, and even then the owner has to do all the work himself. It would take decades to put all the broken up ranches back together to where they would be useful for agriculture, assuming that there is anyone left who wants the backbreaking, dawn-to-dark life of a rancher. In the meantime we will be buying all our produce, including that plastic-wrapped beef, from overseas. This means that with each step the outlook gets worse and the U.S. becomes less self-sufficient. I can follow this train of thought out to the logical end and it scares the pants off me.
I really miss the days of the 1950s and even into the 1960s, when I could ask my friend the rancher if I could go hunting and he would smile and say, “Well, as long as you promise not to shoot the windmills or the cattle, go ahead. If you happen to see a coyote, be sure and shoot it. And if you do get a buck, I sure would like to have one of the backstraps.” No money, no avarice, just friendship and trust. I do miss it so.