The New Condition: Adult Onset Hunting

Hunting is growing in popularity among adults who want to get their food the natural way.photo from Windigo Images

The term “Adult Onset Hunting,” which I just learned, sounds like it’s something bad, but I think it’s one of the better things to happen to hunting in a while. The sport needs to broaden its appeal beyond its traditional rural constituency if it’s to survive.

I found this out when I got to help a bunch of Adult Onset Hunters (AOH) at a range day at my gun club. This particular group of AOHs are members of a local program called “Edible Outdoors,” which holds classes in foraging, gathering, fishing, and so on. This was their first range day ever, and it was also their first step toward a preserve pheasant hunt later this fall. A colleague and I, along with members of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the local conservation board, ran 17 of them through an abbreviated hunter safety course and range day.

My group of five beginners all shot and hit clays, although they had never fired a gun before. I asked one of my students what her goal was in shotgunning and she said, “My husband loves to make paella, so I want to shoot some rabbits for him this fall.” I thought that was about as good a reason to become an AOH as any I could come up with.

I’m not sure this group could be called “hipsters”—this happened in Iowa City, after all—but they skewed toward the urban(ish) demographic that seems to be the segment that is taking to hunting these days.

This is not the only class for AOHs. According to the Grand Forks Herald, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is teaching the first of what may be many classes for Adult Onset Deer Hunters, which they are calling “Learn to Hunt Whitetail Deer.” The class takes 10 people with no hunting experience, gives them two trips to the range, a scouting trip, and a mentored deer hunt in deer camp, all for a mere $100.

A deal like that makes me wish I didn’t hunt just so I could take advantage of this program.

I have long believed that young adults are a segment of the population that could be recruited into hunting. They have time and money to spend on the sport; they just need someone to teach them how to jump through the various hoops one must negotiate to become a hunter.

Evidently the Minnesota DNR agrees. "Training adults could prove to be one of the quickest and most cost effective ways to generate a new hunter," says Jay Johnson, hunter recruitment and retention coordinator. "Unlike most youth, they have the decision-making authority necessary to hunt, can buy equipment, have their own transportation, and most importantly are coming to us wanting to learn to hunt."