Did you take a hunter education safety class this year, and did you see any minority instructors there?
Tens of thousands can answer yes to the first part of that question. Few if any could do so for the second part.
Wildlife, shooting and even fishing organizations around the country are increasingly talking about the need to reach out to minorities to build their ranks. The National Shooting Sports Foundation and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation are both actively looking to connect with the nation’s growing Hispanic population, for example.
But there’s a lot of work to be done.
Hunter ed classes here in Pennsylvania are an example of that.
The Game Commission has about 2,300 volunteer instructors who teach would-be hunters the rules of the game. Of those, less than 1 percent are minorities, said Andy Hueser, the agency’s hunter education specialist.
By comparison, 5 to 10 percent are women.
That number’s grown in recent years, as has the number of women and girls passing a hunter education course. They haven’t all gone on to become license buyers, Hueser said, but they’re at least becoming eligible in greater numbers than ever before.
“It is encouraging to see,” he added.
There’s been no such movement with minorities. The problem is one of the chicken and the egg, it seems.
Numerous studies have shown that people gravitate to activities where the other participants look like them. Likewise, most hunter ed instructors are hunters themselves.
So to recruit minority hunters, the commission needs minority instructors, but it can’t get minority instructors until it creates minority hunters, Hueser said.
“It’s like going up to someone who doesn’t ski and asking them if they’d be willing to give up some of their time on weekends to teach skiing. Will they? Probably not,” he said.
The commission advertises the need for instructors through various venues, he said, reaching out to public school teachers, for example. It’s never specifically targeted minorities, though, he added.
“Nobody’s really looked at that yet,” Hueser said.