The more familiar youth are with individuals their own age who hunt and target shoot, the more likely they will be to support and participate in these activities.
This key finding and others come from a major new research project commissioned by the Hunting Heritage Trust and National Shooting Sports Foundation® to determine the impact of peer influence on youth participation in hunting and the shooting sports.
Results from the project were presented at the 77th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference this week in Atlanta.
“This study shows us that today’s youth that hunt and target shoot are important role models to other youth that have yet to participate in these activities. What they say about hunting and shooting and how they conduct themselves reflect on those activities and can have an effect on whether their peers will participate in them,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s director of industry research and analysis.
“The findings of this report are helping us better understand the impact of youth peer influence at a time when youth no longer participate in hunting and target shooting as much as they once did,” said Bob Delfay, president of the Hunting Heritage Trust. “The study is timely because we see that many opportunities exist to positively affect youth attitudes toward the shooting sports.”
Responsive Management, the well-known public opinion researchers in the fields of conservation, hunting and target shooting, conducted the research in January using focus groups and a nationwide scientific telephone survey of youth ages 8 to 17 years old.
“At these ages, youth are developing potentially life-long perceptions of other people. Youth hunters and target shooters are role models for these activities, and it is extremely important that they know this and present themselves in a manner that will positively affect their peers,” said Mark Damian Duda, Executive Director of Responsive Management.
The study also revealed that youth have a curiosity about the shooting sports and an eagerness to learn more about them. Non-participants said they would accept an invitation to try target shooting and hunting. When the percentages from the study were applied to U.S. population estimates, the report found that more than 23 million youth ages 8 to 17 would be likely to hunt if invited in the next 12 months, and more than 27 million youth would be likely to target shoot if invited during that period.
“The most important obligation for youth hunting and shooting ambassadors is to invite their friends to go hunting and shooting,” the report said.
Not surprisingly, the study noted that communication among peers via social media had potential to have a positive effect on attitudes. The study noted, “Youth are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the most prominent and effective means of social media” and that sponsoring organizations should encourage the use of these and other communications tools.
Participation in the shooting sports should not be all about the activities themselves but also about socializing, meeting new friends and having a fun time, according to the report. In this way, the shooting sports are not unlike any other sport or group activity.
The report noted that youth react favorably to opportunities to try something new, which is good news for the traditional activities of target shooting and hunting.