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The observation and/or photographing of birds is a very popular pastime. And that activity is popular among all age demographics. Yes, that came as a surprise to me until I became immersed in the subculture that really takes “bird-watching” seriously.
While bird-watching may seem subpar for the outdoors community if they are not aware of it, it actually can be a huge deal for the outdoorsman, and in particular, the hunter.
At first glance, if you look at how the stereotypes are built up in these classes, one would think that an old man in khaki shorts, knee high socks, boots and a buttoned-down, earth-toned shirt with a wide brimmed hat would be the epitome of a tree-hugger. While that physical description is no longer what a bird-watcher actually is (although, there are many that do fit that description), they are very conservative, or maybe I should rephrase as very conservationist. And that is a good thing.
You see, the hunting community is one of, if not THE, largest monetary contributor to both bird conservation and bird preservation. It’s been well documented in this column as well as news in general that large portions of monies from hunting licenses, as well as hunting equipment sales, go towards programs that protect our birds and other wildlife.
The other thing to note, is conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Quail Unlimited and Pheasants Forever do tremendous work towards the conservation of not only waterfowl and upland game birds, but the preservation of the environment for these species also protect other species such as sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, woodcock, grouse, and even dove.
These species intermingle environments, and with hunters’ dollars going to the groups that encourage the conservation and growth of hunted species, the species that are not hunted traditionally or due to low populations gain rewards for it. And yes, the bird-watchers, or birders as they are called often, realize this. What’s more, the twitchers, which are those birders that are as committed to bird-watching as much as a big-game hunter who is trying to complete the Big Five slam in Africa is to hunting, not only realize it, but they promote it.
Since bird-watching is popular amongst all demographics, even those that fall in the category as millennials, it is important to note this information. Millennials are not hunting and fishing as much as the generations prior. This may be due to video games and the impact of instant information that the group has grown accustomed to. When one is used to being able to do almost anything immediately in this computer age, sitting in a stand or a on a stool in a field all day to maybe get the chance to see something and on a really good day have something come within range to attempt to take by firearm or bow doesn’t seem appealing as it is more akin to a waste of valuable time.
Think about this, millennials can do an internet search for information and receive hundreds of responses within milliseconds, where my generation and before could take all day searching through encyclopedias and magazines just to get two or three documented sources.
But, if millennials recognize the importance of hunting, it gives the hunting heritage and conservation methods a chance to continue forward. Because of this, it is important to continue to promote the outdoors, even if it means just getting someone outside to view and observe wildlife and birds.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.