Kentucky offers course to keep interest in outdoor sports alive

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

Frankfort, KY, United States (4E Sports) – The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) offers a hunting and fishing-related course to counter the younger generation’s waning interest in traditional outdoor sports amid the arrival of Internet, iPads and video games.

The course, tailored for young, environmentally conscious adult, is just one of the department’s several initiatives to keep the new generation’s interest in outdoor sports alive.

According to wildlife biologist Jason Nally, who designed the course, it is geared toward those who don’t know anyone who can teach them to hunt.

Nally said majority of participants are in their mid 20s to early 30s, and those new hunters can help thin out the overabundance of deer in areas around Jefferson County.

The department first offered the class in 2012 and has applied for a grant to bring it to other urban areas in the state in 2014, officials said. About 30 people complete the course each year.

In its report, the DFW said fish and wildlife had a good year in 2012 as sales of fishing licenses increased eight percent while hunting licenses rose 4 percent, a sign that the recruitment and new programs are paying off.

However, the department cautioned that one year of gains does not indicate a reversal in a downward trend. Sales of hunting licenses declined seven percent between 2001 and 2011 while fishing licenses dropped off by nearly 13 percent.

Fishing has taken the biggest hit in Kentucky as overall participation — including anglers exempt from license requirements — fell from 766,000 people in 1991 to 554,000 in 2011, a 27.7 percent drop, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Fish and Wildlife officials also warned that the waning interest in outdoor sports could harm tourism revenue. Fishing, hunting, boating and wildlife viewing generate a $4.8 billion economic impact annually in the state, making up about 60,000 jobs and more than a third of Kentucky’s total tourism dollars.

“We like to say we manage the wildlife at the expense of hunters and anglers, but for all the people of Kentucky,” said Brian Clark, the agency’s assistant director of public affairs. “For us, it is a major concern.”

Fish and Wildlife officials point to demographic changes as a major reason for the long-term shift away from hunting and fishing.

Clark explained that urban households are not as connected to the land and don’t have hunting and fishing opportunities adjacent to their property as do residents of rural communities.

“It is just not as natural a pastime,” Clark said, adding that Internet, television and video games as stiff competition for free time.

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