New Diseases Threaten Hunting

You won't read about "videophilia" and "nature-deficit disorder" in any wildlife journals, but these "diseases" have grave impacts for the future of wildlife and our environment. Let me explain.

A research paper recently published in the National Academy of Science shows that people in the U.S. are rapidly losing their relationship to the outdoors. Researchers looked at visitation rates to National Parks, hunting and fishing licenses sold, time spent camping, and time spent hiking or backpacking. All of these increased for 50 years until the period between 1981 and 1991. Then they started to decrease, and the decrease has been substantial at one to three percent per year.

Here are some of the variables studied: number of people who camped the past year, number of visits to all state parks, number of people who went backpacking or hiking anywhere the past year, number of people who camped in state parks or forests the past year, the total number of visits to all National Parks, the number of people who hiked in National Forests or National Parks, and other similar categories. Participation rates are down in every category.

For example, look at visitations to U.S. National Parks. Visiting rates in-creased every year from 1930 to 1987, but they've been decreasing ever since. The authors of this study cite other research showing "that environmentally responsible behavior results from direct contact with the environment," and that "people must be exposed to natural areas as children if they are to care about them as adults." In other words, if adults don't go to the woods for outdoor recreation, neither will their kids. Not good.

In the May/June 2008 issue of Bowhunter, I presented information explaining why fewer young people hunt and fish these days. Most glaringly, they spend 30 hours a week absorbed with TV, computers, or videogames and only 30 minutes a week in unstructured outdoor activity of any kind. Scary. The high use of media technology has caused re-searchers to recently coin the term for a new disease, "videophilia." Simply put, it means the love of computers, video-games, and television.

In his 2006 best-selling book, "Last Child in the Woods," Richard Louv outlined another new disease, "nature-deficit disorder" -- the lack of any relationship to the outdoors.

With kids spending so little time outdoors, is it any wonder that 20 percent of young people are clinically obese; many suffer attention deficit, loneliness, and depression; and family time is decreasing. On top of that, many media convince parents to fear the woods. After all, kids get abducted there. Nature is violent -- witness TV movies on snakes gone wild, spiders run amuck, birds gone crazy, volcanoes erupting, and so on.

Yet, getting kids outdoors increases their standardized test scores, grades, problem-solving abilities, decision making, social skills, creativity, self discipline, and emotional well being. The list goes on. More specifically, we know that hunting is an effective, safe way to expose kids to the outdoors. It works.

Without direct contact with the outdoors, kids can't grasp the relationships involved in ecosystems. They must learn hands-on to care about the loss of fresh water, the loss of deer habitat, the decline in bird species, global warming, the increase in air pollution, acid rain, saving wetlands, and the economic value of hunting in wildlife management.

The excessive time young people spend playing videogames and watching TV prompted one researcher to state that "the pervasive decline in nature-recreation may well be the world's greatest environmental threat." If ever there was a need for kids to join the Scouts, go to nature centers, go on field trips with their parents, or accompany their parents on hunting trips, the time is now. Kids can watch nature or hunting videos, but they will gain nowhere near the same understanding they will gain from time in the field.

ATA Wins Fight in Virginia
In the March/April issue of Bowhunter, I told you about the Archery Trade Association's (ATA) court battle to protect bowhunting . You may recall that members of a homeowners association (HOA) in Reston, Virginia, used bow-hunters to legally harvest unwanted deer on their property for several years. Then the Board of the HOA decided that these members needed to get board approval before they could allow hunting. The HOA then rejected their application, even though the state DNR supported bow-hunting there. The ATA hired an attorney and got involved. The end result is as follows.

The judge stated that the HOA had to prove that their restriction of the private property owner's right to allow hunting was reasonable, and the judge felt it was not. The judge also reinforced the fact that the state wildlife agency has priority. This ruling sets great precedent for future incidents in which HOAs try to decide whether individual citizens can allow bowhunting on their property. Hats off to the ATA for putting together a great attorney and some excellent witnesses to protect bowhunting.

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