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Food is the Lure to Take Millennials Hunting

Conditions are ripe for the oldest millennial in our family to continue to hunt.

Zach Wagner, 29, of Omaha, NE poses with two male wild turkeys he harvested on the family farm during the 2017 Nebraska Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Season. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Our son, Zach, is at an age (29) where he has transitioned through many life stages — secondary schooling, new career, marriage and a child. You might think the demands of these stages compete for his limited time and resources, but actually, they don’t.

These transitions have presented opportunities for tradition and family history within the lifestyle of hunting to emerge and be fostered.

You see, Zach is among the millennial generation, also known as Generation Y or those born in the 1980s to the early 2000s. They currently total more than 80 million in the U.S., are the largest group of Americans alive today, and are said to be the largest cohort or group in history.

Nevertheless, what’s interesting, is that hunting participation remains relatively low within this massive population, only about 5 percent, according to a study published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

There is hope, however.

As we in the conservation business work to recruit the next generation of hunters and anglers, we must not forget about targeting food-conscious millennials who want to know where the steak they’re grilling originated.

Many of these millennials didn’t grow up in a traditional hunting or fishing household or didn’t have the time to devote to hunting, but the idea of eating meat they harvested themselves now appeals to them. In fact, survey research shows that American hunters in the millennial age bracket most often name the meat as their most important reason for hunting, and that the percentage of those hunters who hunt mainly for the meat continues to grow. Not only is that now the top incentive but, over the last decade, the proportion of overall hunters gunning for meat has almost doubled, notes Responsive Management, a Virginia-based public opinion survey research firm that focuses on outdoor recreation issues.

In no small measure, this new interest in hunting can be tied to the “locavore” movement.

These new hunters, often from the millennial generation and from urban and suburban backgrounds, want their food to be locally sourced. They want it to be tied to the land, have more of a direct hand in acquiring it, and they want it to be free of chemicals and human-made hormones. In the case of meat, they also want the animals to be free ranging.

Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed his love for hunting, the outdoors and BBQs in a viral Facebook Live video from his own backyard. He said meat tastes “doubly better when you’ve hunted the animal yourself.”

He explained: “Whether you’re fishing for salmon or going hunting for a boar, that’s a big part of it. You feel more connected to what you’re doing and what you’re eating. You cook it yourself and it’s this whole experience.”

Take my son, Zach.

He is all about food, good food, wholesome food. He wants to know where it comes from, how fresh it is, and what’s been done to it, if anything. Zach, a foodie and historian, really enjoys cooking and was interested in hunting the woods of our family’s ancestral farm.

So, for him, spring wild turkey hunting on that family farm was a natural fit.

But, someone needed to take him, mentor him on the hunt.

That’s where I, dad, the longtime turkey hunter, enter the picture.

Without mentors to teach tactics, ethics, safety and ecology, and instill confidence, young adults have a tendency to skip hunting altogether.

Most of us who passionately enjoy the pursuit of wild game and fish all have one thing in common. We had someone, a responsible adult such as a dad, uncle or grandpa, who introduced and repetitively took us into that world.  We didn’t get into hunting by osmosis or decree. It took that avid adult hunter who had the desire, time and patience to take us afield.

You may recall that last spring, I wrote a blog about taking Zach out hunting on his first-ever spring wild turkey trip in Nebraska where he had success!

Well, this spring, we ventured out on his second  spring turkey hunt to the farm.

Success was experienced once again! Zach harvested not one, but two male wild turkeys!

Zach Wagner is pictured with the two male wild turkeys he shot in the spring turkey hunting scenario in the woodlands of the family farm in southeastern Nebraska. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

If you are an existing hunter, I want you to ask yourself this:  Are there any millennial-aged individuals in your family or friend network who are in search of local, wild, free-ranging meats and are willing to look into the possibility of going hunting for it?

With the shotgun unloaded and slung over his shoulder, the elated hunter, Zach, carries his two male wild turkeys out of the woods. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The results of that National Shoot Sports Foundation study also point to the strong influence of family and friends on a person’s decision to hunt. And, that social structure is shown to be consistent across generational divides. To recruit more millennials into hunting, the same messages about the fun, social and outdoor aspects of hunting that attract other hunters, should be included, the study stressed, but with further emphasis placed on securing your own nutritious meat.
A foodie, my millennial son, Zach, grills his creole-seasoned, boneless wild turkey breasts over the coals of a charcoal grill in his backyard. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Happy hunting, cooking (and eating) with the millennial in your family!

Creole-seasoned, boneless wild turkey breasts being cooked on a charcoal grill with mulberry wood shavings added for a subtle, smoky flavor. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media sites, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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