New York Times
March 8, 2008
To Revive Hunting, States Turn to the Classroom
By IAN URBINA
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When David Helms was in seventh grade, he would take his
.22-caliber rifle to school, put a box of ammunition in his locker and, like virtually all the other
boys, lean his rifle against a wall in the principal’s office so he could start hunting squirrels and
groundhogs as soon as classes let out.
Now, when he takes his 8-year-old grandson hunting on weekends, Mr. Helms, 55, searches the
boy’s pockets before sending him back to school to ensure that there are no forgotten
ammunition shells. But most of his grandson’s peers never have to worry about that, Mr. Helms
said, because they would sooner play video games than join them outdoors.
Hunting is on the decline across the nation as participation has fallen over the last three decades,
and states have begun trying to bolster this rural tradition by attracting new and younger people
to the sport.
In West Virginia, state lawmakers gave final approval on Friday to a bill that allows hunting
education classes in all schools where at least 20 students express interest. The goal is to reverse
a 20 percent drop in hunting permits purchased over the last decade, which has caused a loss of
more than $1.5 million in state revenue over that period. At least six other states are considering
Moreover, in the last two years, 17 states have passed laws to attract younger hunters by creating
apprentice hunting licenses that allow people supervised by a trained mentor to sample the sport
before completing the required course work, which typically takes 8 to 10 hours and can cost
more than $200.
“For us, guns and hunting was a way of life,” said Mr. Helms, the manager of Marstiller’s Gun
Shop here. “A lot of places seem to be losing that, and we need to bring it back.”
In that effort, Michigan, Nebraska, South Carolina and Utah have enacted laws since 2004
lowering or removing minimum age requirements for hunters, while Louisiana, Montana and
Georgia have amended their constitutions to protect the right to hunt and fish. Eight states are