As a young boy, the thoughts of going to deer camp each fall filled my mind throughout the year. I most looked forward to meeting up with all of the guys for the weekend and hearing all of their hunting stories from years past. Many whitetail hunters across the country enjoy the tradition of going to deer camp with their families, but these camps seem to be declining rapidly. As the older generations of hunters pass on, the traditions that they created also pass on with them. Although we are still hunting the same animals that our grandparents hunted years ago, the hunt itself has been changing and will continue to change into the future.
The ideas pertaining to whitetail hunting are constantly changing and growing with the increasing availability of information. For example, the general hunting community believed that large deer populations in an area indicated a healthy and flourishing deer herd. Then, studies were published explaining the importance of healthy buck to doe ratios, carrying capacities, and age structures for whitetail deer. This information led to the implementation of doe hunting and antler restrictions in order to balance the deer population throughout the state and the country. Although there was some backlash in the hunting community with these new ideas being presented, it has been evident that the quality and health of deer is much greater now than it was nearly half a century ago. With all of the information available now on the internet, any hunter can gain valuable insights into the importance of herd management and its impact on whitetail hunting.
The strategies and methods being used by young hunters to pursue whitetail deer are much different than those used by their parents and grandparents. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission website, Archery license sales in Pennsylvania have increased by nearly 28% from 2006 to 2016. For many, bow hunting is a way to extend their season, provide closer encounters, or to add a challenge to the hunt. Also, some hunters are now implementing habitat management on their properties in order to support a larger deer population and to provide greater hunting opportunities throughout the season. Modern deer hunting is an active experience that includes many hours of scouting, preparation, and planning to improve the odds of a successful harvest. The year-long pursuit of whitetail deer is now more common among average hunters than ever before.
When it comes to scouting, trail cameras are used more often than not these days. Scouting efficiency has increases greatly through the use of trail cameras, and hunters can be aware of the quality of deer in their area based on their trail camera observations. Trail cameras are an effective tool that can increase a hunter’s odds for success, and the pictures are also really fun to look at and share with others.
In the whitetail world, the harvest remains the ultimate goal of the whitetail deer hunter, but it no longer seems to be the definition of success. Hunters are now being raised to understand the importance of the process and to see that every day spent in the deer woods is a successful one. Some hunters want to shoot the buck with the largest antlers in the state, while others just want to take home some fresh backstrap to the family. Regardless of your definition of success, the ability to spend time in the outdoors and experience creation is a blessing and privilege in itself. The emphasis on the hunt itself has been portrayed greatly in outdoor media, which has been a large contributor to the changing ways of the whitetail world.
The advent of modern outdoor media and television has proved to change the way that young hunters view the hunt itself. The increasing popularity of TV celebrity hunters such as Tiffany Lakoski and Eva Shockey has led to a significant increase in women hunter participation. There are more women who hunt whitetail today than at any other time in history. With the large number of big buck hunters on TV and social media, the average whitetail hunter has increased his standards and is more likely to hold out for a mature deer than average hunters from decades prior. The new ideas being presented by hunters on social media have also caused a hunting community that is divided. Some hunters disapprove of the weapons used by other hunters, while some people criticize the size or the age of the deer that has been harvested. These arguments are very discouraging to young hunters and may end up hurting the efforts of keeping the next generation interested in the outdoor lifestyle.
The recruitment of young hunters is vital to the preservation of the hunting lifestyle that we all know and love. Understanding what interests and excites the next generation of whitetail hunters will allow current hunters to share their passions in a way that will relate to new hunters. Whitetail deer are constantly adapting to their environment, and the same can be said for the next generation of whitetail hunters.