One of the hardest things to do is to attract youngsters to the shooting world.
This problem is not just a problem in the UK but everywhere, as even in the U.S attracting youngsters to take up the sports can be proving difficult and I believe a lot of the problem is cost.
Unlike the UK the U.S has far easier gun laws and with this you would think that youngster getting into the sport over there would be less of a hassle, but it is not.
The current climate in the world economy make it hard for most to live on the wage they get and hobbies, like shooting, seem to be only taken up but those older generations. Around 78% of the shooting community in the UK for instance is over the age of 40 meaning that the financial burden is far less restrictive.
There is no reason why youngsters are not able to take up the sport cheaply using second-hand items and cheaper rifles or shotguns on the market as there is plenty out there to choose from.
The rise of social media has highlighted to manufacturers that the market for top end products is out there and with social media groups benefiting from affiliation with certain brands some of the advice given in the groups can be financially intimidating for anyone wanting to get into the sport.
Recently FSS held a number of small polls and the results were expected but still a tad shocking.
I asked the following questions:
How many people get paid for shooting?
This was to clarify who was doing it as a hobby and who was doing it for a job, as expected 82% of people DO NOT get paid in some way for shooting although a number get deer shooting in return for pest control.
How much per year do you spend on your shooting?
A staggering 89% spend over £1000 a year just on shooting products.
So I then asked if shooting sports are being priced out of existence?
With that question most of the various communities I asked , Foxers – Stalkers and Target shooters, got very defensive over their expenditure and made a point to list ways of making the sport cheaper, in fact some got very abusive over it.
My polls were not aimed at attacking the sport or individuals hobbies. The fact remains the majority of shooting community is made up of middle-aged men who have been either shooting for 20+ years or financially able to take up the sport.
Men still outweigh women in the industry although this is improving year on year with many women taking up the sport, however, less and less youngsters are taking up any kind of shooting sports and that is worrying.
Youngsters are the backbone of any future for all the field sports without them I see no future. The days of granddad taking grand sons/daughters shooting are becoming slowly a distant memory with many lads and lasses wanting to stay home or socialise with their friends.
I believe due to the perceived demographics of the shooting community the perception of outsiders are that shooters are an elitist community only open to the rich, which frankly is far from true.
Is the problem confined to the shooting community?
Well unfortunately it seems to be , on review fishing and equestrian attract more youngster to the sport than any of the other field sports all together and the reason for this I think is accessibility, arguably although the owner cost of owning horses is high the recreation side of horse riding is far more affordable with the access to riding schools etc. and fishing in most cases is very un restrictive and access to waterways in the UK is very easy.
In many ways the shooting community does not help itself in the UK, there is discipline hierarchy as well as a class divide and public perception of us is very poor. It is bad enough in the UK that the legal requirements of shooting can sometimes be very intimidating in itself but to couple that with attitude and cost then it is no wonder that fewer and fewer people get into the sport.
Much of the feedback I got from my polls were positive though, with plenty of advice on how to do things cheaply, but, that change of attitude came at the cost of much abuse and people having to sit back and think which is never comfortable to admit to.
Shooting in the UK is awash with money and in many cases jealousy, those who have and don’t wanna let go and those who want but will do anything to have are apparent, courses appearing out of nowhere offering certificates for fundamental common sense and almost everyone trying to make a buck. In many cases I do not blame them, the culture has grown into this selfish way over the years, permissions are harder to get and free shooting is almost non-existent in areas, local police forces refusing to open or grant centrefire certificates due to lack of permission and people feeling they have to pay thousands sometimes a year for a lease JUST to keep their FAC.
I was inspired when I was in the US, K&M, Finger Tennessee, have the right idea with their GapGrind competition opening their doors to new and amateur shooters every year, I was proud to see a proper shooting community spirit when I was there with everyone helping everyone and kids as young as 9 getting involved in the challenging courses.
I listen to many shooters in the U.K put down the “Yanks” in regards to their shooting community and to this day I do not understand why. Yes their gun laws are less restrictive but their hunting laws are very harsh, Yes there is a lot of gun crime but that’ because they are a huge country with millions more people in it, and I agree the U.S so not do everything right but their attitude towards getting their younger generation into shooting is impressive although still a struggle.
What impresses me more though is that the individual shooter in the U.S has a lot of control over the industry something we do not have here, there is a sure sense of community with everyone wanting to help everyone (do not get me wrong I imagine there will be a minority that are idiots but you get that in every community) and those who are not willing to help are in a minority. American shooters control everything, if a product is too highly priced they just don’t buy it and that regulates the pricing and believe me they do not compromise on quality, shooters have an active say on everything they do and don’t sit there quiet when they are being attacked which is a huge problem in the U.K.
Do not get me wrong I do not want us to be the U.S, I understand the need for licences and restrictions in many occasions, however, some are very out dated but I would like to see a change in attitude, I would like to see an attitude change among-st ourselves as well as the general public, many still refuse to phone the police when they go out night shooting, I understand it’s not a legal requirement if your just shooting rabbits or foxes but it is not just a courtesy to the authorities it is also courtesy to the general public to know that they are safe.
Back to getting people into the sport:
In today’s climate with the pressures that are put on young people in regarding living expenses it is hard for them to take up a hobby that is so expensive.
Field Sports Scotland, through our various social media groups etc, will be asking the shooting community to donate 1 item of equipment towards a prize package that we will give away to a newbie to help them progress in their shooting sport. This competition will be held, hopefully with enough donations, on the 1st July 2018 to mark the start of this years Scottish Stag Season.
So look out that shooting belt or old scope or binos or fox caller that has been hiding in the back of your cupboard that you never use or don’t need and if we get multiples of things we will possibly have more than one winner.
It is important that we promote shooting sports in the UK not just for ourselves but for our children and their children, it is the only way we will see a future for our beloved sport.