| By Myra Bean
Hunters are a dying breed, according to Gary Morris, though he did not say so in exactly those words.
Morris, a former country music star, is founder of the Buck Conservation Society which got its start last year. The society is focusing its efforts in Mississippi and Tennessee this year to get more youth involved in hunting.
Morris said there have been a lot of different organizations that have focused all of their work on habitat, restoring good habitat for wildlife, but there has not been organization formed to focus on engaging people.
"We are about getting people back into hunting," Morris said. "We believe the habitat situation is taken care of. We have more wildlife today than in America’s history, better turkey, more deer, more elk, but less hunters."
Only one in every 10 hunters is under the age of 40, Morris said.
"The number one reason we have fewer young people participating is because they have a lack of mentors," Morris said. "People aren’t willing to take them.
"People say there game boys, X-boxes and malls and all types of different things that occupy our youth culture," Morris added. "All those things are true but the truth is if there are people willing to invest some of their time with young people, they will go."
Morris cited there are a lot more single mothers today who do not hunt but would love for someone to take their kids and expose them to the joys of hunting and nature.
$100 for doe hunt
This year there is an emphasis and challenge on the youth hunt which is a doe hunt.
In Mississippi a young sportsman who joins and participates in the Doe hunt ought to register their doe, Morris said.
"We pay $100 per county for a young sportsman," he said. "We will choose the winner in each county based on a photo they take of their doe and an essay they write, a 50 word essay, very short, to tell what their hunt was about."
Buck Conservation Challenge
The Buck Conservation Society introduced the Buck Conservation Challenge this year to hunters.
The Conservation Buck Challenge is a statewide competition no hunter or photographer will want to miss, according to the information on the website.
It is not a weekend hunt but a season long challenge featuring rifle, muzzleloader and bow divisions where the top three trophy bucks in each division will win. Plus there will be prizes for the best wildlife photos and a special young sportsman doe hunt limited to those 16 or under.
There are also great grand prizes just for participating: a Dodge Truck, an Elk Hunt at Mountain Spirits Lodge in Colorado and a Bad Boy Buggy.
In order to to participate in the Buck Challenge, one must join the Conservation Buck Society and you are automatically entered in one division of the Challenge plus in the draw for the grand prizes.
Another of the main missions of the CBS is to inform the public that monies for wildlife agencies depend on the number of licenses sold in the state.
Morris wants the public to understand that all the money that goes to wildlife management in the state comes from the hunting and the fishing communities.
"Most people don’t know that and don’t understand how the process works," he said.
"We are the first line of wildlife conservation," Morris said. "Any wildlife agency would say that a key critical part of the wildlife management program is the hunting community. So we have to stay strong."
The conservation model used in this country is based on the dollars that comes in from licenses that go to the wildlife agencies. Their budgets come from that, Morris explained.
Plus, there is an excise tax that is paid on every piece of hunting gear whether it is a knife, rifle, bullet, bow or boat, hunting or fishing. That goes to the federal government.
Morris then explained that money is sent back to the states based on the number of licenses sold in each state.
"With our numbers growing smaller, there are less resources for the wildlife agency to work with, less wildlife officers, less wildlife management," Morris reiterated.
Morris said even if some people legally do not have to buy licenses due to age or land ownership, they should buy the $3 alternative license.
"I think everybody should buy it because that is $11 from the feds for wildlife management," he said. "It increases the roll. We want to make a statement that will say we are not dying. We are coming back with young people."
Union of hunters
CBS is about developing a strong union of hunters.
"We are not just about deer hunters," he said. "We are about turkey hunters, duck hunters and bird hunters. We are all a part of the same fraternity or sorority. We want to be able to speak with one voice.
"This is the real important part of our message," Morris continued. "We want people to understand that hunting and conservation are one consciousness."
There is less and less public lands to hunt on these days also, Morris said.
"We are looking at less and less available space for the average person to be able to go out and take their kid and take a trip into the woods," Morris added. "We are addressing that. That’s why we need big membership. We need the support to say we want public lands. We don’t want to plan on being able to count on our uncle’s farm because we don’t know how long that will be there. It needs to be good hunting land."
The Delta Council says it has lots of land and will make it available if people want to bring youngsters to hunt, according to Morris.
Locally, there will not be chapters formed but what Morris refers to as a guide program that should be in place by the beginning of next year.
The society will have people in local communities who will be working with them not only finding members but looking at other conservation projects that needs to be worked on in local areas.
These will be people who are informed and educated about what CBS believes needs to happen in our wildlife.
"What we don’t want to do is come in a community and take money away from a community," he said." If we can have members, we want to be able to then come back with our corporate sponsors and say there is a program we need to do in a certain area."
Morris referred to scholastic archery and trapshooting after school programs which can be taught by local wildlife officers.
"It’s growing," Morris said. "They are going into the schools now and they need funding. They need help."
To join the Conservation Buck Society and take advantage of the Conservation Buck Challenge and/ or the youth doe hunt, fill out the form below and mail it in with your fee, call 1-866-544-BUCK (2825) or go to the website for more information or to join at .