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A Closer Look at Youth Hunting and Shooting Participation


With recruitment of new hunters and shooters top of mind in the outdoors industry, it pays to look at the many niche groups that contribute to the overall total participant numbers.


Recently, we provided some updated data on female participation in the hunting and shooting sports. Now, let’s review some interesting statistics on youth participation.


The following information comes from the National Sporting Goods Association’s report on “Sports Participation, Shooting Sports” through 2016. The youth information portion covers participants ages 7 through 17 by breaking down total net shooting participation into these categories: archery, hunting net (firearms plus bowhunting), target shooting net (all types of target shooting), archery, firearms hunting, target shooting-rifle, target shooting-handgun, target shooting-shotgun, airgun, bowhunting and muzzleloading.


According to the report, 3,622,000 youths took part in at least one of the designated shooting sports in 2016. This is down from the 2006-2016 average of 4,310,091 participants, but nearly the same as the 2015 total.


The breakdown between male and female participants supports others observations about female participation being on the rise. In 2016, 29.9% of participants (1,084,000) were female, slightly above the 10-year average of 1,070,273. In 2006, female participation was 22.2% of the total. Some additional notable stats on youth female participation:


  • Archery (any type of bow shooting, note only bowhunting) participation numbered 1,189,000 shooters, which was 45.4% of all youth archery participants. More than 1 million youth females have shot archery every year since 2013, when this report first started tracking the category separately.


  • Bowhunting is a major category success story when it comes to youth female participation. In 2002, the report identified only 17,000 female bowhunters. In 2016, that number had risen to 231,000, which is 30.1 of total youth participation.


  • Females put up big numbers in number of net target shooters (rifle, handgun, shotgun combined), with 469,000 participants in 2016. That’s a big 35.2% of the total, whereas there was only 14.9% female participation in 2002.


  • In 2016, 469,000 youth females reported hunting with a firearm and/or bow and arrow. That puts females at 24.7% of total participants, compared with 352,000 and 13.8% in 2002.


  • Hunting with firearms is one more category in which youth female participation has grown steadily. In 2016, 350,000 youth female hunters hunted with a rifle or shotgun, up from 281,000 in 2002. The percentage of youth female firearm hunters now stands at 21.1% of all youth hunters.


Clearly there is a measurable shift in female hunting and shooting sports participation, which is great news regardless of what role you play in the outdoors industry. Somewhat troubling is that youth participation overall has remained basically steady for more than a decade, even as the overall U.S. population continues to grow.


As we’ve reminded readers here before, there’s never been a better time to take a kid hunting. Here’s a good place to start: 5 Ways to Promote New Hunting and Shooting Activities.


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