Percentage of Americans who are Hunters Plummets

New figures from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that the number of hunters 16 and older declined by 10 percent between 1996 and 2006 - from 14 million to about 12.5 million. The drop was most acute in New England, the Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific states, which lost 400,000 hunters in that span.

The primary reasons, experts say, are the loss of hunting land to urbanization plus a perception by many families that they can't afford the time or costs that hunting entails.

"To recruit new hunters, it takes hunting families," said Gregg Patterson of Ducks Unlimited. "I was introduced to it by my father, he was introduced to it by his father. When you have boys and girls without a hunter in the household, it's tough to give them the experience."

Some animal-welfare activists welcome the trend, noting that it coincides with a 13 percent increase in wildlife watching since 1996. But hunters and state wildlife agencies, as they prepare for the fall hunting season, say the drop is worrisome. . . .

There are a lot of economics reasons for this. Fewer people have grown up in rural areas raising the costs of them learning how to hunt, possibly more alternative activities raising their opportunity costs, increased licensing requirements raising the costs of getting started, and having to travel farther to go hunting.

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Blogger Almtnman said...

When states raise fees to hunt and landowners raise rates to lease lands to hunting clubs, then clubs start raising fees way beyond what the average person can afford, then hunting populations declines.

My own state recently almost doubled hunting and fishing fees. Hunting clubs that used to cost a couple of hundred bucks a year to hunt in is non-existent. Now hunting clubs charge more than a thousand bucks, some up to 3 or 4 thousand a year. The average hunter who is mostly a blue collar worker cannot afford all that, so the hunting population declines. And I predict that it will continue to decline each year from here on as it's hard to recruit a new hunter into the sport when he's working at a fast food joint and a club wants more to hunt there than what he/she makes.

It's the same with fishing, used to be people would get a pole and sit on the bank fish and enjoy it. Now the fishing industry has convinced everybody that they need a $300 reel, $200 rod and a $40,000 bass boat and they wonder, why is the fishing population declining?

9/03/2007 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Tim4Trout said...

Of note ...

While the article states a ten percent decline in the number of hunters from 1996 to 2006, it should be noted the rate of decline has decreased significantly since 2001, when the most recent survey prior to 2006 was conducted.

Be careful of any attempts, especially by so called animal welfare factions opposed to hunting, to isolate wildlife watchers from hunters. It should be noted that according to 2001 statistics, ( complete 2006 figures currently not available ) that some 8 million plus individuals participated in both activities representing 12 percent of all wildlife watchers and 62 percent of hunters. It should also be noted that wildlife watchers are classified as both residential and nonresidential representing both those who travel to observe wildlife and those who may simply watch birds in their back yard.

As hunters value their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, It should be noted that the so called "American Hunters and Shooters Association" has been clearly exposed as an anti second amendment faction and is representative of very few within the hunting community.

Finally, please do not be led to believe that the agenda of the Humane Society of the United States, a faction opposed to hunting, is solely targeted at a few specific hunting practices. In 1991 current HSUS president wayne Pacelle was quoted as follows "If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would” and in previous editions of their website the HSUS has clearly stated complete opposition to hunting using phrases such as "in all cases" and "regardless of method". Thus one should not be fooled by this organization, who is not an overseer of your local humane society and with a budget in excess of one hundred million dollars provides little in funding to animal shelters, when they attack specific hunting venues and incur support from a few ill informed individuals who call themselves hunters.

9/03/2007 7:58 PM  
Blogger Jungle Jim said...

I wish someone would tell that to all the pheasant hunters in southwest Kansas. I went hunting there on opening day last year and the place was CRAWLING with hunters. Often they were in groups as large as 100.

By the way John, I watched you on C-span today. You did great.

9/03/2007 9:05 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Thanks, Almtnman. High fees will really reduce participation. More systematic work needs to be done on how important the impact of these fees are.

Dear Tim4Trout:

The problem isn't just the number of hunters, but it is their share of the population. With 300 million Americans, 12.5 million is only 4 percent of the population.

Dear Tim4Trout:

I agree with you that one must be careful about claims"isolat[ing] wildlife watchers from hunters." I think that this is a real problem with the numbers of hunters declining. You are right that there is a lot politics here, but hopefully this can be used to help reverse this real problem.

Dear Jungle Jim:

Thanks for watching the CSPAN program. I really appreciate the feedback.

9/03/2007 10:43 PM  
Blogger Countertop said...

Great John, Thanks

I've been blogging my struggle to continue hunting in Virginia in the face of the extraordinarily high entry costs. Its not a new sport to me, and I'm not even factoring in the costs of buying a rifle and learning to shoot it . . . but as private land gets snapped up by hunting clubs (who charge $1000+ to gain access) and more people descend on public lands it becomes hard to justify continuing the sport.

And don't forget the ban - in place entirely for religious reasons - on Sunday hunting. It means that I've only got 4 days a month to hunt (Saturday, I work for a living) and know must choose between my kids school events or hunting. No chance of getting him out in the field and I am lucky if I can get out for half a day once a month as a result.

So, figuring that the deer season basically lasts 2 months - I've got maybe 2 - 3 full days to hunt - at a cost of $70. Here's the breakdown:

Resident State Hunting $18.00
Resident Bear, Deer, & Turkey $18.00
Resident Muzzleloader $18.00
National Forest Permit $4.00
Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp $10.00
Contribute $2.00 to Hunters for the Hungry $2.00
Total Fee $70.00

If I hunt ducks (which I do) its another $15 for the federal duck stamp.

9/04/2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Countertop said...

oh, and if anyone has leads on land to hunt in Loudon or Fauquier County Virginia, please send them my way!!

9/04/2007 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been hunting & fishing from when I was 16 until now, I am 56. But I can not afford it any more. In NJ it costs me $67.00 for a hunting license, with a Pheasant stamp. I also buy my son a license, now we are up to $134.00 per year. To go hunting for dear for 1 week (and I have never shot one) and go Pheasant hunting only to get maybe two to three birds a year. That is a lot of money for a pound or two of meat. As far as fishing goes most of the time no one eats any of the fresh water fish, (catch & release, or polluted) unless it is Trout and that costs more for the Trout Stamp on top of the fishing license. I am going to miss it but I have no choice.

9/04/2007 11:18 AM  
Blogger rightwingprof said...

I suspect that part of it has to do with carpetbaggers, er, (sub)urbanites moving into more rural areas. Look at the areas listed as the most decreased. It's only a guess, of course. I'd have to actually have data to analyze, and I don't think that's all of it, but I strongly suspect that's a lot of it. After all, they still close schools and even some businesses here for the first day of deer season.

9/04/2007 3:25 PM  
Blogger DirtCrashr said...

I grew up in Suburbia (with some time spent overseas) with anti-gun parents and never knew anybody, from grade-school through College and beyond, who hunted - except my Uncle and Cousin - but was never invited to hunt by them... At 50 I wouldn't know where to start.

9/04/2007 9:23 PM  

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