Surveys, Research Reveal Unsettling Trends in Hunter Numbers

By Leonard, Jeff | St. Joseph News-Press, June 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Surveys, Research Reveal Unsettling Trends in Hunter Numbers


Leonard, Jeff, St. Joseph News-Press


The 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife- Associated Recreation is currently being finalized and the results, which will begin trickling out later this month, may reveal an unfortunate trend for America's hunters.

According to the survey, which is done through a partnership between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and conservation organizations, there were 12.5 million hunters 16-years-old and older in the United States in 2006.

While 12.5 million may seem like a lot, the survey readily demonstrates how hunting participation in the United States has slowly declined over the past two decades. The 2006 report noted that hunting hit a peak around 1982, but since then, sales of hunting licenses have steadily declined on the national level.

The trend is so pronounced that Federal Aid data indicated a decline of over 1.2 million hunting license holders between 1990 and 2005. So why is the country seeing such a reduction in the amount of hunters?

Responsive Management, an internationally recognized public opinion and attitude survey research firm specializing in natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, thinks they've found some answers.

One of the largest trends behind the decline in hunters is changing demographic factors. America is increasingly becoming more urban. Most of the population now lives in non-rural housing, with increasing urbanization expected to continue for some time according to the research firm.

Census data backs up this statement. In 1950, 36 percent of the U.S. population lived in a rural area. This percentage went down to 30 percent in 1960, then to 25 percent in 1990, and down to 22 percent in 2000. As the majority of hunters are white males living in rural areas, one can quickly see why numbers are declining.

The next major factor that may be leading to declines is the average hunter is losing access to lands and crowding is often an issue on limited public lands. In a Responsive Management study, hunters indicated that two of the top reasons they were not satisfied with hunting and are participating less were because there was not enough access to places to hunt and there were too many other hunters in the field cause overcrowding. …

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