Hunter Numbers Continue Steady Decline

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The steady decline in the number of people who hunt has been a regular story off and on for years. NPR has a detailed AP story up that takes a look at the numbers and some of the ramifications if the number of hunters continues to shrink.

Hunting generates billions in retail sales and pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into government conservation efforts annually through license sales and federal taxes on firearms and ammunition sales.

But fewer hunters return to the sport each year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates 33 states saw declines in hunting license sales over the last two decades. The sharpest drop was in Massachusetts, which has seen a 50 percent falloff in hunting license sales during that time.

Millions of Americans still hunt, of course, and some states have seen increases in license sales over the last 20 years. But the overarching decline has outdoor advocates worried.


WesternHunter's picture


Interesting report coming from a public radio network like NPR.  Typically NPR puts such a left-wing or liberal minded spin on things that I'm surprised to hear that their report sounds concerned about the decline of hunters.  Seems like most of their audience would be glad. Glad they emphisised how hunters dollard restore habitat and take care of the environrmrnt too as well as pour into the economy.

jim boyd's picture

I recall with clarity - as a

I recall with clarity - as a child my older brother Chuck and I would get up long before dawn, saddle the horses and grab the .22's.

Of to neighboring farms we would go (we did not even need permission back then - we would just go hunt wherever we felt like it) in the pre dawn hours to shoot squirrels for an hour or so.

Back to the house we could go, skin the squirrels and hop on the school bus and head to school (no, we did not have to walk, uphill both ways!).

This was back in the mid to late 1960's and I fear those days are pretty much gone.

The trends are fairly well set in stone. With well over half of the states showing declines, the handwriting is on the wall.

I try, at every oppportunity, to pull kids back into the sport - it is our only chance. It would be easy for me, at 53 years old, to just shrug my shoulders and say - hey, I am ok... I only have twenty years at best left to hunt and the land is not gonna go away in my lifetime.

That is true - but it is for the future generations that we must be vigilant. There will always be hunters (it is natural in all beasts, including homo sapiens) but the question will be to what degree and where will they hunt?

Some states better be downright alarmed - Mass is not a great hunting destination, but at 50% loss rates, some state projects have probably already been cancelled or will be shortly.

As the article stated, some states have managed to hold revenues flat by raising fees, but you have to wonder how long that can last.

Some hunters may think - hey this is a good thing - there will be less competition for hunting land.

For private land - that may be true.

For public land, it will not.

As demand dwindles, as the article states, less money (read that less land) will be pumped into the states budgets for hunting and other DNR projects.

We can do a lot... and more than just taking a kid hunting.

Support archery clubs and classes in schools.

Be a good example - don't drive around with deer exposed in your vehicle, if you can help it. I try not to go into stores in camo. When it is obvious I am a hunter, I am more courteous than normal.

When I go out of state to hunt, I am always quick to thank everyone I come into contact with and compliment the state, their establishment - whatever... our hunting "footprint" should be as good as we can leave.

I have kind of strayed here - the more we can do to promote and support hunting, the better off "we" are going to be.

Hunt. Travel. Bring people in. Take a kid hunting. Take a neighbor hunting. Support a handicapped hunter.

Do it now - one day, it will be too late.  

Chuck-n-Alaska's picture

Hunting in general has gone

Hunting in general has gone from providing food for the family to a commercial interest. Just look at TV all the hunting shows focus on trophies and what you need to get them. You need our camo, our blinds, our guns, our ammo. For a nominal fee I'll show you how to create the perfect food plot. Look how much private land has been closed to the public. Clubs and leases are getting out of the price range of the average hunter. Most of the farms I hunted as a kid are leases now, not much left for a kid to hunt back there any more. The more urban society gets the farther removed they get from their hunter/gather roots.

When I was growing up I would hunt on the way home from school. We would check our gun in at the principles office then get on the way out after school. Now if a kid did that there would be a swat team on them in a New York minute. When I was 10 years old I went rabbit hunting by myself. Times have changed and in my opinion not for the best.

AGGRO's picture

Interesting shift of things.

Interesting shift of things. Last year and this year have been the first that various tags have sold out here in S Cal.

groovy mike's picture

Reaching out to youth

Here in New York they just lowered the minimum age for a hunting license from fourteen to twelve and got a huge boost in the number of hunters.

Yeah I know that in some states making a kid wait until they turn twelve to hunt small game is ridiculous but that's the way they do it here.

In fact, the minimum age for big game hunting is still fourteen.  But even that was just lowered down from sixteen!

In any case, it added a bunch of new hunters to the books.  Which I think is a good thing.  i know my son was eagerly awaiting reaching the minimum age to hunt.

That said, as the number of hunters decline over all I think it is a mixed blessing because it means that there is mre game available per hunter for those few of us who are left afield!