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Hunters Decline

A recent report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) showing a sharp decline in the popularity of hunting casts light on a little-discussed trend that may already be influencing the political debate about guns in America.

A survey by FWS found that between 1996 and 2001 the number of hunters in the U.S. declined from 14 million to 13 million, a 7-percent decrease. The data in the report indicate that the decline is attributable to the fact that hunting is most popular among older people in rural areas and the rate at which older hunters are dying out is not being matched by the entry of young people into the activity. In 1991, according to FWS, 61 percent of American hunters were 35 years or older; by 2001 that proportion had increased to 67 percent.

The survey also points to the continuing shrinkage of the nation's rural population, which is far more likely to produce hunters than metropolitan areas. In 1991, 22 percent of the population lived in rural (i.e. nonmetropolitan) areas but accounted for 46 percent of the nation's hunters. By 2001, the rural population had dropped to 19 percent of the nation's total and 41 percent of the nation's hunters. Apparently due to attrition of hunters, the popularity of hunting even within rural areas has been declining, according to FWS. In 1991, 15 percent of the rural population hunted; by 2001, that number had dropped to 13 percent. The percentage of Americans living in metropolitan areas (defined as municipalities of 50,000 or more) who hunted held steady at 5 percent.

Hunters and the NRA
If hunting is on the decline, what are the implications for the larger issue of public policy about gun ownership in the U.S.? Robert J. Spitzer, a professor of political science at the State University of New York College at Cortland and author of the book, "The Politics of Gun Control," considers it a further reason for the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby to look elsewhere for its support base.

"The hunting/sporting people have always been the primary core of political support for the NRA and similar gun groups, so that means their base is clearly declining," he said. "I think that's the main reason why the NRA has accelerated its political appeals. The other leg of support for gun rights is the politically conservative, hard right wing--the ones who own guns because they think they somehow protect them from a tyrannical government."

While hunters do remain a core constituency of the NRA, the movement toward a broader membership of right-wing ideologues who may have no interest in hunting whatsoever has been constant for at least 15 years. In embarking on that course, the NRA lost many of its more politically moderate hunter members who considered advocacy of assault-weapon ownership a step too far. At the same time former President George H.W. Bush dropped his NRA membership in 1995 over an NRA newsletter's characterization of federal agents as "jackbooted thugs," hundreds of thousands of other NRA members, many of them hunters, did the same.

Spitzer maintains that the NRA now faces the prospect of a similar problem. After Sept. 11, 2001, Spitzer said, the sort of anti-government rhetoric that the NRA uses so effectively in drawing adherents into its fold has lost its luster. "It doesn't fly as well at a time when people want more security, more government, to protect them and are much more pro law and order," he said. "So there's less sympathy and a less receptive public for this sort of foaming-at-the-mouth 'the government is the enemy' sort of thing-because now the government is a friend that's fighting the external enemy of terrorism."

Hunting's Costs and Conflicts
While familiar gun-control issues like the assault-weapons ban and closing gun-show loopholes will be receiving Congressional attention, hunting issues remain largely within the domains of state and local government. As the suburbs expand into rural areas, inevitable conflicts arise between anti-hunting suburbanites and pro-hunting rural populations. Many towns and counties around the nation have passed hunting restrictions, but hunting organizations have countered by pushing for "right to hunt" protections in their state constitutions.

There are differences of opinion about the necessity of hunters for culling populations of wild animals. Deer populations have exploded in many areas of the country in recent years, prompting hunters to call for broadened seasons to hunt them. But animal advocates argue that large deer populations exist because state wildlife agencies often view themselves as providers and producers of deer for sport hunting, adopting programs to ensure large herds for hunters to kill.

But as rural traditions conflict with those of the suburbs, the arguments are about more than the threats posed to wild animals. According to the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), hunters in the U.S. and Canada shot between 1,038 and 1,780 people annually between 1987 and 1997. Every autumn, American newspapers are filled with stories about these victims. In 1987, IHEA analyzed 822 shootings and found that 318 were victims of firearms accidentally discharging, 193 were mistaken for game, 143 were obscured by vegetation or were in their homes or vehicles, 140 were not noticed as the hunter swung and shot at game, and 28 moved into the line of fire.

In addition to animal-advocacy groups, some individuals are speaking out against the dangers of hunting. Rex Stuart, who lives near Arcadia, La., has organized an organization called the Non-Hunters' Rights Coalition. Perturbed by the activities of people discharging their firearms near his property, Stuart has initiated a petition drive to establish "safe space" between citizens and all private and public land where hunting is allowed. Stuart moved onto his family's farm 10 years ago, and six months later a group of people set up a "hunting club," as Stuart calls it, that borders his property only 130 yards from his front door. He claims that members frequently shoot over his house. He says he feels powerless because "the laws in Louisiana protect hunters--not nonhunting citizens."

"Hunters do get out of line," he said, "but people are afraid to speak out." He's pushing his petition in Louisiana, but he's also making the petition available to people in other states who are interested in strengthening state laws to protect nonhunters from hunters.

However, somewhat like gun-violence-prevention activists who seek stronger laws for handguns and assault weapons, the anti-hunting people face powerful entrenched opposition--and not just the NRA and sportsmen's groups. On Dec. 15, the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald reported that the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is actively working to "bring new hunters into the field" by unveiling "innovative measures" in 2003. The office "will boost marketing by targeting new license buyers from data gathered from an online licensing system being introduced" in 2003, the paper reported. In addition, the newspaper said, the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine will be pushing for the passage of legislation that would require town councils to consult with Inland Fisheries and Wildlife before passing firearm ordinances. It reportedly also is seeking a bill to protect shooting ranges from noise ordinances.

According to the New York City-based Fund for Animals, state agencies frequently involve themselves in youth-recruitment campaigns for hunting. The Fund conducted a survey which found that 48 states sponsor children's hunts and that "a growing number of states now offer cut-rate hunting licenses to children under a certain age, usually 16." In some states, such as Colorado, there are no minimum ages. In Colorado, a "Youth Combination Small Game Hunting, Furbearer, and Fishing License" sells for one dollar and is promoted by a Colorado Division of Wildlife brochure that announces that "There is no minimum age" in boldface.

Local and regional conflicts between hunters and those who oppose them will no doubt continue for many years to come. But unless hunters and their friends in state government can reverse the trend, they may be playing a losing game in the long term.

"There are just more things for people to do now," Spitzer says. "Even if you live in the middle of nowhere you can get on the Internet, you can play video games, it's easier to travel. There are more activities to draw kids away from what would otherwise be one of the few things that they can do, which is hunting. The hunting tradition is simply not being passed on from one generation to the next like it once was."

Joined: 12/30/2002
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Hunters Decline

Im only 13 but I disagree with the comment:That hunting is not being pasted down to the next generation like it once was. I think that hunting is being pasted down just slower because of all the new high-tec computer,VR,video games,and all the systems (EX. Playstation,Nintendeo64). That is also why the American population is getting fatter. They sit around all day playing games that do nothing for you physically, and the sit there eating. Hunting makes you get off your a** and move, have fun, and enjoy yourself with all the exercise benifits. Now with people getting "Bigger" they dont want to go out and do active things because...Its not fun,it hurts,its boring... and so on! Also its funny to know but when my grandpa, and uncles were little they would take things appart and learn how things worked and stuff like that. Now days I included (Being a city slicker) know hardly anything about how mechines and cars and computers all work! By the way I LOVE HUNTING EVEN THOUGH I JUST GOT INTO IT!!!!

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Hunters Decline

The day citizens lose their right to kill their own food because hunters are "politically insignificant" is the day the political system has become useless.

The interplay between urban/rural populations discussed in this article is another good example of why local game management policies should not be set in Washington.

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Hunters Decline

I am a certified Hunter Education Instructer for my State, and the number of youths who are taking the course is smaller every year,the reason I feel is because it is not a family thing anymore, a get together for friends and family. Young adults are the majority of students, and not many of them, less and less every year. They(new hunters) seem to want instant gratification, what I mean is they want to go in the woods shoot a deer and be home in a few hours, it for the most part is not like that in real life. Most of the people I meet in the woods are older, veteran hunters, and if I meet a new one and gab for awhile it is at times scary to hear them speak, "I took a sound shot" comes to mind. The future of the sport(20 years or so) is in my mind questionable.

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Hunters Decline

That is some good first hand evidence Chechatonga.

Taken completely of itself, the slow decline in hunters doesn't bother me. Hunting is something I do, regardless of whether it is a common activity or not among other people (urban or rural).

The problem is that people repeatedly argue that as hunters decline the right to hunt will be taken away (less voters). I'm not sure whether or not I believe that, technically hunters are a minority now (5-10% of the united states population), seems now would be a good as time as any for the demise of hunting. I would like to think there is a significant portion of the non hunting public that will always support the right to hunt ethically even if they themselves do not hunt. This non-hunting, but hunting supporting population, is probably more important than the hunting population as a "political unit". I think they are the only ones keeping the animal rights activists policies at bay, not tomorrow, but already today.

When I actually consider and think that there might be a future with out hunting I usually have two response:

- I get white hot mad
- I laugh hysterically

It can be pretty wierd when both responses happen at the same time: a laughing hysterical mad man. Wink

Seriously though, is there any more nihilist statement than "man does not have the right to hunt"? Hunting is a lot of things to a lot of people, but at the core it is about getting food for oneself, by oneself. That's it, that's all.

When somebody says you cannot hunt, they are basically saying you do not have the right to get meat on your own, instead you need to either raise cattle/sheep/chickens or take your meat from the grocery store. In the animal rights activitest mind all killing of animals is wrong, so they are in essense trying to turn the nation in to vegetarians. There is no meat that can be had without killing an animal, not unless we start growing it in a petrie dish, which, frankly, would be pretty damn weird. In the land of the whopper, I can't see how these people have gotten this far.

But, getting back to the main point, I'm an optimist and would like to think that the American population is smarter than the media portrays them. I think there is a significant portion of the non-hunting population (which a high percentage is meat eating) that realizes that animal rights movements taken to the extreme will have us all eat vegetables.

I'm done ranting....

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Hunters Decline

"Man does not have the right to hunt." What a hoot! So all of our knuckle-dragging ancestors had absolutely no right to kill any of those animals they ate. Gives new definition to the concept of Original Sin. The book I use says it was a fruit, but I guess in the New Liberal Translation it says Eve tempted Adam with a burger and fries.

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Hunters Decline

Along the lines of knuckle dragging ancestors, I wonder if an animal rights activist ever looks in the mirror and considers their existence today is because they are the spawn of meat eaters.

If an animal rights activist does realize they are the spawn of meat eaters, does this cause some psychotic convulsive fit of self denial? I mean if all animal eaters are tatamount to the dark lord, you then are basically just the son/daughter of the dark lord.

Don't forget that the fries of original sin were cooked in not vegatable oil, but animal fat. Adds to the effect you know...

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Enough of your carnivorous revisionist history, Bitmasher! We all know those are all lies propagated by the meatpacking industry.

Our ancestors were vegetarians. Woolly Mammoths, Irish Elk, Giant Sloths, and a host of other species died out because our ancestors overgrazed the land and starved them. As those species declined, grasses were able to grow to such heights that we had to stand upright to reach the tastiest buds -- and the rest, you know, is history.

But the big question remains: Did Neanderthal man worry about global warming, and did he quit using fire when he saw the glaciers receding?

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(Bitmasher slaps his head)...You are so right...I have been a fool!

The truth is that our ancestors were farmers that walked on all fours. When the grass grew tall, eventually flowers bloomed high up and we slowly reached our way toward bipedalism to behold the beautiful flower (this includes eating tasty buds). Flowers lifted us to enlightenment from our knuckle dragging past. Thus the flower must be worshipped and animals should not be consumed because animal do-do makes beautiful flowers. All nod your heads now, you know its true.

Neanderthals did know about global warming, in fact they are both the discovers and propagators of the phenomenon (and you thought they just had flat heads!). When you are stuck in an ice age, you'll do anything to get out of it. Plus it had the added benefit of slamming the bering strait shut to prevent all these damn late comers from crowding in on the great new continent. Of course this was all before the flower enlightenment, because when the ground is frozen like a rock, you eat meat.

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Hunters Decline

NEWS FLASH! A collection of ancient petroglyphs discovered on a cliff wall near Moab, Utah in 1996 have finally been translated:

"Neanderthal scientists have determined that as the Earth's population reaches 115,000, humanity's impact on the planet is altering global ecosystems.

'We're seeing a definite global warming trend,' says Thag Flintstone, Director of the Neanderthal Institute of Ecology. 'We've found substantial evidence that proves that since man discovered fire, the planet has been getting steadily warmer.'

Flintstone states that if this trend continues, the polar ice caps will recede perhaps thousands of miles, raising sea levels and affecting climates throughout the globe. The potential impacts are daunting.

'As sea levels rise,' says Flintstone, 'the land bridge to Asia will become submerged and unusable, incurring catastrophic economic effects from the cessation of trade with the Far East. The grassy savanna we now live in will eventually become a desert where daily temperatures may exceed 100 degrees and thus render it incapable of supporting life. I foresee mass extinctions as a result, to the point where even the mighty megatherium exists only in museums.'

In order to counteract this trend, Flintstone says we need take definitive action, like expanding the Ugba Accords which restrict Neanderthal fires to two square feet, while allowing less hairy developing species like Cro-Magnon man to continue building bonfires at their discretion.

'We need to close the Cro-Mag loophole,' he says. 'The Cro-Mags need to develop more efficient means of keeping themselves warm without damaging the global environment.'

Flintstone also advocates individual responsibility. 'The average mammoth emits over 1,500 percent more greenhouse gasses while consuming 1,000 percent more fuel than a typical primitive horse. In addition, their size makes them a danger to other wildlife on the trail. We need to stop breeding them and focus on more efficient and safer means of transportation.' He also advocates that families select smaller, more easily heated caves in order to limit the amount of heat released into the atmosphere.

'Unless we take action now,' Flintstone concludes, 'our entire way of life will disappear and our Earth will be irreparably damaged."

[ This Message was edited by: expatriate on 2003-01-09 13:34 ]

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Hunters Decline

Often, when I get into a discussion with an animal rights, or anti-hunting person, I ask them if they drive a car. Usually, they look at me curiously and reply in the affirmative. I then ask how they manage to drive their car from Point A to Point B, without slaughtering hundreds of insects. While they are sputtering, and the wheels in their head are turning feverishly to generate a logical response, I then ask them who appointed them God, to determine that a bug's life was worth less than a deer's....it is, afterall, a living creature