U.S. FWS Survey Findings Indicate Major Fall-Off of Hunter Participation Numbers

Comments by Eric Dinger

Never Gone Hunting
U.S. FWS Survey Findings Indicate Major Fall-Off of Hunter Participation Numbers

USA – -(Ammoland.com)-The future of conservation in this country relies heavily on our collective ability to reverse a devastating trend in hunter participation. Preliminary findings of U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (see below) indicate a 5-year fall-off of over 2 million hunters.

Since 1980, hunter numbers have fallen from nearly 18 million to the current count of 10.5 million. The preliminary findings are summarized well here. It's never been more clear that now is the time to act.

But what can we do about it?

1. The Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act, which would afford state agencies the latitude they need to more strategically use their PR dollars is stalled in the House Committee on Natural Resources. Consider writing your Representative, urging him or her to ask Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, Chair of the Committee, to call a hearing on the bill. To get you started, here is the copy of the letter I wrote to the elected leaders from Nebraska.

2. No matter who you work for or what you do, if you make your money in the hunting industry, part of your job description should now include recruiting, retaining, and reactivating hunters. To learn more about what that means, please consider joining The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports community, at www.nationalr3plan.com. It's a free industry-member-only resource filled with helpful tools, plans, and conversation.

3. Accept the fact that the world has changed and will continue to do so. We are not going to rid the world of video games and cell phones. There's nothing we can do about 80-game soccer leagues for 10 year-olds. People are going to continue to move away from rural areas. Families are going to lose their farms to inheritance taxes. Baby boomers are going to age out of their hunting days in the next 10 years. Lack of access is choking us, but hunting leases are going to continue to eat up large tracts of land.

Anti-hunting and anti-gun organizations are only going to pick up steam during this presidency – just like gun and ammo sales picked up steam during the last presidency.

Millennials are going to continue hunting for different reasons than generations-past. As an industry, we need to focus on creating solutions inside of the constraints of these tectonic realities. Here are some examples of things each of us can do;

  • 1) hold a wild game feed and invite the families from the soccer team,
  • 2) start a trap league, rather than joining a golf league,
  • 3) build hunting opportunities for youth in programs like National Archery in the Schools, and high school trap teams,
  • 4) invite a friend or neighbor to come along on your next hunting trip,
  • 5) take the National Hunting and Fishing Day Pledge and invite someone as soon as you're done – maybe even consider purposefully inviting someone who doesn't look or think like you.

4. Remember what got you into hunting. It's the only thing that works nearly every time: mentoring. If you have the time to be matched long-term with a mentor, please visit this form and submit your information. From there we'll introduce you to the closest mentoring program we know of in your area. If you don't have the time to mentor in-person, please consider becoming a Digital Mentor in the Powderhook app. It'll take you a minute or two a week. If you're part of an outdoor industry company and you're interested in learning about how mentoring is the best form of marketing, get in touch with us here.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the “Orange Army” to engage. Each of us needs to do more, and we need to start now.


Eric Dinger

2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation

  • 29 thoughts on “U.S. FWS Survey Findings Indicate Major Fall-Off of Hunter Participation Numbers

    1. Sorry, but I don’t buy anything the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service puts out. They are the ones who used trumped up, B.S. data to require steel shot for waterfowl hunting. They are the ones running the B.S. wolf re-introduction program in New Mexico and Arizona, which is nothing but a tree-hugger, Tofu-eating, Vegan butt-kissing scam and joke. I’ve seen these clowns in action over the years and if you think BATFE is bad, these guys are their little brat brother who would rather arrest and prosecute hunters on violating B.S. regulations than actually do something pro-hunting.

      1. Your comments reveal that as a hunter you don’t really care about wildlife or the biotic communities to which they belong. Not only don’t care but don’t care if either is harmed. Lead restrictions are to protect species like condors and eagles you can’t hunt but which ingest lead to very deadly effect; the bullets that keep on killing. Wolves belong in nature. I’m saying that as a resident in New Mexico in wolf country. Comments like this one read by non-hunters can quickly make an anti-hunter out of people. They belie any claim to any sentiment of true conservation and make hunters appear completely disingenuous- which is kind of what I’m starting to suspect.

        1. Obviously you not only drink the USF&WS Kool Aid, but you bathe in it. Sounds like you either work for them or are a closet PETA or green weenie troll. What the USF&WS practices is about as far from real conservation as you are from the moon.

        2. @overthehill, your accusations are not true and do not alter anyone’s opinion in a meaningful way. When one reads joe’s remarks, those remarks merely express his experience and beliefs. Your accusations, unsupported as they are, and not being a valid conclusion could lead to a name calling response.
          Our ancestors understood how efficient a hunter a wolves are and, therefore, worked hard to get rid of them. Even a small pack eats one deer per week. That is a minimum of fifty-two deer per year. Why do you hate deer, and moose, and elk, and every other animal in the forest so much.

          1. Wolves kill the easiest to catch which tend to be those that are weakened due to age or disease (and sometimes the “unlucky inexperienced”) Those animals that are least productive to the species. Meanwhile most hunters target those animal in the prime of their life and the most productive of the species. An old dry doe is tough for humans to consume; a deer with symptoms of bovine TB or CWD may not be safe for humans to consume but wolves see these animals as easy prey. Research suggests that wolves limit the spread of CWD. In Wisconsin, only the northern forest showed a harvest increas. Hunters there killed 36,100 deer in this zone where most of the wolves are located.

    2. This is not new news. Perhaps, instead of spending millions of $ to recruit possible hunters in a dying sport except for the wealthy, perhaps we should learn how to capitalize on the wildlife-watching sector, which has been steadily growing for years. The modern world is shifting to value wildlife alive. We should shift with it. Trophy hunting and trapping for fun and fur are shifting out of public favor as well. There will be no stop to this trend. Our world is rapidly losing wild habitat, which means we all lose. And people crave those moments when viewing wildlife takes them to a place of pleasure, thinking about only that moment in the animal’s world. And the animal lives on for others to enjoy, many times over.

      1. This “dying sport” as you call it is a multi billion dollar business and some states is a prime source of revenue. You really need to educate yourself in the science of wildlife management. If it were not for hunting, many species would eventually die off due to hunger and disease. The push by humans to occupy more and more prime habitat encroaches on wildlife and leaves less land to sustain their numbers. As for the sport of wealthy, I would bet more middle class folks hunt common wildlife then your so called wealthy. Another anti-hunting and radical environmentalist talking point is that hunting is for fun. Sure, the hunt is definitely enjoyable and a rush that goes back to early mankind, but a majority of the animal is used for food completing the circle of life. You can continue to enjoy viewing and be taken to your places of pleasure, but thanks those who hunt for providing you that opportunity.

        1. Not to discount the money spent by hunters, but wildlife watchers and photographers are an even bigger economic powerhouse. Read the report! Watchers outnumber hunters 86 million compared to 11.5 million participants. That’s almost 9:1. Granted each hunters spends more- it is a rich person’s past time- than each watcher but watchers still out spend hunters by 3:1.
          Plus if hunters were so ‘necessary’, explain how the places that the most rich in wildlife have no hunting- I’m talking about National parks. Hunters do not provide watchers their opportunity. sorry.

          1. Most of the above simply isn’t true.
            You’re saying one in four citizens is a wildlife watcher? I say that’s plain wrong.
            Hunting is NOT a rich person’s past time (pass-time) & the vast majority of participants are every day working folk.
            If you’re going to post ‘statistics’ then cite a verifiable source, which in this case I very much doubt you can.

          2. Hate to burst your bubble, but money spent on photography equipment and “wildlife watchers” do not contribute to the management of wildlife. Your numbers of participants don’t mean much. It’s the contribution that is key. I don’t know where you get the idea that one has to be rich or wealthy to engage in hunting , trapping or fishing! All one needs to do is to pass on those daily lattes and could save enough to have a great time hunting. Also, a percentage of every dollar spent on hunting, and fishing equipment not to mention the license fees to participate in those activities. I also would point out that there are national parks where hunting contributes to the proper management of those areas. In those cases, not only do hunters, trappers, and fishermen pay they’re share through fees and ways previously mentioned, but also pay state, local, and federal taxes just like everyone else. So again, I stand by my facts, and say again, thank hunters, trappers and fishermen, for providing you, and yours the opportunities that would not be there today

            1. Perhaps Pittman Robertson should be changed so that, the non-consumptive, non-hunting public contributes to the fund through the tax of outdoor non-hunting equipment. But, then, that means they will have a say in habitat protection and conservation of species.

      2. It’s hunters who fund more conservation initiatives than anyone else.
        Hunting is also a far more humane means of harvesting meat than modern intensive farming.
        Probably half the meat, fish & fowl I eat comes from one kind of hunting activity or another by myself & THAT is the ethical way to feed yourself.

      3. @Lisa Grey, the modern world, as you call it, has never been more blood thirsty. If not for the very short hunting seasons designed to protect wild life, wild life would be gone. For example: coyotes are not protected by a coyote hunting season. I can shoot them all day long. If you really had an understanding of nature you would know that nature loves to kill. Nature has many ways to kill: gravity, not enough water, too much water, too much heat, not enough heat, too many predators, not enough predators, sepsis, etc. Man is just natures tool, but we are a controlled tool. I see a bear with a cub, and I refrain. Nature kills the bear from want, the cub dies, too. Instead of just pushing the liberal propaganda, why don’t you study the science of conservation.

        1. Lisa Grey, what exactly are u saying, that the ‘science of conservation’ is to have seasons, (which is what was original purpose to prevent free-for-all wildlife slaughter) & that the ‘science’ is only about, kill only enough today, to have to kill for tomorrow? Yes of course nature kills, all life subsists on other life, but in nature it’s the balance that’s important. E.g. when the mother & bear cub dies, many others feed on the carcass. There is no balance in sport hunting. Species are deliberately manipulated (managed) to create more of one chosen species for the gun at the expense of many others. As in killing off predators, e.g. wolves, coyotes who compete w/ sport hunters for the animal that is their entitlement to kill by way of management..Man continues to fight nature w/ his so-called science.

          1. @ML, Lisa did not write what you are replying to. I did. You can not even get your authors straight, which explains why you have the rest of the concepts wrong. Seasons are the legal tool that we use to keep wild life populations within limits that supportable by the land of any given area, in a particular state. Populations surveys are the scientific tool that determine how much protecting a given animal population needs and thus how long or short a season will be.
            If the mother bear is killed by nature, the cubs will die a nasty lingering death, and all of their bodies will be consumed by bacteria, insects, and some small part by the carrion eaters. Human hunters are a far superior control on population, don’t kill the mother in the first place, prevent a lingering painful anguished death, and are a more worthy consumer than bacteria. All the rest of what you have written comes from the Walt Disney School of Philosophy.

    3. This statement is very misleading: “Families are going to lose their farms to inheritance taxes”. If the decedent’s estate is valued at less than $5.3 million for an individual ($11.6 million for a couple), then there is no federal estate tax. There is no estate tax if transferred to a spouse. The estate tax affects less than 1% of the population. Of the actual number of family farms hit by the estate tax, only 20 farms in 2013 paid estate taxes and NO farms have been reported sold to pay off an estate tax debt. (there are about 2.1 million family farms in the US) http://fortune.com/2015/04/13/death-tax-killing-american-family-farms/

    4. “Hunting” means different things to different people. Some people call it setting up a feeder and a blind 100 yards apart, getting dropped off an hour before dawn, and shooting the animal that comes to eat. I call that “baiting” and any fool can do that. Some people charge thousands of dollars per year to lease a small “lane” with a stand and feeder. If you want to “hunt”, then hunt but, if you “bait”, don’t call that “hunting”. Learn some field craft and, track and stalk your prey. Then, you can say you “hunt”.

      1. I agree! That is just BAITING the animal. This commonplace here in Ohio. If you wanna hunt..HUNT. Putting out corn and shooting a hungry animal is wrong. That’s like my enimies waiting for me in a Taco Bell parking lot. What happened to the term Sport. My Grandfather hunted for 60 years and never once baited an animal. Baiting in fishing is highly illegal in these parts. I don’t know why it isn’t when it comes to dear? I don’t kill anymore, for my own reasons, but when I did, I would track the animal in particular or just get lucking and spot the animal in the wild. Sorry.. I just agree with my friend here…

    5. I’m a farmer, who has tried to offer opportunities to young people to hunt. Although license fees, processing costs (not everyone is confident in cutting up their own deer) and the expenses of equipment that peer pressure label as essential, are an impediment to young landless hunters most do not stop hunting because of economic reasons.

      “People Suck” is the fact that I feel most threatens the future of hunting. Hunters who poach, steal treestands and trail cameras outright or by use and often give other hunters and landowners headaches with bad behaviors are what get posted signs erected, leases signed and youth frustrated by finding their spot occupied or stand stolen.

      I have had one incident with anti hunters. They posted my property without my consent. Unfortunately “Do you have permission to be here!” is the usual unfriendly greeting men in orange have given me on my own land. One had ruined several maple syrup trees with rebar spikes driven into them to climb to his stands.

      “You are my guest and representative. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at my wedding.” It is the rule to hunt my land and should be the rule for the future of hunting. (Too many people don’t get the wedding thing. “Would you start a fight at my wedding?”, “Would you damage the facility at my wedding?”, “Would you conduct yourself in a way that would be embarrassing or harmful to me, at my wedding?”)

      1. @Vince…First Thanks for what you do. Unfortunately weddings (not all of course) produce drunks. Drunks sometimes do things they would not ordinarily do. My point is I wouldn’t want someone to think alcohol and firearms was condoned on my properties.

    6. Overall, the gun and hunting community has not done a very good job in education and introduction to hunting and the shooting sports. Sure there are some programs that address each, but they are particular to a geographic region. Those areas that have large open spaces and a pro-gun/hunting culture. Those areas are not where growth of the hunting and shooting numbers will come from. Also, with private gun clubs and hunting clubs, they close membership to few and close out anyone who is not a friend, family or close associate of the core members. Other reason for the decline are, high license fees, local and state gun control legislation, and the eroding of public land to hunt on. Unless these basic issues are solved, the future of hunting as well as shooting sports will grow dimmer with each passing year.

      1. @ras …Young Hunter Education (Safety) courses should expressly address your concerns. Hunter Ethics is highly stressed here in Kansas. If courses in your area don’t they should be overhauled. That is a stated mandated course and should be reasonably standard from state to state as they are reciprocal . Was an instructor for 25 years.

    Leave a Comment 29 Comments