The future of fishing and hunting in America does not look good. In the 18 to 24 year age group, fishing participation dropped from 20% in 1991 to 13% in 2001 (Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife survey). For the same age group, hunting participation dropped from 9% in 1991 to ONLY 6% in 2001!
A recent survey by the American Recreation Coalition showed a total of 13 million hunters in America. Of this number, approximately 1.2 million are females, 300,000 are black and 430,000 are Hispanic. This means that 94% of American hunters are white, only 4% are black, and 2% are other than black or white.
The average age of hunters is 39 with an average income of $51,000. Those who earn between $50,000 and $75,000 comprise 34% of all hunters while those earning more than $75,000 account for 12%. Sixty-four percent of hunters own their homes, 63% are married, 69% are parents, and 47% have children at home under 18 years of age.
Some 67% of the hunters said they had a personal computer at home, and 36% said they used a computer at work in the past 30 days.
Reasons for the decline
I do not have any research information as to why there is a drop in interest in hunting activities; however, I do have some personal theories.
1. People today are simply busier trying to earn a living. All family members are likely to be working to pay for the mortgage, the two cars, the vacations, health care and the children’s college education. Finding the time and energy to go hunting with children and friends is now much harder to do.
2. America is becoming more urbanized. There are fewer people growing up in rural America where hunting is a natural and normal activity. Even rural kids are now bussed to larger centres where they are more likely to participate in organized sports. Who has time to go rabbit hunting on Saturday when you have hockey or soccer practice, or piano lessons?
3. Computers have had a significant impact on how Americans work and play. Instead of going hunting, most kids and young adults will spend the four to six hours surfing the net, sending e-mail, doing school or work projects, or playing video games.
4. Hunting has become more difficult to do. First, owning firearms has become expensive and a hassle in many jurisdictions. The cost of license fees has continued to increase over the years. Finding a convenient, safe, and productive place to hunt that is within a reasonable driving time from home is getting more difficult. Hunting regulations have become burdensome and complex. So why bother with hunting when there are so many other sport and recreational opportunities available?
5. The anti-hunting activists may be having an impact on American youth. PETA does a better job than sports hunting organizations at getting messages to teachers and young children. “Killing is not cool” is the message the “anti’s” are getting to our children.
A concerted effort is required by all groups and organizations involved in promoting hunting and fishing to get American youth participating in these activities. Otherwise, these sporting opportunities will simply die when the existing generation of hunters pass on!
Here are some of the potential impacts that I see of a continued decline in interest in hunting activities.
1. Wildlife populations will explode to nuisance levels. In particular, I am thinking of that very adaptable and magnificent animal, the whitetail deer. The whitetail deer has successfully spread throughout America and, in many places, is already causing problems. Expect more lives lost, injuries, and damage from cars hitting deer. Expect more crop and tree damage. Costs to states and city governments will increase in an effort to reduce the impact of these animals.
2. Billions of dollars will be lost in tourism revenues, especially in rural America. Hunters spend money on gas, accommodation, meals, bullets, and supplies. Smaller communities and rural areas will be most affected since these are the places hunting is done. Hunting also typically takes place during the autumn, a slow time for normal tourism peaks. Some businesses will close and jobs will be lost.
3. States will see significant revenue losses. They collect hunting and fishing license fees, as well as sales tax from the goods and services hunters buy when visiting their state. Taxes on local residents are likely to increase and/or services and jobs will be cut.
4. State Fish and Wildlife departments will be severely downsized or eliminated. If there are no hunters and the departments are not bringing in hunting fees, who will need them?
5. Conservation and wildlife programs will be negatively impacted in a major way. Hunters contribute most through fees, donations, and their involvement in many conservation and wildlife habitat programs. When there are no longer any hunters, there will also no longer be a Ducks Unlimited or other similar organizations.
6. The anti-hunting and wildlife protection groups and organizations will also vanish. They will lose support for their causes and donations.
7. We will raise a generation of obese and inactive children who will have no knowledge and appreciation of the wonders of nature and wildlife. These children will also be devoid of all the skills that hunting teaches – patience, self-reliance, persistence, testing your physical and mental limits, and the ability to survive in the great outdoors.
8. Finally, are we raising children who cannot differentiate between virtual reality and genuine reality? A true hunter respects and appreciates life, and knows the consequences when he pulls the trigger. I am afraid that this distinction may be lost on some of our video game-addicted generation. It is very different to kill a real living animal than zap them in a video game.
Man has hunted since the dawn of time. Many say that the hunting of animals is no long appropriate in our “civilized” world; however, considering the potential consequences, I’m not so sure!