Wildlife photographer Stacey Huston recently remarked on Facebook that she’s seeing more people hunting this year. And statistical evidence backs up her observation. A study conducted in 2008 by Responsive Management shows participation in hunting is on the rise. While some might contend the increase is in spite of the economy, studies show participation is increasing because of the downturn.
After reaching a peak in 1982, hunting license sales have been on the downward slide since then. However, researchers noted three exceptions to this overall national decline - 1992, 1999 and 2004.
To figure out what was behind this, Responsive Management analyzed 43 variables that might affect hunting license sales. They looked at everything from average monthly temperature, consumer prices, Dow Jones Industrial Averages, median income, new housing starts, housing and population densities, and population by age groups.
Of all the variables examined, only two really correlated to hunting license sales on a national level. The greater the proportion of people aged 65 to 69, the more likely hunting license sales will drop. In addition, a higher rate of housing starts also is tied to declines.
According to Mark Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, the age factor is easily explained.
“As people age, they are less likely to participate in hunting or have a need to purchase a license; the decline in hunting with increasing age has been documented in numerous participation studies,” Duda said. “The significance of the housing starts factor is not so clear; the data simply show that hunting license sales have declined in times of rapid growth in housing starts.”
Duda said one reason might be the number of hunters who work in construction and related trades. A 2007 survey showed the top occupational category for employed hunters was “construction/carpentry/plumbing/electrical/craftsman,” a category that strongly relates to new housing construction. Thus, in times of increased housing starts, it may be that many hunters have less free time to hunt. This theory is supported by the fact that “work obligations” is one of the most common reasons cited by hunters for not hunting or not hunting more often.
One question remains. Is having more time to hunt the only reason for the increase in participation or are hunters also trying to put food on the table? Those hunters who have been interviewed about this are split on whether or not this is a motivating factor. However, none of the other economic indicators in the 2008 study correlated strongly to hunting license sales, which could suggest the increase is due to having time to hunt rather than hunting for meat.
Fishing is seeing similar gains in participation. In 2009, there’s been a 7.7 percent increase in the number of licenses sold compared to 2008.
While it’s hard to find a silver lining in this dark economic cloud, knowing that people are spending time afield with friends and family is a bright spot.
On another note, Jim Ferguson, host of the Great American Outdoor Trails Radio Magazine was kind enough to invite me as a guest on his show. It will be available for download Friday, Dec. 11 by 10 a.m. CST at www.outdoortrailsnetwork.com. Plus, you can hear Jim’s show on 100 stations from Friday morning at 5 a.m. in Guymon, OK on KGYN until the last airing Sunday at 4 p.m. on KKBJ in Bemidji Minn.
Until then, stay in touch at Facebook.com/tammy.sapp2 and Twitter @TammyDianeSapp.