A National Decline of Hunters, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do

By Larry S. Moore

USAToday ran a story recently about the declining number of hunters in the United States ("American Hunter is a vanishing breed"). This is indeed a sad statistic that has been covered by several journals across the country.

Rob Sexton of the US Sportsmen Alliance is quoted in the article noting that hunters pay the bill for conservation. That is true across the country. It is true in Ohio where the Division of Wildlife is almost totally funded by the sale of hunting/fishing/trapping licenses and other permits, such as deer and turkey tags. What isn’t funded through license sales is funded through the Pittman-Robertson federal excise tax on outdoor sporting equipment, firearms and ammo. Other federal programs (Dingell-Johnson Fish Restoration for example) include fishing equipment and archery equipment. The distribution of the federal excise tax to the states is based on the state level number of hunting/fishing/trapping licenses sold.

Ohio has been fortunate to be relatively holding our own in the sale of licenses and number of sportsmen. There have been a number of efforts in Ohio regarding recruitment and retention of hunters.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife is on the leading edge in creating special early season youth hunts. Youth hunts are now available for goose and waterfowl, upland game (rabbit and pheasant), deer and turkey. These provide an adult parent or mentor to take the youth hunting when the adult is not hunting. The sale of youth hunting licenses is up as a result of these efforts.

Ohio was the second state in the nation to pass the apprentice hunting license. I testified, on behalf of Buckeye Firearms and the USSA, in support of this legislation. The legislation was part of the National Shooting Sports Foundation Families Afield effort. It has been passed in several other states and is under consideration in more. The apprentice hunting license sales last season was around 10,000 licenses. This means that 10,000 new hunters were introduced to the outdoors and hunting. The goal is to retain these people has hunters and get them through a hunter education class so they transition from the apprentice hunting license to the regular hunting license. Buckeye Firearms leader Chad Baus took advantage of the apprentice program, proving the program attracts both youth and adults into hunting.

Starting with the 2004 hunting seasons, Ohio license sales for youth increased 12% while adult sales increased 1.5%. Out of state hunting license sales increased 13%. Most of the out of state license sales increases are as a result of a number of record trophy bucks (Beatty Buck, Jerman Buck, Amish Lucky Buck and others) taken in Ohio.

In 2006 the youth hunting licenses sales were about 53,000 far surpassing the 41,850 youth licenses sold in 2005. In 1992, 29,571 youth licenses were sold. Youth deer permit sales are up 53 percent, youth spring turkey permit sales are up 31 percent, and youth fur takers rose 59 percent. (http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/18369/default.aspx)

The NSSF is also reporting more federal lands are being reopened to hunting. That is good news as almost every poll of hunters lists land access as a top reason for not returning to hunting. Many organizations and individuals are working hard to protect our Second Amendment and hunting rights. Yes, they are one and the same in many ways. More hunters need to work to promote and protect our Second Amendment rights. Despite the claims of many politicians the Second Amendment is not just a sporting issue.

If you are a shooter, you are paying the Pittman-Robertson federal excise tax on firearms and ammo. However, if you do not also hold an Ohio hunting license, you are allowing your federal tax money go to another state. The number one thing shooters can do for conservation in Ohio is to buy a hunting license – even if you don’t hunt. It funds the conservation through the Ohio Division of Wildlife; it funds hunter education and recruitment programs and ensures that more of our federal tax dollars are returned to Ohio.

The hunting heritage, like our shooting heritage, needs to be supported, protected and promoted by all of us.

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a Region Leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award.

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