Midwest leads in new hunters, anglers

By Tim Spielman

Associate Editor

Washington – The good news for conservation boosters is this:
The rate of the decline in new hunter and angler recruitment and
retention in the United States has slowed, and in some cases, has
stabilized. The bad news? Both are still declining in some parts of
the country.

Those are some of the conclusions of a report produced by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and recently released by the
agency. Hunter and angler recruitment and retention – focused
mainly on youths across the country – is just part of the periodic
‘National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated
Recreation,’ which gauges a number of hunting and fishing trends in
the country. The recruitment and retention portion tracks those two
items from 1990 through 2005.

‘From 1990 to 2000, there was a steady decline in the percent of
kids living at home who had ever participated in fishing and
hunting,’ USFWS economist Jerry Leonard, author of the report, said
in a press release. ‘During the last five years, this decline has
stabilized. Now, 42 percent of our nation’s youth have gone fishing
and 8 percent have gone hunting at least once.’

While recruitment rates stabilized during the past five years,
retention rates for fishing (having hunted or fished the previous
three years) continued to decline from 2000 to 2005. Leonard said
hunting retention rates remained steady during the past five
years.

He said in 1990, 65 percent of anglers fished the previous three
years; in 2005, that number had dropped to 57 percent. For hunting,
the retention rate remained 43 percent in 2005, the same as 2000.
From 1990 to 1995, retention dropped 4 percent, and from 1995 to
2000, it had dropped 2 percent.

How data from the surveys affect state natural resource agencies
and conservation groups across the country likely will vary. Many
states already have numerous programs aimed at recruiting more
young hunters and anglers. Others are now focusing on retaining
those young sportsmen and women.

The USFWS survey examined possible reasons for declines in
hunter and angler recruitment and retention – including family
income and population center factors – as well as regional
trends.

According to the survey report, ‘Recruitment declined the least
among those with higher incomes, those living in less populated
areas of the United States, and those living in the Midwest. In
contrast, the greatest declines were among people with the lowest
incomes, those living in urban areas, and those in the New England
and Pacific coastal, Rocky Mountain, and Southwestern states.’

The states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois
comprise the East North Central Region of the Midwest. New York,
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are in the Middle Atlantic Region of
the Northeast. The nation is divided into nine regions for the
report.

Nationwide, the survey noted several trends in hunter and angler
recruitment and retention:

About 10 percent fewer 6- to 19-year-olds living at home had
fished in 2005 compared with those who’d ever fished in 1990;

The percent of those 13- to 19-year-olds who’d ever hunted
fell from 16 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2005;

Many first-time hunters and anglers – about 33 percent of all
first-timers – are 21 years old and older.

‘While this finding may be surprising, it is also encouraging
that recruits into hunting and fishing are not only children,’ the
USFWS report said.

Regional findings showed some fairly dramatic differences in
various areas of the country:

In the East North Central Region in 2005, 47 percent of sons
and daughters (any age) residing at home said they’d participated
in fishing. That compares with 57 percent in 1990 and 45 percent in
2000; in the Middle Atlantic Region, fishing recruitment dropped
from 42 percent in 1990 to 34 percent in 2005. However, that was a
1 percent increase from 2000.

Fishing recruitment nationwide was 42 percent in 2005, the same
as 2000. The rate was 53 percent in 1990.

(The lowest angler recruitment rate in 2005 was in the Pacific
Region – 32 percent; the highest was 61 percent in the West North
Central Region of the Midwest.)

Regarding hunting recruitment, 8 percent of sons and daughters
(any age) in the East North Central Region reported in 2005 ever
having hunted. That compares to 13 percent in 1990 and 9 percent in
2000; the Middle Atlantic Region showed a recruitment rate of 6
percent in 2005, compared with 9 percent in 1990 and 6 percent in
2000.

The nationwide hunting recruitment rate was 8 percent in
2005.

(The lowest hunter recruitment rate was 3 percent in the New
England Region; the highest was 16 percent in the East South
Central Region.)

The retention rate (having hunted the previous three years)
for hunters of any age was 47 percent in the East North Central
Region in 2005, compared with 51 percent in 1990 and 47 percent in
2000; the retention rate in the Middle Atlantic Region was 47
percent in 2005, compared with 54 percent in 1990 and 49 percent in
2000.

The national retention rate was 43 percent in 2005.

(The lowest hunter retention rate was 27 percent in the Pacific
Region; the highest was 50 percent in the West North Central
Region.)

The retention rate (having fished the previous three years)
for anglers in the East North Central Region in 2005 was 60
percent, compared with 65 percent in 1990 and 60 percent in 2000;
in the Middle Atlantic Region, the fishing retention rate was 54
percent in 2005, compared with 62 percent in 1990 and 57 percent in
2000.

The nationwide angler retention rate in 2005 was 57 percent.

(The lowest angler retention rate was 49 percent in the Pacific
Region; the highest was 63 percent in the West North Central
Region.)

Fishing recruitment dropped off 20 percent, from 52 percent to
32 percent, from the central city of a metropolitan area, to areas
outside the metropolitan area. For hunting, the recruitment rate
was just 4 percent in central cities areas, and 18 percent outside
metropolitan areas.

Regarding hunting, survey findings revealed that small-game
hunting played a ‘particularly important role in the initiation of
children.’

USFWS Director Dale Hall called recruitment and retention of new
hunters and anglers ‘critical to the future of fish and wildlife
conservation.’

Others note that they will become increasingly important as
members of the Baby Boomer generation depart the sports.

The national survey is conducted at the request of the National
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The U.S. Census Bureau
collects the information and the USFWS analyzes the results and
writes the reports. Information about the number of people who
fished, hunted, and observed wildlife in 2006, and how much money
they spent on these activities, will be released this summer.

For more information, go to: http://library.fws.gov/nat_survey2001_recruitment.pdf.

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