Washington – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month
confirmed what many sportsmen and women – as well as those who
cater to them – already knew.
There are fewer of us out there.
The federal agency last month released its twice-a-decade
National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated
Recreation, and the data showed yet another drop in the numbers of
hunters and anglers in New York as well as nationwide.
Nationally, the number of hunters has seen a slower decline over
the past 10 years than the population of anglers, with hunter
numbers falling by nearly 10 percent while angler numbers were off
by nearly 15 percent.
The angler decline was steepest between 2001 and 2006, when the
fall was more than 12 percent.
On the positive side, the survey, which was performed by the
U.S. Census Bureau, showed that the hobby of “wildlife watching”
continues to grow steadily.
The drop in hunters and anglers, though, has financial effects
among businesses who depend on sportsmen as well as state and
federal programs that are funded by license sales, said Joshua
Winchell, a spokesman for the USFWS.
“It’s something we’re concerned about – how to get participation
up,” Winchell said.
The lone bright spot in the report was a continued rise in
“wildlife watching,” with an 8 percent increase in people saying
they spent time observing wildlife and a 35 percent increase in
those who say they photographed it.
The report contains some data specific to New York that showed
the gravity of the drop in sportsmen and women.
Since 1991, New York has lost 28.6 percent of its hunters and a
whopping 43.7 percent of its anglers, a large portion of them over
the last 5 years.
The plummet among the fishing fraternity is perhaps the most
surprising, since New York is generally regarded as one of the
finest sportfishing states in the nation, with diverse
opportunities ranging from Great Lakes to saltwater to
world-renowned trout streams.
And while more people nationwide reported being “wildlife
watchers,” New York’s number of residents who enjoy that hobby was
off 14 percent over the same period.
The state’s percentage of people participating in
wildlife-related recreation was 27 percent, well below the 38
percent that is the national average.
Even with the drop in participation in hunting and fishing,
$122.3 billion in 2006, equal to about 1 percent of the nation’s
gross domestic product.
That financial impact was not lost on the Congressional
Sportsmen Foundation, which issued its own report last month
highlighting the financial impact of hunting and fishing.
“Hunters have an unequaled passion for their outdoor traditions,
spending 220 million days in the woods, fields and wetlands each
year and nearly $2,000 per person on firearms, ammunition and other
equipment and services,” Doug Painter, president of the National
Shooting Sports Foundation, said in a news release. “That’s $23
billion pumped into the economy, benefiting not only the
manufacturers of hunting-related products, but everything from
local mom and pop businesses to wildlife conservation in every
state in America.”
Some other interesting points in the 176-page USFWS report
€ Thirteen percent of the people in the U.S. said they fished in
2006. Anglers spent an average of 17 days on the water.
€ The most popular freshwater game fish was black bass, followed
by panfish, catfish and trout.
€ The most popular saltwater fish was flatfish, followed by
redfish, weakfish and striped bass.
€ Big game hunting was most popular, with 85 percent of hunters
reporting they targeted big game.
€ More than a third of all hunters said they hunted on public
€ The average hunter spent 18 days afield.
Winchell said the USFWS survey is considered a more accurate
reflection of the activities of sportsmen than license sales data
because the federal surveyors get into days spent afield and on the
“Someone may buy a license but you don’t know how much they’re
fishing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the numbers will only fuel the debate as to how to
get more people back to hunting and fishing.
The report does not contain any analysis as to why fewer people
are taking up the hobbies of hunting and fishing.
But Winchell said it’s pretty clear a nationwide move away from
rural areas of America is playing a part, particularly when it
comes to hunters who have fewer places to hunt as land is developed
“It’s a complex situation,” he said. “There are a lot of things
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