Report: Hunting license sales still strong in N.Y.

Newtown, Ct. – New York’s hunters aren’t getting any younger,
and their average age is higher than the national norm.

But their numbers remain strong, according to a report profiling
the state’s hunters and hunting license trends.

That report, conducted by Southwick Associates and presented to
the National Shooting Sports Foundation for use by the state’s DEC,
showed more than 584,000 hunters bought licenses in 2008.

“The numbers of both resident and nonresident New York hunters
have fluctuated during the last four years, with a high for both
groups in 2005,” the detailed, 133-page report showed. “Over the
last four years (2005-08), the number of resident hunters
purchasing super sportsman, muzzleloading and legacy licenses has
increased.”

New York was one of 17 states to receive a report that offers
state fish and wildlife agencies information that will help them to
better understand who hunts in their states and how participation
in the sport can grow. The reports identify who each state’s
hunters are and where they come from; the type of licenses they’re
likely to purchase; the number and types of licenses bought; the
type of hunter most likely to buy various licenses; whether hunters
are remaining in the sport; and issues associated with access to
huntable lands.

“The study looked at individual buying patterns over that
four-year period,” DEC_Chief Wildlife Biologist John_Major said.
“Most previous studies and reports offered only snapshots of what’s
happening. We’re one of the first of the 17 states to see their
report so we really don’t yet have a comparison with other states
or nationally.”

DEC officials are hoping to use the data – despite budget
constraints that will make it difficult to undertake any major
marketing effort – to identify ways to bring new hunters into the
sport and to keep longtime license buyers in the field.

The report underscores some of those challenges, noting that
just over half (52.7 percent) of the state’s resident hunters
bought a license in each of the study’s four years.

“We’re familiar with ‘churn’ (hunters dropping out while others
enter the sport) as a concept, and we’ve been aware of its in the
last few years but didn’t have the data on the hunting side,”_Major
said.

The report also showed New York’s hunters were “becoming
increasingly older,” with an average age of 47.1 years for
residents and 48.7 for nonresidents – considerably older than the
national average of 44.3.

Major said recruitment and retention of existing hunters will
likely be the focus of DEC’s efforts.

“It would probably be fruitful to target that half who are
dropping out rather than to convince someone who has never hunted
to take up the sport,” he said.

Because the report only covers 2005-2008, it doesn’t include the
state’s rush on lifetime licenses for the 2009 season, a product of
DEC’s move to boost the minimum age for eligibility for a senior
lifetime license from 65 to 70. Thousands of sportsmen took
advantage of the opportunity to get a lifetime senior license at a
reduce rate before a license hike took effect.

“It was very significant last year,”_Major said of the lifetime
license sales. “You can’t be any more loyal than a lifetime license
buyer.”

The report also suggested that “slight increases in the
participation of hunters who do not hunt yearly could contribute
considerably to license sale revenues._This may be a logical goal
for future hunting marketing efforts.”

New York’s most populated areas were to top source of hunting
license buyers, with the New York City-Northern New Jersey-Long
Island metro area tops on the list, followed by Rochester and the
Buffalo-Niagara Falls area.

Only about 9.6 percent of the license buyers over the four-year
period were nonresidents, with Pennsylvanians topping that group
with 29 percent of nonresident sales.

Other highlights in the report:

  • only about 19.8 percent of the resident hunters bought a
    license in just one of the report’s four years.
  • resident hunters age 45 and older were most likely to buy a
    license each year, and those who didn’t buy a license in 2008
    tended to be hunters 65 and older.
  • resident hunters age 18 and under were most likely to lapse in
    buying a license from one year to the next.
  • license buyers are “overwhelmingly male.”
  • only 25.2 percent of nonresident license buyers purchased a
    license in each of the four years of the study.
  • New York hunters have “a very limited amount” of federally
    owned land where they can hunt, although shooting ranges are widely
    scattered throughout the state, with a cluster around the
    metropolitan areas of New York City and Long Island and around
    Buffalo.

(For a PDF copy of the preliminary NSSF report, go online to
www.outdoornews.com .)

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