Hunting license sales up nationally; in Pa, not so much

For years, we have been hearing that hunting license sales have
been declining, but that trend — at least nationally — finally
took a turn for the better in 2009.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there were
12,974,534 hunting license holders — defined as an individual
hunter, regardless of how many licenses they bought — nationwide
in 2009. That was the largest number since 2002 and a jump of
526,494 over 2008.

The 3.6 percent increase was the largest single-year jump recorded
since 1974, news celebrated by hunting’s supporters.

“This is great news for our industry and everyone associated with
hunting,” said Steve Sanetti, president and CEO of the National
Shooting Sports Foundation. “Many efforts are at work to build
hunting participation, and they are paying off.

“More people are enjoying the outdoors and sharing the tradition of
hunting with family and friends. Also, more hunting license sales
translate into more funds for wildlife conservation.”

Sanetti attributed the sales increase, nationally, to several
factors, including recruitment efforts and the poor economy, which
left more hunters with time off and a desire to put meat in the
freezer.

“Due to continued urbanization and changes in our culture, hunting
will face significant challenges for the foreseeable future,” he
said. “But at the same time, hunting remains an extremely important
activity in the lives of millions of Americans, as the latest
hunting licenses sales figures confirm.”

The hunting license sales picture looks different in Pennsylvania,
however. But it is difficult to decipher how much because of the
differences in the way license holders are counted. But according
to 2009-10 sales figures released by the Game Commission, it
appears that there are fewer licensed hunters in the Keystone State
than before — some categories of license sales were down
considerably.

Critics of the Game Commission’s deer management over the last
decade — which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the deer
population in most of the state — point to still-declining hunter
numbers here as proof the agency’s deer policy has damaged
Pennsylvania’s hunting heritage.

Commission hunting license sales reports show that in the 2009-10
year (which ended last July 1) :

— Resident adult license sales were down about 1.1 percent from
the year before, or 7,323 fewer licenses were sold. This is
probably the category that most accurately depicts the number of
hunters in the state.

— Sales of the two most important junior license types were down
significantly, perhaps indicating that recruitment programs are not
working so well here. Sales of resident junior hunting licenses
were down 4.5 percent, or 1,801 fewer licenses, and resident junior
combo hunting and trapping licenses were down 2.3 percent from the
year before, with 1,141 fewer licenses sold.

One hopeful note, the commission did sell 28,542 mentored youth
hunting permits in 2009-210, a license that previously had not been
available.

There are many license sales categories to consider, but I am not
sure what they mean. For instance, senior license sales were down
noticeably in 2009-2010, but senior lifetime hunting and hunting
and trapping combo license sales were way up, likely reflecting a
shift rather than a trend.

Most nonresident license categories were down, but that probably
was caused by a poor economy that discouraged many out-of-state
hunters from traveling to Pennsylvania to hunt.

Sales of both resident and nonresident archery licenses were up
more than 5 percent over the year before, representing an increase
of more than 15,000 licenses. But that likely reflects the
now-legal wider use of crossbows and might not mean much. And it
also could signal the switch by many existing hunters to
archery.

And finally, sales of resident bear licenses were up 1.6 percent
(2,302 more licenses sold), but nonresident bear license sales fell
by 7.4 percent (369 fewer licenses sold.) But almost without
exception, bear hunters are not new hunters.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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