Illinois hunting license sales showing promise

Springfield — Illinois isn’t exactly keeping pace with the rest of the country when it comes to sales of hunting and fishing licenses, but there are signs that sportsmen here are starting to become more active.

Especially turkey hunters and trappers.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the number of fishermen in the U.S. rose 11 percent compared to the 2006 survey. The number of hunters rose 9 percent.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, noting the long-term decline in participation in fishing and hunting, said, “There is good reason to be hopeful.”

The national statistics are based on U.S. Census Bureau interviews with nearly 50,000 households.

In Illinois, fishing license sales appeared to trend opposite of the national track. In 2006, the state sold 470,849 resident fishing licenses. Five years later, in 2011, sales came in at only 448,802. There was a spike in 2009, when 516,217 licenses were sold, but that number dropped to 479,500 in 2010.

So far in 2012, 448,983 fishing licenses have been purchased by Illinois residents.

When it comes to hunting, license sales have been more steady. Illinois sold 143,926 resident hunting licenses in 2011, down from the 145,019 it sold five years previously. The 2011 number was a slight uptick from the 2010 sales of 142,135.

Of course, tabulating the overall number of licenses sold can be complicated, since the state offers a number of alternatives to the traditional hunting or fishing permit. For example, the state sells “combination” licenses – permits that include both hunting and fishing privileges. They have dropped, too. In 2011, the state sold 103,750 combo permits. In 2006, the number was 111,524. A peak of 114,103 came in 2009, but sales dropped to 106,626 the following year.

So far this year, 94,128 combo licenses have been sold.

Bright spots include turkey hunting and trapping, both of which have seen dramatic increases. There were 4,944 trapping permits sold in 2011, up from the 4,202 sold in 2010 and the 3,660 sold in 2006. Spring turkey hunters bought 52,717 permits in 2011, compared to the 45,185 in 2010 and 20,620 back in 2007.

On the national level, federal officials say their report contains plenty of good news.

“This preliminary report indicates that we are seeing an increase in participation from younger America,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “That’s incredibly important for those of us in the conservation business that we are seeing the younger generation of Americans getting into the outdoors.”

Highlights of the USFWS report:

  • 33.1 million people 16 years and older fished in 2011, and spent an average of 17 days on the water. Expenditures on fishing totalled $41.8 billion.
  • Six percent of the United States population 16 years and older – 13.7 million people – hunted in 2011. Most hunters – 11.6 million, or 85 percent – targeted big game like deer and elk; 33 percent, or 4.5 million hunters, targeted small game; 2.6 million hunters, or 19 percent, targeted waterfowl; and 2.2 million hunters, or 16 percent, targeted species such as coyotes and raccoons.
  • 27.1 million anglers fished freshwater, 8.9 million fished saltwater, and 1.7 million fished the Great Lakes. The latter saw the greatest increase in anglers – 17 percent – since 2006.
  • The number of big-game hunters increased by 8 percent from 2006; migratory bird hunters by 13 percent; and those seeking “other animals” by 92 percent. The number of hunters who targeted small game fell by 6 percent.
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