Hunting, fishing numbers increase across the U.S.

Washington — An information-packed, 100-plus pages of data regarding hunting, fishing and wildlife watching was released last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it came with an upbeat message for sportsmen and women across the nation: Their numbers have increased.

The 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Related Recreation found that more than 90 million U.S. residents 16 and older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011, up 3 percent from five years earlier. The increase was primarily among those who hunted or fished.

The survey showed an 11-percent hike in the number of fishermen, compared with the 2006 survey, and a 9 percent increase in the number of hunters.

Wildlife recreationists spent about $145 billion on their activities, according to the survey, which is conducted every five years, and has been a measuring stick for the USFWS since 1955. Most of that spending was on gear, trips, licenses, land acquisition or leases, and other purchases.

“This spending creates thousands of jobs, supports countless local communities, and provides vital funding for conservation,” Dan Ashe, director of the USFWS, states in the report.

The survey focuses on those 16 years and older and may not fully account for the number of younger hunters and anglers now participating in those sports.

While the national news is indeed good, New York hunting and fishing license sales indicate a mostly stable group of participants. The Empire State remains near the top in hunter and angler numbers – an estimated 1.88 million anglers and 823,000 hunters.

That, however, is largely a product of the state’s huge – 15.5 million – population. While preliminary state figures show New York ranking third in the nation the total numbers of hunters and anglers (behind Texas and Wisconsin in hunter numbers and Florida and Texas in anglers), the state ranks well down the list in terms of participation rates based on total population.

The final state results are expected from the USFWS early this year.

Here’s a look at some of the findings regarding hunters and anglers from the national report, based on interviews of a sample of 48,600 households nationwide.


In 2011, 13.7 million people 16 years old and older hunted a variety of animals within the United States. They hunted 282 million days and took 257 million trips. Hunting expenditures totaled $33.7 billion.

Of those 13.7 million hunters, more than 11 million of them pursued big game, like deer, elk, and bears. About 2.6 million hunted migratory birds, and more than 4 million chased small game (1.5 million were pheasant hunting).

About one-third of hunter spending was on trip expenses, and about 40 percent was on equipment, like guns and ammo.

Of all hunters, only 14 percent ventured outside their state of residence to hunt, and 94 percent hunted within their own state (some hunted in-state and out-of-state). Just 11 percent of big-game hunters bought nonresident licenses, the report says.

Of the 13.7 million hunters, more than half hunted on private land (61 percent), while about 13 percent used public lands only.

Males continued to dominate the sport of hunting: 89 percent of all hunters were males; 11 percent were females.

The largest percentage of hunters were age 45 to 54 (23 percent), followed by those 55 to 64 (21 percent). Ninety-four percent of all hunters were white, which represented 7 percent of the U.S. white population.


In 2011, 33.1 million U.S. residents 16 years old and older enjoyed a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the United States, the report says. Anglers fished 554 million days and took 455 million fishing trips. They spent $41.8 billion in fishing-related expenses during the year.

Of those 33.1 million anglers, 27.5 million fished freshwater, and 8.9 million fished saltwater (some fished both). And of the $41.8 billion spent on fishing, about $21.8 was for trip expenses, while $15.5 was for equipment.

The 27.5 million freshwater anglers included 1.7 million who fished the Great Lakes.

The top freshwater fish? According to the report, of those 27.1 million freshwater anglers (not including the Great Lakes), 10.6 million fished for black bass. Another 7.3 million fished for panfish, and 7.2 million fished for trout. Crappies weren’t included in the panfish category, and 6.1 million anglers fished for them.

Nearly 80 percent of anglers fished only in their state of residents; 12 percent fished in-state and out-of-state.

The most popular of the Great Lake for fishing was Erie, followed by Michigan and Huron.

About three-fourths of all anglers were male, and about 21 percent of the nation’s male population said they fished. About 7 percent of U.S. female residents consider themselves anglers.

Around one-fourth of U.S. anglers come from small towns or rural areas, and about 86 percent of all anglers are white.

The total number of anglers increased from the 2006 survey, but was below that of 2001. The dollars spent on angling in 2011 was less than that spent in both 2006 and 2001, according to the survey.

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