Study finds hunter ed doesn’t ensure hunters

Fernandina Beach, Fla. — It might seem logical to some that completion of a hunter education or firearm safety course would lead a youth to hunting. But a new study, conducted by Florida-based Southwick Associates, a group that’s done a number of studies regarding outdoors issues, suggests the link may not be a strong as expected.

Southwick recently released the study, with data from 12 states, the purpose of which was to determine the percentage of hunter ed/firearm safety graduates who bought a hunting license after training was completed, and how often they continued to purchase a license in subsequent years.

The class of 2006 was profiled in the study, which tracked their buying tendencies through 2011.

Among the findings: About one-third of the graduates never did buy a hunting license. Of the remaining class, another one-third had stopped buying licenses by 2011, according to Cody Larrimore, a research analyst with Southwick.

All told, after six years, about 44 percent of the graduates continued to buy hunting licenses.

Larrimore said he suspects that as the class aged into their late teens and early 20s, activities beyond hunting distracted the graduates.

A summary of the study also noted that:

  • Some graduates may have taken hunter education for reasons other than to hunt, but others may need assistance toward making the leap to becoming an active hunter.
  • Those who graduated in June and the warmer months are the greatest percentage of graduates who never purchased a license.

The study also found that “graduates from highly urbanized areas showed the greatest drop-out rates, indicating a greater need for intervention efforts.”

Michigan and Nebraska were the two Midwestern states that participated in the study. Also in the study were the states of Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Missouri, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, Maine, and Vermont.

The lowest rate of license sales over the six-year period was 26 percent, in Virginia. The highest rate was about 56 percent, in Montana.

Michigan ranked fourth of the 12 states regarding the number of graduates who bought at least a single hunting license. From 2006 to 2011, the number of license-buying graduates in the state dropped about 35 percent, according to the study. About one-fourth of all graduates bought licenses each year after completing the course.

“This shows us that simply encouraging people to obtain their hunter safety certificate is not enough,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, in a press release. “The hunting community needs ways to encourage new graduates to buy a license and go hunting. Whether that means more programs for state agencies to get people out hunting, private industry intervention, or simply more hunters taking their neighbor’s kid into the woods, remains to be seen.”

Larrimore said seeking solutions or determining recommendations might be on the docket for an upcoming study.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation funded the Southwick study, and, according to the press release, “It is the belief of the NSSF that the results from this study will help the hunting community determine where intervention is needed to maintain hunting participation among newer hunters.”

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