According to the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2016, less than five per cent of adult Americans hunted. In 1991, over seven per cent hunted. Forecasters say that the downward trend will continue. But, maybe not. Later in this article, we’ll explore what’s being done to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.
The downward trend in hunting may be welcomed by some hunters. There is less competition in both the forest and the field. However, this also means less money for conservation and game management.
In 1900, it’s estimated that there were about 500,000 whitetail deer in the United States. Today, there is estimated to be 32 million whitetail deer. In 1900, it’s been estimated that there where about 40,000 Rocky Mountain Elk…today over 1 million. These same dramatic differences are true for water fowl, wild turkey, upland game, etc. How were game numbers so dramatically reversed? They were reversed primarily through better game management and improved habitat.
Improved game management and habitat improvement required larger and more educated state fish and wildlife departments. That would cost money that the states didn’t have. Thanks to forward thinkers like Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leupold, Key Pittman and Willis Robertson, in 1937, US Congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. This Act provided an excise tax on guns and ammunition. Since 1938, over 10 billion dollars has been collected and then distributed to state wildlife agencies for the purchase and management of millions of acres of prime wildlife habitat. That’s how we got to our current wildlife numbers…both game and non-game species.
With the decline in the number of hunters, there is a decline in gun and ammo purchases and less money being distributed to the state fish and wildlife agencies. This means a diminished amount of dollars available for the purchase and management of land and management of game and non-game species.
Unfortunately, the growing numbers of wildlife viewers, bird watchers, hikers and photographers mostly have been unwilling to contribute toward the activities they enjoy. It’s been primarily the hunter who provides funds that allows people to enjoy the outdoors. Hopefully, these people get educated and understand the importance of financially contributing to their outdoor enjoyment. As one expert stated: Without a change in the way we finance fish and wildlife conservation, we can expect the list of federally threatened and endangered species to grow from nearly 1600 species today to perhaps thousands more in the future.
Hunters, however, must continue their leadership in conservation. That means we need to reverse the downward trend of hunting. The fishing industry had a similar decline in numbers and was able to reverse the decline by using funds from the modernization of the Dingell-Johnson Act which allows a small per centage of excise taxes on fishing tackle to be used for outreach and communication. There is a similar bill (HR 2591) in Congress to modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act to use a portion of the excise taxes also for outreach and communication. If HR 2591 passes, funds would be available for more educational outreach to recruit new hunters or past hunters that need reactivation.
This brings me to the R3 initiative…recruit, retain and reactivate. John Frampton, President of the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports is recognized as the father of R3. The program is designed to recruit new hunters, retain those we have and reactivate hunters that haven’t hunted in several years. The R3 initiative has been incorporated into every state fish & wildlife agency agenda. They need volunteers and mentors. Call today to see how you can help. Also, non-governmental organizations such as Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation have significant programs incorporating the R3 concept. Contact Pheasants Forever at 308-3858618 or The National Turkey Federation at 803-637-7698. You can help save hunting and, in turn, save our wildlife.
Copyright 2018 Paul Fuller
Paul Fuller is a life-long sportsman. He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show (www.birddogsafield.com) and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German shorthaired pointer in 1961. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.