After years of declines, the number of hunters in the United States is once again increasing, according to the preliminary results of a national survey released by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Wednesday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation found that the number of hunters nationwide increased by 9 percent—from 12.5 million to 13.7 million—between 2006 and 2011. During the same time period, the number of anglers grew by 11 percent. The report found that nearly 38 percent of all Americans participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, an increase of 2.6 million participants from the previous survey in 2006. These participants spent $145 billion on related gear, trips and other purchases, such as licenses, tags, and land leasing and ownership, representing 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
“Seeing more people fishing, hunting, and getting outdoors is great news for America’s economy and conservation heritage,” said Salazar. “Outdoor recreation and tourism are huge economic engines for local communities and the country, so it is vital that we continue to support policies and investments that help Americans get outside, learn to fish, or go hunting.”
In 2011, 13.7 million people—representing 6 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older—went hunting. They spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items in 2011, an average of $2,484 per hunter.
Similarly, more than 33 million people age 16 and older fished in 2011, spending $41.8 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items, an average of $1,262 per angler.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is dedicated to connecting people and families with nature,” said USFWS Director Dan Ashe. “We look forward to continuing to work with the states, non-governmental organizations, and additional partners to help keep recreational fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching going strong for people across America’s great outdoors.”
At the request of state fish and wildlife agencies, the USFWS has been conducting the national survey every five years since 1955. It is viewed as one of the nation’s most important wildlife-related recreation databases and the definitive source of information concerning participation and purchases associated with hunting, fishing and other forms of wildlife-related recreation nationwide.
“State agencies, hunters and anglers are the key funders of fish and wildlife conservation through their license and gear purchases,” said Dr. Jonathan Gassett, Commissioner of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “An increase in participation and expenditure rates means that agencies can continue to restore and improve habitat and fish and wildlife species, bring more youth into the outdoors, and provide even greater access to recreational activities.”
The U.S. Census Bureau interviewed 48,627 households across the country to obtain samples of sportspersons and wildlife watchers for detailed interviews. Information was collected through computer-assisted telephone and in-person interviews.
The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation is funded through a Multi-State Conservation Grant from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, which celebrates 75 years of conservation success in 2012.
The report is the first in a series that the USFWS will release this year. The next report of findings will contain state data and will be available in the coming months. In late November, the National Report with more detailed participation and expenditure estimates will be available online. From December 2012 to May 2013, the 50 state reports will be released on a rolling basis.
The results of the National Overview report can be found here: www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/upload/FWS-National-Preliminary-Report-2011.pdf.