Monday, May 5, 2008

Is the decline in hunters a blip?

Or, more accurately, is the decline in hunters the end of a blip?

That's the interesting idea I came across this morning in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Delta Waterfowl leaders are suggesting that the decline in the number of hunters simply reflects the departure of Baby Boomers from the ranks of hunters as they age.

Tribune-Review Outdoors Editor Bob Frye reports: Delta likened the baby boomer's impact on hunter numbers to a rabbit being swallowed by a rattlesnake, saying, "That rattler was long and lean before it ate the rabbit and will be long and lean after the rabbit is digested, but for now there's a noticeable bulge passing through its body."

The analysis seems logical, but I haven't seen enough data to know for sure. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service does a statistically impeccable survey of hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing every five years. But current survey methodology dates back only to 1991, and the entire survey goes back only to 1955, when the first Boomers were already old enough to start hunting.

Boyfriend - who's just weird enough to have a bunch of squirrel hunting data on his computer - notes that there's hunting license data that goes further back. But you really need a lot of data to get a complete picture of the snake. Hmmm... that'll give me something to do during summer break.

But I digress.

Delta notes there are other issues affecting hunters' ranks too, such as increasing urbanization and the loss of huntable private land. That last one hit home this weekend when Boyfriend and I were out hunting turkeys in Amador County with our friend Evan and had a grand total of three ranches where we had permission to hunt.

Evan said there used to be far more places to go in Amador. But while much of the land is still open and rural, it has changed hands, either converting to vineyards or becoming the retirement homes for equity-rich retirees from the San Francisco Bay Area (not a region particularly friendly to hunting).

Even so, I think the ranks of hunters are due to rise, because there's another bump coming through the snake: young female hunters. Now, if we can just make sure their grandparents save some habitat for them, we'll be onto something.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


SimplyOutdoors said...

I have seen similar claims on various outlets and websites stating the same thing--that hunter numbers are declining because of the aging of baby boomers. It is an interesting way to look at the decline.

I also noticed that female hunters are increasing as well, and I am proud to say that I did my part to help with that last year. She is ready to go bowhunting again this year as well.

Will be interesting to keep tabs on this and see what happens as the years progress.

Holly Heyser said...

I'd love it if it were true, but it's just hard to overlook the anecdotal evidence all around me. One of my students is a great example: His dad is a huge duck hunter, but my student would rather play video games. (I've tried to tell him that you're busier than you think while you're waiting for your next shot, but he's not convinced.) It just seems like a lot of people whose parents are or were hunters haven't become hunters themselves.

But I really do think what hunters are doing with their sons and especially daughters now is significant. Only time will tell...

Tom Sorenson said...

It's encouraging - and something I can hope is true, at least.

It has been nice to see the increase in female hunters - and like you said, young female hunters in particular. My wife grew up in a home where hunting was never even mentioned - and, although she hasn't decided that she wants to hunt herself, she is interested enough to go with me and she loves 3D archery shoots.

Anonymous said...

I think the baby boomers might have a slight decline in the amount of hunters there are, but I don't think it's going to last long. There are more women out there hunting, adding to the numbers.
With the help of TV and other outdoor programs (DU, Turkey Federation, Mule Deer Foundation, NRA, Stepping Outdoors) just to name a few. They are focusing a lot on young hunters, boys and girls.
Now fathers are teaching daughters, and when the daughter has kids, hopefully she'll pass it long to her kids.
As long as we don't let anyone take away our right to hunt. We will adapt to the changes. There are a lot of places to still hunt out there. We just have to work harder at it. And preserve what we have left now.

Blessed said...

This is an interesting theory. I'm not sure what to make of it. I am seeing some kids whose parents are avid hunters turn away from hunting for various reasons but I'm also seeing a lot of wives try it out - I guess only time will tell!