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Factors Related to the Recent Increases in Hunting and Fishing Participation PART 1
12/13/2013
Credit:
American Sportfishing Association
This study was administered by the American Sportfishing Association under Multi-State Conservation Grant F12AP00142 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After two decades of decline, hunting and fishing participation among Americans increased between 2006 and 2011, and a recent major research study pinpoints 10 major reasons for the increases. Hunting and fishing participation rates are up due to: 1) the economic recession, 2) higher incomes among some segments of the population, 3) hunting for meat and the locavore movement, 4) agency recruitment and retention programs, 5) agency access programs, 6) agency marketing and changes in licenses, 7) current hunters and anglers participating more often, 8) returning military personnel, 9) re-engagement of lapsed hunters and anglers, and 10) new hunters and anglers, including female, suburban, and young participants.

The Background
Throughout the latter half of the 2000s, numerous state-level trend surveys conducted by Responsive Management consistently showed increases in hunting and fishing participation. Given this clear pattern emerging across multiple states and regions, in 2011 Responsive Management initiated a project with the American Sportfishing Association, Southwick Associates, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife under a Multi-State Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify and better understand factors related to increases in hunting and fishing participation throughout the United States.

"The fact that a variety of factors was responsible for the increases should not take away from the importance of each individual factor. The research isolated each of these factors as having a notable impact on the increase in hunting and fishing participation between 2006 and 2011."

--Mark Damian Duda, Executive Director of Responsive Management

The Indicators
Two major data sources are available for measuring hunting and fishing participation trends on a national level: license sales data collected by the individual states and compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which are known as "Federal Aid" data, and the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted every 5 years since 1955 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

At the time the grant proposal was submitted in 2011, the only available measurement supporting the research team's hypothesis of a nationwide increase in hunting and fishing were Federal Aid data measuring license sales for the two activities from recent years the other critical indicator, the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, had not yet been released. However, shortly after the grant was secured, results from the 2011 National Survey determined that, between 2006 and 2011, hunting participation among Americans increased 9% and fishing participation increased 11% nationwide.

The Research Methodology
With the evidence in hand, Responsive Management and its partners began implementing the study, which entailed a combination of quantitative and qualitative research components. To examine factors responsible for the upswing in hunting and fishing participation, the researchers collected data from multiple stakeholder sources, accounting for perspectives ranging from agency professionals to hunters and anglers themselves. Overall, the study methodology included a comprehensive review of past research examining hunting and fishing participation personal interviews with and a survey of fish and wildlife agency personnel representing hunting, freshwater fishing, and saltwater fishing divisions a multivariate analysis of national hunting and fishing license sales data and a scientific telephone survey of hunters and anglers in the states with the most notable increases in participation between 2006 and 2011.1 For the telephone survey component, a total of 1,400 interviews were completed with hunters in seven states that saw some of the most growth in hunting during the period of interest (Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, and South Dakota) and anglers in seven states that experienced some of the largest increases in fishing participation over the same period (Alaska, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington). The survey of hunters and anglers explored various demographic and behavioral characteristics of new and returning participants in the two activities and also measured the relative importance of various factors that influenced participants to either take breaks from or return to the activities.

The data were collected and analyzed over an 18-month period, with the results from each study component examined independently and as a whole. The overall data eventually revealed that hunting and fishing participation increased between 2006 and 2011 not because of a single major reason, but because of a combination of factors, a perfect positive storm of reasons ranging from nationwide economic conditions to efforts on the part of individual state agencies to the confluence of key participant groups entering or re-entering the sports. Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, notes, "The fact that a variety of factors was responsible for the increases should not take away from the importance of each individual factor. The research isolated each of these factors as having a substantial impact on the increase in hunting and fishing participation between 2006 and 2011."

Reason 1: The Economic Recession
The study found a negative statistical correlation between hunting license sales and increases in housing starts--as housing starts decline, hunting participation increases.2 The mortgage crisis and economic recession that took hold of the country at the end of 2008 resulted in fewer housing starts as fewer building permits were issued. Because some of the top occupations of hunters include building-related fields (e.g., construction, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and craftsman), a disproportionate percentage of hunters were under- or unemployed during the period between 2006 and 2011, leaving them with more free time in which to hunt. This is in contrast to Responsive Management research conducted during the height of the housing boom, when many hunters were not hunting due to a lack of time because of work obligations.

Reason 2: Higher Incomes Among Some Segments of the Population
Interestingly, the research indicates that hunting and fishing increased because of both the lower end of the economic spectrum as well as the upper end: the multivariate analysis also identified a positive association between increasing per capita income and participation in one or both outdoor activities, suggesting a scenario where some hunters and anglers have more to spend and can thus afford to take more hunting and fishing trips.

Reason 3: Hunting for Meat and the Locavore Movement
Somewhat related to the country's economic downturn was growth in the segment of sportsmen motivated to hunt or fish primarily for the food: the period between 2006 and 2011 saw an increase not only in the proportion of participants who hunted or fished as a means of putting meat on the family table, but also in the percentage of "locavore" hunters and anglers, that is, individuals who go afield for reasons of self-sufficiency and a desire for organic, local, chemical-free meat. When hunters in the survey were read a list of factors that may have influenced them to go hunting, the top factor that was a major or minor influence was interest in hunting as a source of natural or "green" food, with

CONTINUED IN PART 2