More Americans Hunting and Fishing, Survey Shows

Susan Jones | August 16, 2012 | 9:17am EDT
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Duck hunting (Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Website)

( - More Americans are hunting and fishing, reversing decades of declining numbers, according to a national outdoor recreation survey conducted every five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Overall hunting participation between 2006 and 2011 increased 9 percent, the survey found, while the number of anglers grew by 11 percent in that same five-year period.

The report does not explain the reasons for the increase in wildlife recreation, which it describes as an "important leisure activity" rather than an economic necessity.

Other findings from the survey:

-- In 2011, 13.7 million people, or 6 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older, went hunting. The numbers of big game hunters rose 8%, migratory bird hunters increased 13%, and hunters seeking other animals increased by 92%. Hunters spent $34.0 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items in 2011, an average of $2,484 per hunter.

-- More than 33 million people 16 and older fished in 2011, spending $41.8 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items, an average of $1,262 per angler.

-- More than 71 million people engaged in wildlife watching in 2011, spending $55.0 billion on their activities.

-- 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. They 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 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in an Aug. 15 news release announcing the survey results. “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."

Salazar also touted President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which he described as "helping Americans rediscover the joys of casting a line, passing along family hunting traditions, and protecting the places they love.”

At the request of state fish and wildlife agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been conducting the national survey every five years since 1955. Hunting and fishing support state conservation efforts.

“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.”

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