The Preliminary Findings of the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation was published in August 2012 with promising increases in numbers of hunters, anglers and wildlife-watching participants over the 2006 survey findings. This is the National Survey that is done every five years since 1955 and has the same methodology since 1991 (1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011) so the results for the past 20 years are comparable. The US Census Bureau collects the data for state wildlife agencies and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), which is coordinated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
In 2011, 13.7 million people 16 years old and older went hunting for an average of 21 days pursuing wild game. Overall hunting participation from 2006 to 2011 increased nine percent with the number of big game hunters up eight percent and migratory bird hunters up 13 percent. Hunters seeking other game increased by 92 percent, while small game hunters declined six percent, which the Agency does not treat as statistically significant. Hunters spent 34 billion dollars on trips with an average expenditure per hunter of $2,484. Hunting expenditures were up 30 percent over the five-year period. Purchasers of hunting equipment increased 29 percent, land leasing and ownership was up 50 percent and trip-related spending was up 39 percent.
Looking at the 10-year trend, 2001-2011, overall hunting participation increased five percent. Big game hunting increased six percent, small game hunting declined 17 percent and migratory bird hunting declined 13 percent. Total hunting expenditures increased 27 percent.
The survey report points out that the 13.764 million hunting participants in 2001 do not include 1.8 million six- to 15-year-olds that hunted and that “many individuals can be considered hunters and anglers even though they did not participate in 2011.” Prior surveys have shown that individuals who hunt or fish every three to five years still considered themselves hunters and anglers. This was a survey only of those 16 or over that had in fact participated in 2011.
The hard number of total hunters was 13.034 million in 2001; 12.510 million in 2006; and 13.674 million for 2011. Participation in 2011 was up five percent from 2001 and up nine percent from 2006.
The number of big game hunters (deer, moose, elk, bear, turkey, etc.) was 10.911 million in 2001; 10.682 million in 2006; and 11.570 million in 2011. It was up eight percent from 2006 and up six percent from 2001.
The largest segment of hunters is big game hunters, 84 percent in 2001 and 85 percent in both 2006 and 2011. Big game hunting has had an upward trend since the surveys began in 1955, except for an insignificant decline in 2006. Migratory waterfowl hunting has been down and up. It declined from 2.956 million to 2.588 million (-18 percent) from 2001 to 2011, but was up this survey from 2.298 million in 2006 to 2.588 million in 2011 – a 13 percent increase the past five years. Small game hunting participation continues to decline, but at a lesser rate. Participation was 5.484 million in 2001, 4.797 million in 2006 and down to 4.506 million in 2011. Small game hunting is still the second largest category of hunters.
The number of fishing participants rose to 33.112 million, which was an 11 percent increase over 29.952 million in 2006, but not enough to reverse the 10-year trend from 24.067 million in 2001, which was -3 percent. Freshwater, Great Lakes and saltwater participation were all up, eight, 17 and 15 percent respectively, in the past five years, but not enough to make the 10-year trend positive. The 10-year trend was down three, 10 and two percent respectively.
Overall fishing expenditures were down 11 percent from $47,052,459 in 2006 to $41,769,129 in 2011 while hunting expenditures were up 30 percent during the same five-year period. There is an overall decline in angling expenditures in the past 10 years, 2001-2011, of eight percent while hunting has had an increase of 27 percent during the same period, after adjustment to 2011 dollars.
There was a marginal increase in other wildlife associated recreation. Wildlife watching participation was up one percent from 71.132 million in 2006 to 71.776 million in 2011. The increase from 2001 to 2006 had been enough to have a nine percent overall increase for the decade, 2001 to 2011.
In summary, the report states that 38 percent of all Americans 16 years and older participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011 and spent 145 billion dollars. That is 90.1 million Americans with expenditures that “equates to one percent of gross domestic product: meaning one out of every $100 of all goods and services produced in the US is due to wildlife related recreation.”
The complete, final survey results are promised in November with much greater detail, including state-by-state data. The preliminary survey and the Final Report when issued can be viewed at http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/home.html
or on Conservation Force’s website under News and Alerts at http://www.conservationforce.org/