Hunter Numbers are Really NOT a Mystery
- November 3, 2017
- By Randall Mueller
How many hunters do we have in the U.S.? Ask any number of sources, including those who should really know, and you’ll get a number anywhere between 12 million and 20 million. That’s quite a difference, and it makes you wonder who’s counting and how they’re doing it. Let’s take a closer look at how various sources arrive at their data.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, in its 2016-17 Industry Reference Guide, provides some valuable insight by explaining how the reporters arrive at their numbers. One source is the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which uses United States Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Census figures to take a sampling of residents 16 and older, every five years. This data concludes that in 2016 there were 11.5 million hunters.
Then there are certified hunting license sales as reported by state wildlife agencies to the USFWS. It would seem that this number would be the most reliable, but keep in mind that the minimum licensing age can vary from state to state. Also, landowners and veterans are exempt from being required to purchase a license in several states. This methodology puts the number at 15,486,123 for 2017.
Thirdly, the National Sporting Goods Association puts out its own set of numbers based on its shooting sports participation reports, which consist of online polling of 34,000 individuals aged 7 and older who report hunting more than once per year. The results of this poll, when extrapolated, pushes the number to 23,870,000.
It seems reasonable to conclude that the second method, counting certified hunting license sales, would be the most accurate. However, as the NSSF points out:
“It is important to note that many people who consider themselves hunters do not go hunting every year. Approximately 65 percent of hunters do purchase a license and go hunting each year. The remaining group may only hunt once every several years; however, they still consider themselves hunters. A recent study, Portrait of Today’s Hunters, conducted by Southwick Associates, determined that there are approximately 21 million individuals who have purchased at least one hunting license during a five-year period.”
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