According to the preliminary findings of the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, participation in wildlife-associated recreation increased in 28 states since 2006. These figures are based upon surveys and not actual license sales.
Overall, this survey found that over 90 million Americans, 38% of the population 16 years of age and older participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, an increase of 2.6 million participants from the previous survey in 2006. Participation in recreational fishing increased by 11% and hunting was up 9%. This increase reverses a trend over previous surveys showing a 10% decline in hunting participation between 1996 and 2006.
Of the 28 States with increases in the number of wildlife-related recreation participants from 2006 to 2011, the largest percentage increases were seen in Alaska (47%) and Louisiana (40%). South Dakota had the highest proportion of state residents who hunted (21%). Alaska had the highest proportion of state residents who fished (40%) and Vermont had the highest proportion of state residents who wildlife watched (53%).
Nation-wide over 37 million people spent time fishing and/or hunting and nearly 72 million people engaged in wildlife‑watching activities such as closely observing, photographing, and/or feeding wildlife.
14% of the national population 16 years and older fished in 2011, while 6% of them hunted. Of the 11% increase in anglers, the biggest increase was by Great Lakes anglers, a 17% increase in participation. The increases for saltwater and non-Great Lakes freshwater angling participation were 15% and 8%, respectively.
Big game like elk, deer and wild turkey attracted 11.6 million hunters, an 8% increase; small game including squirrels, rabbits, quails, and pheasants attracted over 4.5 million, a 6% decrease; migratory birds, such as geese, ducks and doves, attracted 2.6 million hunters a 13% increase and other animals such as coyotes, groundhogs and raccoons attracted 2.2 million hunters a 92% increase.
Nationwide, nearly all people who watched wildlife did so around the home. For the 69 million around-the-home participants, feeding wildlife was the most popular activity (74%). Over 45 million people observed wildlife and 25 million photographed wildlife around their home. Over 12 million visited parks or natural areas to view wildlife and over 13 million maintained plantings or natural areas for the benefit of wildlife within a mile of their home.
The above are preliminary figures and the final and state reports will be made available in the near future.
So, what about Massachusetts? I question the accuracy of surveys and went directly to actual number of licenses issued, which should be more accurate. They were provided by MassWildlife and are based upon fiscal year (F/Y) results rather than calendar year results listed in the survey. The combined hunting, fishing and sporting licenses issued in F/Y 2011 were 210,390 vs. 211,741 in 2006, a 1,351 decrease. Hunting licenses dropped from 24,480 in 2006 to 23,386 in 2011, a 1,094 loss. Sporting licenses increased from 43,144 in 2006 to 44,775 in 2011, a gain of 1,631. When combining the sporting and hunting licenses figures, they total 68,161 in 2011 vs 67,624 in 2006 or a 537 increase in hunters. (I am counting all sporting license holders as hunters for why else would they pay the extra cost of the license when they could spend less monies just getting a fishing license). Fishing license sales dropped from 187,261 in 2006 to 187,004 in 2011 or a loss of 257.
I accepted the survey preliminary figures for wildlife watching which indicated that Massachusetts wildlife watchers declined from 1,726,000 in 2006 to 1,530,000 in 2011.
What surprised me the most was the increased numbers of hunters nationally and in Massachusetts. I certainly don’t see any increase here in the Berkshires. Some, including myself, considered them a dying breed, but now I am not so sure. *****