Maybe it’s all the camo.
I mean, runners are visible, right? Go to a 5K or a marathon sometime, or even watch one on television.
The crowd of competitors is often huge.
Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers – those who spend their leisure time involved in outdoor recreation — dwarf them. They’re a hidden army.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service every five years puts out its “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.” A preliminary version of the newest, the 2016 report, was released this week.
“With 101.6 million Americans 16 years of age and older participating in 2016, wildlife-related recreation is clearly an important leisure activity in the U.S.,” it reads. “This means an average of four out of 10 people you meet participate in some type of wildlife recreation. In comparison, there were 64 million runners.”
And that counts only those people age 16 and older.
The survey was not able to determine how many children ages 6 to 15 took part in wildlife watching. But it estimates the number of young anglers at 8.1 million and young hunters at 1.4 million.
The one bit of bad news?
Compared to 2011, the number of hunters was down by about 2 percent. The report labels the change as not “statistically insignificant.”
But hunting organizations are already taking that as a call to action.
John Frampton, President and CEO of the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, says hunting needs to be a focus of recruitment, retention and re-activation – or R3 — programs.
“Hunting in this country is not only part of our national heritage, it is an important to our country’s economy, as indicated by the expenditures in the survey,” he says.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership agrees. It’s calling for a change to federal Pittman-Robertson funding rules. Namely, it wants some of the excise tax collected on the sale of firearms and ammunition used for R3 efforts.
That would allow state agencies to modernize licensing and hunter education training, do more habitat work and address threats like chronic wasting disease.
Without those changes, “the implications for conservation are dire,” adds Partnership president and CEO Whit Fosburgh.
Fishing and wildlife watching have seen no such decrease. In fact, the report notes, participation in both increased.
All outdoorsmen and women have one thing in common: they spend. The report says hunters, anglers and wildlife-watchers doled out $156.3 billion in 2016.
“This equates to 1 percent of Gross Domestic Product; one out of every $100 of all goods and services produced in the U.S. is due to wildlife-related recreation,” they report says.
Hunters, as a group, are fewer in number than fishermen and wildlife watchers. But they spend the most per person, at about $2,237, the report notes.
Fishermen spent $1,290 per person on average, while wildlife watchers spent $882.
The survey is done every five years and has been since 1955. The methodology has remained largely the same over time, so comparisons can be made.
But this latest version was different in one way.
The Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to estimate the number of people who participate in archery and firearms target shooting. These people aren’t hunters; they shoot just for fun.
And there’s a lot of them, it seems.
Findings show there are more than 32 million target shooters using firearms and 12.4 million people engaged in archery. What’s more, a lot of them are kids.
Twelve percent of all firearms target shooters and 21 percent of target archers are children ages 6 to 15.