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Hunters might become extinct.

One reason: younger, less educated, rural white males are in decline

About 700,000 people went deer hunting in Wisconsin last year. With those numbers, there will always be plenty of hunters, right?

Maybe not, says Tom Heberlein, a rural sociologist at the University of Wisconsin. If present trends continue, hunting will look much different, and in some states nobody will be hunting by the middle of the next century.

The male population in the United States is getting older, more urban, more educated, and less white. Families are getting smaller and more fragmented, and the number of skilled manual laborers is shrinking. All of these factors tend to reduce hunting participation. If these trends continue, hunting as we know it will not exist by 2050, Heberlein predicts.

These factors accounted for about one-half of the decline in hunting participation between 1977 and 1990. Increased income and population growth in the mountain states offset these factors, but only slightly, he says.

Reduced access to hunting areas, declining wildlife populations, and anti-hunting attitudes and other social trends probably account for the other half, and they are likely to increase in the future, according to the researcher.

The decline will be slower in Wisconsin because of its large rural population, strong social traditions in hunting, and large wildlife populations, Heberlein says. As the deer population has risen in the state, so have the numbers of deer hunters; if the deer population falls, so would hunter numbers.

Males make up nearly 85 percent of all hunters, and fewer and fewer are taking up the pursuit. That's primarily because fewer males are growing up in rural areas and small towns where hunting traditions are strong, according to Heberlein. On top of that, fewer men are choosing to live in rural communities. Men in the north-central United States are more likely to hunt, but population is declining in this region.

Whites are more likely to hunt, and the proportion of whites in the population is shrinking. Married men and men with more children are more likely to hunt, but family structures are changing and family sizes are shrinking. Men in skilled manual trades, such as machinists and steamfitters, are more likely to hunt, but this group is declining. College graduates are less likely to hunt, and the proportion of college grads is increasing.

In general, these factors have the same effects on females who hunt. Despite other changes in women's roles, they are not increasing their overall participation in sport hunting, according to Heberlein.

"It is not out of the question that there will be no sport hunting, or a dramatic change in the character of sport hunting in the United States by the middle of the 21st century," Heberlein concludes.
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:456
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