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Counting the licensed hunters.

By the end of this century, hunting will have a greater number of participants than ever before, says the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). This prediction is based on studies they recently conducted. From the same studies NSSF concluded that "the overall pool of hunters is considerably larger than the number of hunters who take part in hunting in any given year." NSSF put the pool of hunters for the years 1986 and 1987 at 25 million, while properly noting that only about 15 million hunted in 1986 and 1987.

NSSF is not alone in estimating the number of hunters in the United States to be greater than the annual U.S. Fish arid Wildlife Service (FWS) license sales figure. The National Rifle Association Fact Card uses 18 million as the number of hunters, and 20 million is often seen in sporting magazines.

Why the varying figures with respect to the number of U. S. hunters? Is anyone cooking the books?

In estimating the of number of hunters (as differentiated from license sales) there is room for massaging figures because most states offer license exemptions to a variety of persons - as examples those over or under a specified age, the handicapped, soldiers on duty, those on their own land, etc. Exempted individuals, whose number can only be estimated, are not included in the basic count of Paid License Holders. (A Paid License Holder in each state is one individual no matter how many licenses he or she may buy in that state.)

On the other side of the ledger, there is duplication of individuals in the FWS bottom line figure because persons who hunt in more than one state are counted in each state.

Despite the don't counts and the double counts, we are fortunate to have the well established FWS Hunting License Sales Figures. These 50-states totals are the base from which less well structured estimates can be derived or compared to.

The recently released FWS report shows 1989 total hunting license sales as 15,858,063. This is slightly down from the 1988 total of 15, 918,522. The present downtrend in hunting license sales started in 1983 after an all time high of 16,748,541 in 1982.

Certainly, a time-and-money intensive activity that has almost 16 million participants cannot be tagged as in danger of dying! Still, it cannot be ignored that while the U. S. population has increased by 21% since 1970, the sales of hunting licenses nationally have increased by only 3%. The accompanying table, Hunting License Sales by State, 1970 and 1989 reveals that twenty states have fewer licensed hunters today than they did in 1970 ! Moreover, and this is the important aspect of focus: As the U.S. population increases and the number of hunters decreases, the influence of hunters as a political factor declines markedly. Both the accompanying graph and chart, Licensed Hunters as a Percent of U. S. Population, display figures which should caution pro-hunting groups inclined to overestimate the public support they might expect on some of the more controversial hunting issues.

The data in this article is not meant to signal doom but rather to show that the annual FWS hunting license sates figures are more realistic than the extrapolations performed on those same figures.
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Author:Howe, Walter J.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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