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100 Million More Americans Joined in Hunting, Fishing With Better Access to Public Lands

June 12, 2019 How to Guides, Duck, Elk, Mule Deer, Turkey, Whitetail Deer, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Bow, Muzzleloader, Rifles, Shotguns

100 Million More Americans Joined in Hunting, Fishing With Better Access to Public Lands

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey Initial Findings Show the Importance of Increasing Access to Publicly Funded Lands

According to a survey by the USFWS—and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau—101.6 million people in the United States participated in hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation in 2016 and it will only going get better as long as we have access to public lands.

the survey was based on questions asked of over 22,000 households as a sample, and surveyed through computer-assisted telephone and in-person interviews. The report indicates that persons 16-years-of-age and older, some 40-percent of the population, took part in some kind of outdoor recreation or sportsman’s activity.

These same sportsmen and women spent a whopping $156 billion, driving an economic surge that shows just how important hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation dollars are to the U.S. economy. Hunters especially are an integral part of wildlife conservation and their numbers have slowly dropped by about two million from 2011-2016. The stable, but lower number of 11.5 million is taking with them roughly $10 billion from the conservation economy.

David Allen, then Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO said, “No one does more for our wildlife and or wild places than hunters. Any decline in hunting numbers, real or perceived, is of great concern since hunting provides the lion’s share of funding for nationwide conservation work thanks to excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment that garner more than $1.6 (billion) annually” 

With that in mind, finding and creating more access to public lands, for instance, can give a more substantial reason for existing, and especially up-and-coming, hunters to stay in the game. Even U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said, “This report absolutely underscores the need to increase public access to public lands across the United States. Hunting and fishing are a part of the American heritage. As a kid who grew up hunting and fishing on public lands who later took my own kids out on the same land, I know how important it is to expand access for future generations. Many folks east of the Mississippi River rely on friends with large acreages or pay high rates for hunting and fishing clubs. This makes access to wildlife refuges and other public lands more important."

With money such an overriding factor, it’s no wonder that hunters and fishermen need such access to make participating in their favorite outdoor activities happen. Even with that in mind, the outdoorsmen of the U.S. will still reach into their wallets to spend their hard-earned money on gear and other substantial parts of hunting and fishing, including related items such as taxidermy and camping which has resulted in an increase of 27-percent over the course of the study. Even hunting trip-related expenses increased 15-percent.

The bottom line is that we all want to hunt, but you have to remember that it will cost you in some way. For instance, in our day, it came in the form of knocking on doors or approaching the farmer as he worked his fields. The expense being in footwork, time, and gas; being told no more than getting a positive response. We are whole-heartedly in agreement that hunting is a right (and a privilege) that cannot be denied, but we still have to work for it.

As a community, hunters are one of the most important and influential groups that North American wildlife has as a benefactor. We have become one of the most important partners with states and even national conservation organizations to increase information about fish and wildlife recreation in the United States. It is no longer the time to complain about finding a place to hunt without putting in the effort to change the situation. It is a “strength in numbers” process and not a “woe is me” one.

Since the very “raison d'etre” of Hunting Locator is to help hunters locate and access hunting land, it goes without saying that we want to help, even if it simply means helping to increase the amount of people getting out in the summer to enjoy the outdoors. We find that there is a continuing interest in engaging in outdoor activities that cannot be denied, and the survey proves it.

The report, which is the 13th such survey conducted nearly every five years since 1955, shows that the most significant increases in participation has involved animal-watching, most commonly: observing and photographing wildlife and the great outdoors. Subsequently, access to more and more public land means that outdoor lovers of every type will now have a more approachable means to discover areas that they previously could not.

In this way, it could make locating hunting and fishing lands easier.

Still, for hunters, there is the issue of sharing these lands with hikers, fishermen, and even camping enthusiasts. As you know, hunters have the abject responsibility of being on the cutting edge of safety outdoors, so it stands to reason that their part in using publicly shared lands is paramount. A show of concern for safety by the venerable hunting community can and will prove that they are vital part of any outdoor related activities and should be more than welcome on public lands.

Zinke went on to say, “Hunters and anglers are at the backbone of American conservation, so the more sportsmen and women we have, the better off our wildlife will be.” Truer words were never spoken. Being on the cutting edge of outdoor opportunity, the Secretary also proposed expanding hunting and fishing prospects at 10 national wildlife refuges, including acquiring lands to have the Bureau of Land Management’s Sabinoso Wilderness Area in New Mexico accessible for the first time in history to hunters, hikers, and wildlife watchers.

"Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."  -Theodore Roosevelt

Meanwhile, more and more hunters are finding land to hunt by traditional means: available public hunting grounds. Unfortunately, public land comes with the stigma of having high hunting pressure. That might be true for some areas over others, but at the end of the day, public hunting areas can be one of the best-kept secrets, especially for deer hunting. If you're can find land that doesn't see a lot of other hunters, you could be in a for a good season.

There’s a lot to be said about finding and hunting an area that you’re not familiar with. The fact is, even veteran deer hunters can get jaded over time hunting the same spot and begin to make mistakes out of sheer repetition. Truth be told, it’s just as exciting to use, for instance, Google Earth to digitally explore ground that’s new to you. Learning to find sign all over again, or discovering places to hang a trail camera such as food sources or pinch-points can take a hunter back to where it was when it all began for him.

With 132,000 acres and counting set to be freed to the public for hunting and fishing purposes, the list of available hunting grounds is growing by leaps and bounds. Included therein are no less than eight states including, Wisconsin, Oregon, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Minnesota, Indiana, Georgia, and South Carolina, with 10 different National Wildlife Refuges in the mix.

Hunting public land is basically free, but it still comes with a cost. There are no guided hunts, but neither are there “no trespassing” signs.  There may be other hunters, but these areas can large enough to support them all. Since most public land hunters will hunt the most easily accessible areas, chances are that if you do your homework, you can use them to your advantage. By focusing on the pressure created by the “crowd” you can put yourself into a much more beneficial situation when it comes down to crunch time.

Maybe the greatest reason to use the access to public land hunting is as the venerable Randy Newberg says: “It’s your land! You’re a U.S. citizen, you’re a state citizen. Go on and enjoy it, go do it, it’s there, it’s for you!” A quick check of your state DNR, INR, DEC or whatever its acronym is will get you started on your way towards a real understanding of what it takes to hunt land that’s already yours.

Until then you can set your sights on land of your own by simply cruising through our website, to your hearts content, at all the possibilities by clicking every state on the map at our home page, check access to premium land leases, maps and tools. If you’re interested, check out our giveaway page to see what might be yours for the taking.

The time is now to find your place in the woods and fields, and not when it’s two weeks before the season. Between your own state’s public hunting areas and land you find on your own, one thing is for certain: it won’t seat itself under you when you want it to, you’re going to have to get out there and take it.