From the National Shooting Sports Foundation
-- The 3.6 percent rise in paid hunting license holders for 2009 is one of the most encouraging signs for hunting in recent years, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
"This is great news for our industry and everyone associated with hunting," said Steve Sanetti, president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "Many efforts are at work to build hunting participation, and they are paying off. More people are enjoying the outdoors and sharing the tradition of hunting with family and friends. Also, more hunting license sales translate into more funds for wildlife conservation."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week reported a total of 14,974,534 paid license holders for 2009, the largest figure since 2002 and an increase of 526,494 over 2008. The 3.6 percent rise in paid license holders represents the largest year-over-year increase since 1974. A paid license holder is one individual regardless of the number of licenses purchased.
NSSF cites several reasons for the increase, ranging from programs launched by many state wildlife agencies over the last decade to increase hunting participation to a difficult economy that motivated hunters to fill their freezers with game rather than store-bought meat. Also, hunters who were among the unemployed or had their work hours reduced used some of their free time to go hunting.
Coordinated efforts of state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations and the firearms industry appear to have halted a decades-long decline in hunting license sales, which since 2005 have held at the 14.5-million level until the jump in 2009.
Contrary to claims of a wholesale decline in hunting participation, paid license holders have increased in 24 states in the five-year period from 2005 to 2009.
"Due to continued urbanization and changes in our culture, hunting will face significant challenges for the foreseeable future, but at the same time hunting remains an extremely important activity in the lives of millions of Americans, as the latest hunting licenses sales figures confirm," Sanetti said.
NSSF points out the actual number of hunters who go afield in any given year is greater than the total of paid hunting license holders in that year. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service figures do not account for certain state exemptions for purchasing a hunting license.
Many states allow landowners and active military to hunt without purchasing a license; also, lifetime license holders and youth hunters who do not fall within the required license purchasing age are not included in the figures.
According to an NSSF-funded study carried out by Southwick Associates, the pool of hunters in America is much larger than previously thought. The study, released last fall, estimated that 21.8 million people purchased a hunting license at least once in the last five years.
Hunters are the backbone of conservation funding in America, contributing more than $1 billion each year through the purchase of licenses, tags, permits and stamps and through excise taxes paid on firearms and ammunition. For example, proceeds from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunting, have purchased more than 5 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
NSSF, using a new 12-state hunting license sales index, anticipated the national increase in paid hunting license holders by reporting a 3.5 percent increase in license sales last spring. "It's gratifying to see how accurate our state index was, which gives us confidence in future index-based hunting license sales figures," said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF's director of industry research and analysis.
NSSF will announce its state index hunting license sales report for 2010 this spring.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 6,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.