Mar 312013

Every five years, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conducts a national survey of hunting, fishing, and wildlife activities in the U.S. The results of the most recent survey just came out. Last year an estimated 90 million people (38% of American adults) participated in wildlife-related recreation. They spent $145 billion, which is 1% of the gross domestic product. In other words, one out of every $100 spent in the U.S. goes to wildlife recreation of some kind. Perhaps in recognition of this, September 22nd was recently proclaimed National Hunting and Fishing Day.

The main finding of the 2011 survey made the cover of USA Today, even though it’s something we already know: Hunting and fishing are on the rise. Check out this infographic I made using PikToChart. Feel free to use it (as long as you cite and link to this page):

hunting trends north america

Trend 1: More Hunters and Fishermen

Around 37.4 million Americans participated in fishing, hunting or both sports in 2011. Participation in fishing was up 11% from 2006; participation in hunting was up 9%. It’s clear that these increases are due in some part to nationwide efforts to get youths involved in hunting and fishing. Even though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife survey is primarily aimed at adults, they determined that 1.8 million 6 to 15 year olds hunted and 8.5 million fished in 2011. It’s a feather in the cap for the hardworking people behind urban fishing days, youth hunting programs, and other efforts to get kids to put down the video game controller and head outside!

Types of hunters in the U.S.

Hunters and Hunting in 2011

Last year 6% of the U.S. population aged 16 and older (13.7 million people) went hunting. They spent an average of 21 days pursuing various types of wild game:

Type of Game Number of Hunters Days Spent Hunting
Big game: Deer, elk, and turkey 11.6 million (86%) 212 million (18.7 days/hunter
Small game: squirrels, rabbits and pheasants 4.5 million (33%) 51 million (11.3 days/hunter)
Migratory birds: geese, ducks and doves 2.6 million (19%) 23 million (8.8 days/hunter)
Other: coyotes, groundhogs and raccoons 2.2 million (16%) 34 million (15.5 days/hunter)

Big game hunters spent the most days afield (both in total and on average per hunter), which isn’t surprising. What does surprise me is that hunters of other animals — coyotes, groundhogs, raccoons, and other critters — were next in terms of days per hunter. Know what else? Between 2006 and 2011, the number of hunters pursuing these “other animals” increased 92%. Compare that to an 8% increase in big game hunters, and 13% increase in migratory bird hunters.

Hunting Boosts the Economy

Hunters spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items to support their hunting activities last year. That’s an increase of 30% over the last 5 years. It works out to $2,484 spent per hunter.

Hunters and gear in 2011

Hunter and Hunting Expenditures, 2001 to 2011

Now I suddenly understand why I’m struggling where other hunters seem to be doing well. I’m not throwing enough money at the problem! In fairness, these figures encompass a variety of expenses:

  • $14.0 billion (41%) went to equipment: guns, gear, ATVs, camping equipment, and other gear.
  • $10.4 billion (31%) was spent on hunting trips and trip-related expenses
  • $9.6 billion (28%) went to licenses, stamps, leases, and land ownership.

Here’s a pie chart breaking down where the $34 billion spent on hunting last year went:

Hunting costs in 2011

Hunting Expenditures in 2011

All of these categories saw increases in spending since 2006, but the largest increase by far was land leasing and ownership, up 50%. Trip-related spending was up 39%, and gear expenses up 29%. Take that, slow economy! We hunters are doing our part.

Archery and Bowhunting Trends

Because bowhunting is my current obsession, I dug into the details of the survey data to see what I could find about bowhunters in the U.S. It turns out that $935 million was spent on bows, arrows, and archery equipment by an estimated 2.8 million bowhunters. That represents about 21% of hunters as a whole; in other words, one in five hunters is a bowhunter. And we bowhunters spent an average of $331 apiece on archery equipment last year.

It might be an expensive hobby, but I love it anyway.


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Written by Dan Koboldt

  One Response to “Hunting Trends in North America”

  1. […] related equipment are modern marvels. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are ~3 million bowhunters in the United States, and they spend $935 million each year on bows, arrows, and other archery […]

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