Every year the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF, www.nssf.org) publishes a report on the trend in American hunting. This year’s recently released report has some significant facts. They are important not just for the shooting sports industry to gauge what is going on, but it is important information that every hunter should have in their wallet. Why? Because there are folks out there who not only don’t believe in our hunting heritage, but don’t understand what we do to contribute to wildlife habitat in this country. So let’s look at some of the data that is important to all hunters out there.
Who is the “average hunter”? We are 43.7 years old and 91% male. I suspect that last figure may be going down as more and more women take up outdoor sports. Nearly 21% of all hunters have a college education and about 96% of us are white. Migratory bird hunters lead the pack with education having 31% with a college education. The average household income for a hunter is about $60,000 with migratory bird hunters having the highest income of $69,000. In fact, when you look at the average hunter statistics migratory bird hunter seem to lead in most of them. The average big game hunter spends over 15 days a year hunter, small game hunters are in the field an average of 11 days and migratory bird hunters spend the fewest days afield at 9.
First, the average number of licensed hunters over the last ten years is 14,750,477. That is a lot of people. But the best news is that in the past two years we have exceeded that average by about 200,000. There is no statistical data to explain the increase but it is good to see our sport growing. What is important about that number is that hunters contributed nearly $800 million dollars to wildlife programs and state agencies through licenses, tags, permits and stamps. Many people don’t know, but all license fees in the state of North Carolina go directly to support the Wildlife Resources Commission. None of that money by law goes into the general budget.
So how else do we contribute through our hunting heritage? We have discussed the Pittman-Robertson Act in this column before. That is excise taxes we pay with a gun or ammunition purchase that supports the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and contributes to wildlife habitat. In 2011 hunters and shooters contributed nearly $460 million. This is money state agencies use to develop habitat, build ranges, conduct hunter safety training and many more activities. Since its inception in 1938 Pittman-Robertson funds to state agencies exceed 7 billion dollars. So remind your non or anti hunting friends that it is our money that has brought back many species from the brink of extinction such as the bald eagle and the grey wolf.
Now let’s look at some figures about how we spend our money in the local economy. In the last year data were collected, 2006, hunters spent $10.7 billion on equipment to include guns, scopes, ammunition, apparel, ATVs and other items. Our total trip related expenses (food, lodging, transportation) came in at the tune of $6.7 billion. The average annual expenditure for a big game hunter was about $1,600, small game $800, and migratory hunter $1,200. With all those purchases and travel we forked over $5 billion in federal taxes and $4 billion in state and local taxes. Hunting also provided nearly 600,000 jobs in 2006. We are doing our part for the economy!
Let’s bring this down to the local level and look at North Carolina. In 2010 we had over 505,000 paid license holders for a total license fees to the WRC of just over $8 million dollars. Where we don’t do well is in Nonresident licenses with only 33,000 compared to our neighbors to the south, South Carolina, with over 80,000 Nonresident hunters. Our number of licensed hunters has been trending upward over the past twenty years with a 22% increase since 1991. In 2006 nearly 33% of resident hunters also hunted out of state and nearly 9% of North Carolina residents only hunted out of state. There are probably two factors that contribute to that: lack of game and maybe most importantly not having Sunday hunting. I know lack of game drives a lot of mountain hunters to clubs/leases in South Carolina and Georgia.
So there we are the average hunter. Where do you fit in?