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Why We Hunt and Fish More

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By Don Mallicoat-Over the past seven years, Americans have shown a steady increase in hunting and fishing participation and a recent study initiated by the survey research team, Responsive Management, has revealed the top 10 reasons behind the growth. Responsive Management, a group specializing in survey research on natural resource and outdoor recreation, initiated a project in 2011 with the American Sportfishing Association, Southwick Associates, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify the factors related to the increase in hunting and fishing participation.

Through the use of a Multi-State Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the overall data revealed that hunting and fishing participation increased between 2006 and 2011 not because of a single major reason, but because of a combination of factors. The project found that increased hunting and fishing participation are due to: Economic recession, higher incomes among some segments of the population, hunting for meat and the locavore movement, agency recruitment and retention programs, agency access programs, agency marketing and changes in licenses, current hunters and anglers participating more often, returning military personnel, re-engagement of lapsed hunters and anglers, and new hunters and anglers, including female, suburban and young participants.

Researchers collected data from multiple stakeholder sources, accounting for perspectives ranging from agency professionals to hunters and anglers themselves. The study also included research examining past hunting and fishing participation, personal interviews and a survey with fish and wildlife personnel, a multivariate analysis of national hunting and fishing license sales data, and a scientific survey of hunters and anglers in the states with the most notable increase in participation between 2006 and 2011.

So what do these survey results tell us? First, as we’ve long believed, hunting increases during hard economic times when people try to make ends meet. But I think the most telling factors are those related to agency efforts to get more people involved it the outdoors. They are working. Here in North Carolina we have several programs like the recently initiated Hunter Heritage permit that encourage new hunters to get started in the sport. Let’s hope this trend continues.

There is distressing news out there though and it is at the local level. Each Spring and summer the WRC conducts a turkey brood survey to determine nesting success and chick survival. The results this year are not good. According to a report in North Carolina Sportsman it will be tough for turkey hunters this Spring. The report indicates poor nesting success, poor to fair poult survival and poor overall productivity.

Survey responders reported observing a total of 31,745 wild turkeys during this summer’s survey. Statewide, the percentage of hens with poults (51%) indicates poor nesting success; the ratio of poults/hens observed with poults (3.1) indicates poor to fair poult survival; and the ratio of poults/hen (1.6) indicates poor overall productivity. The 2013 statewide productivity index matched the previous record low value also observed in 2012 and 2003, which means statewide productivity has been at the lowest levels ever documented for 2 consecutive years.

The Coastal Region experienced fair nesting success (57% of the hens were with poults), fair poult survival (3.2 poults/hens with poults), and poor overall productivity (1.8 poults/hen). The productivity index for the Coastal Region (1.8) tied the 2012 record low value for this parameter. The Piedmont Region experienced poor nesting success (45% of the hens were with poults), fair poult survival (3.2 poults/hens with poults), and a new record low for poor overall productivity (1.4 poults/hen). The Mountain Region experienced poor to fair nesting success (55% of the hens were with poults), poor poult survival (3.0 poults/hens with poults), and poor overall productivity (1.7 poults/hen).

We had an unusually wet spring this year and turkey chick are very susceptible to hypothermia before they start getting their primary feathers. Most biologist attribute these low numbers to that weather condition. I know a lot of folks keep talking about a Fall hunting season for turkey but don’t look for one anytime soon with data like this coming from the WRC.

The firearms gun deer season ends this week. After that it’s only bear and small game. The extended duck, goose, and last split of the dove season also start next week. This is my time of year. I like to leave the public woods to the deer hunters and let them have their time. I’ve got the next two months. Have fun hunting and be safe.

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