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Number of hunters increases in state, nationally
Nov 15, 2012 12:00 am
Over the past five years Tennessee has seen an increase in the number of people who hunt and fish, reversing a decades-long decline and reflecting similar growth nationally.
According to a recent national survey, 923,000 Tennesseans last year either hunted and/or fished. That represents 19 percent of the state’s population, higher than the 16% nationally.
Along with the 19% who hunt and/or fish are 43% of Tennesseans who participate in some sort of outdoors activity such as hiking, canoeing and wildlife watching.
Barry Summers, Chief of Planning for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, says the increase in hunting/fishing participants is not dramatic – about four percent – but at least it signals a reverse in the downward trend.
In Tennessee a combination license can be purchased that covers both hunting/fishing, so there is no way to determine whether the buyer intends to hunt, fish or do both. Also many Lifetime Licenses continue to be sold, making it impossible to determine the exact number of participants annually.
The national survey used additional data, in addition to license sales, to come up with its figures. The U.S. Census Bureau, for example, interviewed households across the country to obtain samples of sportspersons and wildlife viewers.
It found that 13.7 million (6% of the U.S. population 16 and older) went hunting. Those hunters spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other items.
More than 33 million people 16 and older fished in 2011, spending $41.8 billion on trips, equipment, incenses and other items.
In Tennessee hunting and fishing is a vital part of the state’s economy, contributing billions of dollars directly and indirectly.
The number of hunters is significant because it reflects strong political base at a time when hunting is under fire on several fronts.
In Tennessee, the TWRA and its many programs – including non-game management and recreational boating patrols – is financed almost entirely by license sales. Despite a sagging economy the Agency has been able to tighten its belt and avoid any license hike.
Obviously the more people who hunt and fish, the more revenue will be produced – both to support the TWRA’s wildlife management and for the state’s economy.
Even wildlife watchers who don’t hurt or fish benefit from those activities because hunters and fishermen foot the bills for almost all of the state’s wildlife management and non-game programs.
Wildlife watchers and photographers, example, enjoy the elk-viewing viewing areas provided and maintained by the TWRA, which restored wild elk to the state after a decade’s absence.
And bird watchers who enjoy the annual migrations of the sandhill cranes are able to do so thanks primarily to hunter-funded refuges and other habitat – while many of those same bird watchers oppose hunting.
The increase in hunters – and the related revenue – benefits everyone.