September 24, 2020

If Hunting Is On The Decline, These Numbers Show Otherwise

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Anyone who disagrees with hunting and all its related activities including shooting, tend to use the argument that the sport is dying. I have shared some statistics that would back that statement up. But if we take a look at some other facts, we might find that this is not really true at all.

Just released are the 2004 (the latest figures that are available) figures on sales of hunting related equipment by the National Sporting Goods Association. According to their figures, the sale of hunting related equipment increased by 8 percent over the previous year. That translates into the highest percentage increase of all sporting goods sold that year.

How does this compare to other sports? The next highest increase in sales went to tennis related equipment with a 5% increase, camping gear was up by 3%, fishing 2%, baseball and softball 2%.

What are these statistics showing us? First, let’s compare them to the trend nationally of hunting license sales. Overall, license sales are decreasing. Some states are going up, some are holding steady and some are declining. At times states will see a spike upward in a one to three year period and then a decline. There are several factors that will influence sales from one year to the next but the overall trend is a small decline.

We can say what we want about the necessity and effectiveness of hunter safety courses across America but there is one thing that jumps out at me. The decline in hunting license sales corresponds with the requirement to take a hunter safety course before you can hunt. Therefore, one could conclude that the decline is directly related to course requirements and therefore the decline in numbers are the marginal hunters – those who might get an itch one year to hunt and not the next. These marginal hunters are now discouraged from picking up a gun and going hunting because first they have to sit through a hunter safety class.

Does this relate to the increase in hunting and shooting equipment sales. I believe it does for a couple of reasons. Your marginal hunter isn’t going to spend much money on his sport. In the day when you could just drop in to the town office and buy a license and go out with Uncle Fred on Thanksgiving Day hunting, you probably also borrowed your uncle’s gun and other related equipment.

One thing also the hunter safety classes do is teach students about proper and safe equipment. This in turns sends the prospective hunter out to the nearest hunting equipment store so they can stock up. In short, today’s educated hunter is more dedicated to their sport because it requires more of a commitment to participate. Hunters are assuming that if they are going to do this, they might as well do it right.

The other aspect comes in the developement of equipment by manufacturers. Companies that make gear for hunters are doing a better job and they are creating functional and safe equipment that the smart hunter wants and what they are willing to spend dollars for.

Statistics show that in every state, hunting and shooting related accidents are on the decline. Much of this is attributed to good hunter safety courses. Its the awareness of safety that has driven manufacturers to produce safety related products that hunters demand.

A trend that seems to be supported by these same statistics provided by the National Sporting Goods Association, is the ownership of better, more sophisticated rifles, shotguns and handguns as well as archery equipment, etc. When you compare the increase percentages of these compared to the overall increase in all equipment related to hunting, rifle sales lead the way with a 16.5% increase. Firearms sales overall saw an increase of 9.5%. Handgun sales were up by over 10% and shotguns by almost 2%.

Let’s look at one other item that supports my theory. The sale of hunting boots rose sharply by 21%. Again, I believe that looking at the safety factor, hunters want to be warm and dry when they’re out in the woods. The first place to start is your feet.
How does the sale of hunting equipment compare to other sports overall? In total sales, hunting ranked third compared to all other sports with sales of $2.1 billion. The two sports that outsold hunting were golf at $3.1 billion and exercise equipment at $5 billion. Hunting even surpassed fishing, which is a bit unusual.

The next time someone tells you that hunting is passe and should be banned because nobody is interested anymore, show them some of these figures. They should make a good rebuttal.

Hunting license sales may be on the decline but the licensed hunter today is dedicated, educated and willing spend some dollars to more safely enjoy their sport. This is extremely good news and good for the sport as well.

Tom Remington

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