by Eric Hall
The 2016 survey conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife service should serve as a call to action for the hunting community. We need to band together to drive solutions for hunter recruitment, hunter retention and hunter reactivation to preserve our outdoor heritage. In short, “Act now before we cannot recover!”
The number of hunting licenses sold dropped by 2 million participants since the last survey from 13.5 million in 2011 to 11.5 million in 2016. This is an alarming trend, considering fishing license sales showed an increase in participation during that same period. Overall expenditures on hunting dropped 29 percent to $25.6 billion over that same span. There are many concerns regarding this decline including the impact on federal funding for wildlife conservation and public land use.
The Pittman-Robertson Act drives funding through spending on the items used for hunting. These funds are distributed to the states from the Secretary of the Interior. This money is earmarked to provide resources for the preservation and protection of the wildlife heritage in the United States. Fewer hunters means less spending and less funding to Pittman-Robertson affiliated projects.
Pittman-Robertson Act (Click for link)
Highlights of Pittman-Robertson Act
- Signed into law in 1937
- 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition to fund conservation and hunter education
- 1970 amendment added 10% tax on pistols and ammunition for fish and wildlife management
- 1972 amendment added 11% tax on bows and arrows for wildlife projects and hunter education
- 1984 amendment expanded tax on arrows to include those used by crossbows
Currently, House Bill H.R. 2591 sits in subcommittee awaiting review and approval. This bill amends the Pittman-Robertson Act to allow use of funds for hunter recruitment activities previously not allowed in the Act’s current form. While some may argue that using these funds for recruitment will diminish the funds available today for conservation, the language in the proposed amendment offers limitations on overall outreach spending:
"Not more than $5,000,000 of the revenues covered into the fund from any tax imposed under section 4161(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for a fiscal year shall be available to the Secretary exclusively for making hunter recruitment and recreational shooter recruitment grants that promote a national hunting and shooting sport recruitment program, including related communication and outreach activities."
I encourage everyone involved in any form of hunting to write your Representative and Congressman to express the need for H.R 2591 to pass. Take time to read the bill (click on link above) and decide for yourself. I think you will agree this bill is needed to allow states to spend a portion of our excise tax funds to recruit new hunters into our favorite pastime.
While H.R. 2591 is a step in the right direction, efforts to recruit new hunters cannot stop there. We need a grassroots effort within the hunting community in order to have an immediate and lasting impact. Gun clubs and hunting clubs need to mobilize and drive more emphasis on encouraging our youth to participate. If your state does not have youth hunting seasons, write letters imploring them to add these dates to the calendar.
As participation in hunting by the Baby Boomers shrinks, we need to encourage our youth to get out into the fields. The decline in number of hunters impacts our ability to protect and preserve nature and wildlife.
Parents, we need to take our kids outside and share nature with them. If you hunt, include your kids as early as possible. Get them interested in shooting a bow and arrow and progress from there. Take them scouting, hanging stands, running dogs, etc. Including kids will lead to enthusiasm for the activity and we need that for the survival of our sport. Our youth are pulled in many directions when it comes to their interests; hunting needs to be one of the options available.
Hunters, we need to mentor the youth. If you know of a child in a non-hunting family who is showing interest, offer to take them with you. We all have something to offer our youth and nothing is a better reflection of the “True Sportsman” than to pass on the heritage to the next generation. The survival of our sport requires new hunters who are taught to respect and appreciate the outdoors. Who better to learn from than us?
Do not wait. Now is the time for action. Show support for H.R. 2591 by writing to your legislators. Take a kid outdoors and share your passion with them. It only takes one spark to light a fire that will burn for a lifetime.