Hunter numbers, conservation dollars up

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The number of paid hunting-license holders in America has increased slightly over the previous year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recent National Hunting License Report.

Numbers for 2004 rose less than 1 percent, from 14,740,188 to 14,779,071, but hunting advocates are hoping it indicates stabilization following a long downward trend.

"Over the past 20 years, good news about hunter numbers has been hard to find, but now we've seen increases in two of the past six years," said Jodi Valenta, director of recruitment and retention programs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

"I believe that's a tribute to the many wonderful programs today that are designed to recruit and retain hunters. The hunting community is working together, making a difference, and it's beginning to show."

NSSF administers a variety of programs to increase hunting participation, particularly among youth.

The number of resident licenses, tags, permits and stamps issued in 2004 increased 4.1 percent over the previous year to 33,111,202, while the non-resident quantity posted at 3,020,395, an increase of 5.6 percent over 2003.

Hunters continue to contribute more and more dollars in pursuit of their sport.

The 2004 figures show gross cost paid by hunters for licenses, tags, permits and stamps — the primary funding source for wildlife conservation and management programs in America — was $703,794,135.24. That total represents an increase of 3.5 percent over 2003.

Currently, hunting license holders represent about 5 percent of the U.S. population.

The number of hunters in America peaked in the mid-1980s at 16.8 million. At the time, hunters represented just more than 9 percent of the U.S. population.