BY PETER MULLER
While our emphasis is on sport hunting, we’ve been observing that
hunting has been declining in the current American culture for decades.
No it’s not going fast enough to suit us – but nevertheless it’s moving
toward the dustbin of history (as Luke Dommer, the founder of C.A.S.H.,
was fond of saying) at a pretty good clip.
On June 1, 2004, Dave Workman of ESPN Outdoors reports: “NRA prez:
Government is driving hunters out.” In the article NRA president Kayne
Robinson laments the decline of hunting and blames government agencies
for their antihunting stance. (We haven’t really observed that – but it
would be a refreshing change.)
Robinson predicts that unless things change, ten million hunters
could be lost in the next few years. That would indeed be a major
decline since there are currently less than 13 million hunters in the US
– down from 17.4 million in 1980. That is a decline of about 4.5 million
in 25 years while the population of the US has increased.
The rate of decline will accelerate as there are minimum threshold
numbers of hunters required in each state to keep the state Fish and
Game agencies financed.
Robinson laments, “There is not enough recruitment of new hunters to
make up the losses.” He goes on to suggest that requiring hunting safety
course of 10-16 hours long is excessive and keeps new hunters from
obtaining their licenses. He is clearly grasping at straws. If somebody
won’t sit for three or four sessions of instruction then he or she is
clearly not motivated.
Robinson goes on to say, “We must no longer tread on eggshells around
agencies and officials who are clearly hostile toward hunting and
hunters.” The NRA has been politically one of the most aggressive and
bullying lobbying groups in the country. That’s like Hitler saying “Ok –
no more Mr. Nice Guy.”
He bemoans Clinton’s executive orders to keep some wilderness areas –
which Bush rescinded after he was sworn in before even taking his coat
Robinson then goes on to mention the impact of hunters on the local
economies throughout the county – but if we add in the potential
economic contribution that facilities for wildlife watching would bring
to the area, the impact of hunting is negative.
Another whiny report from the Fudds comes from the Pennsylvania Game
Commission. The revenues derived mostly from the sale of licenses are
not keeping pace with the increased expense of doing business (gas
prices figure into this). The PA game agency, just as the fish and game
agencies all over the country, are caught between a rock and a hard
As the number of hunters declines, they have to raise the license
fees to continue to provide even the most basic services. Yet as they
raise their fees, their license sales decline. The PA Game Commission
explains that a hunting license in 1985 was $12.75 – the license fee was
raised to $19 in 1999, but should be raised again today to $23.19 to
keep pace with the increase in expenses and the decline in the number of
“This means that, unless we have a license fee increase soon ... the
long term effect will be a leaner 2006-2007 and an even leaner 2007-08
which will require additional spending cuts that will further impact our
ability to deliver programs and services to the public.”
One interesting side note is that they derive $15 million in timber
sales from land which the agency controls. This amounts to about
one-third of their annual budget.
Who owns that land - the agency or the state? If the state owns the
land, those revenues belong to the General Fund and should not go into
the Conservation Fund for more hunting. We should really take a close
look at land-grabs by and for Fish and Game agencies – if for no other
reason than to bolster their flagging revenues from timber sales.
The PA Game Commission also started a not-for-profit 501(c)3
“educational” organization to which tax-deductible contributions can be
made. Again the legality of that move is highly dubious.
We need to keep a close eye on how monies from that 501c(3) are
sloshed over into PA Game agency.