By Peter Muller, VP C.A.S.H.
In our last issue, we had an article on the tricks that hunting
advocates use to make it look like the numbers of participants in
hunting are increasing. This time we will take a specific published
assertion and examine it closely.
The psychological motivation for this display of mathematical
legerdemain is probably an instance of "whistling in the dark." They
know that their numbers are crashing and they like to cheer themselves
up by spinning some tall tales.
The median age of the traditional hunter is increasing very fast
(profile: middle-aged, overweight, balding, white male); it’s just a
matter of time before the last one of them falls out of his tree-stand –
"and then there were none."
Their main last-ditch effort to save "their heritage" is finding
Finding "non-traditional" recruits means getting primarily women and
children to take up hunting. [The fact that there’s little enthusiasm in
the agencies or hunter groups for recruiting minorities is a subject
left for another day.]
The game agencies and some state and county legislatures are funding
"youth hunting" and "outdoor women" programs in an attempt to keep
hunters’ numbers from dwindling. State legislatures are lowering the
hunting age and are allowing programs such as "families afield" to
permit children to hunt without a license. None of those programs are
working. Women and children simply are not attracted to hunting.
There are many reasons why this isn’t working – most of them, I
believe, have to do with major shifts in the sociology of the U.S. since
the 1960s. Due to advances in communications technology (TV, cell
phones, Internet) the country is becoming more homogenous in culture
than it was fifty years ago. Families in rural Pennsylvania watch
"American Idol" as devotedly as families in the suburbs of New York City
and inner city Los Angeles. The number of single-head-of
household-families – mostly headed by women – is increasing. Youngsters
like to "hang at the mall" with their friends; they think hunting is
"goofy." Surely, the animal protective movement also plays a role.
We frequently see articles by hunting advocates citing
pseudo-statistics to show that children or women hunters are really
about to save the day. A little research usually dispels such fantasies.
The following is a typical case in point:
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) puts out that "Young
hunters are a bright spot amid downturn"
They reported America’s oldest outdoor tradition may be growing
New data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that young
people represent ever-larger portions of America’s ebbing hunting
population. The ratio of hunters age 6-15 has grown nearly 4 percent
since 2001. See Chart I
In contrast, here are the numbers actually reported by the 2001 and
2006 publications of "National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and
Wildlife-Associated Recreation" by the USFWS: See Charts II & III
There I highlighted the numbers and computed the total number of
youth hunters as well as the percentages. There were only minor
formatting (no material) adjustments made in the data regarding hunters
and anglers of youths Ages 6 through 15.
We hope to be a little more precise than our friends at NSSF. The
numbers were reported in 2001 and 2006 but they refer to data for 2000
and 2005 respectively – but that’s a minor point.
The table shows that the percentage of young hunters among all
hunters decreased from 11.47% in 2000 to 11.28% in 2005. So their claim
that the percentage of young hunters is increasing is simply not borne
out by the source they cite for the data presented.
But it gets worse. NSSF’s claim that an increase in the percentage of
young hunters of the total number is a significant indicator is itself
Consider the following similar scenario:
Let’s say Ajax Corporation has a total of 100 employees. 20 of those
employees are under the age of 30. Mr. Ajax decides to fire the 20
oldest employees – reducing the workforce from 100 to 80.
Ajax Corporation now issues a press release saying "Ajax Corp has
increased young workers from 20% to 25% of the workforce." Technically
they are right – the percent of young workers has been increased – but
not, of course, the number of young workers; all they did is fire 20
The same is true of hunters: As their numbers diminish – as the
geezers keep falling out of tree stands — the fluctuation of the
percentage of youth and women is irrelevant.
Let’s not get taken in by their fancy shuffle – their days are
numbered. There are forces at work that neither the game agencies nor
the legislatures can contain.
The trend of U.S. culture today is moving in a different direction
from their perverted fantasies. Get over it, hunters, you’re out of
Peter Muller is VP of C.A.S.H.