With each passing day, the evening air grows cooler and the hillsides get a bit brighter as great flocks of birds continue to fly overhead on their annual migrations south. It is the high season for sportsmen, and women.
It is only fitting that Sept. 22 will serve as the 75th anniversary of the National Hunting and Fishing Day. This annual celebration highlights the tremendous contributions that sportsmen and women have made toward preserving our national heritage of hunting, fishing and similar outdoor sporting endeavor.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act), which raises funds through a dedicated excise tax on sporting guns and ammunition.
In 1950, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act was enacted. This Act provides funds for fish conservation and boating and fishing recreational programs in each state through an excise tax collected on all fishing and boating related equipment and fuels.
Under a complicated system of reapportionments, each state receives funding from the program which must be used for fishing, hunting, boating and other wildlife related outdoor sports.
These federal funds are distributed back to the states based on the total number of annual fishing and hunting licenses and boat registrations purchased. The funding pays for a majority of the fish and wildlife conservation programs provided by state fish and wildlife agencies throughout the country.
National Hunting and Fishing Day recognize the numerous contributions that hunters, anglers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts have made towards conserving our national natural resources. The North American model is a conservation legacy that began in the early 20th century when fish and game stocks were rapidly being depleted due to over harvesting and land development. The program continues to be the envy of the world.
In many countries, sporting activities such as hunting and fishing are no longer available for the average man.
In August, the Federal government released results of the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which indicates that over 90 million Americans, or roughly 38 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older, enjoyed some form of fishing, hunting or wildlife-associated recreation during the previous year.
The National Survey, conducted every five years, offers a snapshot of the contributions outdoor recreation provides to the national economy. According to the report, expenditures by hunters, anglers and wildlife related recreation accounted for over $145.0 billion, about 1 percent of gross domestic product. Over 37 million Americans participated in fishing, hunting or both sports in 2011 and they spent $43.2 billion on equipment, $32.2 billion on trips, and over $14.5 billion on licenses and fees, membership dues and contributions, land leasing and ownership, and plantings for hunting. On average, each sportsperson spent an estimated $2,407 in 2011.
Compared to the 2006 Survey, the number of anglers increased 11 percent, with the Great Lakes region experiencing a 17 percent increase in participation. Increases in saltwater and non-Great Lakes freshwater angling participation was 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Although the survey focuses on people 16 years of age and older who participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, it also includes some information on 6 to 15-year olds. Data reveals 1.8 million 6 to 15 year olds hunted, 8.5 million fished, and 11.7 million watched wildlife.
According to the research, 13.7 million people, about 6 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older, went hunting in 2011. Hunters spent an average of 21 days pursuing wild game, and species like elk, deer and wild turkey attracted 11.6 million hunters (85 percent) who spent 212 million days afield.
Over 4.5 million (33 percent) pursued small game including squirrel, rabbit, quail, and pheasants for 51 million hunting days. Migratory game birds, such as geese, ducks and doves, attracted 2.6 million hunters (19 percent) who spent 23 million days hunting.
Hunting for other animals such as coyotes, groundhogs and raccoons attracted 2.2 million hunters (16 percent) who spent 34 million days afield.
Combined, hunters spent $34.0 billion on equipment, licenses, and other items to support their hunting activities in 2011. The average expenditure per hunter was $2,484. Total trip-related expenditures comprised 31 percent of all spending at $10.4 billion.
Other expenditures, such as licenses, stamps, land leasing and ownership, and plantings totaled $9.6 billion, 28 percent of all spending. Spending on equipment such as guns, camping equipment, and 4-wheel drives comprised 41 percent of spending with $14 billion.
Overall hunting participation increased 9 percent from 2006 to 2011. The numbers of big game hunters rose 8 percent, migratory bird hunters increased 13 percent, while hunters seeking other animals increased by 92 percent.
In order to provide an appropriate perspective for all of the male hunters and anglers who are sure to be asked about their expensive hobbies; cosmetic industry statistics indicate American women spend an average of nearly $12,000 annually on beauty products and grooming. That should account for a lot of rods, reels, guns and ammunition, and at least a few nights comfortably ensconced in camp.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.