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Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer Question: "I just read a discouraging summery about hunting and fishing trends in the U.S. on the internet. What is the Fish and Game doing to increase recruitment and generate interest in hunting and fishing?" Answer: You are referring to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006 National Survey on Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife Recreation. A brief summary of the report reveals approximately 5 percent of the general U.S. population over 16 years of age enjoy hunting. However, this represents an overall decline by 4 percent between 2001 and 2006. The largest declines were in migratory bird hunting (-22 percent) and small animal hunting (-12percent). The number of big game hunters declined by 2 percent. Montana had the highest rate of hunting (19 percent) participation as a percentage of their population. Idaho is at approximately 10 percent. States tied with the lowest percentage of hunting participation (1 percent) included California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Twelve and one-half million (12.5 million) hunters spent $22.7 billion to support their hunting activities in 2006. While hunters represent a minority of all recreationists, they spend an average of $1,814 annually. About two-thirds (63 percent) of all wildlife-related recreation expenditures has been for hunting and/or fishing. As expected, hunting recruitment in youngsters is low, especially in urban areas and in single parent homes with no male parent who hunts. These trends away from outdoor recreation cut across the entire spectrum of activities from hunting to wildlife watching. It's no secret Americans are working longer hours and have less free time to pursue outdoor recreation. Additionally access to hunting areas is declining at an ever faster pace. Open space for hunting and fishing is being replaced by urban sprawl and developments. Changes in landownership result in culturally or physical prohibitions to hunting. One need look no further than the outskirts of Twin Falls or Jerome to see this is true. Some view the results of this survey as the "glass is half empty." However, this is also an opportunity to see the glass as "half full." The Department is working diligently to streamline its hunter education program and remove barriers for children wishing to hunt. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has adopted numerous special youth hunts for pheasants, waterfowl, turkeys, and big game. The cost of youth hunting and fishing licenses is also reduced in price to help alleviate some of the financial burden. Youth hunting and fishing clinics generate intense interest among youth. Department sponsored mentoring programs partner accomplished hunters and anglers with student hunters and fisherman. The mentoring opportunities result in positive experiences, teach outdoor ethics, and generate continued desire. The Department is also partnering with numerous youth and sporting organizations to provide youth opportunities and activities such as the Boy Scouts of America, Four H, Idaho State Bowhunters, National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited. Parents and friends must embrace programs to get their children back outdoors. "Buck the trend, Take a kid fishing or hunting!" Reference http://www.bowsite.com/bowsite/features/articles/2006survey, http://library.fws.gov/nat_survey2006_state.pdf, and http://library.fws.gov/nat_survey2006.pdf. If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.