There’s nothing quite like hunting; the rush of adrenaline when you hit your target, teaching little ones how to spot a deer, and spending time in the great outdoors. Hunting also has surprising benefits for the environment. Hunting licenses and fees are the main source of income for wildlife agencies, and hunting can prevent overpopulation.
However, there has been a significant decrease in hunting over the years. Over the last five years, the number of hunters has decreased by 15 percent. What does this mean for recreational real estate and the future of hunting?
One of the biggest reasons for the decline in hunting is our country’s changing landscape. With the human population growing every day, prime land real estate started going towards building homes and stores instead of hunting grounds. Many old hunting spots that families have loved for generations have closed and been replaced by a mall.
Another reason that less people are hunting is the cost. The rising price of ammunition, licenses, and permits are driving away hunters who can’t afford the price hike. As you can see from this chart from longilbert.com, the cost of hunting licenses is massive for non-residents. $250 license fees are pricing some people out of the sport. Even local license costs are skyrocketing. The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission has proposed a fee increase that will raise resident license prices from $7 to a whopping $27. That’s a 26 percent increase!
Millennials haven’t been picking up the sport as much as other generations have. The biggest deterrent is that they don’t have anyone to teach them. “You don’t just get up and go hunting one day- your father or father-type figure has to have hunted,” says Mark Damian Duda, an executive director of the research firm Responsive Management. Hunting is a sport which requires a lot of teaching and expertise. With a growing number of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers hanging up their hunting vests, Millennials are left without anyone to introduce them to the sport.
There are a lot of downsides to the decrease in hunting. The group that suffers most from the lack of hunting is, surprisingly, the environment. Hunting can prevent over-population, which can wreck an ecosystem and leave animals starving as they compete for food. Hunting fees and licenses are the main source of income for many wildlife preserves and recreational land real estate. This income pays the employees, maintains the grounds, and funds projects to help the wildlife. Without this income, many parks are struggling to pay their bills.
Does the decreasing number of hunters mean the end for the sport? Not at all. There is still a very active hunting community and positive trends that show hunting increases in certain states. The same study that showed overall hunters decreasing also showed a 9 percent increase in hunting participation from 2006 to 2011. The number of paid hunting license holders has actually increased in certain states. In Texas, the number has jumped from 1,060,455 license holders in 2015 to 1,148,765 in 2017.
The local food movement has also helped the hunting community. With a focus on shopping local and knowing where your food comes from, this movement has introduced people to hunting as a fun and sustainable way to get your dinner.
Recreational land real estate is still going. In last year’s RLI survey, sales of recreational land actually increased. Recreational and residential land real estate sales accounted for 50 percent. While interest in the sport may waver, prices per acre of land real estate remain high. The average price for hunting land real estate in the Midwest is $2,975 per acre.
While hunting is experiencing a dip in popularity, there are still many loyal fans of hunting who want to bring it back into popularity. There have been efforts by local governments to make hunting affordable and accessible again. Ryan Zinke, the United States Secretary of Interior issued orders to overturn a ban of lead ammunition and issued an order to increase hunters’ access to public land. In the community, many youth groups are teaching young people about hunting and nature. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched the Youth Hunting Program of Florida to teach young people how to hunt safety.
Hunting is going through some changes. Most of them are positive. A new movement and generation are learning about the benefits of hunting and how it can help the environment. Local government are now realizing the effects of price hikes on hunting and are taking steps to change it. With a new focus on sustainability and teaching the next generation, hunting is sure to remain a classic American pastime.