Published June 24 2007
Fewer anglers, huntersMINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota ranks No. 1 in the country in the number of anglers per capita, and ranks high in hunting, too, according to a new survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But the survey shows the overall number of sportsmen is dropping in Minnesota and nationwide.
Since 2001, the number of anglers nationally dropped 12 percent, from 34 million to 29.9 million, while the number of hunters dropped 4 percent, from 13 million to 12.5 million. In Minnesota, the number of anglers declined 11.7 percent, from 1.6 million to 1.4 million, and hunters dropped 9 percent, from 597,000 to 541,000.
But license sales data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows a hunter decline closer to the 4 percent national level, said Ryan Bronson, DNR hunter recruitment and retention supervisor.
Officials are concerned about the falling numbers because the sportsmen pay the bulk of the costs of fish and wildlife management through license fees and excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. In Minnesota, they fund about 90 percent of the fisheries budget and 80 percent of the wildlife budget, Bronson said.
“Hunters and anglers are the heart and soul of the North American wildlife management model, and unfortunately now that model is broken,” he said. “The resources that hunters and anglers pay for benefits everyone in the state. But there’s a declining base of people paying the bills.”
Bronson said reasons for the decline include urbanization, cultural changes as youth take up other activities and parents have less time to take their children hunting or fishing, and the fact that the baby boomer generation is aging. Federal officials said higher gas prices and hurricanes also could be reasons for the decline.
The DNR started an Angler Legacy program this year to encourage anglers to introduce someone to fishing, and angler numbers appear to be higher this year, Bronson said. The DNR has increased youth hunting programs.
The report released last week used preliminary data from the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, a national survey done every five years since 1955.