In February 2021, Todd Richmond for the Associated Press reported in; Hunting group sues to force Wisconsin wolf season, that Kansas-based hunting group, Hunting Nation Inc, was pursuing legal action to ensure that Wisconsin complied and accommodated a wolf hunting season since Federal and State government had delisted the Great Lakes Gray Wolf from the endangered species list on January 4th, 2020. Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board approved a wolf hunt on February 19th, 2021, with a quota of 119 wolves .
After nine days, the season was closed since hunters exceeded the approved harvest quota. In an interview with Science Friday for Minnesota Public Radio, Professor Treves from the University of Wisconsin-Madison said, “I think what the Wisconsin wolf hunt shows us is how quickly a determined group of hunters and poachers can reduce a wolf population to the level where it’s going to be endangered again” . This episode in Wisconsin highlights the dynamic and nuanced relationship between governments and the citizenry in the hunting paracosm. This activity’s highly regulated nature lends to governments sometimes taking an essential role as an enabler and protector.
In a cleverly titled article by the BBC, Are US hunters becoming an endangered species? Jonathan Berr writes, “There is a demographic time bomb facing the US hunting industry as older hunters quit the sport at a faster rate than younger ones can replace them. It’s a problem that is decades in the making and presents challenges for US wildlife conservation, which is funded by license sales and taxes on hunting gear” . To address Mr. Berr’s latter argument first, a visit to Bass Pro Shop’s website or its subsidiary, Cabela’s website, will illustrate that hunting gear is not cheap and is made for a niche clientele. Having the right equipment is vital in successfully protecting oneself.
The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published by the U.S. Wildlife and Fish Service, informs just how much is spent on Hunting and related activities. The Average per spender for the following categories Firearms, Archery, Hunting Dogs, Camping equipment, and Processing/Taxidermy, were $1140, $773, $762, $419, and $404, respectively . A hunting package from Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch can range from $1500 to $10,500, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish. Interestingly, the average per spender on Licenses, stamps, tags, and permits was $95 . The $1500 package offered in Oklahoma does not include the corresponding state license. Now to the former point raised by Mr. Berr from the BBC, license sales. Unlike driver’s licenses, hunting licenses are applied every year. Different states offer various licenses, and a key characteristic among those licenses is resident vs. non-resident.
Historical Hunting License Data between 2016 and 2020 compiled from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is used below to show how hunters’ licenses, stamps, tags, and permits have fared in the past five years.
Midwest and South regions of the United States have seen an increase in the total number of hunting licenses, tags, permits, and stamps than the more urban areas of West and Northeast. States like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Idaho have experienced year-over-year increases. As mentioned earlier, hunting licenses, tags, permits, and stamps are categorized into two categories: Resident and Non-Resident.
For Resident Hunting licenses, tags, permits, and stamps, out of the four regions, the Northeast has the fewest, and the Midwest region has the most. Only Pennsylvania and New York registered over 1 million within the Northeast region for the last five years. Interestingly, Wisconsin’ reported the strangest fluctuation between 2016 and 2019, wherein in 2019, the state saw a decline of approximately -84% from 2018-2019 and an increase of roughly 835%.
Like Resident Hunting licenses, tags, permits, and stamps, out of the four regions, the Northeast has the fewest, and the Midwest region has the most. While many states reported over 1 million in Resident Hunting licenses, tags, permits, and stamps, only Wisconsin highlights having 1 million non-resident licenses, tags, permits, and stamps in 2019. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that hunting seems to be a recreational activity that operates and attracts individuals primarily on a resident basis and not on a non-resident basis. It is the current residents of the state that support the hunting ecosystem and its tangential markets.
Wisconsin is unique because of its behavior within the data. Further deconstruction led to a debate in 2013 Wisconsin about the approved use of Crossbows during hunting season. In 2013, the Wisconsin legislature introduced a bill that would expand crossbows into deer hunting with a progress evaluation in 2019. The 2019 report, Wisconsin’s Evaluation of Crossbow Use and Season Structure, highlighted that number of crossbow bow licenses and subsequent revenue generated increased 17.8% and 16.6% per year . Deer Harvest data provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources suggests that even though the crossbow harvest is on the incline, a crossbow is preferred more for antlered harvest than guns which are selected for antlerless harvest . Juxtaposing the Share Of Population With A Job Fell To Mid 1980s levels chart prepared by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Historical Deer Harvest chart prepared by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; visible is lack of the recovery in the curve to pre-2008 levels.
Unlike traditional bow and arrows, crossbows do not share universal access across the United States. According to Ten Point Crossbow Technologies, certain states only allow specific demographics to use the instruments, whereas, in Oregon, crossbows are illegal hunting equipment . Crossbows allow attracting a more diverse demographic for their ease in functionality and maintenance than other hunting instruments. The 2019 Wisconsin Evaluation stated that “half of those who prefer crossbows agreed that they started using a crossbow because they could not use a vertical bow. Only 10 percent agreed they started using a crossbow because they could not use a gun” . This suggests that a crossbow is not an automatic substitution but a compliment or transition from a more complex method to less complicated means.
While hunting is not as popular as it once was and has shown signs of stagnation; diversification and acceptance of different hunting equipment into the state guidelines can be used as an attractive instrument to increase permit sales.