The Buck Stops Here

With hunters trading rifles for video games, who will fund state parks?

Buck-Stops-Here

AP Photo / Sue Beyer, The Express-Times

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Call it the annual donning of the orange. Every autumn, hunters load equipment (and Bud Light) and head to rural retreats in search of game.  

In most states, hunting is more than an annual tradition—it’s the foundation of budgets to preserve wildlife and parklands. So news that hunting is on the decline is bad news for the environment, reports Governing (Nov. 2010). According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calculations, the number of hunters dropped from 17 million in 1975 to 12.5 million in 2006.  

In part, this is a result of an increased concentration of people in cities, the magazine asserts, as well as declining interest in hunting among young people: “Teens and adults alike are more likely to pick up a Nintendo Wii handset than a rifle.”  

In addition to buying hunting tags, licenses, and permits, hunters generate direct revenue for state fish and wildlife departments through taxes on guns, ammunition, and equipment. Already strapped by recession-era budgets, traditional hunting states are seeing the declining revenues from the hunt as a major threat.  

Various programs are beginning to turn the tide, primarily through generating interest among youth. According to the pro-hunting organization Families Afield, the ranks of youth hunters has in recent years grown by about 388,000.

Cover-MA11-thumbnailThis article first appeared in the March-April 2011 issue of Utne Reader.