As Goes Hunting, So Goes Wildlife

Add up the price tags on every firearm, bow, bullet and arrow, plus more, multiply by 11%, and that’s how much sportsman who purchase from Tall Tales Sporting Goods in Russell, PA will contribute to wildlife conservation. It has been built into the price tag through the Pittman-Robertson Act since 1937. Compound that with revenue from every store, large and small in all 50 states, and it’s serious money for wildlife. Contributions by non-hunters pale in comparison. (Steve Sorensen photo)

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Fewer and fewer hunting licenses are being sold, which forecasts a crisis in wildlife funding. And if today’s antagonism toward firearms ever rids society of guns, the decline in hunting revenues will be tragic for wildlife.

Most people grasp the idea that forest rangers and game wardens on our public lands must receive salaries. But many people don’t realize that North American wildlife is abundant and accessible on both private and public lands primarily because hunters pay billions of dollars to support it. Yes. Billions. And the benefits are not just for the animals we hunt. It’s for every creature in nature’s complex, interdependent ecosystem.

Those who think wildlife is just there, and that we have wildlife only to the extent man doesn’t interfere with it, are simply uninformed.

Let me ask—when was the last time you made a contribution to help wildlife? If you’re a hunter you made a recent contribution when you bought your hunting license. Funding went into your state game agency for habitat, research, law enforcement, disease control, water quality, education and other endeavors. When you bought a new bow or firearm, 11% of what you spent went into a federal fund that was distributed to your state for wildlife. Even if you bought nothing more than a box of ammunition, you contributed 11% of the price into that same fund.

That’s why wildlife in North America gets most of its financial support from hunters. And that money isn’t just spent on deer and ducks. It benefits everything including songbirds to salamanders. If we plant fruit trees, it’s not just deer that eat. It’s squirrels and turkeys, too. Then foxes and coyotes as well as hawks and owls feed on prey animals. Vultures clean up, too. Every plant and animal (and man) participates in this circle of life.

A report from the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and the Arizona Game and Fish Department tells us “The collective annual budget of state wildlife agencies is an extraordinary $5.63 billion dollars… the annual equivalent of paying the entire New York Yankees’ roster for more than 25 years, and greater than the total economic impact of eight NFL Super Bowls.” About 60% of that money comes directly from hunters and anglers.

If this flow of dollars would come to an end, no model has been proposed to replace that money. Certainly no anti-hunting organization offers one. Although anti-hunters win an occasional skirmish by banning a hunt here and there, they contribute very little to wildlife funding.

If you’re not a hunter, you may appreciate wildlife just as much, but have you made a contribution to your state’s game agency? When organizations raise money to lobby against hunting, I’d venture to say virtually no one participating in those protestations has a clue about the peril wildlife would suffer if they succeeded in their efforts. Many of their members and supporters enjoy birdwatching, photographing nature, hiking and similar pursuits, but these endeavors don’t pay a dime for wildlife. Some may brag about being non-consumptive users of wildlife, but people don’t buy licenses to watch birds, nor do their investments in cameras and walking sticks provide tax revenue for wildlife.

Demographics tell us hunters are aging out of their sport, and declining license sales will also mean a reduction in tax revenue that supports wildlife. Without other sources of revenue, state wildlife agencies will need to compete for dwindling dollars in state budgets. This risks our wildlife management moving from a scientific model to a political one, and that can only result in divided interests. It won’t benefit wildlife.

I’m convinced that the vast majority of people who enjoy the outdoors have no idea that hunters contribute the lion’s share in ongoing financial contributions, and that’s why wildlife thrives in North America. I’ll wager that birdwatchers and other non-consumptive users of would resist making any financial contributions through a required license. Even if they did agree, the money wouldn’t come close to matching the dollars hunters contribute.

Hunting makes an enormous financial contribution to wildlife, and finances always lead to a bottom line. Here, the bottom line is this—as goes hunting, so goes wildlife.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at [email protected], and read more of his thoughts about hunting at