February 13, 2013

Duck Hunting On The Decline, Bad News For Ducks?

Oh, the irony. Duck populations doing well, hunters on the decline, but impending doom is on the horizon for future duck populations? That doesn’t seem like it adds up.

Since the Paleolithic times of nomadic tribes, long before the 13 Colonies were even a twinkle in King George III’s eye, hunting has been a staple for survival. Since then, hunting has grown into a historical American past time. As much a tradition as granny’s homemade apple pie or hot dogs on the grill, hunting has sustained its place atop the list of things that make America awesome since this great land got its start. With its roots in sustaining the family with fresh, free protein, it’s developed into more of a luxury or recreation over the years.

For our global readers, and non-hunters, hunting in America requires a license that can be easily obtained at a local sporting goods store. The license comes with “tags” or stamps; small stickers to identify your prized kill and ensure that it’s a legal one. If a game warden happens upon your hunt and you have a kill untagged, you’ll be facing heavy fines and possibly even jail time.

Here’s where the irony comes into place.

The amount of duck hunters is down significantly. According to Dr Mark Vrtiska from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, “Federal funding for conservation is dependent on the revenue raised by selling the duck stamps, a unique dynamic for wildlife managers in the United States. Up to 98 percent of money raised by the duck stamps is used to purchase or lease habitat within the National Wildlife Refuge system.”

The annual sales of the ‘duck stamp’, the Federal license needed to hunt, are rapidly diminishing. “While over 2,100,000 stamps were sold annually in the 1970’s, between 2004 and 2008 this declined to 1,300,000. This fall is continuing with an annual decline of 36 percent in duck stamp sales.”

Less hunters equals more ducks, right? Wrong.

In stark contrast, less hunters is truly bad news for the ducks. With 98 percent of the revenue that funds wildlife habitats coming from the sales of duck hunting licenses, and those licenses being on the decline at a rate of 36 percent annually, those poor little ducks would probably rather sacrifice a buddy for a safe haven to reproduce.

There are a number of factors that could be playing into the decrease in duck hunting. Some of the reasons could be, but surely aren’t limited to, members of the baby boomer generation being too old to hunt any more. Those great men and women of yesteryear are the ones that made up the bulk of the hunters. The recession could also be to blame. People are tightening their financial belts, and hunting is not a cheap hobby. Sex, race, and ethnicity also play a huge role. Since numbers are based on American population as a whole, and America grows in diversity like a weed in the spring, it makes sense that the numbers are lower. According to the National Survey cited below, 97 percent of hunters are white males. There are a number of reasons, but the writing has been on the wall for quite some time.

As cited in 2006 by Delta Water Fowl, “The 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation confirmed the gloomy headlines: Hunter numbers slumped to 12.5 million, the lowest they’ve been since 1970; waterfowling took the biggest hit, falling 27 percent since 2001.”

In a nutshell, if you hunt already, hunt more. If not, pick it up as a hobby, and share it with your children when they’re old enough to understand the responsibility that comes along with it. I’ve only been a few times, but every single one of my hunts were a time I won’t soon forget.

I wonder what’s Elmer Fudd’s take is on this issue. That’s all folks.

Image Credit: jps / Shutterstock

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