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Frye: Big money in outdoors

Bob Frye
| Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Maybe it's all the camo.

I mean, runners are visible, right? Go to a 5K or a marathon sometime, or even watch one on television.

The crowd of competitors is often huge.

And yet…

Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers – those who observe, feed and photograph wildlife -- dwarf them in number. They're a hidden army, one that's not shy about opening its wallet.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service every five years puts out its “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.” The preliminary version of the 2016 report was released this week.

“With 101.6 million Americans 16 years of age and older participating in 2016, wildlife-related recreation is clearly an important leisure activity in the U.S.,” the report reads. “This means an average of four out of 10 people you meet participate in some type of wildlife recreation. In comparison, there were 64 million runners.”

And that counts only those people age 16 and older.

The survey was not able to determine how many children ages 6 to 15 took part in wildlife watching. But it estimates the number of such young anglers at 8.1 million and the number of young hunters at 1.4 million.

Compared to 2011, the number of hunters was down by about 2 percent. The report labels the change in hunting as not “statistically significant.”

But hunting organizations already are taking that as a call to action.

John Frampton, President and CEO of the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, said hunting needs to be a focus of recruitment, retention and re-activation — or R3 — programs.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is calling for a change to federal Pittman-Robertson funding rules to allow for some of the excise tax collected on the sale of firearms and ammunition to be used for R3 efforts. That would allow state agencies to modernize licensing and hunter education training, do more habitat work and address threats like chronic wasting disease, said the Partnership's president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh.

Without those changes, “the implications for conservation are dire,” he adds. Fishing and wildlife watching have seen no such decrease. In fact, the report notes, participation in both increased.

All outdoorsmen and women have one thing in common: They spend. The report said hunters, anglers and wildlife-watchers doled out $156.3 billion in 2016.

One other thing was notable. For the first time, the Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to estimate the number of non-hunters who participate in archery and firearms target shooting.

Findings show there are more than 32 million target shooters using firearms and 12.4 million people engaged in archery.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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