In Their Sights

By Published on .

Whether they're tracking deer in Pennsylvania or picking off squirrels in Arkansas, hunters across the nation are gearing up this month. Last year, Americans dropped $2.2 billion on hunting and firearms equipment (down 14 percent from '97), but will shell out $2.3 billion on guns and ammo this year, up 5 percent. But the camo-clad aren't just buying the basics: From 1991 to 1996, hunting expenditures for 4x4 vehicles, campers, vans, cabins, and boats leaped 215 percent, totaling $4.5 billion.2 With the bucks spent on food, travel, licenses, camping gear, and land ownership, hunters spent more than $20.6 billion in 1996.

Serious Gun Toters

- 17.3 million people over age 7 hunted with a firearm in 1998

% change from 1997: 1.6%

- 3.1 million used a muzzleloader

% change from 1997: 5.4%

- 5.6 million bow-hunted

% change from 1997: 4.7%

In the Off Hours

Hunters aren't mutually exclusive from anglers and general wildlife-watchers. In 1996, 68 percent of hunters also fished, while 27 percent of anglers hunted.

Hunters also like to:

- Fish frequently 70.6%

- Have a home workshop 40.6%

- Walk for health 33.1%

Woman Warriors

The largest percentage of women who take up weapons would rather shoot at an inanimate object:

- 2.7 million women practiced target shooting in 1998

- 1.1 million participated in target archery.

- Still, 1.8 million were actually loaded for bear (or deer or rabbit) last year.

Open Season

In 1996, hunters spent an average of 18 days afield.

- 11.3 million hunted big game (deer, elk, and bear)

- 6.9 million went after smaller fare (rabbits and squirrels)

- 3.1 million hunted migratory birds (doves, waterfowl)

- 1.5 million opted for other small animals (woodchucks, raccoons).

Home Turf

Cities with highest percentage of households that hunt/shoot:

1. Glendive, Montana 43.2%

2. Fairbanks, Alaska 41.4%

3. Missoula, Montana 40.8%

4. Marquette, Michigan 40.6%

5. Butte-Bozeman, Montana 40.5%

6. Helena, Montana 39.3%

7. Juneau, Alaska 38.6%

8. Alpena, Michigan 38.4%

9. Great Falls, Montana 37.6%

10. Wausau, Wisconsin 37.4%

Not Your Average Bear

- In 1998, the average frequent rifle/shotgun hunter (25 or more days) was a white, 35-year-old Southern male, earning $48,200/yr.

- Some 94 percent were male; 91 percent were white, 7 percent Hispanic; and 2 percent African American.

- Almost 25 percent earned less than $25,000 last year, while 16 percent pulled in $75,000 or more; 46 percent had a high school education or less; 19 percent claimed college or advanced degrees.

- Young and old are out there, too: 3 peercent were 6 to 11 years old; 16 percent were 12 to 17; 22 percent were 45 to 64; and nearly 6 percent were over 65.

Keep the Change

Last year, hunters accounted for: 29 percent at people using U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed recreation areas, 24 percent of those on Fish & Wildlife Service land, and 21 percent of people using Bureau of Land Management property. But hunters are the least likely to want to cough up the fees to support these and other federally-managed recreation sites, no matter if they're paying for trailhead parking, use of a visitor center or picnic area, or general access to the site.


(1) National Sporting Goods Association

(2) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 1996

(3) The Polk Company

(4) American Sports Data, Inc. 1999 Superstudy

(5) Roper Starch Worldwide, Recreation Roundtable's Outdoor Recreation in America 1998

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