Census: More people fishing, fewer hunting in Montana

2012-09-15T21:06:00Z 2012-09-15T21:19:07Z Census: More people fishing, fewer hunting in MontanaBy BRETT FRENCH Billings Gazette missoulian.com
September 15, 2012 9:06 pm  • 

BILLINGS – Although the number of anglers rose in Montana between 2006 and 2011, the number of hunters has declined, while Wyoming saw increases on both fronts, according to a comparison of data from U.S. Census Bureau surveys.

The Census Bureau released its 2011 state-specific data to the public last week. Across the nation, the survey showed a growing interest in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. Between 2006 and 2011, there was an 11 percent increase in the number of anglers and a 9 percent rise in hunters nationwide. An estimated 38 percent of the population – more than 91.1 million people age 16 and older – enjoyed outdoor activities related to fishing, hunting and wildlife watching.

The numbers could reflect a nation deciding to invest in outdoor-based traditional family activities closer to home as the economy slipped into a recession. They could also reflect an increasing push by wildlife agencies, gear manufacturers, television shows and nonprofit groups to engage children at a younger age through free programs and activities in the wake of studies that have shown a disconnect between many children and their natural surroundings.


Still, the numbers remain relatively small as a percentage of the entire U.S. population. The survey found 14 percent of the U.S. population fished, while only 6 percent hunted. The Mountain region, which includes Montana and Wyoming, had participation rates of only 15 percent in fishing and 6 percent in hunting.

Wildlife watching was the most popular activity, with 29 percent of U.S. residents saying they took part, although the survey showed no increase in the popularity of the activity.

The biggest states naturally recorded the largest participation rates, with Texas boasting the most hunters and anglers at 1.1 million and 2.4 million, respectively. Florida had the most resident and nonresident anglers – 3.1 million. As a percentage of the population, South Dakota – with 21 percent – had the highest participation rate of residents in hunting. Wyoming ranked third with an 18 percent participation rate.

Among anglers, it was no surprise that Alaska, with its popular salmon runs and ocean fishing, had the highest resident participation rate – 40 percent, while Idaho and Montana tied for fifth place with 25 percent.


Looking at the details, Montana showed an increase in the number of resident anglers from 179,000 in 2006 to 185,000 in 2011. But the number of resident hunters fell sharply from 145,000 in 2006 to 104,000 in 2011. Nonresident hunters in Montana fell less steeply, dropping from 50,000 in 2006 to 46,000 in 2011.

“There’s no doubt that there has been a downward trend and 2011 was down across the board for license buyers,” said Tom Palmer of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Palmer said there were a number of factors driving down participation in hunting in Montana last year, including a bad weather year that severely reduced some game animal numbers, a slow economy and new legislation that hiked the price of licenses for out-of-state hunters.

In Wyoming there was an increase in resident anglers, climbing from 96,000 in 2006 to 110,000 in 2011, but the state also saw an increase in resident hunters, up from 52,000 in 2006 to 76,000 in 2011.

Nationally, the survey revealed just how big wildlife, hunting and angling businesses are to states and the country as a whole. Wildlife-related recreation expenditures totaled $137.5 billion in 2011, $86.9 billion for just hunting and fishing. The average U.S. hunter spent more than $2,400 and the average angler dropped more than $1,200.

In Montana in 2011, total wildlife-associated expenditures amounted to $1.4 billion and in Wyoming added up to $1.14 billion.

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(4) Comments

  1. Roger
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    Roger - September 16, 2012 2:34 pm
    The geniuses at MFWP claim they want the wolf population at 450 - yet it is already 650 because they have not properly managed wolves.
  2. logic
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    logic - September 16, 2012 9:40 am
    Bad weather? Slow economy? Kids now have smart phones? Smoke? Too wet?Hogwash! Deadwolf nailed it- predators, mainly wolves, have wiped out the majority of our game and run the rest down to the valley floor onto private property. Why is Montana resident hunting dropped 71% and Wyoming increased 68%? Simple. Shoot on site! Zero tolerance for wolves. Wyoming is smart and they know what an asset elk are to their state. A traditional lifestyle, huge source of income for business, outfitters and the state and they won't let that die. Do you think Wyoming would introduce a law like Montana did to literally break the outfitters?
    If you attend the Sportsman's Expos where the outfitters book hunts, the clients will not book in Montana because they know we have a horrible problem with our elk numbers due to wolves, so they book in Wyoming. All this is not rocket science and was predicted by the majority of Montanans years ago. We need to do the same thing with our Fish, Wildlife & Parks that should be done in Congress- clean house and re-hire everyone! We are headed in the wrong direction. Montana is NOT San Francisco!
  3. 2buck2
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    2buck2 - September 16, 2012 8:58 am
    Actually I am sure weather did have something to do with it in the past two years. This last year we have had drought and fires. Not only bad for the game but who really wants to go out in that? There are areas being shut off to hunters because of the fires. And the year before was the great monsoon! Half of MT was underwater (well, not really but pretty darn close). And I am sure the increase in license fees has impacted the non-residential hunters. I remember them writing into local papers talking about how it would be too expensive to hunt here anymore and the local hunters told them GOOD RIDDANCE. But now we are surprised that we have seen a decline? And upset by it? But I believe the real culprit is that young people just aren't interested in hunting. Why would they choose do to that when they have smart phones and Xboxes to keep themselves entertained? Sorry guys, but Davey Crockett isn't the one kids look up to now. They all want to grow up to be Tony Stark. The mountain man image is old and tired. It is the age of the geek, get used to it.
  4. Deadwolf
    Report Abuse
    Deadwolf - September 16, 2012 2:30 am
    "Palmer said there were a number of factors driving down participation in hunting in Montana last year, including a bad weather year that severely reduced some game animal numbers, a slow economy and new legislation that hiked the price of licenses for out-of-state hunters."

    Are you kidding? Typical FWP comment, "bad weather", this is nuts. It is predators, pure and simple. FWP is run by enviro's who are unwilling to own up to the fact that they part and parcel to Montana's game declines especially in the western part of the state. The decline in hunters can also be attributed to the aging population. Lack of game, age, and economy are reasons why people are turning to fishing. I am one of those. Own up to it FWP. You are contributing to the decline.
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