Hunting and fishing on decline, says Census Bureau survey |

Hunting and fishing on decline, says Census Bureau survey

Summit Daily News
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Americans are hunting and fishing significantly less than they were a decade ago, according to a recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Preliminary data released June 19 from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which was conducted for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reported a 15 percent decline in hunting and fishing over the last 10 years.

“I don’t predict doom and gloom for hunting and fishing,” survey manager Sylvia Cabrera said from Washington, D.C., during a phone interview on Friday.

“There’s still a lot of healthy interest in them and there’s still a lot of money being spent on them.”

Cabrera, who said the survey is an important tool for various conservation organizations as they seek both grant money and new legislation, cited droughts, hurricanes, pollution, gas prices, the war in Iraq and urbanization as possible contributors to the recent trend.

“Urbanization is affecting land use for two reasons,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife official said.

“It creates an urban culture and it pushes the resources further away.”

Although the survey’s findings were that 38 percent of the U.S. population aged 16 and older hunted, fished or observed wildlife and spent $120 billion while doing so, results for Colorado won’t be released until mid-July, according to Cabrera.

As for determining local trends, it depends on who you ask.

“Our sales have increased steadily each of the past six years,” said Mitch Vogt, who is a manager and guide at Cutthroat Anglers in Silverthorne.

“But I know there’s a lot of shops that have closed in Denver.

I call it the ‘River Runs Through It’ effect. A lot of people wanted to open their own shops after they saw that movie, then all of the sudden there was more competition.”

Vogt said he’s also noticed a steady annual increase in the number of hunting and fishing licenses Cutthroat Anglers issues.

“It’s hard to tell if that means an increase in activity though,” he said. “There’s a lot of places you can get a license, but if you’re hauling a fifth-wheel trailer, it’s probably easier to stop by here than the supermarket.

We’re also the last stop on the right (in Silverthorne) for people heading north toward Kremmling.”

Dale Fields, who opened Summit Guides in 1984, said his fly fishing business has declined significantly over the years.

“In 25 years I’ve seen the number of trips per summer go down from 800 to 300,” Fields said.

“Part of it is the economic picture. Back then I charged $40 for a half day and now it’s four times that.

We’re taking fewer trips at a higher price, so the revenue is about the same.”

Colorado Division of Wildlife technician Doug Gillham spoke to how the hunting landscape has changed over the last quarter century during a recent phone interview.

“This data shows that we’re not recruiting as many hunters,” Gillham said.

“The average age of the hunting public has increased.

… Society is becoming increasingly more urbanized and kids are getting more involved with organized sports or video games and spending less time in nature.”

Gillham also pointed to the decrease in farmers and ranchers, who traditionally teach their children outdoor recreational activities.

While less people seem to be interested in hunting and fishing, wildlife-related activities such as bird watching and photography have increased 13 percent over the last decade.

“It’s very easy to set up a bird feeder in your back yard,” Cabrera said. “There’s no license required and there’s no special time of year to do it.

There’s also a lot of crossover with people who hunt and fish.”

The National Survey report is available at

Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at

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