December 5, 2022

How Hunting Supports Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Two male turkeys strut with fanned and puffed up feathers across green grass.

Some people don’t see the purpose of hunting. They believe it is a cruel pastime or that nature will reduce overabundant wildlife populations. Hunters know that their lifestyles significantly affect wildlife.

The government did not regulate hunting before the late 19th century. At the time, over-hunting was hurting species. Concerned hunters and sportsmen realized that our natural resources were not limitless, and they worked with Congress to protect wildlife. 

Today, hunting and wildlife conservation go hand in hand. 

Why Do People Hunt?

People have been hunting to survive since the first humans walked the Earth. Though our lives are different now, many people still follow the tradition of their ancestors and seek kinship with nature.

Hunting is more than killing for sport. It’s the joy of immersing yourself in nature. It’s a way to slow down and decompress from our busy lives. Hunting is how many people connect with friends and explore new places. For many families, hunters put food on the table.

Many people enjoy the challenge and strategy that goes into hunting. They like learning from every experience and building new skills. Then, many pass those skills on to their children and grandchildren. Hunting is an activity a family can do together—away from screens. 

There are physical and mental health benefits from spending time outside, too. Most people spend their days sitting indoors. Hunting requires you to be physically active as you hike to your spot or stalk game. 

Being outside boosts your cognitive capacities. Mental health risk factors are lower in people who spend time in green spaces. Studies show that 20 to 30 minutes in nature can reduce cortisol levels and improve mood. Other researchers have found that time outside can restore our ability to focus

Hunters Support Wildlife & Conservation Efforts

While there are many reasons to hunt, one of the best motivators is that hunting helps conservation. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is founded on the idea that wildlife belongs to all citizens. Everyone should have the opportunity to hunt and fish, so wildlife must be conserved and protected. 

During the 20th century, the United States began to pass laws protecting wildlife and supporting habitat conservation efforts.

The Lacey Act

In 1900, sportsmen worked with Congress to pass the Lacey Act, which enforced wildlife protection laws. The Lacey Act has been amended since to ensure further protections and limitations on wildlife shipped to and from the United States. 

Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

Early conservationists helped protect native birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 makes taking protected migratory birds illegal. It enforces treaties the United States has entered with Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia. 

Hunters and conservation organizations helped pass these laws. In addition to pushing for legal protections for wildlife, hunters also continue to fund conservation efforts. 

Federal Duck Stamps

As state fish and wildlife agencies formed, people realized these agencies needed a dedicated source of funding. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed two pieces of legislation to provide conservation funding. 

The first law Congress passed was the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act in 1934. Since then, hunters are required to purchase and carry a Federal Duck Stamp to hunt migratory waterfowl. 

When hunters buy Federal Duck Stamps, 98% of the stamp purchase goes to protecting wetland habitat. 

Since the program started, Duck Stamps have raised over $1.1 billion for waterfowl conservation efforts. That’s all credit to hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who purchase Duck Stamps each year. 

The Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937

Roosevelt signed the Wildlife Restoration Act a few years after the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. The Wildlife Restoration Act is also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Under this law, manufacturer taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment fund conservation and wildlife management. The law imposes an 11% tax on these items, distributing the revenue to state governments. States can also use the funds for hunter education. 

All gun and ammunition manufacturers or importers must apply this tax to their sales, regardless of whether their purpose is hunting, sport shooting or personal defense. 

Hunters’ demand for equipment funds conservation. Since 1939, the Wildlife Restoration Act has raised over $14 billion (over $22 billion if adjusted for inflation) for state wildlife conservation. 

The Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950

The Wildlife Restoration Act’s success inspired anglers and legislators to advocate for a similar law supporting fishery conservation. The Sport Fish Restoration Act was passed in 1950, implementing an excise tax on fishing equipment. What’s collected protects fish and their habitats. 

Revenue comes from:

  • A 10% tax on fishing tackle
  • A 3% tax on fish finders and trolling motors
  • Import duties on tackle and pleasure boats
  • A portion of boat fuel and small engine taxes

States must match 25% of the funding with locally generated revenue. That’s where anglers come in! If you want to fish, you must buy a license. Fishing licenses bring in the income needed to meet the match. 

Since 1952, the Sport Fish Restoration Act has generated over $10 billion in revenue (over $15 billion if adjusted for inflation). Without people’s interest in fishing, states wouldn’t have the revenue needed to restore habitats and manage fish populations. 

Hunting License Sales 

Hunters have a direct effect on state funding for conservation. Hunting licenses and excise taxes on equipment generate 60% of funding for state wildlife agencies. 

All funding from license purchases goes directly to these state agencies. States rely on licenses to match funds for the Wildlife Restoration Act and Sport Fish Restoration Act. 

Who buys licenses? 

Hunters and anglers. 

Hunters are crucial to providing sustainable funding for these agencies. The number of people who hunt affects the funding states receive each year. In 2021, over 13 million people bought hunting licenses. 

Hunting License Sales From 2019 to 2021

2019 to 2020: The Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports reports an increase in hunting license sales from 2019 to 2020. 

2020 to 2021: The COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdowns and travel restrictions in many areas, compelling more people to get outside and hunt. As restrictions eased in 2021, hunting license sales decreased by 1.9%.

Resident license sales were down in 2021, but non-resident license sales were up. The increase in non-resident license sales boosted total sales higher than in 2019 (pre-pandemic levels). 

Hunters Help Control Wildlife Populations 

While hunting funds conservation, it also manages wildlife populations. 

Our country has more busy cities and suburban areas than ever before. In these areas, wildlife overpopulation can cause accidents and injuries to humans. Deer, for example, cause over 1 million car accidents nationally every year.

Managed hunting reduces reproduction in overpopulated species. Scientists model population growth and set harvest quotas based on those models. Research and monitoring is always done so hunting doesn’t put the population at risk of extinction.  

Animal population levels should be compatible with what the habitat can support and the amount of human activity in the area. Hunters help reduce unwanted human-wildlife conflict in our communities. 

Hunting is more than a fun activity or food source. Hunting is conservation. We rely on hunters to maintain habitats and support wildlife for the future. 

Are you ready to book your hunt? Do your part in helping with conservation and have a great adventure while you’re at it!

Sign up on today and browse available guided hunts.  

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