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Bucking the trend: Hunting on rise in U.S.

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When you live in a world surrounded by camo clothing, shotgun shells and caribou antlers, it's hard to swallow the statistic that less than five per cent of the Canadian population hunts. But that's a fact, according to a report published by the federal government called The Importance of Nature to Canadians: The Economic Significance of Nature-related Activities. It's an old report, based on statistics gathered in 1996, but unfortunately, it's the most current numbers we have.

South of the border, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service has just released the results of its 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Overall, about five per cent of the American population hunts -- a statistic on par with the Canadian one. But what's most interesting in this comprehensive survey is that it reveals the end of a trend. For the first time in two decades, more -- not fewer -- Americans are hunting.

Trends in the U.S. most often make their way north. Does it mean more Canadians will be heading out to hunt? Only time, or a new survey, will tell. But for now, let's have a look at the new American survey and the old Canadian one.

According to the U.S. survey, nine per cent more Americans aged 16 and up hunted in 2011 than in 2006. That adds up to 13.7 million hunters. Perhaps even more surprising is the number of kids who went out hunting. Of those aged six to 15, 13 per cent more hunted during the same period.

The average American hunter spent 21 days in the field, mostly in pursuit of elk, deer and turkey. In total, they pumped $34 billion into the economy on trips, equipment and licences, marking a 30 per cent increase in spending over five years ago. If you do the math, that means each hunter spends about $2,484 each year pursuing the sport.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that folks in higher income brackets do most of the hunting. The survey says only three per cent of Americans who earn less than $20,000 a year go out hunting. About nine per cent of Americans in the $75,000 to $99,999 household income bracket are hunters.

"What we see is a pretty significant change in direction," said Dan Ashe, Director of the Fish & Wildlife Service. "There's a growing realization that doing things outdoors is healthy."

Back in Canada, it's a lot more economical to be a hunter. Keep in mind the numbers are from 1996, but even if we adjust for inflation, hunting in Canada is a lot cheaper. According to the national average, each hunter spent $693 a year pursuing the sport. In Manitoba, hunters spent $584 a year, or about $38 a day.

In 1996, an estimated 1.2 million Canadians hunted in Canada, representing just over five per cent of the population (over 15 years of age). The majority of Canadian hunters tend to fall into the 24 to 54 year age range. Personal incomes of hunters were also higher compared with the general Canadian population.

Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at shel@shelzolkewich.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 C10

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