The importance of hunter recruitment

By Daniel G. Toole, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

In the not-too-distant past, hunting enjoyed a larger percentage of participation than it currently does. As a society, perhaps we have become too busy to enjoy the slower pace of hunting opportunities. There is certainly more competition for our leisure time and it is easy to dedicate it to other activities.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is considering several questions, such as, should we actively recruit new hunters, or just expect that each generation will produce hunters? What is the value of increasing hunter numbers for Alabama?

Hunters have a tendency to think that almost everyone hunts or at least enjoys our abundant wildlife resources. In rural communities, this may be true, but the majority of us live in and around cities. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts make up only a small percentage of Alabama’s population. Recruitment of new hunters not only affects the future of hunting in Alabama but also our state’s economy.

Although an increasing proportion of society is underutilizing the many opportunities that exist in the outdoors, a strong group continues the hunting tradition with a great deal of passion. Most typically, they are middle- to older-aged men who have grown up hunting and still keep it as a priority. While the numbers are not quite as high as they once were, these hunters are still passing on the tradition of hunting by recruiting younger hunters. They are investing their time and effort in children and young adults by teaching them the outdoor knowledge and skills they have learned over the years. These hunters help ensure the future of the hunting tradition is passed on to the next generation.

In addition to the value of passing on outdoor skills, recruiting younger hunters into the sport of hunting also creates an economic benefit for all citizens. As with any other sport or activity, equipment purchased for participation costs money. Hunters annually purchase a variety of supplies, some of which are directly related to hunting while others are not. Purchases of gasoline, food, overnight lodging and many other supplies are typical for any activity, whereas firearms, ammunition, treestands, archery equipment, game calls, camouflage clothing, etc. are purchases specifically related to hunting. The revenue generated by these purchases aids our economy in a significant way. According to a 2011 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the total expenditure by hunters in Alabama is $1.2 billion annually. These expenditures support more than 27,000 jobs and contribute $104 million in state and local taxes. It is worth noting here the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries does not receive any state tax dollars–so you would have to conclude that hunting does benefit our state economically.

So, how do we best introduce young people to hunting? One of the better ways is by starting with small game hunting such as a dove shoot, or rabbit or squirrel hunting with a dog. Typically, deer hunting happens early in the morning or late in the evening in cold weather and requires a hunter to sit quietly and patiently for a long period before a deer presents itself. Younger individuals may have a better first-time outdoor experience if they can move around and have more “action” than a deer stand provides. The interaction with fellow hunters and dogs associated with small game hunting greatly reduces the chances of boredom and helps to ensure the new hunter will want a return trip to the outdoors.

Also, to add further enjoyment to a first-time hunting trip, other activities can be included such as camping, going to the shooting range, hiking and looking for outdoor signs/tracks, or maybe even letting one of those electronic games come along for short periods of use. The key is to keep the outdoor experience fun and enjoyable, capturing the interest of a novice hunter, which will enable us to pass along our hunting tradition to the next generation.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit