Hunting is one of the oldest forms of human activity. Over the centuries, hunting has largely evolved from necessity to sport—although many hunters in the U.S. do process hunted animals for food.
As hunting gained popularity as a leisure activity, ecosystems suffered, which led to various regulations in order to help preserve and conserve wildlife resources. In the United States, each state has set dates for hunting seasons, thresholds for how many tags or wild game stamps are allowed, and specific areas that are off-limits to hunting in order to help preserve habitats and animal populations.
In the past several decades, the number of people with hunting licenses in the United States has been on a sharp decline. This can be attributed to a few factors, namely the rise in urbanization, the development of farmland, a lack of free time among hunters, and limited access to hunting land. Licenses peaked at roughly 17 million in the 1980s. There are 15.2 million hunting license holders in the United States as of 2021.
The drop-off in revenue from hunting licenses is starting to pose a problem for conservation groups. Thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, an 11% excise tax was placed on the sale of firearms for the purpose of funding conservation. Not only that, but the profits from hunting licenses themselves also go directly to conservation initiatives.
Stacker compiled a list of the states with the most registered hunters using data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. States are ranked by per capita hunting license holders based on 2021 data and 2021 American Community Survey population estimates, with hunting licenses, tags, permits, and stamps per capita serving as a tiebreaker.
So which states are holding steady with hunting traditions? Take a look to see where your state ranks on the list.
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