Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Press Release
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Downward trend in small game hunting participation


October 10, 2019

The most recent small game hunter survey from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources revealed the fewest number of hunters pursuing species like grouse, waterfowl and squirrels since the DNR began keeping track of these figures in 1969. Small game license sales have been trending lower for the past 20 years.

“Every year that license sales go down means our challenges in maintaining healthy wildlife habitat go up,” said Nicole Davros, farmland wildlife research supervisor. “Declines in hunter numbers affect both hunters and non-hunters alike. License dollars help pay for habitat management that also benefits the water that we drink and the pollinators that help produce our food.”

The survey, mailed to a sample of small game hunters annually, helps the DNR estimate both hunter numbers and harvest by type of small game. Wildlife managers use the survey to inform population monitoring and decisions about habitat management and hunting regulations.

Tracking license sales is also important because hunters generate the largest portion of the funding that pays for managing wildlife and their habitats. A continued decline in small game hunting license sales could affect the extent to which the agency can manage wildlife and their habitats in the future.

License sales and resulting harvest estimates reflect an aging hunting population. The DNR has programs to retain hunters and recruit new and lapsed hunters, but they haven’t kept up with the number of hunters leaving the fields.

Contributing to the decline in hunter numbers are many factors including competing activities, time constraints, limited access to hunting lands and changing relationships with the natural world. Amid the challenges, one effective way to recruit and retain hunters is to provide continued mentorship.

“The key is to continue to support and engage our new hunters,” Davros said. “Don’t just take a person out once. Keep asking them to hunt with you and provide continued support as they learn.”


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