Deer hunter decline could cause issues for DNR funding
The entire Upper Midwest is seeing a decade-long decline in the number of deer hunters.
"To date here right now we're not seeing a significant decline in the number of hunters," said MDNR wildlife biologist John DePue.
DNR offices may not see a big decline in the number of deer hunters from last year. In fact, license sales to date are up 14,000 for the State of Michigan. However, the past 15 years show an ongoing decline in deer hunters across the state.
"It is extremely important for how we fund our agency. That is the model in North America. Those license sales are used for things other than just deer. Habitat conservation measures on non-game species. Habitat measures that are going to benefit a whole host of species: ruff grouse, turkeys, water fowl," said DePue.
Over the past 15 years, baby boomers have started aging out of deer hunting. Sportsman clubs see a lack of interest from younger generations, and respond with youth engagement programs.
"A lot of kids might participate in a youth hunt. They might go through a hunting training program. They might try it once or twice but we are not seeing a lot of those young boys really stay in it," said Michigan Tech sociology professor Richelle Winkler.
The future of deer hunting may be female. While male participation is down, younger women are much more likely to hunt.
"We're much more likely to find fathers and grandfathers taking their daughters and granddaughters out hunting today in comparison to what was the norm 20, 30, or 40 years ago," said Winkler.
U.S. Congress is considering a bi-partisan bill for alternate conservation funding. It would earmark part of proceeds from oil and gas activity on Federal land to support wildlife conservation.