DNR: Hunting decline could have serious impact on conservation

WEST MICHIGAN-Hunting is big game in Michigan, but not as big as it once was. Conservations say that decline could have a serious impact beyond the woods, but it's something they say they knew was coming.

As baby boomers are getting to an age where they stop going out, less hunting licenses are being sold, which means less revenue to work with. The decline could lead to a potential crisis for conservation and wildlife funding.

The DNR says that over the last two decades the number of licenses sold for Michigan deer hunting season have quickly declined.

"We don't have the same recruitment from our other generations so we don't have as much coming in from X generation type people so we are see a decline in those hunters. it's also that over the last 50 years it's been a generation shift from our urban environment where they live in the countryside I mean rural they moved to urban and we've seen less hunters come out of a urban environment," says Mark Sargent, Southwest Michigan wildlife regional supervisor.

And that's a problem because licenses fund wildlife and conservation efforts.

"90 percent is funded from hunters licenses or hunter generated dollars. So that means if we get a declining number of hunters we have less dollars to put toward wildlife conservation," says Sargent.

Over the years the fund largely came from those baby boomers who are now aging out of the sport.

"That group as they get older and that group of generation moves through, they start getting in their 60 and 70s, it's physically a lot harder for them to get out doors and a lot of times, somewhat, they lose some interest in hunting," Sargent says.

But there is hope.

Grand ValleY Sporting Goods owner, Gary Poliski, says he is seeing some interests in hunting from the youth.

"If their parents are involved in it then they get involved in it and i't something that they do with their fathers, that they do with their grandfathers. There's a lot of things tugging at them for their time but the people that embrace it and are passionate about it now it's still a very strong industry for sure," says Poliski.

But, whether or not the interests will continue is too early to tell.

But, conservationists are staying prepared.

"We are working with some private marketing companies to talk about the conservation mission, the conservation funding model and how people can be active in that to help promote conservation of wildlife and fishery resources," says Sargent.

The DNR says they are seeing an increase in women hunters and are hoping their programs will help get more kids on board and out hunting. You can find out more by clicking here. 
And don't forget, firearm deer season in Michigan kicks off this Thursday, November 15th.

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7 comments

  • Kirk

    I hunted over 20 years ago and just got back into deer hunting to take my son, and it mind boggling how the dnr has changed buying a deer license. There are many different hunt, along with point restrictions and a base license, zones and many rules that have changed since the last time I purchased a license to hunt deer.

    My biggest fear hunting is breaking one of the many laws that are now in place. I spent some time on the Michigan Sportsman Forum and found there are a lot of people who, have questions about if it’s legal to use a flashlight to get to your blind. Sounds simple, but look at all of the responses. Also it’s now illegal to carry a loaded firearm to your blind, yet you can carry a loaded firearm small game hunting. I don’t know many people who want to chamber a shell in there pump shotgun when they get to their hunting spot.

    Last year to be on the safe side I emailed the MI DNR some questions, they did answer my questions, but the bigger question is why has deer hunting become so blundered with rules and regs?

  • We the people

    I think it’s just to expensive to buy licenses, they force you to buy a license you don’t use and that has a lot of people mad, I just think they risk it and don’t buy any licenses.

  • Zach

    I just live south of Morenci, MI and just got out of the military after 16 years. A lot of farmers and land owners don’t want anybody hunting their lands because of liability reasons and trust issues nowadays. I have a brother in law that was going to allow me to hunt on his land in Michigan but the out of state licenses are pretty expensive. So since I don’t own enough land to hunt and I don’t feel like fighting it out with 10 other guys for one deer on public hunting land, I just will not ever hunt again.

  • Dave

    Hunting has changed a lot since I started 30+ years ago. There’s less land available to hunt: many of the areas I used to hunt are now developed and full of subdivisions and houses. Land that isn’t developed has been purchased by larger corporate farms or leased out to a hunter (or group of hunters) and is no longer accessible. There’s still public land to hunt, but demand for its use has gone up and more and more people are using the same chunk of State land.

    Prices of licenses has gone up over the years to help cover the declining license sales, but as they cost gets higher, its harder to justify buying a license that’s getting harder to use. What was a family tradition growing up is slowly fading away as there are fewer and fewer deer camps “up north” and fewer people are being introduced into hunting. I used to plan on taking vacation during deer season, but I find that I no longer plan my extra vacation time around hunting season, but more around getting things done around the as more and more time is required working to make the same amount of money.

    I don’t think there is one single answer to this situation, but a lot of little things that is taking people away from hunting.

  • dufuss

    I f laws were changed to protect the farmers from liability, may be the sales would go up because it would open a lot of prime hunting ground.

  • Aaron

    It will never again be what it once was. For one the license fees are really high now. Buck tags used to be $14 and doe tags were $3. Now they’re both $20 each. They also use gimmicks like if you want a 2nd buck tag you gotta buy it with your first one instead of if/when you actually need it. People don’t like being gouged like that. With fishing they doubled the cost by forcing everyone to buy the trout and salmon stamp whether you fish for those or not. Also there’s all those pesky oil spills, sewage overflows, and now big PFAS dumping that’s rendering a lot of places unsafe to eat the fish out of as well as any game that drinks the water or eats the vegetation around them contaminated with deposits from local flooding. Then there’s cwd now which is spreading and they’ve found it transferred to monkeys who ate contaminated meat so probably has the potential to transfer to humans. Then you have more chemicals used in agriculture these days that end up in the fish and game so they aren’t as healthy as in our grandparents day. Meanwhile all that PFAS contaminated water that was just found in over 20 city municipal water systems…they dumped it all in the rivers to dispose of it. They choose profits over natural resources at every turn – cheap landfills, Nestle doubling their rate of draining the aquifer, et al. Good luck with the future water crisis too because there’s carcinogens in a lot of municipal water supplies in Michigan that simply aren’t on the list yet because only a few new ones are allowed onto the EPA’s list annually. Then if you’re willing to accept all that and you go out fishing all day long with some friends and you accidentally catch 6 bluegils over the limit they haul you in front of the county judge and then he insults and belittles you to try to make you feel like you deserve what’s happening to you, orders you to sell your boat, etc. For 6 bluegills on a first ever fishing violation. Add in fines and costs, lawyer fees, few days of missed work, jail time if you can’t cough up money on the spot, etc. And that’s just for a 1st offense ever. Um yeah, I can see why people would stop choosing to engage in the same traditional pursuits their grandparents did to put food on the table. This was a different state back then. Far cheaper today to just go to the store. As for myself I bought my last MI hunting and fishing tags this year. After being treated so much worse than was warranted in that bluegill fiasco I decided to take my family and move south this Fall so there goes 4 less people’s hunting and fishing licenses every year… not to mention all the business taxes and revenue, charity work, and everything else we would have contributed to the community. They got away with gouging me in the present but will lose a fortune in the long term. Pure Michigan.

  • Craig Shapiro

    My dictionary defines conservation as “the protection of plants, animals, and natural areas, esp. from the damaging effects of human activity.” The DNR’s is “guarantee that hunters get another head to hang on the wall.” A sport, by the way, pits evenly matched opponents on a level playing field.