Humans have hunted for over 2 million years. The United States National Rifle Association (NRA) says it best: “Hunting is our most authentic connection to the earth, its creatures and our past.
At its best, there is nothing else like it—an adventure that must be experienced in order to be understood. These pieces explore mankind’s enduring fascination with our original pursuit.”
Hunting in America
Every five years, the US Fish and Wildlife Service issues a report entitled the “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation”.
The most recent data available is from the 2011 report, which shows that more than 13.7 million Americans enjoyed hunting in 2011. Nearly 22 million Americans hunted at least once during the five year period between 2005 and 2010.
Hunters spent $33.7 billion on equipment and services.
Other more recent data shows that in 2016, the number of hunters in America had risen to 16.6 million.
Hunting has experienced a downward trend in the last 40 years, mainly because there has been increased urbanization in the U.S.
More people have also been questioning whether hunting is an ethical sport. However, hunting still remains very popular. Americans spend 220 million days per year hunting.
Female Hunters at 11%
In the same US Fish and Wildlife Report for the period of 2006 to 2011, a 25 percent spike in the number of female hunters was reported.
Men still by far make up the overwhelming majority of hunters, but women accounted for 11 percent of the 13.7 million hunter total.
Hunting outlets from around the nation are catching on and are offering workshops and products specifically tailored to the female outdoor enthusiast. Some are offering rifle, shotgun and bow hunting instruction. Retailers are offering smaller firearms, too.
Some male hunters even say that women tend to be better hunters because they have more patience and are more focused.
The Hunting Market Categories 
The hunting market is divided into four categories of hunting:
- Big game
- Small game
- Migratory birds
- Other animals.
Big game hunting is the biggest attraction by far, with the majority of hunters and hunting days spent on pursuing big game for either trophy horns or meat or both.
Popular North American big game species are elk, moose, bison, mule deer and other forms of deer such as the white-tailed deer.
There are several popular North American destinations depending on the type of big game you want to hunt. Bison can be hunted in Wyoming and Montana, but permits are very limited and hard to obtain.
Elk hunting is popular in several states. Colorado is one of the best, given its high altitudes and mountainous terrains. It is also home to America’s largest elk herd. The state issues hunting licenses for about 50,000 elk per year.
New Mexico and Arizona are known for quality elk; many hunters bring home record-breaking trophies. Montana is very popular as well, but the season is very short.
Pacific Coast states like Oregon and Washington are great as well because these states have the Roosevelt elk species, the largest of all North American elk.
Whitetail deer are very abundant in the US and Canada and are therefore widely hunted in nearly every state.
Georgia is a popular destination because the unique landscape of bayous and dense forests is a unique and challenging hunting environment.
In Wisconsin, black bear can be hunted. The bear population is thriving and hunters can gain permits to hunt. It helps with population control and preservation of surrounding habitats and other species.
Alaska is a very popular destination for hunting several species like caribou, moose, brown bears, black bears, polar bears and Dall sheep with their white coats and curved horns.
Many hunters travel to Alaska to hunt bull moose, which can have a 79 inch antler width. Dall sheep are very tough to hunt because they only live in the subarctic mountain ranges of Denali National Park and in the tough terrain of the Yukon territory.
There are many rifles to choose from when hunting big game, but the .308 Winchester has become the most popular hunting rifle in the U.S. It is a very versatile and accurate rifle and very effective on big game like bear, elk, deer and sheep.
The .30-06 Springfield is another popular choice. This is a classic rifle that has a long and proven track record. In fact, this rifle was used in World War I.
Nearly every American rifle manufacturer produces this rifle in large quantities. It has a heavier round than the .308 and is used for larger game.
Both the .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Winchester Magnum have great accuracy and big game stopping power. These rifles are also used as military style sniper rifles. These rifles have long-range performance, but are very powerful rifles with big recoil.
For this reason, they’re not recommended for beginners, but rather for more experienced hunters.
They’re significantly more expensive as well and the rounds are about $4 each. The .338 was made for Alaskan big game hunting and is used to hunt grizzly bears and moose. Basically, this rifle will drop anything that crosses its path.
International Big Game Hunting
Americans by far make up the largest percentage (about 60 percent) of hunters who travel to Africa to hunt big game. South Africa and Zimbabwe are very popular destinations for lion and elephant trophies.
African big game hunts are very expensive.
A lion can cost over $50,000. Add in all the specialized equipment, safari guide cost, hunting fees and travel expenses, and this is a very expensive hobby that only a few of the very wealthy can afford.
Nevertheless, African hunting is a very big business. At least a dozen African countries have legalized trophy hunting. Hunting generates hundreds of millions of dollars that goes to pay for wildlife management and boosts the local economies.
The African continent is known for its “big five”—the most sought after trophy animals in the world: lion, elephant, leopard, white rhino and buffalo. The buffalo is the most dangerous to hunt, and therefore the most sought after, but it is also the most plentiful animal.
Other popular hunts are for zebra, giraffe, and wildebeest.
Migratory Bird Hunting
Hunting of migratory birds is also very popular, with about 2.3 million hunters per year participating in the sport. Hunters like to hunt several popular bird species.
Pheasant hunting is extremely popular and some of the best hunting is in South Dakota. The pheasant is actually not an American native. They were brought here from England in the 1750’s. Since then, they’ve become one of the most popular game birds for hunting.
The South Dakota Fish and Wildlife Service requires a license, and there is a daily limit of the number of birds you can bag, but there are thousands of acres to hunt on, and many hunting outlets provide you everything you need—equipment, food and even bird dogs to retrieve your catch.
Waterfowl hunting of ducks and geese is very popular among avid sportsmen. In the United States, there are several areas called flyways that are the major migratory areas for these birds.
Waterfowl generally have the same migratory patterns, so they are hunted during the same seasons and with identical methods.
Hunting usually occurs in fields or near bodies of water like lakes, rivers and streams in the four flyways:
- The Mississippi flyway, a migration route that spans from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico
- The Atlantic flyway, a route from northern Quebec to Florida
- The Mountain or Central flyway in the Rocky Mountains; it stretches from Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas and western Mexico.
- The Pacific flyway which stretches from central Alaska to southern Mexico
Hunting for other migratory birds like doves is also very popular.
For example, in Texas, about 350,000 people hunt the tiny four-ounce doves during the 75-day season that begins Labor Day weekend.
Texas has the largest dove population of any state, and over five million birds are harvested during the season.
Doves are considered a game bird, the state does require a hunting permit, and daily limits are adjusted year to year based on the overall bird population.
Hunts For Other Animals
A little over 1 million people hunt other animals, too, such as raccoons, woodchucks and feral pigs. Some states allow hunting of nuisance species. In Texas, for example, alligators, coyotes, mountain lions, deer and feral hogs are all considered nuisance species.
Although these species are not classified as game animals, most states require hunters to obtain a license to hunt them.
Feral hogs are a popular species to hunt. Their long tusks and menacing appearance make them a desired trophy, and they are smart as well, so they provide a challenging hunt.
Hunters often hunt them at night, which is a fun sport.
Most states require hunters to purchase annual licenses, but not all do. In fact, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that only about one-third of hunters (about 35 percent) purchase licenses for five consecutive years.
However, the industry and governmental agencies continue to encourage licensing and offer incentives like reduced license costs to new hunters and youth hunters. Proceeds from hunting licenses and taxes contribute more than $1 billion per year to wildlife conservation efforts.
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