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States with the most registered hunters

  • States with the most registered hunters

    With a 3 million-year record of it, it's safe to say hunting is one of the oldest forms of human activity. Stacker compiled a list of the states with most registered hunters using 2020 data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. States are ranked by percent of residents with hunting licenses. Population data is from the Census as of 2018.

    There are 15.2 million hunting license holders in the United States. 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 and 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 the urbanization of the United States, the development of farmland, a lack of free time among hunters, and limited access to hunting land, writes the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Licenses dropped from a peak of roughly 17 million in the 1980s to 15 million in 2019, according to The Seattle Times.

    The drop-off in revenue from hunting licenses is starting to pose a problem for conservation groups. Thanks to the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act, an 11% excise tax was placed on the sale of firearms, which was then used for conservation. Not only that, but the profits from hunting licenses themselves also go directly to funding for conservation.

    There was a slight uptick in the number of hunters earlier in 2020 as some U.S. meat processors stopped operating because of COVID-19. People also had a lot more time on their hands, according to Reuters. Indiana, for example, saw a 28% jump in turkey license sales during the first week of the season. Whether these results will be sustained remains to be seen.

    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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  • #50. California

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 0.7%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 267,170
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 991,897
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $21,107,452

    Over the past 50 years, the number of hunting licenses in California has been on a rapid decline, falling 70% from more than 760,000 in the 1970s to under 268,000 in 2020—even as the state's population has skyrocketed, according to The Mercury News. Urbanization and strict gun laws, in addition to a drop in overall interest, are why California has the fewest number of hunting licenses in the nation.

  • #49. Rhode Island

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 0.7%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 7,208
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 26,690
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $407,485

    In less than 20 years, Rhode Island saw a 40% drop in the number of hunting licenses for residents, according to The Valley Breeze. This can have a Catch-22 effect on the wildlife population in the state. According to the Wildlife Restoration Act, passed in 1937, most of the state conservation efforts are funded through hunting and fishing licenses sales and firearms sales.

  • #48. Hawaii

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 0.7%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 10,614
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 11,957
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $684,001

    Less than 1% of Hawaii's population has a hunting license. Still, all the major islands have huntable big game. The most popular are axis deer, feral pigs, and mouflon sheep, according to the Archery Trade Association.

  • #47. New Jersey

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 0.8%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 71,300
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 408,368
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $7,629,928

    Fewer than 72,000 people in the state of New Jersey have a paid hunting license, which is less than 1% of the entire population. Maybe it's because New Jersey gun laws are some of the most restrictive in the country—the second toughest in the nation, according to NJ.com. Another reason could be because New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country, with 1,210 people per square mile. That doesn't leave a lot of open space opportunities for hunting grounds.

  • #46. Massachusetts

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 0.8%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 56,985
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 256,651
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $2,367,256

    Since the end of 2019, Massachusetts has been implementing reforms to its hunting laws. It is now the fifth state in the country to ban hunting contests that target fur-bearing animals, such as coyotes, according to The Associated Press. The state Fisheries and Wildlife Board also voted to ban the intentional abandonment of a wounded or dead animal without making "a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it."

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  • #45. Florida

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 0.9%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 189,706
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 303,556
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $6,873,110

    Hunting may be on the decline across America, but in Florida, hunters are keeping an over 100-year-old hunting tradition alive. Since 1907, St. Vincent Island has been used as a "wildlife emporium," according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For three days every fall, more than 200 hunters descend on the island to hunt the population of sambar deer that inhabit the island.

  • #44. Connecticut

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 1.0%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 34,340
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 110,205
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $2,325,211

    Like other states with declining hunter populations, Connecticut's conservation efforts are suffering. Connecticut Post reports that over the past 20 to 30 years, the number of licensed hunters in Connecticut has dropped from more than 5% of the population to less than 1%.

  • #43. Delaware

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 1.7%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 16,291
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 53,683
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $1,447,208

    Delaware also has a small percentage of licensed hunters. Less than 2% of the population has a hunting license. But about 10% of land in Delaware is state-owned, meaning it is open for public hunting.

  • #42. Maryland

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 2.0%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 119,202
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 345,327
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $6,437,254

    The gross cost of all hunting licenses in Maryland is upwards of $6 million. But that's merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much money hunting generates in the state. According to Hunting Works for Maryland, in 2018, hunting generated $401 million in economic activity in the state, the majority of which was spent at locally owned businesses across the state.

  • #41. Nevada

    - Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 2.3%
    - Total paid hunting license holders: 69,681
    - Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 143,282
    - Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $7,629,934

    The hunting population in Nevada isn't super robust (with just 2.3% of the population owning licenses), but it is one of the more controversial. According to The Sierra Nevada Ally, Nevada is one of 32 states to allow an individual to legally hunt a bear. It is one of only 14 states to allow specially trained dogs to assist in bear hunting, which is one of the most hotly contested laws in the state.

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