The decline in hunters and anglers is of increasing concern to natural resource management agencies nationwide. Fishing and hunting license sales and taxes on fishing and hunting equipment are vital sources of funding for wildlife management agencies, and in many cases, management objectives are met under the stewardship of sportspersons. The dependence on hunters and anglers by management agencies like the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission makes the North American Model of Conservation unique, but vulnerable to declining participation in outdoor recreation. Hunter Education programs, Family Fishing Events, Outdoor Expos, and other programs can increase participation in outdoor recreation; but to ensure the future of hunting and fishing in Nebraska we need to understand how hunters and anglers use Nebraska’s fish and wildlife resources, how they perceive the outdoor opportunities available in Nebraska, and most importantly what differentiates the types of hunters, types of anglers, and movement among groups including non-participants, those that do not yet participate through license purchases (Figure 1).
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission spends significant resources to provide instruction in firearm operations and safety, wildlife management, nature conservation, and game laws, as well as archery and shooting range facilities through the state’s Hunter Education Program. In Nebraska, completion of a hunter education course is required prior to purchasing a hunting license. The Hunter Education Program works with hundreds of youth and adults each year with the anticipation that those participating in the program will eventually become license holders.
Many of these Hunter Education participants have expressed an interest in hunting, but have never purchased a license (non-participants). Like many states, Nebraska currently lacks a universal system linking Hunter Education participants to the license database. Understanding who participates in the Hunter Education Program and becomes or does not become a license holder is critical to designing and implementing effective Hunter Education programs. This information will also help us understand what licenses are most appealing and assist us to consider offering alternative opportunities to meet the needs of those not currently buying licenses (nonparticipants).
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supports the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation Survey in a nationwide attempt to understand the sporting public. Conducted every five years, the National Survey identifies generalizations concerning patterns of outdoor enthusiast participation in the USA. Although useful for setting broad policy, the spatial and temporal scales of this National Survey limit the capacity for local fish and wildlife agencies to affect participation within their state. To overcome the limitations of the National Survey, many state agencies, including the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, conduct surveys to individual license holders or to those participating in various hunter education programs. However, because of the extraordinary effort necessary to survey completely, state surveys are often highly directed, limiting their applicability across user groups and state boundaries. Given the challenges of both national and state surveys, there is a need to bridge the information gap and understand hunters and anglers, as well as hunter education participation, at spatial and temporal scales that may more directly assist in creating hunting and angling opportunities.
GoalsWorking in conjunction with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and researchers from the School of Natural Resources and Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, we are analyzing a comprehensive database on license holders and hunter education participants in Nebraska with the goal of helping inform and direct wildlife and fisheries management, as well as recruitment and retention efforts within the state.
Principal Investigator(s)-Christopher J. Chizinski, University of Nebraska- Lincoln
-Joseph J. Fontaine, NE CFWRU
-Kevin L. Pope, NE CFWRU