From Responsive Management:
Is the Economic Downturn Helping Hunting and Fishing Participation?
RECENT NEWS REPORTS have stated that, despite the poor economy, participation in hunting and fishing is on the rise. However, a study conducted in 2008 by Responsive Management suggests that participation is increasing because of the economic downturn, not in spite of it.
Although many factors can affect license sales, in states that have experienced an increase some officials and sportsmen think that the economic slump is the reason (2, 4, 5). A recent report by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) states that fishing participation, as measured by license sales, increased in 2009 when compared to 2008.
...One reason might be the number of hunters who work in construction and related trades. In a 2007 nationwide survey of hunters conducted by Responsive Management and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (9), the top occupational category for employed hunters was "construction / carpentry / plumbing / electrical / craftsman," a category that strongly relates to the work required for new housing construction. Thus, in times of increased housing starts, it may be that a substantial number of hunters will have less free time to go hunting as they devote more time to work.
In addition, "work obligations" is one of the most common reasons cited by hunters for not hunting or not hunting more often. In two separate surveys of active and inactive hunters conducted in 1995 by Responsive Management (7) and in 2008 by Responsive Management and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (10), "work obligations" was among the top reasons that took away from hunters' enjoyment of hunting or caused them not to hunt.
The housing starts finding in the Responsive Management study has been discussed in several newspaper articles and columns over the past year (2, 4, 5, 11) and has been cited by at least one state official regarding recent license sales increases (2). However, one question remains: In hard economic times, in addition to having more time to hunt in general, do hunters increasingly turn to hunting to put food on the table? Some hunters who have been interviewed indicate that this is a motivating factor for them, and others say it is not (3, 11). More research is needed to explore this hypothesis. None of the other economic indicators in the 2008 Responsive Management study showed a significant correlation to hunting license sales, which could suggest that the increase in license sales is related to time available to hunt rather than to economic reasons such as hunting for meat.