Why Hunters Quit Hunting

young hunter with white-tailed deer

It takes a hunter to make a hunter, so start them early.

This is a companion piece to an earlier post about Women’s View of Hunting.

Now that some of the women in your life hunt with you, it might help to understand why some women quit hunting.

But since men quit hunting for the same basic reasons, this is a post about why people quit hunting.

This matters because hunter recruitment and retention is important for the future of our hunting heritage as well as for wildlife management and conservation.

Why Quit Hunting?

Why anyone would quit any activity has to be a complicated subject and there are many reasons people quit hunting. A survey by Responsive Management for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified 25 reasons that people used to explain why they quit hunting. They have pulled the report from their website, so it is no longer available to download.

Most of the reasons people gave for why they quit hunting were about personal priorities or were about things we can not control, but some are legitimate concerns that we need to address.

People Quit Hunting Because it is a Low Priority

The most common reason (40% of people that no longer hunt) given was the Lack of free time. Reasons like Family Obligations, Work Obligations and Lack of Interest followed with 35, 34 and 33 percent respectively.

These top reasons people gave for quitting hunting are things almost everyone has to deal with. Who doesn’t have family or work obligations? I put these reasons in the “Low Priority” category because we find ways to do the things that are really important to us. They quit, so they must have found something else more important to them.

Nothing wrong with having other priorities, but many people find ways to balance hunting with work and family obligations, especially if you hunt with family members.

I am tempted to say there is nothing that can be done to retain these people as hunters, but if they had different experiences while hunting, perhaps hunting would be a higher priority for them.

I put four of the 25 reasons given for quitting hunting into the Low Priority category and those individual percentages represent 46% of all reasons given (See Table 1).

Reasons people quit hunting

Table 1. Reasons People Quit Hunting

People Quit Hunting Because of Limited Access or Game

The next category I used was “is No Hunting Access or Game”. The individual reasons included: Not enough access, Not enough game, Not enough trophy game, Too many hunters and even a few people said it was because of Harassment by Non-hunters. The percentages given for these five individual reasons ranged from 1% – 17% and accounted for 18% of all reason given.

Can we do anything about not having access or no game to hunt? In reality, these people need help, but there is not much we can do in the short term. You either live in a place with access and game or you don’t.

The State could implement management to improve the game and land could be purchased so there were more public places to hunt, but the chances are low that big changes can be made in most of these states.

Maybe these people could take better advantage of what game is available in their areas. The turkey population may be low, but squirrels could be booming. They may not have access to land to hunt deer, but could hunt waterfowl. There is always the option to travel to areas with access and game, but that takes more time and money.


People Quit Hunting Because they have Bad Information

I call the next category “Need Information”. Reasons given in this category include: Fear of injury by another hunter, Feeling that hunting endangers animal populations and Fear of causing pain to animals. The percentages given for these three reasons ranged from 7% – 16% and accounted for 10% of all reason given.

If you hunt with idiots, you need to get away from them, but the statistics show that the chances of getting injured while hunting is very low (lower than playing golf or bowling, but more about this later).

It is also true that many species on this planet are Threatened or Endangered with extinction, but animals that have regulated hunting seasons are not among them (More about this later too).

The Fear of causing pain to animals is a legitimate concern, but I will attempt to address this issue in a future post, because this is a concern we can do something about.

People Quit Hunting Because they Need Help

I call the next category for reasons people quit hunting “Need Help”. Reasons include:  “No one to hunt with”, “Poor behavior of other hunters” and “Not enough law enforcement officers”. The percentages given for these three reasons ranged from 6% – 11% and accounted for 9% of all reason given.

I assume the bad behavior that caused people to stop hunting was from the people they hunted with or from nearby hunting parties. Common sense dictates that we walk away from bad, unsafe or illegal behavior, but as hunters, we also need to report illegal activities to the authorities.

I don’t know what specific behaviors they witnessed, but if 14% of active hunters indicated that poor behavior of other hunters took away from their enjoyment of hunting and 11% of people cited poor behavior of other hunters as the reason they quit hunting, poor behavior of some hunters is definitely a problem and we all need to get involved. If reports were coming in, the State will get more law enforcement officers.

If 14% of active hunters don’t like what other hunters are doing, imagine what non-hunters think.

I mostly hunt mule deer and elk alone, but many types of hunting are usually done in groups. When my grandfather got too old to hunt, many of my cousins quit hunting because they lost didn’t have hunting dogs or permission to hunt that my grandfather had. Sooner or later, finding a hunting buddy will be a problem for most of us, especially after we get too old to hunt by ourselves.

People Quit Hunting Because it’s too Expensive

The next category is “Costs” which means they quit hunting because the costs of licenses, the cost of hunting equipment or having to travel to hunt. These reasons could also be considered priority issues, but since they used the term “Cost”, so did I. The percentages given for these three reasons ranged from 6% – 10% and accounted for 8% of all reason given.

Just like people find the time to do what’s important to them, they also find the money. I assume if it were important enough, they would find a way. The cost for big-game non-resident hunting licenses can be over $1,000 and the cost to hunt on private land can cost over $10,000, but the costs of residential hunting licenses are not very expensive.

No doubt, you can spend lots of money on hunting equipment, but you can still hunt, take game and have a great time with very inexpensive equipment.

Nobody can blame a young father for cutting his hunting expenses to pay for his kid’s braces, but we waste money on so many unnecessary things. Read my post on a making a budget for a $1,000 DIY Western Elk hunt (here) and how I quit wasting money so I could do the things that were important to me.

People Quit Hunting Because of Health and Negative Opinions of Others

I call the last category “Facts of Life” and include issues of personal health and the negative opinions of others. The percentages given for these two reasons were 2% and 14% respectively and accounted for 5% of all reason given.

Our personal health is more important and more valuable than anything else and the day will come for everyone when we are no longer able to do the things we love.

Good nutrition, good sleep and exercise will keep some of us in the game longer, but much of this depends on good genes and plain good luck. We’ve all known people or heard stories about a 95 year old that still smoked or drank too much, but those are exceptions, not the rule. And how many 75 year old men do you know with a 40 inch waist. I don’t know any.

As for the negative opinions of others, if this is the real reason they quit hunting, I suggest they either find new friends or do a better job of convincing their friends to hunt with them.

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner” – Lao Tzu. But this is a real issue that plagues many people their entire lives.

People Quit Hunting Because of Regulations

Hunting Regulations make up the last category of reason that people quit hunting and include: “Regulations are too complex”. Bag limits and/or season lengths are too limited and “Mandatory Hunter Safety”. The percentages given for these three reasons ranged from 3% – 5% and accounted for 4% of all reason given.

No doubt, hunting regulations are complex, but that is the “nature of the beast”. The State and/or the Federal bureaucracies are in charge, so if you want to hunt legally, you have to learn the rules. I do think complex regulation keeps some people from taking up hunting and mandatory hunter education keeps some older folks that aren’t “grandfathered from hunting, but only 3% of ex-hunters gave this as the reason they quit. Since more than one reason could be given in the survey, most probably quit because of limited time and then added regulations as an additional factor.

Most of the reasons people gave for why they no longer hunt were either about personal choices (46%) or things that are beyond our control like limited access, rising costs and complex regulations (30%), so there is little we can do to retain 76% of the people that quit hunting.

But there might be something we can do for the remaining 24% who quit because they need better information or because they need help. Look for my next post to address those issues.

Comments

  1. Michael Jennings says

    I enjoyed reading your article. I gave up hunting (specifically deer hunting) yesterday. Cut up my license and tossed all the hunter orange. I’d fall into the category of “no access/ game”. The first deer I took was about 5 years ago and harvested 2 per years for the next 3 or so. Then I moved in town and rely on public land to which I’ve come up empty 4 years in a row! In addition, I don’t have many to hunt with and the one I do makes too much noise and doesn’t take the same odor eliminating precautions -and strongly believes there are no deer where we are despite hearing many shots all around us. I loved hunting and getting game but not worth it if I keep having all my tags year after year. Thanks for listening and hope this may help readers.

    • Sad Story Mike…
      Public Land hunting is definitely harder than on private land…
      Except when I take my wife hunting, I hunt alone, so I can’t relate to a noisy, stinky, pessimistic hunting buddy.
      Two people always make more noise and “stink” than one, but surely you could find a more optimistic partner.

      I know there are lots of white-tails harvested in the East, but coming up empty 4 years in a row is about par for public land hunting in the West. Think about it…
      A 20% success rate means the average hunter harvests an animal every 5 years.

      I hope you will still spend time sneaking around the outdoors even if you stop carrying a weapon.

    • If you enjoy hunting, there is no reason to quit. I mostly hunt the “pumpkin patch” (public land filled with hunters). I hunt mostly Mule Deer and Elk. Trying to hunt side-by-side with another hunter can become a miserable experience. When choosing a potential partner, we agree beforehand that we will separate and hunt solo. Although we camp together and hunt separately in the field, we help each other process and extract the harvested animals. I never limit myself to just hunting in my resident state. I also hunt in neighboring states with OTC tags.

  2. Scott Evans says

    I’d love to go hunting, but can’t pay the cost for a lease. Seems like most leases I find want thousand of dollars. I can’t justify spending that kind of money on something that was put here for us to eat naturally. Places like King Ranch where people pay 10s of thousands of dollars are insane. Hunting has turned into a rich mans sport and us young people have a harder time in this economy.

    • I hear you Scott. That is why I live in a state with lots of public land. Too many people too few places to hunt.
      We can’t blame people with money that buy leases and can’t blame land owners for selling them.
      We can blame our states for not providing hunting opportunities.
      I suggest you consider hunting elk and mule deer in the West while you are still young and hunting is still good.
      Not sure what the economy has to do with hunting unless you mean your personal economy.
      I published a budget (read here) to show folks it is possible for the average person to do a DIY puclic land hunt in the West. I also wrote a DIY Elk Hunting Guide to help first time public land hunters get started.

    • I agree Scott. I’ve lived in NM where there are a lot of unscrupulous shenanigans go on by land owners, outfitters and guides for the sake of charging outrages amounts for hunting. For example, I’ve witnessed outfitters and land owners trying to runoff legitimate hunters on adjacent public land; and guides driving game animals off of neighboring public land on to their private land to accommodate their clients. I hunt public land to avoid all the shenanigans. I’ve found that the abundant hunters actually keep the game animals up and moving making all day hunting interesting. I commonly hunt mule deer does and elk cows just to fill the freezer. I hunt the hunters. This means I pay close attention to where the overcrowding is and I let the crowd drive the game to me. Once the crowd thins out and the game bed down, hunting becomes a little more difficult as they switch to nocturnal activity.

  3. Steven Walker says

    I grew up hunting small game in Nebraska with my dad and grandpa in the 60’s. What you shot is what you ate for lunch or dinner. I still look at a squirrel as lunch.
    I have analyzed the tragic shrinking hunting situation in the US many times. Here are my thoughts on quick easy yet permanent solutions to the vast majority of hunting issues. #1 No more motorized vehicle or horse assess to public hunting land. If hunters had to walk to their favorite hunting spot there would be enough game for everyone on public land. No more ATV, UTV, or motorized electric bikes. No camping of any kind anywhere on public hunting lands. #2 Lifetime hunting license for federal and state land. The license money would go into a trust fund, the interest made would be set aside solely to purchase more adjoining land to current public lands. You make it larger and they will come, as in more game animals and more hunters. Public land sizes have not increased notably in decades. #3 Micromanaging hunting regulations drives some hunters away. If our government is allowed to continue to control the wildlife departments then what we will have is a continued reduction in hunters and hunting. #4 No more farming and no more oil drilling on public hunting lands. #5 Bow hunting ONLY for all federal and state hunting lands, furthermore legalize crossbows in all 50 states. Final note: I am 57 years old and have the standard aches and pains. I have to out walk and out work the other younger hunters and I do get regular shots at big game. Guys all we have to do is stop vehicle access on public hunting lands and systematically increase the size of public hunting land, (must be adjoining) every year. Stop blowing money on more game rangers and public hunting land road maintenance. Simply place concrete barriers cross roads and around designated parking areas for hunters. (Foot access ONLY) Hunting enthusiasm across our nation would improve dramatically! Happy Hunting!

  4. A very detailed post about the hunting and hunters. Really enjoyed it.

  5. I grew up in the wild. I’ve always loved hunting and fishing. It’s in my blood. I hunt public land solely because it makes sense to me. I have a thousand issues against high dollar private land owners, outfitters and guides getting rich off of public owned wild game. I am saddened by our declining hunting opportunity caused by: Increasing prices and lack of public land; declining herds and quality of animals; Increasing gun laws and regulations disarming the righteous gun owners, and consequently hunters. I’m not sure how much longer we will be able to enjoy a good old fashion hunt. The only solution, I can see, is to support our 2nd Amendment rights; support our public owned wilderness; and hunt while we can.

  6. I used to hunt all the time when I was growing up on the farm back in the 80s. Then I went off to college in ’91 and managed to hunt a few times each year when I was home during fall and winter breaks. Then I finished graduate school and got a job in town and had to move to the burbs. My parents who are in their 70s still own the family family farm but it is 68 miles away so I can’t grab a gun and walk out my back door and go hunting the way I did when I was living on the farm. My father and grandfather who were farmers and had plenty of “down time” for hunting after the crops were harvested and in the grain bins, but with my job I don’t. Unlike my father and grandfather I also don’t have a stay at home housewife to cook and clean and do laundry go grocery shopping, etc., etc. I have to do all this stuff myself and it takes up most of my time on weekends.

    My guns are cleaned and oiled and still sitting in the cabinet up at the family farm just I left them the last time I went hunting back circa 2010. I have two quail guns neither of which has been fired since I was in high school in the late 80s. The quail around here had all but disappeared by the early 1990s due to the No-Till farming practices mandated by the Feds that require the spraying of chemicals like Paraquat and Glyphosate to control weeds. My hunting clothes are still in the closet but they are probably too small for me now. Perhaps if the family farm is still there when I retire in a couple of decades I will have some time to go hunting again but with the way things are going around here with suburban sprawl and rising real estate taxes, I suspect the farm will be growing a crop of houses by then like many of the farms where I hunted in my youth.

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