MARQUETTE - Hunting researcher Mark Damian Duda told listeners in Marquette recently the No. 1 reason for declining hunter participation in America is urbanization.
Duda, whose visit to Marquette's Lakeview Arena was hosted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said other top factors affecting declining hunter numbers are an aging society, less access and less opportunity.
Like the successful game species recoveries of Rocky Mountain elk, wild turkeys and wood ducks, Duda said using sound research can result in a turnaround for declining hunter numbers that have marked a national trend over the past several years.
Executive Director of Responsive Management Mark Damian Duda presents the study 'The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports: Research-Based Recruitment and Retention Strategies' at the Citizens Forum room at Lakeview Arena in Marquette recently. (Marquette Mining Journal photo by Julia Woehrer)
"Ever since about 1982, we've seen a steady decline of hunters across the United States," Duda said.
Duda is the executive director of Responsive Management, an internationally recognized public opinion and attitude survey research firm specializing in natural resource and outdoor recreation issues located in Harrisonburg, Va.
He has been conducting research on hunting and shooting participation for more than 20 years. He was a columnist for North American Hunter magazines for seven years and has authored three books, including "The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports" published in 2008.
Duda has a master's degree from Yale University with a concentration in natural resource policy and planning.
Top reasons cited in Duda's research by active hunters for dissatisfaction included not enough places to hunt, not enough access and work obligations. These factors resulted in a decline in participation for those hunters.
Reasons hunters deserted the sport include amount of free time, family obligations, work obligations and loss of interest. Those factors increased in frequency over the past several years.
"The things that were bad during 1995 got a lot worse by 2007," Duda said.
Duda discovered an interrelationship between housing starts and hunter activity. When housing starts were down, more persons were not working, had more time to hunt and hunter participation increased.
Research showed 97 percent of hunters eat what they kill.
Mentorships were also shown to improve hunter participation among younger hunters. Duda said more programs introducing kids and women to hunting are needed.
He said that children raised in families where a hunting culture is prevalent tend to carry on the traditions of hunting to future generations.
"Hunting families produce hunters," Duda said.
Duda said 92 percent of kids who hunt come from hunting families. He said the assertion that single-parent families are driving down the number of hunters has been proven to be a myth.
In single-family homes, where fathers may not be present, uncles and others step in to take kids hunting when the hunting culture component is present in the family, Duda said.
Over the past several years, though there have been dips and increases, Michigan hunter numbers have remained relatively stable, Duda said.
While Duda said there's nothing that can be done about urbanization, he suggested enhancing the hunting culture in urban settings as one way to maintain or increase hunter numbers.
He also suggested hunters get involved when green space areas in urban areas are being suggested. Duda said those areas should be opened to hunters, too, and hunters should work to ensure that they are.
Duda has spoken at other DNR-hosted events recently in Michigan.
"We are honored to have Mark Duda and his wealth of experience and knowledge come to our state to discuss the important national trends in hunting and shooting sports," DNR Director Rebecca Humphries said in a prepared statement.