Local hunting numbers down, but still strong


JASPER — As the number of hunting licenses issued by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources declines across the state, local numbers aren’t dropping quite as quickly as they are in most counties.

In 2012, a little more than 4,700 hunting licenses were sold to residents of Dubois County, and in 2018, that number experienced a slight decline to around 4,300. Meanwhile, Spencer County also experienced a slight drop during the same years — from around 2,500 in 2012 to about 2,000 in 2018.

“You’re still seeing a somewhat decline,” said Jack Basiger, a Hoosier Outdoor Heritage coordinator with the DNR. “But it’s not the same rate. The decline [rates are] a lot lower in your two counties than they are in the rest of the state.”

Across Indiana, modern data — from 2012 to 2018 — shows the state has experienced a downturn in the sale of all hunting licenses to Indiana residents. In that time frame, the number of hunting licenses issued has dropped from 347,055 to 286,088.

“The overall trend is, yes, it’s been declining,” Basiger said of the drop in the number of licensed Indiana hunters. He explained that the 2019 numbers are projected to be about the same as those from 2018, but couldn’t say for sure that would be the case.

The DNR also tracks something called a “churn rate,” which examines the percentage of hunters who rotate out from one year to the next. Dubois County’s churn rate was just over 15% in 2018, and Spencer County’s sat at about 21%. Statewide, the churn rate was roughly 24%.

“Actually in both cases, Dubois and Spencer have a lower churn rate than the state,” Basiger said, noting that population does play into that, as does being located in a rural area.

A variety of licenses are sold individually and in bundles by the DNR. They include a traditional license that covers small game, deer licenses, turkey licenses, a comprehensive youth hunting and trapping license, and more.

Hannah Beck, who is president of the Dubois County Shooting Sports Instructor Council and is an Indiana hunter education instructor, believes local numbers are strong because of “our rich history of hunting, and it being tradition has been passed on from generation to generation.”

“It’s one of those activities that families can do together where great memories have been made,” she wrote in an email.

Among the reasons why the state numbers are down, Basiger said less youth hunters are participating in the activity. He explained those numbers could be down because of the time commitment that comes with hunting.

Licenses issued to hunters between the ages of 25 and 35 are also decreasing, he said. That now-dwindling group was previously represented much more prominently.

It’s Basiger’s job to work to bring them all back and attract new hunters to the activity. The DNR hosts workshops and other programs for youth and adults across the state. Information about the DNR’s offerings can be found on the agency’s website.

“Hunting is just not about harvesting an animal, it is about conservation, tradition and family,” Beck wrote. “For conservation, we care so much about our surroundings and environment. We take care of the land for future generations to come. For tradition, it’s a sport that has been passed down from generation to generation. For family, it’s about taking someone out there and watching their loved one be successful and creating memories with them.”

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