Outdoors blog

Hunters losing access to land at alarming rate

Ryan "JR" Elkins Jr. of Spokane Valley bucks a national trend by following his father on a turkey hunt in October. Nationally, the number of youths being introduced to hunting by their parents is on the decline. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)

HUNTING — Nearly 23 percent of hunters polled said places they tried to hunt in the past year had been restricted or placed off limits to them, according to HunterSurvey.com

Compared with the previous year’s results to the same question, hunters who lost land access grew by less than 1 percent, a statistically insignificant bump. But their numbers still reveal that nearly one in four sportsmen nationwide is potentially affected by losing access to hunting land.

“Finding a place to hunt remains one of the biggest challenges to hunters and hunter recruitment” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com.

“As available lands for hunting diminish or change ownership, some hunters will inevitably grow frustrated and pursue other activities.”

More than half (52 percent) of those respondents who lost access to a hunting location said their time spent hunting last year was reduced as a result—a 7 percent increase over the previous year—while 11 percent said the lost land kept them from hunting altogether.

Only 7 percent of those respondents said they acquired access to another property where they were able to hunt more than planned.

Southwick pointed to the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which was part of the 2008 Farm Bill, as a key example of programs designed to improve access to hunting and fishing lands and waters.

VPA-HIP was intended to provide three years of funding to augment state land access programs that provide incentives for private landowners to open their lands to hunting and fishing. The program ended prematurely, however, due to federal budget cuts.

With slashes in government funding and private properties increasingly restricted, land access will continue to be an issue for many sportsmen.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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