EDGEFIELD, S.C. — The results are in from the National Wild Turkey Federation’s More Places to Hunt survey, which shows that most hunters are losing places to spend their time in the field. The findings also show that hunters are willing to spend both their time and money to improve access to quality hunting spots.
“We were really pleased with the participation in the survey, which tells us that the lack of hunting access is a hot-button topic throughout the United States,” said Joel Pedersen, NWTF’s More Places to Hunt program coordinator. “The folks who responded are primarily NWTF members and are hard-core hunters.”
According to Pedersen, more than 3,100 hunters participated in the survey and nearly 75 percent of survey respondents said they hunt more than 20 days per year. The survey was available online at www.nwtf.org as well as other NWTF partner Web sites. Now, program coordinators are using the findings to formulate a strategy to improve access to quality hunting opportunities throughout the United States.
“For some time now, we’ve known that losing access to private property has been a reason hunters quit hunting,” said Pedersen. “But we didn’t expect the survey to show that 65 percent of hunters had experienced a loss in private hunting spots — which we consider pretty substantial.”
In fact, nearly 20 percent of survey respondents said they had also noticed a decrease in public hunting property. But more importantly, the survey results show that hunters are willing to increase efforts to make more places to hunt.
“Sixty percent of the respondents say they don’t hunt on public property because they feel it is overcrowded,” said Pedersen. “The great news is that hunters are willing to work toward increasing opportunities.”
More than 80 percent said they are willing to financially support efforts to improve access for hunting and 57 percent said they’d be willing to volunteer to help with access-related field projects.
A Plan for More Places to Hunt
The NWTF’s membership is concerned about declining hunter access, not only to hunting but also to wildlife conservation.
For years, the NWTF has worked to improve access to hunting lands with great success. At both local and national levels, the NWTF and its volunteers have developed partnerships with landowners, and worked with state and federal agencies to help improve hunter access.
More Places to Hunt is a new NWTF program designed to help provide more hunting land on both public and private property. The NWTF already has spent nearly $9 million and obtained more than 400,000 acres for hunting since 1987.
However, this new program’s objective is to find out specifically what hunters need in regard to access and build upon NWTF chapters’ successes and allow the NWTF to better cooperate with partners to accomplish even more.
The NWTF’s state and local chapter volunteers will continue to be the core of this access program. Just as the NWTF’s volunteers helped state wildlife agencies bring the turkey back from near extinction, they will be a big part of grassroots efforts in increasing public and private access for hunters.
In fact, NWTF chapters and their state and corporate partners have already experienced tremendous success in affecting hunter access in a variety of ways, including recent land acquisitions such as those in Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina; funding conservation easements that provide public access in Montana; holding landowner appreciation days in Wisconsin; and active involvement in legislative issues.
Last year, the NWTF ‘s Kansas State Chapter helped the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks lease an extra 9,330 acres through its Walk-in Hunting Access program.
“It’s getting harder for people to find places to hunt,” said John Adams, NWTF Kansas State Chapter president. “Partnering with Kansas Wildlife and Parks’ access program is money well spent with us because it provides hunting access.”