On the heels of the good news about the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s preliminary report, where hunting numbers increased by nine percent in the past five years, the Outdoor Foundation published its sixth annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Report. The good news is that in 2011, outdoor recreation reached the highest levels of participation that it has recorded in the past five years.
The methodology, explained in detail on page 57 of the report, included more than 38,000 interviews with individuals and households in the U.S. The report listed these outdoor activities: adventure racing, backpacking, bicycling (BMX), bicycling (mountain/non-paved surface), bicycling (road/paved surface), birdwatching (more than 1/4 mile from home/vehicle), boardsailing/windsurfing, camping (backyard or car, within 1/4 mile of vehicle/home), camping (recreational vehicle), canoeing, climbing (sport/ indoor/boulder), climbing (traditional/ice/mountaineering), fishing (fly), fishing (freshwater/ other), fishing (saltwater), hiking, hunting (rifle), hunting (shotgun), hunting (handgun), hunting (bow), kayaking (recreational), kayaking (sea/touring), kayaking (white water), rafting, running/jogging, sailing, scuba diving, skateboarding, skiing (alpine/downhill), skiing (cross- country), snorkeling, snowboarding, snowshoeing, stand up paddling, surfing, telemarking (downhill), trail running, triathlon (non-traditional/off road), triathlon (traditional/road), wakeboarding, wildlife viewing (more than 1/4 mile from home/vehicle).
Here are the key findings:
Nearly 50 percent of Americans ages six and older participated in outdoor recreation in 2011. That equates to a total of 141.1 million Americans.
Outdoor recreation reached the highest participation level in five years. Outdoor recreation added three million participants in 2011 — a significant improvement over the past few years when participation either dropped or remained stagnant.
In 2011, outdoor participants made 11.5 billion outings — that is 1.4 billion more outings than 2010.
Almost half of all outdoor enthusiasts participate in outdoor activities at least once per week.
For the first time since 2006, participation in outdoor recreation among young boys reversed its downward trend and added participants. The participation rate among female teenagers also grew, reaching the highest rate recorded in this report.
According to the report, although youth participation between ages 6 and 17 went up, annual outings went down – from 98 outings per participant in 2010 to 81 outings in 2011.
Where does hunting fit into this report? One of the most significant findings is that bowhunting was the second fastest growing outdoor activity between 2010 and 2011. Nineteen percent more bowhunters went afield. Recreational kayaking led the pack, with a 27 percent increase in participation rates. This is the first time in three years that bowhunting has been included in the top five activities, which also included freestyle skiing(18 percent), stand up paddling (18 percent) and downhill telemarking (15 percent).
In the category of “Percentage of First-Time Participants in 2011: All Americans, Ages 6 and Older,” hunting also fared well. Surprisingly, handgun hunting led the pack, followed by bowhunting, shotgun and in last place, rifle hunting. The bar graph did not distinguish the exact numbers – somewhere under 15 percent and above 5 percent.
If you’re a numbers person, you’ll enjoy scrolling the report and frankly, the good feeling it’ll give you. It looks like we’re coming back from a dip in about 2006. The trends are good, but we have work to do. And I was disappointed to see that the report did not include a photograph of bow hunter, or any type of hunter, on its pages.
What about you? Did you try a new outdoor activity, such as bowhunting, stand up paddling, fly fishing, handgun hunting, or any of the above?
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Brian Lovett, Realtree's news blogger, has been an outdoors reporter, writer, magazine editor and book author for 27 years. Spring turkey hunting and autumn waterfowling take up most of his outside time, but he also enjoys fishing, deer hunting and upland-bird hunting. Lovett lives in Oshkosh, Wis., with his wife, Jenny, and their retriever.