Figures Don’t Lie But Liars Figure

By Peter Muller

Our adversaries frequently claim statistics that purport to show how their numbers are not really declining as rapidly as they, in fact, are.  To confront these bogus claims takes time and effort to research the published statistics.

The first step is to access an authoritative reference that has credibility with the general public.  The best source for hunting and wildlife-related information is a series of US government publications entitled “The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.” These surveys are comprehensive and published every five years.

The most recent edition is the “2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.”

The one prior to that is the “2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.”
These surveys have been published more or less consistently since 1955.
They are available on-line at   (2006)    (2001)

They give extensive data concerning demographics of hunters, anglers and wildlife-watchers. To establish trends it is often necessary to get two or more sequential surveys.
Let’s look at some typical claims and how they evaporate in the light of published statistics:

Sometimes the claims are just out and out fabrications that have no basis in fact. The US Sportsmen’s Alliance newsletter of April 1, 2008 claims that the number of female hunters is increasing

The number of women hunters declined from 2001 to 2006 by 31,000 in spite of a substantial increase in the total population of women. The percentage of women who hunt decreased from 1.08% in 2001 to .97% in 2006. How can they spin these numbers to show that women who hunt increased?  Perhaps they mean that since the total numbers of hunters declined at an even faster rate than women hunters — women now constitute a larger percentage of hunters (9.25%) than they did in 2001(8.95%).  But that simply means that male hunters are falling off their tree-stands faster than female hunters; it does not mean that female hunters are increasing.

A Common procedure designed to mislead the public consists of “irrelevant lumping.”  We know from looking at the statistics that the number of hunters is declining and so is the concomitant expenditure by hunters on travel, food and lodging. Rather than cite figures of dollars spent by hunters, they frequently cite expenditures by “outdoor-sportsmen” (which includes anglers) or “recreational outdoor users” (which includes wildlife-watchers and anglers).  In drawing their conclusion they try to imply that increases in those figures are attributable to hunters.

Lumping can also occur across phony regions.

From 2001 to 2006 the total number of hunters in the US decreased by 764,000; in 33 states there was a decrease in the number of hunters, in 16 states there was an increase and in one state there was no change.

Here are some hunting participation statistics changes from 2001 to 2006:

 Florida  +104,000
 Louisiana  -30,000
 Missouri  +150,000
 Total  224,000

Suppose that an advocate for hunting from Louisiana wants to make a case that hunting is really increasing – while, in fact, hunting decreased in Louisiana by 30,000.

The advocate could talk about a “Mississippi-Delta-Gulf region” and claim a 224,000 increase

With a little imagination, anyone can cobble together an unlikely region such as the “Pennsylvania- Idaho-Nebraska-Alaska- flyway” and lump a losing state in with some other states where hunting increased.
Other tricks of the trade include:

*  The numbers of participants that are reported by state agencies.
Most of the time this is based on license sales. If a hunter gets a big-game firearm license and then separately obtains a muzzle-loader license, he is counted twice. If a hunter gets a Pennsylvania license and also a NY State license, he is reported by both states. The number of hunters reported is undoubtedly inflated by double-counting. Each state wants to report a high number of hunters to increase their share of Pittman-Robertson allocation of funds. The state agencies are not motivated to adjust their numbers for multiple license sales.
* Using a broad term and switching the definition of what’s included in that term. 
For example “Young hunters” can mean children who hunt and are of age 14 to 16 in a given year in a given state. If the hunting age in that state is lowered to 10 in a subsequent year, “Young hunters” is then used to refer to children who hunt and are of age 10-16.  A claim that the number of “Young Hunters” has increased simply reflects the increased size of the pool of potential “young Hunters” not an increase in interest of children to become “Young Hunters”.

In general, be prepared to do some research to refute their bogus claims that hunting is alive and well. The agencies’ desperate efforts to recruit from “non-traditional” hunters among women, children and ethnic groups that have low hunting participation is not working in spite of the large expenditures by many state agencies to fund these initiatives.

Rest assured that hunting is well on its way to the dustbin of history as Luke Dommer used to say.
Peter Muller is Vice President of C.A.S.H.


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561