While the nationwide decline in the number of hunters is well documented, less well known is the corresponding drop in on-the-ground conservation projects that accompany this decline, according to state natural resources officials.
"Federal wildlife funding is based on state hunting and fishing license sales," said John Frampton, director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "So fewer licenses sold means fewer wildlife conservation projects, and many of these projects benefit animals that are not hunted or fished and benefit people who enjoy other outdoor activities. A good example of this would be the Jocassee Gorges area in northern Pickens and Oconee counties, where federal wildlife dollars have helped improve areas used by hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and paddlers."
You can purchase a license online, by calling 1-866-714-3611 or at a local license vendor.
The number of licensed South Carolina hunters actually increased in fiscal year 2007 to 180,802, almost a 2 percent increase over the 177,267 South Carolina hunters who bought licenses in fiscal year 2006. Out of the total hunters in 2007, 153,617 were resident hunters and the remaining 27,185 were non-resident hunters. Resident hunters are not keeping pace with the state’s increasing population. The 2000 Census report listed South Carolina’s population at just over four million people. Population projections show that South Carolina’s population should increase about 10 percent by 2010. At the national level, hunter numbers fell 4 percent between 2001 and 2006.
With federal excise taxes generated by the sale of hunting equipment, an investment in a hunting license can bring triple the amount of federal conservation dollars to South Carolina. For example, the purchase of a $25 Resident Combination Hunting and Freshwater Fishing and Big Game License earns the state about $75 in federal conservation dollars.
"Another way of looking at that," Frampton said, "is for every $25 license we lose, we lose $75 in federal conservation dollars that could have been used to improve wildlife habitat in places like Jocassee Gorges and the ACE Basin. Which means we need to encourage everyone who has ever hunted to go ahead and buy a hunting license, even if they may not go hunting. It would also be a real bonus for conservation in South Carolina if people who do not hunt would purchase a hunting license as well, just for the benefits it brings to wildlife and for people who enjoy seeing wildlife."
In August, DNR launched a marketing campaign encouraging hunting participation. Using radio, television, billboards, the Internet and print ads, the campaign reminds would be hunters to, "Go hunting, go online at www.dnr.sc.gov. Buy a hunting license and take a hunter education course."
The campaign, partially funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, targets outdoor enthusiasts in the South Carolina Midlands, including Lexington, Richland and surrounding adjacent counties. After the first of the year, DNR will review license sales data in the target area to determine the impact and effectiveness of the campaign.
DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.