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By Salam Fatohi

Hunting and recreational shooting sports are staples of American pastimes. Often, finding the time to get outdoors is a significant hurdle. For some respondents, free access to places to safely hunt and shoot is the real obstacle. In a 2012 partnership between Responsive Management and NSSF, a baseline report was conducted to understand this critical issue.

With support from an Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) Multistate Conservation Grant, the report, “Assessing the Quality and Availability of Hunting and Shooting Access in the United States,” was produced. It provides current information on sentiment around access to hunting and recreational shooting sports.

Results Are In

The latest report had three key focal points: analyzing the current availability of public and private areas to hunt and shoot recreationally; determining how hunters and shooters rate access; and examining how the perception of access has changed over the past decade.

The continental United States has a plethora of hunting options for outdoorsmen and women. According to the hunters surveyed, white-tailed deer (79 percent) is the most sought-after game species, with wild turkey in second place (40 percent). All other species ranked 28 percent or less.

At ranges, recreational shooters primarily shot handguns. Unsurprisingly, the survey found hunters and shooters who live in urban and suburban areas need to travel the furthest and have the least access to land to enjoy their recreational activity.

Heading Afield

Hunting respondents reported that 56 percent chose to hunt almost exclusively on private land, 25 percent mostly hunt on public land and 19 percent hunt on both property types equally. A clear majority of hunters, 59 percent, relayed that they hunt private land that they do not own but have permission to hunt.

Rifle range shooting public land hunting

Conversely, 41 percent of hunters said they use private land enrolled in walk-in access programs. These programs offer access to landowner-approved easements to hunt or access public land. These trends make sense when recognizing the topmost factor for hunters is choosing an area that is not crowded by other sportsmen. Nearly all hunters, 92 percent, reported overcrowding to be either very important or somewhat important.

Do You Have the Time?

Time and a place to hunt, 24 percent and 21 percent respectively, were top reasons given why hunters do not go afield. Almost a third of hunters reported that a combination of less land to hunt due to private land ownership, housing developments, land use changes or previously accessible private land had been sold and marked “no hunting” were significant hurdles for them when deciding whether to get outdoors.

Of the 19 states surveyed, respondents reported about half with a favorable outlook on hunting access and management of land overall. Ratings of access to land for hunting decreased, with excellent or good responses decreasing to 47 percent in 2021 from 56 percent in 2010.

rifle hunting range woods

A majority of recreational shooters, 57 percent, shoot mostly on private land while 21 percent shoot almost exclusively on public land. Like their hunting counterparts, recreational shooters who utilize private land are typically not the actual landowner but choose their areas to shoot based on ease of access and a lack of other shooters or land users.

What’s In Your Wallet?

Not the least surprising, cost – rather than time or other obligations – was reported by all recreational shooters as a top factor affecting their enjoyment of the sport. Almost half, 43 percent, of recreational shooters noted that access constraints were a topmost concern. Both hunters and recreational shooters rely heavily on friends, family and word-of-mouth to source information on where to enjoy their recreational shooting activity of choice.

About a third of hunters and a quarter of recreational shooters used their state wildlife agency’s website or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) website for helpful resources on land access. Awareness of these resources can increase both access and utilization of land for hunters and shooters alike.

Hunters and recreational shooters who learn of access to land where they can enjoy the outdoors will lead to more people adopting stewardship of the land. Increasing awareness of where outdoorsmen and women can go not only creates more participation but also fuels the economy of conservation through licensing and Pittman-Robertson funds but also the tertiary dollars spent to enhance the outdoor experience.

Increasing awareness of resources is a top recommendation regarding both hunter and sport shooter feedback. That is why NSSF’s Lets Go Hunting and Lets Go Shooting campaigns are both great resources for all who are interested in America’s greatest pastime to find more information about opportunities and greater access to get outdoors.


Salam Fatohi is Manager, Legislative and Policy Research for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. 

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  1. While I can definitely sympathize with the sentiment of this article, I have come to have a rather jaundiced opinion of many hunters. I own a lot of land in Yamhill County Oregon. Many deer and elk are honored guests on my property, or perhaps I’m the tolerated interloper. When I first moved here, I was extremely generous to the local drunken rednecks who presumed that they had some type of hereditary right to hunt on my land. It turns out that some of them were operating as pseudo professional guides who charged people thousands of dollars then misrepresented their clients as friends or relatives that wanted to hunt on my land. The situation became even worse when I made the mistake of renting a house with an associated barn to one of these vermin. They then sublet the property in violation of the lease to their grandson who installed a massive marijuana grow in the barn. This criminal who is disqualified under Federal law from possessing firearms was also using the property to assemble “ghost guns” that he was then selling without an FFL. My efforts to evict the vermin escalated to an incident where my tenant fired two rounds from a 12 gauge shotgun at my son. I continue to believe that the shotgun was loaded with slugs. Their scum sucking whore of an attorney continues to argue that his client is not a threat because he only loads his shotgun with “harmless buckshot.”. Anyone who can actually do the math will inform you that even buckshot can be lethal at a range of hundreds of yards. (All Elmer Fudds or TacticoolFools who would dispute this need to show their calculations). Yamhill County Judge Ladd Wiles, whose famously philandering, perjuring, drug addicted wife Amanda S Marshall claims is an “avid hunter and responsible hunter,” gave the vermin a free pass. More recently, one of my tenants’ associates who was road hunting shot dangerously close to my son and then pregnant daughter-in-law in order to bag a little three point buck. My daughter-in-law subsequently gave birth prematurely to my one pound and four ounce grandson.

    My attitude towards the local hunters is far from cordial.

    • Elmer, I’ve read your comments with interest. It sounds like you’re in the middle of a nightmare. From what you said, these people are not sportsmen. They are not hunters. They are poachers. The lowest form of vermin. They would be met at my gate with a rifle. The “guide” could explain to his “clients” at his convenience.

    • Elmer Fudd,

      There are high quality and low quality people everywhere. The real trick in life is figuring out how to screen people before getting too involved on any level.

      I am certain that there are high-quality people who would love to hunt your land who would also be more-than-happy to maintain an excellent relationship with you. In fact most of those high-quality people would be quite happy to assist you on a limited basis with care and upkeep of your property. Consider using that as your screening process. Someone wants to hunt your property? Invite them over for a few hours of light property maintenance three or four times. Find out who is conscientious, respectful, and fun to be around. Then invite them over for a single hunting season and see how they do–ideally to hunt with you that first time if practical. If they do right by you, then you can invite them back next year and so on. You just might be surprised to develop life-long relationships and camaraderie.

      (Hint: I am planning to help the property owner with property maintenance where I just acquired permission to hunt. I am honestly looking forward to it.)

      • Thank you for the feedback.

        It actually gets worse. One of the tresspasing drunken rednecks whose overt belligerence almost got himself killed now resides in the Yamhill County jail awaiting trial for the abductions and murders of his former girlfriend and her child.

        Aside from the drunken redneck mentality of certain segments of the Gaston community, the State of Oregon created two corrupt bureaucracies, the OMMP and the OLCC, that entered into a criminal conspiracy with the Oregon Marijuana Mafia to expropriate the private property of innocent landlords for the purposes of committing Federal felonies. Prior to passage of House Bill 3200, it was the official policy of the OMMP and OLCC to issue address specific grow site permits without the knowledge or consent of the land owner. It remains their policy to issue address specific permits for Butane Hash Oil Extraction. Oregon residential tenancy laws preclude eviction for operation of a marijuana grow or hash Oil Extraction system.

    • had to work an estate protection detail for some city folk who bought into a situation like that…some of the hunters were quite persistent….even had to arrest one who felt he had a right to hunt there because he had always done it in the past….

    • “…gave birth prematurely to my one pound and four ounce grandson…”
      I hope all is ok with the little one.

  2. So, during the week, one of my neighbors brought home his new $51,000 fish/ski boat which was hooked up to his 2 month old $66,000 pickup truck. I was looking them over when he told me it just cost him $335 to fill both of them up with $4.75 a gallon premium. I have to admit it was mighty satisfying to ask him if he remembered giving me shit awhile back about having $800 invested in a lever action ” just to shoot frickin’ whitetails with?”… He sure ain’t fishin’ for lobsters.

    • pb, I haven’t spoken to you in a while. That no dash L frame is still working. In the meantime, I did close the 1911A1 deal. As well as a couple of unanticipated deals the next day. My checking account was not happy. I was.

    • I’ve noticed people around here doing the same. And they don’t appear to be earning it. And they’re buying new vehicles (and everything else) for their kids too. So where are they getting this kind of wampum?

      • RGP, I wish I knew where to come up with the jingle for toys like I’ve seen lately.!… GF, I’m now working on getting a factory letter on my four inch 686, the S&W appraiser in these parts says mine is the only one that he has ever seen without a red insert front sight. I guess I’ll be holding on to it for the time being

        • Pb, good for you! I always like good gun stories. I hope my L frame turns out well. It’s dragging on a bit but Lisa has turned loose of some nice things. I just want that L frame and all the Lake City 7.62 NATO she has. Every. Single. Round.

      • “And they’re buying new vehicles (and everything else) for their kids too. So where are they getting this kind of wampum?”

        It smells like what’s happening is the anticipated *massive* wealth transfer from the boomer generation to the younger generations, as the older folks die of old age.

        I’ve seen a few of those where I’m at, and the pace is only going to pick up…

  3. In my humble opinion land access for hunting is the largest hurdle by far–at least in areas with a significant hunting culture. I just so happen to live in such a state. (Many schools in the northern/rural parts of my state close for the opening day of the firearm white-tailed deer season because a very large percentage of students go out hunting.)

    I don’t have an easy answer for how to get more land available.

    The only reason that I have found private land to hunt (with permission) is because I live in a semi-rural area and have built relationships with hundreds of “neighbors” due to my small business operation. In addition to meeting a lot of people and building relationships, you have to be a “clean-cut” person: that means you are respectful, courteous, and considerate.

    Needless to say, many prospective hunters are not in a position to meet a lot people in rural areas and build relationships. As I stated, I don’t have any solution for that.

    • Uncommon, I have been extremely lucky to have access to the private land that I use as my own. A couple of thousand acres. I have never taken that for granted. I don’t just show up before hunting season. I keep an eye on the property year round. A gallon zip lock bag of red snapper fillets (or two) in the off season to Chris doesn’t hurt either.

      • Gadsden Flag,

        You mention a very important point as well: give a gift to the property owner during the off-season. It doesn’t necessarily have to be much. It is a concrete way of saying, “thank you,” and shows how much you really appreciate being able to hunt their land.

        And I believe that is a great feeling for the land owner as well–knowing that he/she is able to share their land and have a very positive impact on another person’s life.

    • Yes. It is about costs. A gun is the least expensive purchase for hunting. Where I live it is at least a 3 hour drive to a decent hunting area. That’s 2 hours on a freeway system at freeway speeds then a one hour drive of barely maintained county roads and dirt roads. Some of these areas need 4wd. You can’t be driving a hoopty and expect to make very many trips like this.

      Make it an overnight trip and the costs just go up from there. Especially now that here in CA we have 6 dollar a gallon gas.

      • jwm,

        Your point is valid.

        I was going to say that you could camp out where you are going to hunt to reduce your expenses. Of course that likely increases cost (for the camping equipment) as well.

        I try to look at my hunting excursions as recreational, utilitarian, and cost-saving if I am able to harvest at least two white-tailed deer each season.

        In terms of recreation, it is obviously a chance to do something fun which can be important for your emotional well-being.

        In terms of utility, it gets me exercising more and, more importantly, assures that my firearms are in good working order and my marksmanship is up to par. That could be very important if I ever need my firearms for self-defense or even national defense. Finally, hunting is an important skill to develop in case I am in dire financial straits and truly need to hunt for food to survive. Developing excellent hunting skills for wary prey also carries over to combat if I ever have to act for national defense.

        Finally, in terms of potential cost-savings, my venison’s equivalent value for beef is on the order of $600 assuming that I receive 100 pounds of venison (from two deer) at an average cost for beef of $6 per pound.

        And to put a bit of finer point on that last notion of cost savings, I was blessed to harvest three deer last season for a total yield of about 120 pounds of venison. Given the rapidly rising cost of beef, that venison means I don’t have to buy 120 pounds of beef which could cost upwards of $800. I can guarantee that my hunting expenses this last year were less than $800. Thus, I got to do something recreational which truly saved my family some money on our annual expenses.

        • “And to put a bit of finer point on that last notion of cost savings, I was blessed to harvest three deer last season for a total yield of about 120 pounds of venison.”

          That raises another point – Storage of all that meat. A good chest freezer isn’t cheap, and takes up space in areas of limited space, like garages…

        • Geoff PR,

          I purchased a new upright deep freezer several roughly 12 years ago–while I do not remember the exact purchase price I do remember that it was amazingly inexpensive. And our family keeps a lot of additional meats and vegetables in our deep freezer. Since we have the freezer space, we can purchase other meats and vegetables in bulk quantities and save money for our family that way as well.

          Speaking to that last point, as recently as February or March of this year local farmers were selling 1/4 and 1/2 butchered cattle for about $3.50 per pound. Since that includes steaks and roasts as well as ground beef, you cannot come anywhere close to that in stores.

          There is another option for hunters with limited space and budget as well: canning. I actually did not have enough freezer space for the 120 pounds of venison that I harvested last Fall so we canned a lot of it which we can store at room temperature of course. When you do it right, which is exceedingly easy to do, canned meat (venison, beef, chicken, pork) is fantastic. It is effectively slow-cooked with spices and all you have to do is pour it out of the jar, warm it, and eat it. The meat is so tender that you can pretty much break it apart and eat it with a spoon.

  4. There is a critical shortage of ranges in Iowa private or public. MAJOR issue for firearms ownership (and hunting)

    The “Pittman-Robertson” needs a serious audit to establish WHERE the great piles of loot has gone over the last many years. Dang good bet that greenies at Fish/Wildlife are not going to spend more than a bare minimum of=n new range construction.

  5. It has been my experience that hunters don’t want new hunters entering the sport. In my area I am interested in hunting. But the regulations are overly complex and confusing. No hunter I have spoken to will give newbies help figuring them out. Every year I take another stab at deciphering the rules and regulations and every year I give up in frustration. No hunter I have spoken to will mentor new hunters around here. I guess the sport will die when they do. I’ll just keep shooting and fishing and buying expensive but increasingly available venison at the grocery store.

    • “No hunter I have spoken to will mentor new hunters around here.”

      Have you put the word out at your local gun store?

      They will be motivated to find someone for you, since it could result in a rifle and ammo sale from them…

      • Unfortunately I run into his issue a lot as well and the best I can suggest is see if you have a local or somewhat nearby wildlife conservation alliance. May have better luck finding a mentor or not but they can usually sort out the regs and explain the process as well as do the hunter safety course and basic butchering methods. But depending on area established hunters can get territorial over public land.

    • hunting is in decline and newbies are necessary…witness all the states permitting AR-15’s just to keep the numbers up…

      • “witness all the states permitting AR-15’s just to keep the numbers up…”

        There’s a serious upside to that, it stomps the Leftist Scum’s ™ argument that AR-platform semi-automatic rifles are indeed “In common use” and expressly protected by the 2A, as per the landmark Scalia ‘Heller’ ruling…

  6. In response to Elmer above. I had somewhat similar problems in Minnesota where I owned some timberland with a small lake front and cabin. Not the pot issues you mention, but problems with local idiots who felt entitled to hunt on my property without permission. Even though the land was posted well before I purchased it, and well fenced etc. Was out cutting firewood and had a couple of the intrepid sportsmen come through a fenced off road crossing where they cut the fence to enter. Caught them on the trail cam I had set up because of trespassers. Luckily, the local sheriff takes a dim view on such activities and so do the local DNR game wardens.
    Since I purchased the homestead I currently live on here in Alabama, I have had little problem with those types of so called hunters. The few that have approached me for permission here are just thrilled that I allow hunting without demanding a major cash up front lease. Too many land owners down here seem to believe they can stick it to hunters for seasonal leases and then get upset if the hunters leave as much as a tire track or cigarette but on the trails or parking areas.
    I do allow those who I have had a chance to discuss ethical hunting and basic respect with to hunt for free. A couple have volunteered to help with setting up and clearing lanes and planting forage plots, but only a few. I’m just asking most hunters to respect the fences, and close the gate after themselves. As well as clean up after themselves and not leave a bunch of trash around.

  7. they’re a reason some of these people live way out in the sticks…try dealing with a bunch of poachers who feel entitled and like to intimidate others…it happens…

  8. As a suburbanite and non hunter I’m curious about poaching. Aside from food, do poachers make a profit from their crime?

    • What motivates a thief or one who drives without license/registration/insurance? I just guess a mix of greed and laziness.


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