Public land managers are finding it ever more difficult to provide hunters with a quality hunting experience. With low success rates and poor hunting conditions on public land, hunters increasingly choose to hunt on private land for a fee.
Few people hunt strictly for meat, but state and federal agencies continue to manage as if they do, by providing large herds rather than trophy animals. Herds on public land provide hunters little opportunity to take a mature male. Having too few males in the herd also lowers the diversity of the gene pool for elk and deer populations. In sum, crowded conditions, safety concerns, and degraded habitat all detract from the hunting experience. They have opened the door to fee hunting.
Hunters report greater satisfaction when they pay a fee to hunt on private land. Herds are managed for more trophy animals. Access is limited to those who pay, improving success and safety. Unlike the public licensing system, fees reflect the true market value of the game. For example, hunters will pay more for a mature bull elk than a young bull or cow. Fees encourage private owners to make habitat improvements on the land to attract more game.
Access to private land for hunting has become increasingly limited. Traditional ranchers have grown wary of careless hunters who toss trash, leave gates open and damage property. A new generation of landowners not familiar with hunting traditions prefers to "save" wildlife and protect their privacy. Fees encourage landowners to open more private land to hunters.
Wildlife agencies can learn from private landowners who manage successful fee hunting operations. Let the sport pay for itself by charging market-driven fees and hunters will begin to see the conditions they want.
For more information on fee hunting see Wildlife in the Marketplace, edited by Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill of PERC, and published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. in 1995.