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Reflections on Wildlife Restoration Act

Forum Member Jax-Hatchee bagged this turkey on Florida public land. His report, "Public Land Gobbler," was featured in the Trophy Room Forum on Mar. 28.

Press Release from Southwick Associates  Photo from Trophy Room

This year, 2012, marks the 75th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Pittman-Robertson Act, also more properly known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act.

In 1932, Congress authorized an excise tax on firearms and ammunition that went into the general treasury of the United States. Five years later, with the passage of Pittman-Robertson, those excise taxes had to be passed on to state game agencies for the exclusive use of funding programs designed to improve wildlife habitat, as well as improve hunter access. The benefits of this program to game departments, sportsmen, sporting goods retailers and manufacturers, as well as non-consumptive users who still enjoy and appreciate wildlife and the outdoors have been abundant.

Here’s a look at the state of game populations and hunting opportunities at the time

Pittman-Robertson was passed:

  • In 1937, 11 states had no open seasons for deer and three others only had local seasons. Missouri’s deer season was only three days long.
  • Colorado only had a seven-day elk season.
  • Grouse season in Wisconsin was completely closed.
  • South Dakota only had local pheasant seasons.
  • No states had dedicated archery or muzzleloader seasons.

Here’s how things stand now:

  • Today, virtually every state boasts lengthy deer seasons.
  • Missouri hunters enjoy more than 123 days of hunting for deer each year.
  • Elk hunters in Colorado can potentially hunt more than 120 days.
  • Wisconsin boasts a 136-day grouse season.
  • South Dakota has become the pheasant hunting capital of the world with abundant bird numbers and an 86-day, statewide season.
  • Special archery-only and muzzleloader-only seasons are held in nearly every state.

Even considering recent declines in the total number of hunters, there is still more than twice the number of hunters in 2010 than there were in 1937. Celebrate the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act and all it has done for hunters and wildlife. It has even indirectly helped anglers as the program served as the model for the Dingell-Johnson Act (or Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act) passed in 1950 and designed to attach an excise tax to various types of fishing equipment to help fund sport fish restoration and opportunities.

A number of highlights and impacts of this landmark legislation are covered in the report “Financial Returns to Industry from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program,” which was compiled by Southwick Associates in conjunction with Andrew Loftus Consulting under funding coordinated through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. These reports provide additional “Then and Now” comparisons for most states and most popular game species.

The complete reports may be found here.