1975 seems to be the high-water mark for hunting in Iowa. The state issued more than 416,000 hunting and fishing licenses that year. This year, the state issued nearly 60 percent fewer licenses than it did four decades ago. DNR director Chuck Gipp says his agency’s operations are financed, in part, by those license fees.
“With revenue being flat or going down like that, it’s going to be a challenge,” Gipp says.
According to a study by researchers at Columbia and Boston Universities, nearly 34 percent of adult Iowans own a gun.
“People are physically using shooting as a sport or recreational activity, so they’re buying the weapons and there’s a great increase in the number of weapons that are out there,” Gipp says. “So our shooting sports and our ranges are critically important so they have a place to go and discharge that weapon.”
The state owns and manages 10 shooting ranges. The rest are private or run by a county conservation board. In 2012, Gipp’s agency started awarding state grants for the development and improvement of shooting ranges around the state.
“The sale of weapons have increased. It’s incredibly important that if you’re going to use a weapon properly that you have the education and the opportunity to shoot it,” Gipp says. “Access to private lands for shooting, like when I was a kid you’d just grab a few bottles out of the county and city dump and you’d take them out to the old quarry and you’d shoot those. You can’t do that anymore and so shooting ranges are incredibly used.”
Earlier this year, more than 2200 Iowa kids particiapted in the annual “Scholastic Clay Target Program Trap Championship.” It was held near Cedar Falls, at the Iowa State Trapshooting Association Homegrounds.
“The various shooting stands that they have, it’s about a mile long,” Gipp says. “And that’s not big enough, now, for some of the trap shoots that we have for the high school teams.”
The “Hunger Games” movies have spurred interest in another shooting sport — archery, but Gipp says finding shooting ranges for archers is difficult.