It might be the height of hunting season, but fewer and fewer hunters in this region are making their way into the woods.
Consider a statistic shared by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation last week indicating that there were 13 hunting-related shooting incidents reported statewide last year. Comparatively, in 1966 the state reported 166 such incidents, 13 of which were fatal.
The DEC attributed the decline to stronger hunting safety education programs. But while that is certainly a factor, there's also another reason.
Far fewer people hunt now than they did in 1966.
That fact was driven home in a News story published in May, as turkey hunting season was winding down. Fewer people were registering for hunting licenses at the Erie County Clerk's Office, so we hunted for more data from the state to see if there was more to this pattern.
And there was. These five interactive charts reveal the region's diminishing hunting culture.
1. Erie County is still the hunting capital of New York State. But...
2. The long-term trend line is unmistakable. More Western New Yorkers are abandoning hunting as part of their lifestyle.
3. Middle-aged men, who have long been the largest demographic of hunters, are also the ones giving up hunting at the highest rate.
4. State DEC officials, whose department relies on revenue from hunting licenses to support their conservation efforts, say the decline in hunting in New York isn't as steep as elsewhere in the United States.
5. The DEC and those in the hunting industry are working to attract more millennials and women into hunting activities. But growth of interest among younger adults has been far slower than the decline in the middle-aged demographic that has given up the pastime.
Want to learn more about what accounts for the loss of hunters in this region? For more context on these charts, check out the original story that first ran in May: