The Benefits of Hunting

Did you know that hunting helps maintain healthy wildlife populations, funds conservation, and provides food to many families in Massachusetts? Read on to learn more about the many benefits of regulated hunting.

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of all freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth. One way the agency achieves this mission is through legal, regulated hunting. This page provides an overview of how hunting helps fund the conservation of all wildlife, the critical role it plays in wildlife population management, and how hunting connects people to nature and alleviates food insecurity. 

Hunters are a self-reliant and generous community

Regulated hunting is a safe activity that brings friends, families, and communities together through the sharing of food, skills, and time spent in nature. In 2022, 14.4 million adults enjoyed hunting within the United States (National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-associated Recreation, 2022). Massachusetts has more than 60,000 licensed resident hunters (based on 2023 Massachusetts hunting license sales data). These hunters are your trusted family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Hunting teaches confidence and self-reliance. Hunters use harvested animals as a sustainable, local source of both food and fur. Wild game is a free-range, organic, and healthy protein with a low carbon footprint. Harvested venison provides more than 1.8 million meals to hunters, families, and friends across Massachusetts every year. It is estimated that over 15% of Massachusetts households do not have access to sufficient food to meet their basic needs. MassWildlife’s Hunters Share the Harvest Program provides an outlet for hunters to donate venison to combat hunger and food insecurity. Since the program’s inception in 2022, over 20,000 meals have been distributed to Massachusetts families in need as of 2024.  

Two people hunting in a field
Many people enjoy hunting with their family or friends as a way to connect with nature and put food on the table.
Venison donation delivery
Delivering venison donated by generous hunters to a partnering food distributor.

Hunting helps manage healthy wildlife populations and habitats

Every state, including Massachusetts, relies on legal, regulated hunting to achieve wildlife conservation goals. Hunting regulations conserve populations while allowing the public to utilize the natural resource. For some species, such as white-tailed deer, hunting serves as the primary way the population can be managed at a healthy level. Some historic predators, like mountain lions and wolves, no longer have an established population in Massachusetts. With this absence of predators, certain wildlife species can become overabundant without regulated hunting. Overabundance can decrease wildlife health and increase habitat damage. Managing wildlife populations at a healthy level can improve public safety by minimizing risk of vehicle collisions and potential for disease transmission. 

Additionally, animals harvested by hunters provide MassWildlife staff with the opportunity to collect important biological samples that support research, monitor disease, and inform population management decisions. In recent years, MassWildlife has collected data from harvested animals to monitor for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and to contribute to research on tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease.

Biologist collecting data
MassWildlife staff collecting biological data at a deer check station.

Hunting funds the conservation of all wildlife species and their habitats

The conservation of wildlife in the United States is based on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. This model is a successful system of policies and laws that restore and protect fish and wildlife and their habitats through best available science and active management. Hunting is one of the valuable tools included in the model.

All animals, including those that can be legally hunted (game species), are an important natural resource in Massachusetts. Prior to the implementation of the Model in the late 1800s, many species like bison, deer, turkey, and raptors were hunted at unsustainable levels while their habitat was destroyed. Today, only common and abundant species are hunted, but the conservation dollars generated by hunting help conserve all wildlife species, including rare and endangered plants and animals. Hunting regulations conserve healthy populations of game species, ensuring they don’t become rare or endangered. 

Nationally, hunters and target shooters contribute approximately $1.8 billion a year to conservation programs that benefit all wildlife species in the United States (National Shooting Sports Foundation, 2018). Hunters in Massachusetts must purchase a hunting license and applicable permits and stamps annually. Revenue from these sales fund the scientific management of wildlife populations for the benefit of wildlife and people in Massachusetts. A portion of every hunting license sold each year (a $5.00 Wildlands Stamp) contributes to the purchase of wildlife lands in Massachusetts. As of 2024, MassWildlife manages over 230,000 acres of land that is open to the public for fishing, hunting, trapping, and other activities like hiking, birding, paddling, wildlife photography, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, revenue from a federal excise tax on firearms and hunting equipment funds the scientific management of wildlife populations nationwide. Since 1937, the Wildlife Restoration Act and the Sport Fish Restoration Act has distributed over $71 billion in funding to state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation and recreation projects (USFWS, 2024). This “user pay, public benefit” conservation model benefits all Massachusetts residents, as well as fish, wildlife, and their habitats.

Biologists banding wood ducks
MassWildlife biologists banding wood ducks to monitor the population and track harvest.

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