Hunting is ConservationIt's that simple

Man has hunted since he walked the Earth. Every early culture relied on hunting for survival. Through hunting, man forged a connection with the land and learned quickly that stewardship of the land went hand-in-hand with maintaining wildlife – and their own way of life.

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In the first half of the 20th century, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold shaped a set of ideals that came to be known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They articulated the philosophy that all wildlife belong to all of us. That every citizen is entitled to the opportunity to hunt and fish. And that ethical, regulated hunting is the driving force that maintains abundant wildlife.

Simply put, the United States has the most successful wildlife management system in the world. Hunters and anglers have contributed more financial and physical support to that system than any other group of individuals.

RMEF members and all of you, who contribute to conservation organizations like the RMEF, are proving every day that hunters truly are the titans of conservation.

Why Hunting is Conservation

Hunting is regulated and guided by scientific research. In 1878, Iowa instituted the first bag limit on birds. Lawmakers passed the Lacey Act in 1900, prohibiting market hunting (not to be confused with the regulated hunting and angling that occurs today). "Ding" Darling created artwork for the first Duck Stamp in 1934. The Pittman-Robertson Act was passed in 1937, through which hunters voluntarily imposed an 11 percent federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition, and archery equipment, as well as a 10 percent tax on handguns, ensuring that a portion of the sale of all firearms and ammunition would be expressly dedicated to managing the wildlife entrusted to the public.

Since 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act generated more than $14 billion specifically for conservation, including $700 million annually which is distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state fish and game agencies across America. Since 1939, those agencies, which are tasked with managing wildlife populations, received more than $62 billion thanks to hunting and fishing licenses and fees and other outdoors-generated revenue. That amounts to 60 percent of their annual budgeted funding.

The goal of wildlife regulations nationwide are to allow hunters and anglers the opportunity to connect with the land while enjoying the worlds renewable resources in a way that also provides for the continued survival of those species long into the future.

Countering Anti-Hunting Arguments

Hunting threatens wildlife populations View Video

Thanks to scientific, regulated hunting quotas and procedures, established by wildlife biologists and professional big game managers, wildlife species sought by hunters are in fact thriving. Each state wildlife agency uses hunting as a game management tool in line with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model to help manage predator and prey populations alike.

Wildlife managers use scientific data, on-the-ground monitoring and hunter survey information to formulate and implement meticulous hunting regulations and license requirements according to the species sought, sex of species, time of year, time of day, means of take–being rifle, archery or crossbow, and location.

After hunting season, managers follow up by seeking hunter input and conducting surveys to then adjust quotas for the benefit of maintaining sustained wildlife populations.

Today, game animals that were once considered threatened exist in sustainable populations throughout the country. How did that happen? It happened due to carefully established and regulated hunting requirements plus vital funding generated by hunters.

Wildlife viewing is better for the economy than hunting View Video

Every time a hunter or a recreational shooter buys a gun, ammunition or archery equipment, not only is the economy positively impacted but there is an 11 percent excise tax on those purchases that is –by law– apportioned to each state’s fish and wildlife agency for wildlife conservation. Since 1937, that has generated more than $14 billion.

There are no fees to view wildlife. On the other hand, licenses and fees are mandatory to hunt. And hunters pay $796 million annually to do so. That revenue funds state agencies and pays for salaries of their employees who oversee wildlife conservation.

Research shows that in 2011, hunters and anglers combined to take more than 711 million trips and spent $90 billion along the way that included $25 billion for trucks, ATVs, boats, cabins, etc., $11.6 billion for food and lodging, and $5.25 billion for shooting sports equipment. Hunters generated $5.4 billion in state and local taxes, a sum that could pay the wages of 113,000 firefighters or roughly 37 percent of all professional firefighters nationwide. If you add in federal taxes paid by hunters, the number doubles to $11.8 billion.

Humans do not Need to Hunt View Video

If there were no hunting and the millions of hunters feeding their families had to suddenly go to the grocery store to purchase beef, pork, poultry or other meat to replace what they cannot hunt, it would cripple the U.S. agriculture infrastructure and create an immediate food security crisis.

In 2018 alone, Wyoming resident hunters sustainably harvest 25,091 elk, yielding approximately 4.6 million pounds of lean protein for their families. At 6 ounces per meal, that's a healthy serving of protein for 12.2 million Americans. Multiply that by the number of elk hunters nationwide. Then add the more than one million whitetail and mule deer, plus pronghorn, moose, wild turkey, ducks, geese and other wild game and you can quickly see how fast that adds up.

All of this done sustainably in a fashion that ensures these game animals will be around for years to come.

Hunters are Dangerous to Humans and Pets View Video

Hunter education classes are conducted in all 50 states with specific goals to instill hunters with firearm safety, knowledge and skills, ethics and ensuring the comprehension of laws and regulations.

Individuals who target dogs, cats, other pets, livestock or even people with archery equipment or firearms are not hunters. They are criminals acting illegally and should be reported to authorities, prosecuted and punished.

Hunting should not be confused with poaching which is the illegal taking of wildlife—including hunting without a license, doing so out of season, ignoring hunting rules and regulations, targeting endangered species, trespassing on private land, using illegal weapons, spotlighting animals at night, filling a tag not your own or leaving a harvested animal to rot. This is not hunting. In fact, more often than not, hunters are the first line of defense against poaching and illegal wildlife activity.

Hunters take great care to do things right. They care for wildlife. They care for wild landscapes.

Hunters Can't Be Trusted View Video

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is an advocate of ethical, fair chase hunting.

Key to that effort is adherence to rules, regulations, seasons, quotas and other guidelines spelled out by state agencies that oversee hunting for the purposes of wildlife management, filling the freezer and recreation.

Hunters are held accountable for following those regulations by other hunters, landowners, game wardens, check stations, meat processors and many others.

Those afield who ignore the rules and take game out of season are not hunters—they are poachers.

Hunting Disrupts the Ecosystem and Nature Will Take Care of Itself View Video

In 1776, the human population in the United States numbered roughly 2.5 million - and was just along the Atlantic ocean. Today, it's approximately 326 million and stretches from coast-to-coast.

The North American Wildlife Conservation Model is a set of principles that guide wildlife management practices of predators and prey alike. The model dictates that fish and wildlife belong to all Americans and need to be managed in such a way that their populations will be sustained forever.

Thanks to adherence of these guidelines, with regulated hunting used as a key management tool, North America by far boasts the most thriving and robust wildlife populations in the world.

Additionally, hunting pays for wildlife conservation thanks to the purchase of licenses and fees, donations to groups like the RMEF and an excise tax on guns, ammunition and archery equipment. Without that significant funding, wildlife habitat and wildlife populations suffer.

25 Reasons Why Hunting Is Conservation

  • Reason No. 1 In 1907, only 41,000 elk remained in North America. Thanks to the money and hard work invested by hunters to restore and conserve habitat, elk numbers grew to 550,000 by 1984 when RMEF was founded. Today there are more than 1.1 million.
  • Reason No. 2 In 1900, only 500,000 whitetails remained. Thanks to conservation work spearheaded by hunters, today there are more than 30 million.
  • Reason No. 3 In 1900, only 100,000 wild turkeys remained. Thanks to hunters, today there are more than 6 million.
  • Reason No. 4 In 1901, few ducks remained. Thanks to hunters’ efforts to restore and conserve wetlands, today there are more than 32 million.
  • Reason No. 5 In the 1920s, only 13,000 pronghorn antelope remained. Thanks to hunters, today there are more than 1.1 million.
  • Reason No. 6 Habitat, research and wildlife law enforcement work, all paid for by hunters, help countless non-hunted species.
  • Reason No. 7 Through state licenses and fees, hunters pay $896 million a year for conservation programs.*
  • Reason No. 8 Through donations to groups like RMEF, hunters add $440 million a year to conservation efforts.*
  • Reason No. 9 In 1937, hunters requested an 11% tax on guns, ammo, bows and arrows to directly fund conservation. That tax, so far, raised more than $16.7 billion to date & $1 billion in 2023 alone.
  • Reason No. 10 Sixty percent of budget funding for state fish & wildlife agencies, which are tasked with responsible wildlife management, is generated by hunters & anglers thanks to excise taxes & the purchase of licenses/fees.
  • Reason No. 11 All together, hunters pay more than $1.6 billion a year for conservation programs. No one gives more!
  • Reason No. 12 Four out of five Americans approve of hunting, partly because hunters are America’s greatest positive force for conservation.
  • Reason No. 13 Every single day U.S. sportsmen and women contribute $8.1 million to conservation.
  • Reason No. 14 Hunters generate funding for land conservation and public access work. In 2023 alone, RMEF completed 11 land projects in 9 states that conserved 72,813 acres of elk habitat.
  • Reason No. 15 Hunters generate funding for land conservation and public access work. In 2023, RMEF opened or improved public access to 77,960 acres in eight states.
  • Reason No. 16 Hunters generate funding for active forest management techniques that enhance habitat for elk and other wildlife while also improving overall forest health. In 2023, RMEF completed 130 habitat stewardship projects in 22 states that enhanced 161,180 acres.
  • Reason No. 17 A wildlife management tool, hunting helps balance wildlife populations with what the land can support, limits crop damage and assists with disease management.
  • Reason No. 18 Hunters generate funding for scientific wildlife research. In 2023 alone, RMEF allocated $1,371,907 that leveraged $5.1 million in partner funding for elk research in 13 states and three projects of national benefit.
  • Reason No. 19 Hunters help manage growing numbers of predators such as mountain lions, bears, coyotes and wolves. The government spends millions to control predators and varmints while hunters have proven more than willing to pay for that opportunity.
  • Reason No. 20 Deer collisions kill 200 motorists and cost $7.5 billion a year. For every deer hit by a motorist, hunters take six.
  • Reason No. 21 RMEF provides support for hunter education, outdoor/conservation events for youth/ adults, mentored hunts, recreational shooting programs & more. Creating/strengthening bonds with nature spawns the next generation of conservationists.
  • Reason No. 22 Hunters and recreational shooters annually combine to create $45 billion in wages/income & support 970,000 jobs.
  • Reason No. 23 Hunters provide for conservation and for their families. Hunting is a healthy way to connect with nature and eat one of the world’s most organic, lean, free‑range meats.
  • Reason No. 24 With funding from hunters, RMEF helped restore wild elk herds to eight states and provinces.
  • Reason No. 25 RMEF was founded by four Montana elk hunters seeking to ensure the future of North America’s most majestic game animal. Today, more than 98 percent of our members are passionate hunters.

*Info via the National Sporting Goods Association (2019) and National Shooting Sports Foundation

North American Wildlife Conservation Model

The North American Wildlife Conservation Model is the only one of its kind in the world. In the mid-1800s, hunters and anglers realized they needed to set limits in order to protect rapidly disappearing wildlife, and assume responsibility for managing wild habitats. Hunters and anglers were among the first to crusade for wildlife protection and remain some of today’s most important conservation leaders.


As early settlers made their way west, North America’s wildlife populations diminished due to market-hunting and habitat loss. Many species were on the brink of extinction. Elk, bison, bighorn sheep, black bears—even whitetail deer—had all but disappeared across the country. Hunters and anglers realized they needed to set limits in order to protect what they loved and assume responsibility for the stewardship of our natural resources.

Hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell rallied fellow sportsmen. They pushed for hunting regulations and established conservation groups to protect habitat.

Basic Principles

Their efforts are the backbone of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. The model has two basic principles – that our fish and wildlife belong to all Americans, and that they need to be managed in a way that their populations will be sustained forever.

The principles of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model are explained more fully through a set of guidelines known as the Seven Sisters for Conservation.

Sister #1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust
In North America, natural resources and wildlife on public lands are managed by government agencies to ensure that current and future generations always have wildlife and wild places to enjoy.

Sister #2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife
Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations.

Sister #3 – Democratic Rule of Law
Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process where everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to develop systems of wildlife conservation and use.

Sister #4 – Hunting Opportunity for All
Every citizen has an opportunity, under the law, to hunt and fish in the United States and Canada.

Sister #5 – Non-Frivolous Use
In North America, individuals may legally kill certain wild animals under strict guidelines for food and fur, self-defense and property protection. Laws restrict against the casual killing of wildlife merely for antlers, horns or feathers.

Sister #6 – International Resources
Wildlife and fish migrate freely across boundaries between states, provinces and countries. Working together, the United States and Canada jointly coordinate wildlife and habitat management strategies. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 demonstrates this cooperation between countries to protect wildlife. The act made it illegal to capture or kill migratory birds, except as allowed by specific hunting regulations.

Sister #7 – Scientific Management
Sound science is essential to managing and sustaining North America’s wildlife and habitats. For example, researchers put radio collars on elk to track movements to determine where elk give birth and how they react to motor vehicles on forest roads.

Wildlife Funding

Hunters also recognized the need for a significant and sustainable source of funding for wildlife stewardship. In 1937, sportsmen successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Act, which placed an excise tax on the sale of all sporting arms and ammunition. This was followed in 1950 by the Dingell-Johnson Act, which placed a similar tax on fishing equipment. Today, every time you buy hunting and fishing gear, you contribute to conservation. The two acts combine to generate upwards of one billion dollars every year. This money has been used far and wide to conserve America’s key wildlife habitat. When you combine funding from the excise tax with the state license and tag sales sportsmen pay each year, it constitutes the majority of funding for wildlife in North America. It’s not just funding for huntable wildlife, but for ALL wildlife. And it’s paid for by sportsmen.

Conservation Groups

Hunters and anglers also launched nonprofit groups that have played a vital role in wildlife conservation. Founded in 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation protected or enhanced more than 8.2 million acres of vital habitat for elk and other wildlife, and opened or improved access to more than 1.3 million acres of land to the public to hunt, fish or otherwise enjoy.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was founded so that each generation has the opportunity to experience wildlife in wild country. The model is second to none and helped create the most democratic and sustainable system the world has ever seen.

How you can help do more

Join or Donate Today

When you join or donate to RMEF, you continue to prove how Hunting is Conservation.


RMEF volunteers play an important role in improving habitat for elk and other wildlife as hundreds commit annually to remove hazardous fencing, install wildlife water sources, plant native seeds and saplings, and carry out other habitat enhancement work.

New volunteer opportunities arise regularly. When you submit your information below, it goes straight to local representatives in your area who will contact you about opportunities that may be available.