Hipsters going hunting? Farm-to-table movement gives boost to Alberta hunting licence sales

So-called 'hipster hunters' are helping drive hunting licence and hunting tag applications to record-high numbers, Alberta Environment and Parks says.

Hunting tag applications nearly doubled over past 10 years, says Alberta Environment and Parks

Hunting cultures is changing, says the director of wildlife management policy with Alberta Environment and Parks. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

Alberta Environment and Parks says some hipsters may be adding ammunition to their shopping lists this hunting season.

Matt Besko, director of wildlife management policy with Alberta Environment and Parks, says there has been a steep increase in hunting licence sales and hunting tag applications in Alberta this year.

He says it's due in part to so-called "hipster hunters" — young people who want a source of organic protein that is in line with the farm-to-table movement.

"We have an abundance of interest around the farm-to-table food movement and people want to obtain organically, locally produced sources of rich organic protein, and hunting offers that," Besko told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"You process the meat yourself and you actively participate in the natural ecological process doing so." 

Responsible conservation

In 2017, there was a nearly 75 per cent increase in hunting tag applications and a 43 per cent growth in hunting licence sales over the past 10 years, Besko said.

Back in 2007, there was a total of 96,921 resident hunters in Alberta. Fast forward to 2017 and that number has increased to 127,020.

Along with the rising popularity of ethically-processed meat, Besko says an increase in the province's game animal population has also added to the increase in hunting sales.

Matt Besko, director of wildlife management policy for Alberta Environment and Parks, says an increase in Alberta's moose and elk populations helped drive a demand for hunting licences and tags this year. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A resurgence of the elk and moose populations in Alberta's Parkland region means there are more animals available for hunting, but this year's high demand "will exceed … the availability" of tags, Besko said.

"So when we have a draw application, the number of available animals to be harvested is regulated and fixed and people need to apply for those opportunities," Besko said. "Many don't get them, and we essentially regulate for a number that is sustainable."

By the numbers

In 2016, the province took in a total revenue of $18 million from hunting licences.

The Alberta Hunting Report for the 2016-2017 season showed half of that revenue goes to the Alberta Conservation Association with nearly 25 per cent of the funds covering licence administration costs and another 23 per cent going to the government.

Besko said Alberta is one of the only jurisdictions in the country with a per capita increase in hunting sales.

"So the money actually goes back to the conservation habitat enhancement and there's also an enforcement element through the 'report a poacher' program that is funded through that."

Besko said there is nothing to suggest that the increase in issued hunting licences and tags is an indication that illegal hunting is also on the rise in Alberta.

The difficulty of that is if poaching occurs, "it's an illegal activity and it's very hard to document unless our enforcement personnel are."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener