How Europe Turned Hunting into a ‘White Collar’ Sport

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A look at the floor at the IWA Outdoor Classics.  (Photo: IWA)

A look at the floor at the IWA Outdoor Classics. (Photo: IWA)

If you think Europe doesn’t like guns, you’ve never been to the IWA OutdoorClassics trade show. The 43rd edition of the international exhibition was held last weekend in Nuremberg, Germany, and, according to this press release, it’s bigger than ever. Approximately 1,455 exhibitors attended the event to show off their guns and gear to some 43,500 visitors. Some have called it the SHOT Show of Europe.

It attracts both European and American companies, including 5.11 Tactical, Ruger, Aero Precision, Remington, Kimber, and Mossberg.

All this to say: despite draconian gun regulations, the firearms community in Europe is far from dead.

Even some American media outlets covered the event. Gun Talk hosted a fascinating interview with Austin Sheridan of Austin Sheridan USA, who explained that Europe has a large and energetic hunting community. Europeans, of course, have been hunting for thousands of years—much longer than the United States has even existed.

Europe, in fact, boasts between seven and nine million registered hunters, quite a few less than the U.S. (45 million registered hunters), but still nothing to sneeze at.

This all sounds great. Europe has its own SHOT Show and millions of hunters and gun owners—maybe Europe’s reputation is worse than reality?

Sadly, the reality may be worse.

Everyone knows European countries place more restrictions on guns—Sheridan admits as much at the beginning of the interview. What’s less well-known is the result of these regulations on the average European citizen. According to Sheridan, the average hunter in Europe spends between 25,000-30,000 Euro per year to hunt.

In case you’re not up on international currency conversions, that’s between 27,000 and 32,000 United States Dollars. Per year, every year. To hunt.

Hunting in Europe, Sheridan says, is a white-collar sport.

The numbers back this up. There may be 8 million hunters in Europe, but there are also 740 million European residents. That’s one hunter for every 92.5 people—almost literally the top one percent of the population. The U.S., by contrast, boats one hunter for every seven people.

Here’s just one example of many. In Germany, hunters are required to obtain a national hunting license, liability insurance, and a regional hunting permit. The national license is only granted after passing a rigorous test in which applicants must “show adequate knowledge of species, game biology and management, hunting management, game damage prevention, farming and forestry, firearms law and technique, gundog handling, inspection and treatment of game following hygiene measures, evaluating game meat, notably to determine if it can be used for human consumption, welfare of game and wildlife and nature and landscape conservation law.”

David E. Petzal of Field and Stream has been told it’s “the equivalent of getting a master’s degree and the failure rate is high.”

None of this is even counting the higher cost of firearms, hunting club fees, and land use fees.

It all adds up to one thing: blue collar Europeans can’t afford to provide for their families and enjoy the outdoors through hunting.

And if the anti-gun folks have their way, hard-working Americans are looking at a similar fate.

(Editor’s note: This article was a submission from freelance writer Jordan Michaels. Cover image comes courtesy of asuitthatfits.com.)

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • JOHN HOGLIN March 14, 2016, 7:22 pm

    Welcome to CA where prices go up and now only leadless ammo can be used. I have several antique rifles that now are useless for hunting. Leadless ammo is double the cost of standard ammo and only available in some calibers. Years ago early 80s when this farce was pushed on water fowl hunters I worked at a low paying job and could not afford the increase in price of ammo and a new barrel for my shot gun, I have not duck hunted since. You all need to beware making some thing to hard or expensive to do is just as bad as banning it. The hand gun list is a prime example, only GOV approved hand guns can be sold, most hand guns are not available in CA.

  • Ivano March 12, 2016, 2:04 pm

    Hunting rights are not in any part of the constitution. So, hunters keep voting for democrats and you will not legally possess any toys to bag big or little game with and that includes those arrogant side by side upland game snob hunters. Who think their #### does not stink. Sorry retired mil… I disagree. All that testing is a waste of time but typical European bureaucracy at its best. Oh by the way. Europe’s economy is in permanent economic decline. The result of excessive governmental progressive socialism. Yes, I agree in Europe it was historically only for royalty and upper crust. That does not make current circumstances justified. In places like Iowa road hunting is still legal, as it should be for working class people who cannot afford to pay $25,000.oo an acre for good farm ground. The cost of which is subsidized by the Federal Government. As one game warden stated at a meeting. ” There are so many regulations on the books I can arrest any hunter with ease if I feel like it”. for just about anything.. At one time there was an elk herd in Kansas but the department of resources exterminated the entire herd. Why? Only guess could be is that they wrongly believe it competed with their big money maker, out of state deer hunters. So, the government acted with malic and intent to destroy a natural resource, not protect it. Yes, they got way with their actions. After all they write the rules. There is plenty of public land but hunters need to stop calling each other stupid and wise up. It is all about politics. No second amendment no hunting. Liberal democrats constantly shutting down hunting rights on public lands. Yet keep getting elected! Probably too late to turn the clock back. Long mandatory training will not solve the problem of limited hunting opportunities. Slob hunters are usually not even legal hunters but poachers. Do you think they will start passing 8 week long training exams? Get REAL people.

  • Rob Allen March 12, 2016, 1:29 pm

    Don’t believe it’s as much about gun control as it is about taking back control of the legislators. They forget that they work for us, the people.
    The lawmakers have sold their very souls to the wealthy, and the judges too. When I was just a kid it was unheard of to charge someone to hunt on your property. The public shame would have been overwhelming.
    Charging people to hunt is selling wild game, which is illegal in all states. If you don’t want hunters on the land then post it as No Hunting, but charging for access to hunt is criminal, and there are many ways to stop it.
    Pick one that works for you then enforce it. Take the country back to a time of real freedom…early 1800’s?

  • Grady Poteat March 11, 2016, 12:56 pm

    The cost of hunting Red Stag in Germany sounds a lot like hunting Elk in Montana. There is a lot of open public land here to hunt but about 80% or more of the elk are on private property and unless you know someone or are able to pay an outfitter 5 to 10 thousand you have a very small chance of killing a bull. I have been hunting in Montana for over 30 years and have yet to kill a bull on public property and at my age I probably never will. Montana and the other western states have become a lot like Europe in the selling of wild life to the rich. Exactly what our founding fathers did not want and preached against. The wild life was supposed to belong to all the citizens and not the rich land owners like it was in Europe.

  • Texas101 March 11, 2016, 12:06 pm

    In Texas you have to either buy your own farm or pay a lease to hunt. Expect to spend 200K on a farm big enough to hunt and this farm is usually a long drive from big cities where white collar people live and work. Lease would cost an average 2K a year and is usually open only during deer season (Nov through Jan).
    Public land hunting is a pain and in most cases it is more like camping trip. There are so many rules and regulations to hunt on public land that I find it more hassle than I want to deal with.
    At the rate of population expansion we see now it will be just like in Europe within the next few generations. Enjoy it while you can.

  • Tony Kastella March 11, 2016, 12:02 pm

    This must be the economic model the USA state of Utah uses for hunting. Make public tags expensive for hunters as well as generate large lease fees and you have the same hunting lifestyle as Europe. Only the rich can compete for trophy game animals even though the Game belongs to all Utah residents.

  • Dewey March 11, 2016, 9:43 am

    Rigorous test!? Everyone who hunts should have that knowledge, there is not a single item mentioned that is without merit. I wonder how many slack-jawed rednecks in Germay shoot their buddies accidentally. Oh yeah, hunting deer withOUT a sound suppressor is considered inconsiderate and bad form in the UK. Can we say that here in the land of freedumb?

    • Jordan Michaels March 11, 2016, 10:13 am

      Hi Dewey,

      Thanks for you comment! You’re right–many of the items listed in the test are essential for any hunter to know (though I’m not sure how knowledge of “farming” would apply). The bigger issue is the next line: “David E. Petzal of Field and Stream has been told it’s ‘the equivalent of getting a master’s degree and the failure rate is high.’” Many of the items listed appear in U.S. hunting courses, but the course itself isn’t too difficult and most people pass.

      • Dewey March 11, 2016, 12:43 pm

        So, a second party was “told” by a third party that the test is too hard, that’s credible. American hunter education courses are designed to be passed by people who are effectively illiterate.

  • Norm Fishler March 11, 2016, 9:33 am

    As a youngster I remember talking to WWII vets who stayed for the occupation of Europe. They told me that the white shirt & tie bunch had the hunting scene tied up since the 1800’s.

    • Texas101 March 11, 2016, 11:56 am

      That is simply because Europe does not have vast land surface for the general population to hunt on.

  • GSP Man March 11, 2016, 9:14 am

    Dude, why did you delete my comment? I wasn’t offensive, I just pointed out how wrong the premise of the article was!

    • S.H. Blannelberry March 11, 2016, 9:20 am

      Delete it? We approved it. See below.

  • Jeff Kibble March 11, 2016, 9:04 am

    Dear sir,
    your assumption that the average European shooter (hunter) spends vast sums of money to pursue his sport is so far off the mark that it’s ludicrous! Of course if you’re well-heeled you can buy days at driven pheasant for several thousand pounds a day, you can spend even more shooting grouse; but the average shooter,such as I, will probably spend between $1,000 and $1,500 for their year’s shooting and even less if they limit themselves to pest species eg. wood-pigeon, rabbits etc. The U.K. has always had its fair share of “peasant” (as opposed to pheasant) hunters since the introduction of the matchlock fowling- piece, which our ancestors enthusiastically adopted as a means of stilling their pinched bellies when meat was too expensive for them to afford. DO NOT examine the shooting habits of the super-rich and assume that everybody spends anything like that amount!

    • Alan March 11, 2016, 9:28 am

      Jeff, no offense, but I hunt squirrel, rabbit, Deer, prairie dog, coyote, turkey, and Grouse, for less than $300.00, assuming I already have the gear.
      I could throw in Bear and Elk, and STILL be under $500 easy. And I won’t have to spend hours studying for a test.

    • Jordan Michaels March 11, 2016, 10:00 am

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for you comment! It’s great to have your perspective as a resident of the UK. Maybe I can offer some clarification.

      In the interview, Sheridan is speaking in terms of averages. If the average hunter spends 25,000 to 30,000 Euro a year, in some countries hunters might be able to spend less for small game (as you say). But Sheridan explicitly says that hunting in Europe is a more of a “white collar” sport. So I’m sure there are some exceptions (every European country has different laws), but I think it’s still true that hunting in Europe is more cost prohibitive than in the U.S.

  • GSP Man March 11, 2016, 8:45 am

    IWA is the European SHOT show; it is for Trade participants only and not open to the public. As a military commander (purchaser of gear and eqiupment) I was able to attend 3 shows while stationed in Germany. Uber cool. I aso acquird my German hunting license, and it is very rigorous to obtain, although no one failed in my class of 25 Americans. Essentially a semester of night school: 2 hrs of study per night for 2-3 days per week for 8 weeks. Then a 100 question test in English but with German terms (Schweisshund for bloodhound, etc), followed by an oral examination (the German proctor will point to a pelt or horn rack and say “Tell me every-ting you know about dis animal” followed by a 100 meter rifle shooting test; 8 shots, 6 of which must be in the 8 ring or better, 4 shots sitting at the bench and 4 standing with a vertical pole for gun support. It was defininitely a PITA, but I was very proud to get my license. Getting the insurance, etc was also an expensive PITA, but like everything else in Germany, once your paperwork is “in order”, you are 100% good-to-go.

    The common man in Germany can hunt small game for not much money. Yes the guns are expensive, but they are in America as well. Germans, of course, don’t sell cheap stuff. They buy and own high quality firearms, ammo, and scopes. I hunted Reh deer, fox, and rabbits (Hare) for free because the Jagdpecter (Hunting manager) needed help to thin his populations. However…if you want to hunt the Red Stag (cousin to the Elk), then yes, it is VERY expensive. Doctors and lawyers from Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, etc are the only locals who can really afford this. A “1A” Red Stag (best rack, 10 yrs old) may cost 5 thousand Euros to hunt and get the horns, and if you want the meat, you buy that seperatly at about $10 per pound! Also, 90% of all Red Stag in Germany are located on two US Army posts in Bavaria, so it is very competitive to get a Red Stag hunting slot. It is basically like getting a high-priced guided Elk hunt in CO, WY or MT.

    So in my experience, the common German or US Service member can hunt 11 months out of the year for small game for not much money, but you have to know people, be invited to hunt, etc. Red Stag hunting is usually a once-in-a-lifetime deal and may cost 6 thousand Euros or more and is only for the wealthy Germans.

    One big reason it is hard to get a license (good for 3 years) is that EVERY 3 klicks there is a village, farm spread, etc. LIterally. It’s amazing how close the occupied buildings are…so rifle accuracy, shot placement and backstop are CRITICAL, and they treat it that way.

    • Jordan Michaels March 11, 2016, 10:07 am

      Hi GPS Man,

      First of all, thank you for your service. It’s greatly appreciated.

      Your comment provides some excellent information, but, as you say, in Europe “you have to know people, be invited to hunt, etc.” I won’t repeat all my comments to Jeff (above), but keep in mind that Sheridan is speaking of averages–he has years of experience comparing the U.S. and European hunting worlds, and he’s observed a significant difference in demographics. I’m sure individual experiences may differ, but, on the whole, European rules and regulations make it much more difficult for blue collar folks to hunt.

  • Robert Sweeney March 11, 2016, 8:27 am

    Hunting in Europe has historically been reserved for the nobility — no peasants allowed — so “white collar” hunting is actually a big step toward democratic freedom, hunting wise.

  • Magic Rooster March 11, 2016, 7:31 am

    “For killing the King’s deer ye shall die, oh Robin of Locksley”.

  • Tom Horn March 9, 2016, 4:33 pm

    Europe illustrates why we must hang on to as much of our 2nd Amendment Rights, as we have remaining. Shooting and hunting are already becoming cost prohibitive for many. Our Forefathers came here to escape tyrannical governments/societies, where only the nobles were allowed to hunt. All others were considered poachers.

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