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Friday, September 28, 2007

How Big Is Hunting?

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA, Sept. 29, 2007.)
Tennis, anyone? More people hunt than play tennis.
Like to swoosh down the slopes? More people hunt than ski.
If you asked me, I'd say it's big. But you might think it's just big with me. Nope. I'm not alone. It's very big. It's measured in beaucoup bucks – and I'm not talking about the kind with antlers.

34 million Americans hunt or fish. They pour $76 billion per year into the economy and support 1.6 million jobs. They're intelligent and they vote – 8 out of 10 vote in every presidential election.

Anglers make up the majority of that number. Six million more Americans would rather wet a line than sink a putt. But hunters are significant, too.

Tennis, anyone? More people hunt than play tennis. Like to swoosh down the slopes? More people hunt than ski. In fact, if all the hunters in this country decided to move to New York and Los Angeles, everyone living there would have to move out. Yep, anti-hunters, non-hunters, everyone. No room for them.

Everyone thinks NASCAR is big. But all the hunters and fishermen in America would fill every seat at every NASCAR track – not just once, but 13 times.

If you took just the hunters in our nation and created a corporation to receive all the revenue they spend, you'd have a company that ranks in the top 20 of the Fortune 500. If you add anglers into the equation, you'd have a corporation larger than MicroSoft, Google, eBay and Yahoo combined ($76 billion versus $73.6 billion). Fishermen spend more just on bait than ski enthusiasts spend on all their equipment.

Don't believe me? I didn't make up these facts. They're published in a recent report by the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation (CSF). It's an organization that transcends partisan political lines and works not only with the United States Congress, but also with sportsmen's caucuses in every state legislature around the country.

The CSF says that the vast majority of Americans support legal hunting. More than 95% support legal fishing. Just 3% subscribe to the animal rights philosophy. That's tiny. Most of them, by the way, aren't consistent – and only a handful of them are activists.

So, next time you watch the TV news and it shows animal rights people protesting hunters somewhere, please realize that is not the big story. Next time you see a report that details the plight of some endangered species, please realize that is not the big story.

The big story is about the benefits hunters and fishermen bring to wildlife and the environment – including species that are threatened or endangered. Whenever they spend a dollar on their equipment, they pay 11 cents of it as an excise tax that supports wildlife populations – and not just game populations. It's one of the most successful taxes in our nation's history. Hardly anyone knows about it, but it's one reason wildlife populations thrive.

When an ordinary citizen volunteers time to improving wildlife habitat, almost every time it's a hunter or a fisherman working through a club or a conservation organization such as the National Wild Turkey Federation or Trout Unlimited. And the benefits aren't limited to the species in those organizations' names. The benefits extend to songbirds, swans, salamanders, and all wildlife.

There's a bumper sticker that says, "If you can read this, thank a teacher." Next time you look to the sky and see a flock of geese flying south, thank an American sportsman for making the United States of America an outdoor nation with abundant populations of wildlife.

One more thing. Hunters spend almost $2000 per hunter per year on their sport, pumping a total of $24.9 billion into our nation's economy. Will someone call my wife and tell her that I need to catch up to the other guys? Thanks. And tell her I went on a hunting trip.


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