Economy only grazes hunting

In the AP: Have gun, will travel

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Have gun, will travel — even if the economy’s shot.

In the heart of South Dakota’s pheasant-hunting country, license sales have been strong this fall despite gasoline prices near $3 a gallon and a looming recession. Ditto for hunting license sales in New York, Utah and Colorado. The leading retailers of outdoor gear, meanwhile, say sales of shotguns, ammunition and warm camouflage clothes aren’t too bad considering the economy’s headwinds.

Hunting’s popularity has waned slightly in recent years, and American families are tightening their belts as a recession looms, but businesses catering to hunters say the sport’s outlook remains relatively healthy during these hard economic times.

The uptick in gun sales due to worries about the election affecting concealed carry or assault-type weapons has been the big story this year, but it’s great to hear that hunting sales are also keeping up okay.

Hunting numbers have been slumping lately. The average age of hunters has been slowly creeping upward, meaning that fewer young people are joining the ranks. Gun and gear sales in the hot self-defense sector and the red-hot tactical market have much more than made up for the slump, but hunting dollars are crucial to the continuing health of our sport. Not only guns, gear, and ammunition sales, but license fees, travel and lodging, and related businesses such as meat processing and taxidermy are all very dependent on a strong hunting community.

Stowe Samco, owner of Absolutely Pheasants hunting lodge in Tripp County, S.D., which labels itself the “Pheasant Hunting Capital of the World,” said his reservations are up 13 percent from last year.

It costs about $400 daily to hunt pheasants at Samco’s place. He believes the sagging economy may deter hunters who are less affluent.

“I think the people that are hurt by the economy right now, the people that won’t be coming, are probably going to be your $75- to $200-a-day guys. It’s tougher for them,” Samco says.

No doubt the more expensive hunting trip market will suffer from losing a lot of those near the lower end of the price range. Of course, if higher taxes on the more affluent come to pass, even those taking long trips for $400 days of hunting may be affected. Which, of course, affects the people who make the guns, ammo, and gear for those folks, not to mention those who transport them, feed and lodge them, and organize the hunts for them. People with more money tend to spend more money, creating jobs for those with less money.

Wow. It’s almost like we already have some sort of wealth redistribution system in place in America.

Another thing I think about, especially for local hunters spending a few days in the back woods, is the money saved by shooting them some venison. A good-sized deer can provide a fair amount of meat for a family. Not a bad return for a few dollars worth of shells and a day spent in the woods.