According to economist Rob Southwick, Alabama hunters spend twice as much each year as the combined annual revenues of the 10 largest companies in the state. In a 2013 report, "Hunting in America: An Economic Force for Conservation," annual retail sales associated with hunting in Alabama are cited as $1,189,125,204 with a multiplier effect of over $1.8 billion. The multiplier effect reflects the total amount of spending that occurs in the economy as a result of hunter spending.
State and local taxes generated by hunting activities in Alabama amount to $104,412,563 a year. None of these tax dollars go to the program of state government responsible for management and protection of wildlife resources. The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is funded through hunting and fishing license revenues and matching federal funds derived from excise taxes collected at the manufacturers’ level on firearms and ammunition, archery equipment and fishing tackle.
On the national level, hunting is also a huge economic force amounting to a whopping $38.3 billion.
"If hunting were a company, the amount spent by hunters to support their hunting activities would place it number 73 on the Fortune 500 list," Southwick said.
Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said, "Hunting and fishing have been, and clearly continue to be, important elements of our country’s outdoor heritage, and they are critically important to our nation’s economy - particularly to the small local economies that support quality hunting and fishing opportunities."
"In some rural communities, the dollars brought in during hunting seasons alone can be enough to keep small businesses operational for another year," Southwick said.
Florida-based Southwick Associates compiled the report from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Department of the Interior as part of the most recent "National Report of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreation." The "National Report" has been issued every 5 years since 1955, and provides a statistically valid snapshot of annual participation and spending.
In spite of the lagging economy, hunter numbers were up 9 percent nationally from 2006 to 2011, and spending grew more than 30 percent. Increased hunter participation has not been reflected in Alabama hunting license sales, however. Until actual license numbers go up, the statistical upturn has no bearing on Alabama’s ability to care for the wildlife resources upon which hunting depends. It is also important to know the only purchases that help pay for wildlife management are firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. These items are taxed at the manufacturers’ level and form the financial underpinnings of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.
Some have suggested the economic downturn may have actually benefitted hunting participation.
According to Mark Duda of Virginia-based Responsive Management, "One reason might be the number of hunters who work in construction and related trades, the top occupational category for employed hunters. In times of increased housing starts, it may be that a substantial number of hunters will have less free time to go hunting."
Duda further noted the percentage of the population between the ages of 65 and 69 is negatively associated with hunting license sales on the national level.
"The age factor is easily explained: as people age, they are less likely to participate in hunting or have a need to purchase a license," he said.
Alabama law exempts residents over 65 from the requirement of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses.
Alabama enjoys a long-standing, well-deserved reputation as a hunting paradise. Abundant game populations and liberal seasons and limits result in a high level of hunting participation and expenditures. In order to sustain this huge economic engine, Alabama must effectively manage and protect the resource-base upon which hunting depends. Sustaining hunting participation is equally important in paying for keeping Conservation Enforcement Officers and Wildlife Biologists on the ground.
While sound science is critical to managing wildlife resources, collecting data for data’s sake without practical usefulness is ill advised. Research has shown the more hoops hunters have to jump through the lower the level of participation.
Corky Pugh is the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.