For decades, hunters have done a great job of telling others what we, as a group, have done for wildlife conservation in America. If it weren’t for sport hunters gathering together more than a century ago and demanding hunting seasons, bag limits and other regulations, there would be little wildlife left in this country. It’s an inspiring story, and one that needs to be continually told, especially in this era of pervasive social media when many young people—hopefully out of ignorance—seem to enjoy bashing hunters.
But frankly, what hunters have not been good at in the past is telling our story in dollars and cents—how much sport hunting benefits our national, state and local economies. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is attempting to correct that by sponsoring a nationwide program: Hunting Works for America.
Begun in 2010, 18 states now have Hunting Works organizations, with two or three more states joining yearly. One of the latest states added to the effort is Ohio, led by six co-chairs. One of those co-chairs is Tom Vorisek, a sportsman and business owner.
“As hunters, our way of life is under attack,” said Vorisek. “It’s been happening for a long while now, both subtly and overtly, and it’s time for hunters to stand up and tell the public—the average person in America who may not hunt or know much about the outdoors—what hunters and hunting means to them economically. In other words, people should understand that they have a financial stake in hunting even if they don’t hunt.”
Another co-chair for Hunting Works for Ohio is Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association. “How important are hunters to the Ohio economy?” she asked. Huntley answered her own question with the following statistics:
- 553,000 people hunt in Ohio each year, 37,000 of whom are non-residents.
- Ohio hunters spend $321 million on trip-related expenses annually.
- Ohio hunters spend $274 million on hunting equipment annually.
- Each hunter spends an average of $1,400 per year in Ohio.
- Hunter spending translates to $490 million in salaries and wages.
- Hunting in Ohio supports more than 20,000 jobs.
- Hunters generate $97 million in state and local taxes annually.
“My point is that hunters are very important to the Buckeye State economy,” said Huntley. “The ripple effect from sport hunting in Ohio is $1.4 billion annually!”
Vorisek added, “Ohio, like other states in the program, is signing on partners to spread the message. We started just a few months ago with a kickoff at the Ohio State House and already have 58 businesses signed on: sporting retailers, restaurant owners, hotel and resort operators, gas stations and convenience stores, hunting and shooting organizations, and chambers of commerce, to name just a few.”
There is no cost for a business to join a Hunting Works organization, and an added benefit is the free advertising that joining provides. Also, this initiative should not be thought of as just for businesses or organizations located in rural areas. In Ohio, for instance, the top three counties for hunting license sales are urban/suburban counties.
Rob Sexton has coordinated the launch of Hunting Works for America programs in six states thus far. In Pennsylvania, the initial meeting took place in 2013 at a Ramada Inn in Ligonier, where Sexton asked the motel owner how much income hunting generated for him and his business annually.
“About six percent,” the owner said. “But if you think that doesn’t amount to much I was able to pay my child’s college tuition and took my family on vacation as a result of it. That’s what just six percent did for me.”
So what’s the ultimate goal? Hunting Works for America and its many state affiliates plan to monitor public policy decisions and weigh in on hunting-related issues that impact jobs. And Sexton makes it clear that Hunting Works is not another political lobbying organization.
“Our primary objective is public education,” he said. “Hunting Works does not get involved in endorsing various political candidates. But what we are doing, and will continue to do in the coming years, is explaining to people who do not hunt why they should care about the continuation of sport hunting in America.”
“Our mission is very simple,” concluded Vorisek, “Hunting Works for Ohio is going to spread the word about the economic value of hunting in the Buckeye State. If we can raise the consciousness of the public concerning the financial value of sport hunting, hopefully people will be more favorable toward the sport in the future.”
If you’re a business owner or the head of an organization and would like to help, contact Hunting Works in your state and sign on as a partner. For example, in Ohio you would go online to HuntingWorksForOH.com. Individual volunteers are also needed.
If no such Hunting Works organization yet exists in your state, contact Bill Brassard ([email protected]) at the National Shooting Sports Foundation and volunteer to start one.
Lead image courtesy National Shooting Sports Foundation